Desktop computers aren’t as popular as laptops, but they’re still important tools for many consumers. Compared with similarly priced laptops, desktop computers are often more powerful, come with more storage, and are easier to upgrade. And they often are used with bigger displays.
“When I want to sit and do my bills, I use my desktop,” says Richard Fisco, an electronics testing manager at Consumer Reports. “I don’t have to—I have a laptop sitting at my kitchen table—but my wife and I will go through a big spreadsheet together and do our banking on our desktop.”
Top 10 Desktop Computers
- Windows 10 Professional 64 bit, Activation code is on the tower; the best operating system for business.
- Processor: Intel Core Quad-Core i5-2400 3.1GHz (Turbo up to 3.4GHz) 6MB Cache; USB Wireless Adapter to connect...
- An Industry Leader: As a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, we pride ourselves on producing quality...
- Lightning Fast: Powered by Intel's top of the line Core i5 processor and loaded with up to 16 GB of DDR3 RAM,...
- 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U Processor 1.6GHz (Up to 3.4GHz)
- 23.8" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen Edge-to-Edge LED Back-lit Display
- 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8100 Processor (3.6GHz)
- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM Memory & 16GB Intel Optane Memory
- Lightning Fast: Powered by Intel's top of the line Core 2 series processor and loaded with 8 GB of RAM, this...
- Massive Storage: Packed with 500 GB of hard drive space, you can store all of the apps, games, photos, music...
- Intel Quad Core i7-3770 3.4GHz (Up to 3.9GHz Turbo Boost), 16GB DDR3 Ram, 480GB SSD (Solid State)
- Genuine Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
- HP 8300 Intel I5 Quad-Core 3.2 GHz Processor
- What's Inside: 8GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, DVD Optical Drive,
- Dell Optiplex Desktop/SFF PC Computer package.
- Specs: Core2Duo 3.0Ghz CPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, DVD Player
- 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8400 Processor (Up to 4.0GHz)
- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM Memory & 16GB Intel Optane Memory
- Dell 7010 Intel I5 Quad-Core 3.2 GHz Processor
- What's Inside: 16GB RAM, 2TB Hard Drive, DVW Optical Drive,
Choosing a Processor, an OS, and More
Speed matters. Processors with multiple cores can process more data simultaneously, with four cores now increasingly common on laptops. Our ratings say how many cores a laptop’s processor has.
Clock speed, measured in gigahertz (GHz), along with the number of cores and other factors, determines how quickly a processor can process information. Many processors can up the speed a bit for a brief time to yield maximum performance. Generally, within a processor family, the higher the clock speed, the faster the processor. Clock speeds typically start at around 1 GHz for a mobile processor. Speeds can exceed 5 GHz for a desktop processor.
Another important factor when choosing a processor, especially for laptops: Lower power consumption equals longer battery life.
If you’re looking for a very basic or budget computer to browse the web, email, and work on Office documents, basically every processor on the market should be sufficient.
How Much Memory?
The more memory a computer has, the faster it is, up to a point. Memory is measured in gigabytes (GB). On both desktops and laptops, 8GB has become common, with 16GB found on higher-end devices. Unless you regularly have multiple large apps open at the same time, 8GB should be your target.
Windows 10 brings a more uniform interface across a variety of devices: computers, tablets, Xbox consoles, and smartphones. In addition, “universal apps” developed for Windows 10 will look and work the same on a variety of devices. And far more games are available for Windows computers than for Macs.
Macs can be more expensive, but they’re less prone to most viruses and spyware (in part because there are more Windows PCs out there than Macs, making them a bigger target for hackers), and Apple’s support has been tops in our surveys. The company’s phone support is free for only 90 days, but you can get unlimited technical support through the Genius Bar at an Apple Store. The latest version of macOS (previously known as OS X) is called Mojave and was released in the fall of 2018.
Graphics Adapter and Graphics Memory
Also known as the video card, graphics processing unit (GPU), or graphics card, this hardware is responsible for drawing what you see on your screen. Graphics processing comes in two basic flavors: It can either be integrated into the same chip that’s running the rest of the computer or it can run on a discrete piece of equipment.
All About Drives and the Battery
Solid-State Drives: SSDs are a different type of storage technology, letting your computer access data without the moving parts required by a traditional hard drive. They are also the single largest performance boost you can give a computer over an identical computer with a hard drive.
SSDs don’t have the spinning disk of a conventional hard drive, so they use less power, work more quietly, and should be more resistant to damage—and less likely to fail mechanically. And because there are no moving parts, access to data should be quicker.
Also known as a hard disk, this type of drive uses a spinning hard disk and uses more power than a solid-state drive. It is also slower overall.
Bigger is better. Hard-drive sizes are measured in gigabytes and terabytes and commonly range from 250GB to more than 1TB.
Lower-priced hybrid drives, which combine a hard drive with solid-state memory, represent a good compromise.
Blu-ray Disc (BD) drives are the newest standard. They’re capable of playing Blu-ray movies and can store 25GB (single layer) or 50GB (dual layer) of data.
Many of today’s laptops come without an optical drive, saving weight and cost. With high-capacity flash drives available, extra storage isn’t a problem on these models. But installing older software—usually distributed on a CD or DVD—could be a problem. Most of today’s software is distributed via download, so there’s little need for an optical drive.
When not plugged into a wall outlet, laptops use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. Laptops go into sleep mode when used intermittently, extending the time between charges.
You can lengthen battery life if you dim the display, turn off WiFi connectivity when it’s not needed, and use only basic applications.