Laptops and smartphones are all the rage these days, but the right desktop computer can free you from tiny screens and sluggish processors. Desktop computers are the best choice for gaming, too, and most will allow you to customize or add components at will.
There are a dizzying array of options when it comes to desktop computers. But don’t let that overwhelm you. If all you’re doing is browsing the web, watching movies and creating documents, any computer on this list should perform well. Keep in mind that not every desktop computer comes with a monitor. If you’re buying a display separately, look for one that is at least full HD resolution. A 4K screen will offer an even crisper image.
First, decide whether you want a computer that runs the Mac or the Windows operating system. There’s a fierce debate between the Mac and Windows camps over which is better, but for most people who want to do everyday computing tasks like browsing the web, word processing and watching movies, either operating system does the job.
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The exception to this rule is if you’re looking to use your desktop for gaming. While there are hundreds of games made for the Mac OS, the vast majority of serious gamers prefer Windows. Most games are released for Windows first, and often, they are not available for Mac computers.
For a Windows 10 desktop PC, expect to spend around $1,000 for a machine that can handle light gaming as well as photo and video editing. You should look for an Nvidia GTX/RTX or AMD Radeon RX graphics card and at least 16 gigabytes of RAM. That’s enough to run several programs at once, so you can type in Microsoft Word while having a web browser with multiple tabs open. For even smoother operation, invest in more RAM. Massive hard drives are relatively inexpensive these days but are easy to fill up if you’re storing games or videos. Look for at least 512 GB of storage unless you plan to keep a lot of your data in the cloud.
Mac desktops offer fewer options but can be a solid choice due to Apple’s well-earned reputation for top-notch hardware and reliable software. Either the Mac Mini or the iMac M1 should offer plenty of horsepower to tackle most tasks unless you are a serious gamer.
I’m a tech journalist who has owned desktop computers for decades. I recently spent a dozen hours researching and reading reviews of the latest desktops. I am currently using an iMac M1 (and wrote this review on it). As a freelancer, I’ve written for many publications, including The New York Times and The Atlantic. I looked at processor speeds, RAM, graphics cards, displays, storage, and prices to sort out the best of the desktops available.