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The best desktop computers for small businesses

The equipment that you purchase for your small business is significantly different from the equipment you buy for personal use, and that includes a desktop PC. Any computer you buy needs to be high-performance to run a host of everyday tasks, like emailing clients, business apps, and anything else you need. And all of our picks on this list of the best desktop computers for small businesses can do those things. 

While not all desktop PCs are suitable for small businesses, our top recommendations, including the Lenovo ThinkStation P330 Tiny, are high-performance and versatile so you can make the most of your investment.

The best desktop PCs for small businesses

The best overall desktop for SMB: Dell OptiPlex 7080

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Why you should buy this: It’s everything that most small businesses could need, with nothing extra, at a great price.

Who it’s for: SMBs that need solid PC performance without any frills.

Why we picked the OptiPlex 7080:

Dell’s refined business tower means business, and it remains the best overall choice for a growing business that needs an office — and a PC that can handle a wide variety of business-related tasks. Dell’s wide array of model options also allows businesses to pick a version that matches their budget.

Our favorite pick, however, is the compact version that sports a 10th-gen Intel Core i5-10500 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB HDD for storage. It also comes with a Nvidia GT 730 GPU and a wide range of port options, including USB-A 2.0, USB-A 3.2, USB-C 3.2, DisplayPort 1.4, and more. It’s a well-rounded package that gets straight to the point without wasting features or money on anything a business won’t need.

Other versions of the OptiPlex 7080 are worth investigating too, though, as they cater to a wide range of wants and needs. Upgrades allow you to switch to a faster SSD for storage needs, add an optical drive (which may still be a must-have for certain businesses), and choose between different sizes.

The best SMB desktop under $1,000: Dell XPS 8940

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Why you should buy this: This PC packs everything your business needs at an attractive price.

Who it’s for: Businesses looking for an affordable but capable PC.

Why we picked the Dell XPS 8940:

Starting at well below $1,000, this XPS tower is perfect for sole proprietors and small offices that need a capable business computer but don’t want to pay too much for it. The included features impress at this price, including options like an 11th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor (starting with the i5-11400), 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD for storage — although further tiers do allow you to upgrade to an SSD if you prefer.

We also are pleased with the numerous ports on this PC, which is ready for just about any type of connection. It’s equipped with three USB-A 3.1 ports and a USB-C port in front for quick connections, along with two USB-A 2.0, four USB-A 3.1, an HDMI 1.4, and DisplayPort 1.2 port in the back. The computer also supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard for speedy wireless connections, although an Ethernet port is included for wired internet connections.

While the Dell XPS 8940 won’t be winning any awards for design, its functionality and low cost still make it a very competitive option. Note that while there is an SD card reader on the PC, the cheaper versions do not include an optical drive, which you will have to pay more for.

Read our full Dell XPS 8940 SE review

The best SMB workstation for creatives: Falcon Northwest Talon

Falcon NW Talon
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Why you should buy this: It’s a super-powerful system in an attractive, quiet chassis.

Who it’s for: Creatives and data analysts who need a powerful desktop today.

Why we picked the Falcon Northwest Talon:

Starting at $2,500 and reaching into five digits at the very top end, the Falcon Northwest Talon is no cheap PC. But this desktop delivers workstation-class performance in a compact footprint. Built in a midsize desktop chassis, the Talon is not a miniature system, but it’s pretty compact considering the hardware inside. Intel and AMD models are available, including new Ryzen 5000 processors. High-end configurations start with the eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 5800X, and top out at the 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X.

That powerful core of the system is backed up by heaps of high-speed memory and powerful and flexible storage as well as high-end graphics options should you need them for rendering or 3D work. Falcon starts with the 8GB RTX 3070, but you can configure your system to have up to a 48GB Quadro RTX 8000 — a $5,000 to $6,000 GPU — and even add a second one if you need it. Falcon also offers the latest AMD GPUs, including the RX 6800 XT.

With such hardware onboard, there’s nothing this system can’t do and it does it well, at quiet noise levels, too, thanks to well-implemented water cooling and great fan configurations. You can even see it all in action through the attractive side panel, though you can choose for a more demure look if you prefer. Not everything needs RGB.

SMBs buying this PC will benefit from minimal disruptions to their workflow should anything go wrong, thanks to a generous three-year standard warranty. There are no upgrade options, unfortunately, so after that three-year period, you’re on your own. But with the build quality and high-end components, the Falcon Northwest Talon should last far longer, no matter what you want to do with it.

The best powerful workstation for SMBs: Puget Systems Threadripper Workstation(s)

Puget Systems Threadripper workstation
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Why you should buy this: You need cutting-edge power at a relatively affordable price.

Who it’s for: SMBs working in industries that need the most powerful hardware money can buy.

Why we picked the Puget Systems Threadripper Workstation:

There has been a revolution in workstation CPU power in the past year and its name is Threadripper. The third-generation of AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper CPUs has blown the lid off of desktop processor power, making everything else out there seem pedestrian in comparison. Where high-powered workstations of years passed focused on Intel’s Xeon server CPUs, Threadripper 3000 chips offer greater performance, at lower power, and higher clock speeds, making them fantastic for multithreaded and single-threaded tasks.

