The best desktop computers

From hot rods to budget sleepers, our favorite desktops can handle anything

As mobile devices become more capable, the desktop — our old standby — is too easily forgotten. While manufacturers might lament the decline in desktop sales, it’s all good news for consumers. You’ve always been able to get more bang for your buck out of a desktop computer than you could out of, say, a laptop. Now more than ever, desktop manufacturers are in fierce competition to provide you with the best value without sacrificing performance.

Here we’ve compiled the best desktop computers currently on the market. Whether you need something for your dorm room, home office, or gaming cave, we’ve got you covered with the best desktop PCs on the market today.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Falcon Mach V Best desktop overall 4.5 out of 5
Dell Inspiron 5680 Best budget desktop 4 out of 5
Apple iMac 27-inch with 5K Display Best all-in-one Not yet rated
Alienware Area-51 Best gaming desktop 4.5 out of 5

Falcon Mach V

The best

Falcon Northwest Mach V
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want the best of the best — a grim obelisk, thrumming with dark power.

Who it’s for: Gamers, professionals, overclocking enthusiasts

How much will it cost: Between $2,800 and $9,000+

Why we picked the Falcon Mach V:

Like the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Falcon Mach V is a solid pillar of immense power. It’s understated, elegant, and expensive.

If you want a desktop that will outperform and outlast any other desktop on the market, and price isn’t too much of an issue, then you can’t do better than the Falcon Mach V. It’s fully configurable, from the processor to the paint job, and while it’s a little pricey you’re going to come away with something tailored to your specific needs.

Compared to some other systems, the Mach V may seem mundane, but that’s to its benefit. It doesn’t call too much attention to itself, so it can work as a high-end workstation, a supercharged gaming PC, or anything in between. You may want to seek another rig if flash is important to you, but we think most users will prefer this monolith’s look. Also, it tends to run quieter than competitors, so it won’t distract you with whirring fans.

The conventional design also makes the Mach V easy to upgrade. It has a large, spacious, logically arranged interior, with plenty of room for new hard drives or a large graphics card. And if it breaks within the first three years (god forbid), you’re covered: Falcon’s standard warranty is among the best in the business.

Read our full review of the 2016 Mach V

Dell Inspiron 5680

The best budget desktop

Dell Inspiron 5675 review offset
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want good performance on a budget.

Who it’s for: Students, families

How much will it cost: $830+

Why we picked the Dell Inspiron 5680:

The Inspiron 5680 is a quiet desktop PC that just gets the job done. Properly specced it can do pretty much anything you need it to without breaking your budget. It can serve as a solid, reliable workstation, or its intended purpose: a budget gaming rig.

It’s not the most expensive system on this list, but it’s got a couple of features that give it a leg up over some of its more expensive competitors. For starters, it’s very quiet. Seriously, it’s whisper quiet even under a heavy load, which makes it a great choice for dorm rooms or living rooms, or anywhere that excessive fan noise wouldn’t be particularly appreciated. It never gets very loud, and it’s practically inaudible under a desk, even under heavy load.

The Inspiron is also surprisingly compact. You can put this thing anywhere; it’d fit comfortably under a desk, on top of it, or even in a small cupboard. It’s just flashy enough to look stylish without looking out of place in a home office. Overall, the Inspiron 5680 is a workhorse, plain and simple. If you need a new desktop PC, a new all-around workstation that will dutifully serve with only a sensible number of bells and whistles, the Inspiron is your best bet.

Read our full Dell Inspiron 5680 review

Apple iMac 27-inch with 5K Display

The best all-in-one

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review full angle
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want a cord-free, clean setup.

Who it’s for: Students, families, creative professionals

How much will it cost: Starts at $1,800

Why we picked the Apple iMac 27-inch with 5K Display

Looking for a more reserved style? Maybe you just want an all-in-one with a tack-sharp screen? Then the iMac with Apple’s 5K display is a solid choice particularly if space is a consideration, or if you just don’t want to deal with all the hassles that come along with a typical desktop PC.

The iMac lives up to the famous Apple promise: it just works. This is a desktop that gets out of your way and gets the job done. The gorgeous, luxurious screen makes the iMac a great choice for multi-purpose use: As a workstation, it’s got a big enough monitor with all the space you could need; as an entertainment center or even a TV replacement, it’s got vivid colors, deep blacks, and unparalleled color clarity.

In addition to all of that, the iMac is surprisingly fast. It’s snappy and responsive, with quick load times, and decent multitasking performance as long as you don’t push it too hard.

Performance, paired with a classic glass-and-aluminum design make the iMac a good choice for consumers looking for a well-rounded desktop that doesn’t take up too much of the desktop. If it’s looking a bit expensive for you, you could always opt for the much more compact 21.5-inch version, which starts at $1,300.

Read our full Apple iMac 27-inch with 5K review

Alienware Area-51

The best gaming desktop

Alienware Area-51 R5 Review |
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Its big box power is accented by a sublimely quiet gaming experience.

Who it’s for: Gamers who want ultimate gaming power in a unique-looking chassis.

How much will it cost: Starts at $1,900 – $8,000. Tested at $6,710

Why we picked the Alienware Area 51:

Alienware’s Area 51 has always been a striking gaming PC and the latest R5 iteration is no different. With a hefty, but uniquely angled and styled chassis, the new version packs up to dual GTX 1080 graphics alongside Intel CPUs and memory options which will leave no gamer wanting.

One of the most exciting elements of this sleek system is that it’s so quiet. It’s also well designed for those planning customization of their own. Its case design is such that removing graphics cards, memory, and other components can be done quickly and easily without a tool in sight.

As a robust system, it can also stand up to any knocks and bangs during transit – perfect if you like to pop along to a local or national LAN party. It’s a bit on the hefty side, but the sturdiness of the chassis makes up for that.

You have to pay through the nose for such a quality machine, but if you want a futureproofed gaming desktop with plenty of power today, there’s little better than the latest Alienware Area 51.

Check out our list of the best gaming laptops for more options.

Read our full Alienware Area-51 R5 review

Should you buy now, or wait?

That’s the real question here, isn’t it? If you’ve read this far, you probably already have a good idea of what you want out of a new desktop, but when should you pull the trigger on the decision?

Well, now’s as good a time as any. Graphics card prices have come down significantly in the past few months which is great for home builders. That may mean we’ll see some offers from pre-built desktop makers which want to stay competitive. Additionally, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, and most other major manufacturers have refreshed their flagship desktop lines with Intel’s 8th-generation chips and there are some options for Ryzen+ CPU choices too. 

That said, Nvidia’s RTX-series graphics cards are just around the corner, so if you want to buy a PC with the most powerful graphics card(s) in the world, wait until those hit the system builders before making your choice.

How we test

You’ve read our reviews. You’ve read our conclusions. And now you’re wondering how we came to them.

Reviews often lack context. We’ll give out a score and analyze the finer points of desktop performance, but how do we reach those conclusions? How do we test these machines?

Allow us to lift the veil. Here we’ll explain the benchmarks we use for objective testing and the perspective from which we approach subjective topics. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions, but we hope that sharing our process will leave you better equipped to decide what desktop best fits your needs.

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