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Most of them are tiny, inexpensive PCs with small amounts of memory and storage. While it has many fans, Linux is more of a do-it-yourself operating system, where you'll have to rely on your own faculties for installation, sourcing programs, and support. Chrome OS, macOS, and Windows are certainly easier choices if you simply want to buy a desktop and use it right away.
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If all you need to do is surf the internet, write Word documents, or make simple spreadsheets, then an entry-level desktop is the way to go. As for storage, a paltry 32GB of eMMC flash storage is found on the absolute least-expensive desktops. These are all compact budget models, usually far smaller than a laptop. But a 1TB hard drive is more prevalent as a baseline for larger desktops and a better option for most users.
Midrange desktops will stay functional longer, thanks to more CPU power and speed, more memory for multitasking, roomier storage, or a larger built-in screen. You will have to make some sacrifices, but even demanding users will be able to find a midrange system that will last them at least five years. This is an ideal arrangement for people with large media collections. High-end desktops offer top-of-the-line components, such as the latest CPUs that will give you all the power you need for multimedia projects, loads of storage a GB SSD or a 1TB hard drive, but typically 2TB or more, sometimes in an SSD-and-hard-drive combination , 3D graphics capability for gaming, or a combination of all three.
While sticking to one of the three price ranges, we recommend that you buy just a little more than you need for the tasks you do now, if you can. That way, you future-proof your purchase and won't have to shop for a replacement for a while. See How We Test Desktops. General-purpose desktops, which are the kind you typically see in retail stores, are well suited to general office tasks, surfing the internet, video conferencing, and the like.
They're designed to be jacks-of-all-trades: good at most tasks, but rarely great at specialized functions such as multimedia creation or gaming. Performance PCs, which include multimedia machines and workstations, will give you more power for complex creative or math and scientific projects. Faster processors with four, six, or even 18 cores make quick work of your tasks.
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More RAM 16GB to 64GB is installed, so you can keep larger images in memory for fast transformations while editing a video, rendering a 3D model, or processing a gigantic spreadsheet full of numbers you have to graph. You'll also find extra storage in the form of large hard drives and SSDs that will let you hold a multitude of work documents and program library files.
Workstations are specialized machines made to do the heavy lifting of high-end media creation, scientific calculations, and strenuous work tasks that have razor-thin deadlines. Some come with onsite tech support. Gaming PCs have even faster versions of the multicore processors found in the performance PCs. Plus, they have dedicated graphics cards, so you can smoothly view and interact with the virtual worlds that the game developers create. Flashy design elements like automotive paint, multiple graphics cards viewable through clear plastic or glass case doors, and elaborate liquid-cooling setups are available, for a price.
In earlier years, these kinds of options were typically only available from boutique PC makers such as Digital Storm, Maingear, and Origin PC, but many have filtered down into configurations from the major makers.
Laptops: a buyer's guide
Also, in gaming PCs, upgradability is almost but not quite a must-have. Desktops are no longer the uniform metal boxes that they used to be. Even certain relatively tiny PCs today can have built-in components that rival high-performance PCs of years past. Choosing one these days is a matter of space constraints and purpose.
Even so, they contain a processor, memory, storage, and ports to hook up displays, keyboards , and mice. They are usually the most economical to buy and run, since they use power-saving components and processors. The total volume of one of these systems is rarely larger than that of a small jewelry box. SFF desktops have more internal space, allowing you to attach additional hard drives and possibly even a gaming-grade graphics card.
You'll also find more powerful CPUs here, with their more strenuous cooling requirements. Traditional tower desktops, including mini, midsize, and full-size towers, have the most internal space, so you can install multiple hard drives, more RAM, or multiple graphics cards, depending on your needs. They are the most flexible, but also the bulkiest. An all-in-one AIO desktop will save you some space, since the display is built in.
With a few exceptions for business-oriented all-in-ones, you will give up expandability compared with the traditional desktop, however. Most AIO screens come in sizes from 22 to 34 inches, and the top models support up to a 5K 5,by-2,pixel native resolution. A 1,by-1,pixel screen is the mainstream-AIO norm, however, and some outliers have widescreen designs with resolutions that lie between 2, by 1, pixels and 4K 3, by 2, We review hundreds of PCs every year at PC Labs, evaluating their features and testing their performance against peers in their respective categories.
That way, you'll know which are best suited for gaming, which is our favorite general-purpose all-in-one, and which is the best if all you need is a small, powerful system you can get up and running quickly. We pull from our full range of desktops reviews for the frequently updated list below, and we include top-rated models from as many categories as possible.
These are our current favorites, but for a full feed of all of our very latest desktop reviews, check out our desktops product guide. Sleek styling and extreme attention to detail. Top-notch computing performance. Solid sound quality. Excellent software bundle. Cons: Expensive as configured. Small storage capacity. Lacks height adjustment. No touch screen.
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