Puget Systems is one of the first workstation builders to utilize the raw power of AMD’s latest high-power CPUs and its customers are reaping the benefits. With options for 24, 32, and 64 cores with the Threadripper 3960x, 3970X, and 3990X CPUs, respectively, Puget’s Threadripper workstations are head and shoulders above anything that Intel’s alternatives can offer, and at a very competitive price too.

Although the starting price of $5,000 isn’t cheap, you’d have to spend more than double that for an Intel Xeon equivalent that can even hope to keep up.

Alongside that high-power CPU, you can pick from a variety of high-end Nvidia graphics cards, including the RTX 2080 Ti and powerful Quadro rendering cards, alongside plenty of storage space, a high-end power supply, and quiet and capable cooling solutions with advanced thermal compound for efficient heat transfer.

While we await the big-name system builders to take note of AMD’s Threadripper success stories, Puget Systems is leading the charge with the most powerful desktop workstations you can buy today.

Read our picks for the best Mac Pro alternatives

The best budget desktop for SMB under $500: Lenovo ThinkCentre M715 Tiny

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Why you should buy this: You have limited desktop real-estate and need a versatile, powerful workhorse.

Who it’s for: Budget and space-restricted offices.

Why we picked the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715 Tiny:

The ThinkCentre M715 Tiny is a compact desktop that will give the Mac Mini a run for its money. This 1-liter volume desktop can be placed on or beside a desk, mounted below a desk in a cubicle, or for the space-constrained office, attached behind a Tiny-in-One Monitor allowing the setup to function like a modular all-in-one PC for an even more elegant setup. Starting at $590, the M715 delivers plenty of performance for everyday computing tasks, and optional upgrades, like a dust shield, help it survive harsher business environments, like warehouse spaces, manufacturing centers, or automotive garages.

Starting with AMD’s Ryzen 5 Pro 2400 GE, you get a fantastic quad-core CPU with eight-thread support, and some capable onboard graphics. Options for RAM range from 8GB to 32GB, though for most tasks 8GB should suffice. The most recent models come with an SSD in some form, with the more expensive variants sporting a high-capacity SATA SSD, and the cheaper ones, a smaller NVMe drive.

Discrete graphics aren’t an option here, as it’s just too small a system, but there are plenty of other options in this list for affordable workstations with an add-in graphics card.

This desktop competes well against Intel’s compact NUC desktops, and users with more demand GPU needs will want to take a look at Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC, a system that comes with discrete graphics support. However, if you go with Intel’s solutions, you’ll miss out on Lenovo’s clever Tiny-in-One design. Like other Think products, the ThinkCentre M715 Tiny’s warranty can be upgraded to provide longer coverage.

The best all-in-one for SMB: 27-inch iMac (2020)

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Why you should buy this: It’s the complete package for Apple-friendly businesses.

Who it’s for: Businesses that prefer Apple and want to get set up fast.

Why we picked the 27-inch iMac (2020):

All-in-one computers offer an interesting proposition: You get a complete package that combines the PC tower and monitor into one model, so you don’t have to spend extra money on a display or worry about where you are going to put the tower (along with managing its cable connections). The downside to all-in-ones like the iMac is that they aren’t really upgradeable in any way, and they need to be replaced entirely when it’s time for an upgrade.

If that’s a deal you can live with, the iMac is effortless to get set up and running, and we like the 27-inch version because the screen is large enough to fit a few different windows for easy multitasking. The base model of the 2020 version includes a 10th-gen, six-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for storage. The display itself is a Retina 5K panel with optional nano-texture glass version, and ports include two Thunderbolt 3 connections.

Note that Apple does have a newer iMac out, the colorful M1 version, but compared to the iMac 2020 model its 24-inch screen is significantly smaller. Since a larger screen is so important for multitasking and can’t really be replaced without buying a new computer entirely, we’re sticking with the 27-inch version as our suggested business-friendly model for now.

The best HP computer for SMB: HP Slim S01

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Why you should buy this: This reliable HP tower can fit anywhere while offering excellent performance.

Who it’s for: Businesses short on space or who love HP’s business-friendly features at an affordable price.

Why we picked the HP Slim S01:

The Slim S01 is quite similar to our top pick, a compact PC tower that gets down to business without wasting any specs — but with very welcome upgrades. They include: Wi-Fi 5 compatibility, a 3-in-1 card reader for transferring images or graphics quickly — all at a very affordable price for companies that want to save.

Inside, the Slim is powered by a 10th-gen Intel Core i3-10100 processor and relies on an integrated Intel UHD for graphics. The base model starts at 8GB of RAM but can be upgraded to 32GB depending on how just how much you need the PC to handle. It also has a dual drive for storage, with a 1TB HDD and a 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD for swift uploads.

Ports for the HP Slim S01 include HDMI, VGA, and USB-A 3.0 and 2.0 — unfortunately, there’s no USB-C here, so make sure to match your accessories appropriately.

The best Mac computer for SMB: Mac mini (2020)

Alex Blake / Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a more modular Apple solution for the modern business.

