After an off the shelf all-in-one or desktop PC? Then look no further, we’ve tested all the big name desktop PCs we could find to over a definitive list of the best currently available.
But before you dive in, be warned, we’re in the midst of testing the first batch of new desktop PCs to arrive this year, so our buying advice may change in the near future.
best overall desktop
This is our pick for the best overall desktop you can buy. Keep in mind it's an all-in-one, which goes some way to justify its lofty cost. Performance is also exceptional and the screen is fantastic for creative professionals in particular.
If you can’t wait, our current recommended best overall desktop PC is the 21.5-inch 4K iMac, which offers the finest all-round performance and design. If you’re after something a little cheaper the HP Pavilion Wave is the best-value desktop PC to arrive last year.
How we test desktop PCs
Every desktop we test is put through a series of synthetic benchmarks to gauge its CPU, graphics, SSD and overall performance. While testing we also measure for heat and noise. From there we check how it handles key tasks based on its target market. If it has a GPU tests include gaming, photo and video editing and 3D modeling. If it’s an all-in-one we use a colorimeter to check its screen’s performance.
After that we crack open the case and see how easy it is to upgrade. After all that we use it for at least a week as our main work PC before giving it a final score.
21.5-inch 4K iMac
- Stunning screen
- Powerful processor
- Near-silent running
- Good graphics performance
- Excellent peripherals
- Needs an SSD
- Measly 8GB of RAM
The 21.5-inch iMac is the best small all-in-one you can buy. Its price is high, but more than any other Mac product, Apple has been able to easily justify the lofty cost.
Performance from the quad-core processor is exceptional, while the AMD graphics can power 3D applications and games at Medium settings with relative ease. The whole thing whispers along, as well, with its cooling fans barely audible no matter what you’re doing. This is a near-silent powerhouse.
The screen, meanwhile, is excellent, covering 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and 98.6% of the DCI-P3 gamut used some video production settings.
We don’t really like the 1TB Fusion Drive and would strongly recommend paying a bit extra for a nice, fast SSD. You can upgrade to a 256GB SSD for £90, something we reckon is worth paying.
HP Pavilion Wave
- Stylish design
- Powerful integrated audio
- Decent processor and SSD performance
- Very basic mouse
- Premium price
Few PC manufacturers design desktops to look different, which is why it’s so refreshing to see the HP Pavilion Wave. With its spherical body and B&O branding on the front, it looks a little like a high-end wireless speaker. Actually, it is.
A single driver at the top fires upwards into a parabolic reflector that shoots audio out at 360 degrees. The result is powerful audio with very little need to plug in external speakers.
There’s always a danger of form overtaking function, but that’s not the case here. A low-power quad-core Core i5 processor is only a little slower than a full-fat desktop version. With a fast 128GB SSD and 1TB hard disk, there’s a great combination of performance and disk space. And the PC remains quiet in use.
If you want a stylish PC that you connect your own peripherals and display to, there’s very little choice; it’s lucky, then, that the Pavilion Wave is so good.
A better spec in a bigger case would cost a lot less, and the bundled mouse is very basic, but this is still a great machine.
Corsair One Elite
- Stunning, compact design
- Upgraded application performance
- Fast in games
- Whisper-quiet in all scenarios
- Difficult to access and upgrade
- More expensive than conventional computers
If you’re a gamer looking for a small form factor tower PC that doesn’t scrimp on specs, then the Corsair One Elite is a great option.
It uses the same case as last year’s Corsair One, but features upgraded specs. Highlights include a a 3.7GHz Intel Core i7-8700K processor, upgraded Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU and super fast 32GB of 2,666Hz DDR4 RAM. The combo is a potent mix and mean the tiny, lounge friendly PC will play pretty much any game you throw at it.
If that’s not enough to entice you, it’s VR-ready and, thanks to its custom cooling system, runs near silently.
The only downside is that its compact nature makes it close to impossible to upgrade. With pricing for the top specced model capping out at a mighty £2999 it’s also a seriously expensive bit of kit.
- Small, sturdy design
- Rapid gaming performance
- Quiet operation
- Reasonable price
- No real expansion potential
- Middling Core i7 CPU
If the Corsair One Elite is a little expensive for your liking then the Zotac MEK1 is an excellent option. This mini-ITX rig is a little larger than many past Zotac mini-gaming PCs, but it’s still more than small enough to neatly slot into most lounges.
It’s specs are also not to be sniffed at. Within it’s dinky frame you’ll find a 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU and 16GB of 2400Hz DDR4 RAM. The CPU may not me the latest generation, but the specs are still more than powerful enough to play most triple-A games at 1440p.
The only downside is that, like the Corsair One, it’s compact dimensions make it tricky to upgrade.
- Review spec is decent value
- Good-looking case
- High-end graphics and processing performance
- Generous warranty
- Upgrades are very expensive
- Case should be smaller
The Alienware Aurora is the company’s mid-range gaming PC, but don’t expect mid-range performance, as the PC comes high-end components.
