Best desktop computer Windows Central 2021
Laptops are a great way to keep your PC with you at all times, but if you don't need something portable you can instead invest in one of our picks for the best desktop computer. While you can usually build your own PC for less money, pre-built models have been narrowing the price gap, and you can find a quality device that's relatively affordable considering the hardware inside. Ideal for most people, we recommend checking out Dell's XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition. It has plenty of customizable configuration options available, including dedicated graphics, and it's an attractive tower that's been recently redesigned.
- Best overall: Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition PC
- Also great: HP ENVY desktop
- Great value: Acer Aspire TC-895 PC
- Best gaming: HP OMEN 30L desktop
- Best all-in-one: HP ENVY 32 AiO PC
- Best compact: Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i
Best overall: Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition
Dell's XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition is easy to recommend thanks to a ton of configuration options, a modest introductory price for the hardware you're getting, and a silver 19L tower with a fresh, modern redesign. On the front are USB-C 3.1, three USB-A 3.1, a 3.5mm audio port, and an SD card reader easy to reach for common accessories. Above is an optical drive for watching movies and burning discs.
The back has many more ports, including four USB-A 3.1, two USB-A 2.0, HDM1 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, Ethernet, and audio ports. Video ports will vary depending on the dedicated graphics card you opt for; up to an NVIDIA RTX 3070 — one of our picks for best graphics card — is available. If you're partial to AMD, up to a Radeon RX 5700 XT is also configurable.
The baseline model includes a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10400 processor (CPU), 8GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) coupled with a 1TB hard-disk drive (HDD), and an AMD Radeon RX 5300 dedicated GPU. If you're looking to use the PC for productivity work — word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and streaming — this hardware will be more than up to the job, plus the GPU will help with gaming and editing work.
All models now include 11th Gen Intel Core CPU options, with up to a Core i9-11900K for extreme gaming and VR performance. Pair it with up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, up to 4TB of storage, and a beefy NVIDIA RTX 3070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM. This is high-end power that will run any intensive AAA games at a smooth framerate.
If you're looking for something a lot more lightweight (and more affordable), configurations start with a Core i5-11400 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD coupled with a 1TB HDD, and a NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super GPU. Included with all models are a keyboard and mouse.
- Configuration options for any need
- Plenty of ports
- Keyboard and mouse included
- Easy tool-less entry for future upgrades
- Up to RTX 3070 graphics
- Starting price more than other options
- No AMD options
Also great: HP ENVY Desktop
If you're looking for a multipurpose desktop PC that doesn't come with as high of a starting price, HP's ENVY is likely going to be a winner. Get 10th or 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs, including up to a Core i7-11700 with eight cores. Complement it with up to 32GB of DDR4-2944MHz RAM, a 1TB SSD with 32GB of Intel Optane memory combined with a 2TB HDD, and up to a NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU. Models with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD start at just $420, allowing you to get a full PC on the cheap.
The tower has a relatively modern look with a black tile finish on the front. It does a great job of hiding the included DVD-RW optical drive, and it includes a good selection of ports on the front for your most-used accessories. USB-C, four USB-A, an SD card reader, and 3.5mm are visible, and the rear has another four USB-A, 3.5mm audio jacks, and Ethernet. All models include a keyboard and mouse.
- Modern tower design
- Affordable starting price
- Plenty of configuration options
- Lots of ports
- 11th Gen Intel CPUs available
- No Wi-Fi 6
Great value: Acer Aspire TC-895
Acer's Aspire TC-895 is an excellent option if you're on a tight budget and don't want to build your own PC. In fact, it is our top pick for best budget PC less than $500. It has the power to cut through productivity work with a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 CPU, and it has 8GB of DDR4 RAM for support. Instead of a slow HDD, the Aspire comes with a speedier 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. If you're willing to spend about $100 more, a model with 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10400 CPU, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB SSD is available.
The tower is not quite as fancy as our top picks, but it still has a DVD-RW optical drive on the front, as well as an SD card reader, USB-A, USB-C, and 3.5mm audio jacks. The back includes another five USB-A ports, two HDMI, and VGA for connecting the included keyboard and mouse. There is no dedicated GPU here, but hardware can be upgraded after purchase to keep it relevant longer. Wi-Fi 6 is included for fast wireless speeds.