Who it’s for: Businesses that prefer to stay on MacOS but want the option to build out their system.

Why we picked the Mac mini (2020):

The Mac mini made a comeback in 2020 and remains a highly customizable Apple machine, now powered by Apple’s capable new M1 processor and more powerful than ever. Unlike an iMac, you also are free to build it up with the monitor of your choice and any accessories you please, while the tidy box can sit nearly anywhere while it works.

In addition to the eight-core M1 chip, this version of the Mac mini allows you to choose up to 16GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage, and add pre-installed software like Final Cut Pro if you prefer. Just make sure to choose the faster 10 Gigabit Ethernet port to help benefit from the faster speeds!

This Mac mini option is, of course, an excellent pick for professional editors, photographers, designers, and so on. However, note that the compact size of the Mac mini does limit its port options to only two USB-A and HDMI 2.0, so keep that in mind when picking out your monitor.

Research and buying tips

What should I look for when buying a desktop for a small business?

After choosing a desktop PC with the components to meet your power needs today and into the foreseeable future — processors, graphics card, memory, and storage —  small business owners will want to also consider the design. For instance, a more compact design may be more unobtrusive and can stay out of the way to foster better customer interactions when used in the front office reception area, but these miniature PCs may not be as upgradable as larger tower styles. And although a tower can occupy a lot of space, the roomy enclosure makes upgrading a cinch and can help protect your investment.

When it comes to extending the life of your investment, a solid warranty policy can ensure your business is operational with minimal downtime. Consumer desktops often come with a standard one-year policy, but workstations and desktops for enterprise often ship with three-year warranties that buyers can sometime upgrade to up to five years. If you don’t have a dedicated IT infrastructure to service your equipment, an extended warranty policy can help to minimize disruption to your workflow. If your PC manufacturer doesn’t offer an extended warranty policy, consider buying from retailers that offer their own extended protection plans that cover the standard manufacturing defects along with accidental damage.

Should my desktop computer have an SSD or GPU?

Solid-state drives and graphics cards are optional upgrades that can deliver more performance to your desktop, especially if you intend to keep your investment for a number of years. Fortunately, the price of SSDs has dropped significantly in recent years, making them a sound investment to get more performance out of your desktop. If you’re on a budget, consider a workstation with multiple drive bays. You can load the operating system and frequently used apps on a primary SSD to get the speed benefits and offload larger files and documents to a secondary hard drive to save money.

It’s not uncommon for the typical SMB user to wear many hats in the office they work in, meaning they spearhead several daily operations such as social media management and general bookkeeping. For that reason, even if your business isn’t in the creative field, it’s a good idea to have a graphics card to assist with basic graphics or even videos. 

How much processing power will my SMB desktop require?

You can upgrade your desktop’s capabilities with a basic entry-level GPU — you do not need to be concerned about paying for an expensive, top-of-the-line product yet. Fortunately, CPUs don’t have to take on the entire workload as office software, and some browsers and programs, like Chrome, are starting to utilize GPUs more frequently. If you cannot afford a new GPU at the moment, you can start preparing your computer system for GPU functions by getting a graphics card and configuring it to your current system. Consider using a tower design to provide extra room.

While, sure, it would be awesome to purchase a PC with the newest desktop with an Intel 9th or AMD Ryzen third-generation CPU, not every SMB has the cash to get a fully loaded system. Always purchase items with your budget in mind, and buy the products you need and can afford. For example, if your workload involves switching quickly between large files, or requires a significant amount of multitasking, consider AMD’s third-generation Ryzen or Threadripper CPUs — their multitasking workload is unmatched by Intel competition. 

It’s only worth considering multiple graphics cards if you know you’re going to tackle heavy 3D work or CAD design. For most people, just one high-end GPU will satisfy all of their needs.

What are the advantages of a desktop computer?

Compared to a laptop, desktop computers tend to have more power, higher spec ranges for greater customization, and are — in many cases — easier to upgrade without replacing the computer entirely. There are also a wide variety of desktop models, from mini towers to all-in-ones, so you also have plenty of design options. Desktop computers also have larger displays than laptops, making them ideal for a variety of visual work.

Should I go for a desktop or laptop for my small business?

That depends on how your business operates. There are plenty of powerful business laptops that can take care of business, but they are primarily suited for those who are frequently on the move and may be meeting with clients or traveling to specific locations all the time. More open or collaborative workspaces also may benefit from picking laptops so employees can move around more easily.

Otherwise, desktops offer a central, focused location to get work done, and they can more easily be modified with accessories depending on what your processor requires. That’s a great proposition when you have a dedicated space to work in.

How do you determine if you need an SSD or GPU?

An SSD or solid state drive is a highly durable form of long-term storage for computers. It offers the greatest reliability and speed these days, especially when combined with the latest connections like NVMe.

GPU stands for graphics processing unit, which handles your computer’s visuals. Unless your business is involved in serious editing or graphics work, you are probably fine sticking with a simple integrated GPU. Otherwise, look for a PC with a more powerful dedicated GPU, or at least a model that can be upgraded with a new GPU if necessary.

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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