Every time we update this round-up, Dell seems to change the specifications available. Right now, our choice for best-value is the second-tier model that comes in at £979. That comes with a quad-core Core i5-6400 processor and a GTX 1070. However, using Dell’s online customisation options, we switched out the slow hard disk for a much faster, 256GB SSD and dropped the HDD to the secondary slot for an extra £140.
As a result, the spec listed above, is the best value. It’s still a fast computer, too. The GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card is very fast and the word when it comes to 1440p gaming; it will even handle some titles in 4K.
If you fancy somehting faster, the £1499 model (at the time of writing) nets you a quad-core Core i7 6700, a GTX 1080 and a 512GB SSD.
With the model reviewed, the Aurora is a great value PC that’s fast in games and on the desktop, and it looks great, too.
Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 910
- Excellent screen
- Game-ready dedicated graphics
- Stylish design
- Not silent when idle
- Slightly slow SSD
- Poor-quality mouse
It’s hard to find an all-in-one that can do everything, but the 27-inch Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 910 certainly can. A low-power quad-core Core i5 CPU is a step up from the dual-core models that a lot of all-in-one computers use. It means that most photo editing and a bit of light video editing are well within reach.
An Nvidia GeForce 950A discrete graphics chip, fitted with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, turns this all-in-one into a relatively capable Full HD games machine, too.
Lenovo has used a 4K (3840 x 2160) touchscreen display. The PC’s trick is that the flexible stand can lay the screen practically flat, making the touchscreen easier to use. A quick SSD and mechanical hard disk round the system off, giving you a great combination of storage space and performance.
A more expensive model with a Core i7 CPU, and cheaper Full HD models are available, but this spec is the best value in our opinion.
- Dinky dimensions
- Great performance
- Luxury pricetag
- No M.2 SSD option
- Difficult to upgrade
Corsair has stormed into the lounge PC market with the Corsair One. It’s rare for a first product in a new line to succeed as well as the Corsair One has, which is worth commending. It’s an ultra-powerful, super-quiet lounge PC that’s probably the classiest piece of PC design we’ve ever seen.
With a top-end Core i7 processor on-board along with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, this will handle the latest games at ‘High’ settings for years to come. It is expensive, but the design, build and technology that’s gone into it just about justifies it.
Those are our top picks of the best desktops. If you want to know more about what to look out for when buying a desktop pc then read on.
How much should I spend on a desktop PC?
If all you need a basic PC, £350 is enough to buy a Intel Core i3 PC with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB mechanical hard drive. This will be more than sufficient for basic office and web tasks, but don’t expect to play games at high resolutions with loads of detail.
Related: The best CPUs for gaming, tested
You’ll need to spend around £500 to £800 to get a more powerful desktop, with a Core i5 processor, 8GB or 16GB of RAM and an SSD – a faster type of drive that improves performance – plus traditional mechanical hard disk for storing your photos and videos. You can expect a GTX 1050 graphics card, which will be good enough to play most games, even at Full HD resolution gaming.
If you want a proper gaming PC, you need to spend £1000 upwards. This kind of money will get you a Core i7 processor, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. These PCs will cope with all tasks, and will easily play games at 1440p resolution, with more expensive models even managing 4K resolutions – check online benchmarks to make sure your chosen model can handle the games you want.
For all desktop PCs, you can expect to pay an extra £100 plus for a Full HD monitor, and more for higher-resolution models.
Related: Best Monitors
For an all-in-one, you’re looking at a starting price of around £600 for a 24-inch model with a Full HD screen. Powered by efficient dual-core or quad-core Core i5 or Core i7 processors, these machines are suitable for light photo and video work.
If you want premium design, a larger screen and more resolution (up to 4K), expect to pay at least £1000, but up to £2000.
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If you want to play games, look for ‘discrete’ or ‘dedicated’ graphics from AMD or Nvidia, and check out our benchmarking figures to see how well your favourite games will play.
Desktop PC vs All-in-One: Which should you buy?
Generally speaking, traditional desktop PCs are cheaper, more powerful, have room for upgrades and are a little more flexible, letting you connect to any monitor, for example. The downside is that they’re often a little uglier and take up more room.
All-in-ones are neater, with everything contained inside a single box that also houses the monitor. Upgrading (aside from RAM, in some cases) is usually out of the question. You tend to pay more for an all-in-one and, as low-power components are used, performance is more in line with that of a laptop. However, all-in-one computers are neater than desktops.
The world of all-in-one PCs just got massively spiced up by Apple, which announced a completely overhauled range of iMacs and the brand-new iMac Pro. This pro-level beast of a machine can squeeze in up to 18 Intel Xeon CPU cores and the latest AMD Vega graphics hardware, along with a monstrous 27-inch 5K panel. Reserved entirely for professionals, this is likely to be the new standard for all-in-one PCs when it launches in December.