- Everyday deal pricing
- Keyboard and mouse included
- Solid performance
- Lots of ports
- Wi-Fi 6
- No dedicated GPU
- Can't configure your own model
Best gaming: HP OMEN 30L
HP's OMEN desktop gaming towers were recently reworked for a more mature look, and you're now getting a stylish case with tempered glass paneling and easy access to the motherboard. Upgrades are fairly straightforward, allowing you to keep the PC relevant into the future.
Configure models with either AMD or Intel hardware, up to a Ryzen 7 or Core i9 for ultimate performance. You can also add up to an NVIDIA RTX 3090 graphics card, which is one of our picks for best graphics card right now. Add a bunch of RGB lighting, add up to 64GB of HyperX DDR4-3200 RAM, and enjoy Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
If you're less interested in building a PC and want to game as soon as possible (and if you want a much better chance of getting your hands on new GPUs), this is a great option. Check out our roundup of the best gaming desktop PCs for more options. And be sure to have a look at our HP OMEN 30L review for more information about this gaming PC.
- Sleek look with tempered glass
- RGB lighting options
- Tons of config options, Intel or AMD
- Lots of front ports
- Cabling is just OK
- Fans get noisy under load
Best all-in-one: HP ENVY 32 AiO
HP's ENVY 32 all-in-one (AiO) PC spits in the face of most other AiOs, bringing ridiculous performance and an enormous 4K HDR 600 display with near-perfect DCI-P3 color reproduction and anti-glare finish. It's convenient — all required hardware is built into space behind the display — and it doesn't water down the PC experience like a lot of other AiOs on the market today.
It comes available with up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700 CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD coupled with 1TB HDD, and up to an NVIDIA RTX 2070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM. Oh, you want to game? No problem. Want to watch videos in glorious 4K? No big deal. Especially factoring in the loud, clear speakers that run just below the screen.
The ENVY 32 AiO isn't just about performance and display, though, as it comes with an IR camera, Qi wireless charging built into its stand, and a beautiful keyboard that pairs perfectly with the PC. Rounding things out is a bevy of ports, including Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, USB-C, and USB-A. If you're shopping for an AiO and want the best, this is it. Have a look at our HP ENVY 32 review for more information. Be sure to also check out our collection of the best all-in-one PCs if it's not quite what you're looking for.
- Beautiful 32-inch 4K display with HDR
- Superb audio
- Plenty of ports
- High-end performance options
- Custom keyboard
- Relatively expensive
Best compact: Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i
If you'd like a desktop PC but don't have a whole lot of room to spare, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i could be the perfect option. This is especially true if you aim on using the PC in your living room or den, owing to a textile top cover that adds a bit of charm. The top cover can be easily removed, revealing access to RAM and SSD for upgrades. The bottom can also be removed with a bit more effort for access to the 2.5-inch storage drive bay and Wi-Fi 6 card.
Despite the compact chassis, the Mini 5i boasts five USB-A 3.2, HDMI 1.4, Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.2, USB-C 3.2, and a 3.5mm audio jack. You should be able to connect all your accessories without issue. Performance is good from the 10th Gen Intel Core CPU options, especially if you're mainly focusing on productivity, streaming, email, and web browsing.
- Six-core desktop CPU
- Compact design, premium build
- Upgradeable RAM and SSD
- Reasonable price
- Lots of ports
- No SD card reader
- Limited CPU choices
There are plenty of pre-built desktop PCs on the market that remove the effort to buy separate components and put them together yourself, but only the best desktop PC will do. Dell's XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition should appeal to most people for a number of reasons.
There are many configuration options available depending on your needs and budget, and the included dedicated GPU offers extra performance for gaming and editing work. You'll be able to tackle productivity tasks with ease, and the silver tower will fit in anywhere. Lots of ports are included for connecting accessories, and a keyboard and mouse are included. All you have to do is add one of our picks for best 27-inch PC monitors for a stellar setup.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
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