When buying a new desktop PC you have two main options: you can build one yourself or you can buy a "pre-built." With the sufficient time, parts and knowledge, building your own machine is the preferred method among enthusiasts, usually resulting in better value and upgradeability, not to mention the satisfaction of putting it all together yourself. However, for the past year, graphics card prices have made pre-built PCs an interesting option even for gamers and hardcore enthusiasts.
If you have limited desk space but still want a large display, an all-in-one PC with internals built into the monitor may be a good option for you. If you already have a monitor or want to be able to upgrade it without replacing the whole computer, or if you want to use the same computer with several monitors around your house or office, a mini PC may be what you need. This PC buying guide includes the best pre-built PCs in each category.
- Best for Gaming
- Best Gaming Value
- Best for Basic Computing
- Best All-In-One PC
- Best Windows All-In-One
- Best Value All-In-One
- Best Mini PC
- Best Windows Mini PC
Best for Gaming
One shortcoming with most PC makers offering pre-builts is that you can't know exactly what you're getting (except for boutique builders). HP is one of the few big brands that specifies the make of the RAM, SSD, cooling and power supply in the systems they sell, which is a big plus.
What specifically sets the new Omen 45L apart is the "Omen Cryo Chamber" on top of the case, which ensures a separate airflow path for the 2x12mm CPU water cooler (the case also supports 3x12mm), made by Cooler Master. The 3 front ARGB fans can only draw air through the gaps on the sides of the tempered glass front panel, but that should be enough when the burden of CPU cooling doesn't exist. The filter in front of those fans is easy to remove for cleaning.
As of writing, for $2,600, you can get the Omen 45L powered by Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080, Intel's great Core i7-12700K processor, 16GB of RAM from HyperX, and a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD from Western Digital. Reviews indicate that the CPU is limited by the motherboard to 210W, so we wouldn't add $260 for the Core i9-12900K, which is rated for 241W when fully utilized.
The RAM is rated for 3733Mhz, but the Omen will only let you run it at 3,200Mhz. Before you go and replace the motherboard, you should know that HP's hardware reference guide says that additional settings become available when using different memory.
The SSD is from WD's Black series and uses TLC flash, which makes it good for long writes, such as copying the all of the content from your previous SSD. The Cooler Master PSU offers 800W and 80 Plus Gold efficiency.
The proprietary motherboard uses the Intel Z690 chipset. It has 4 RAM slots, 4 SATA ports and two M.2 storage slots. Although the motherboard is mATX, the case supports full ATX as well, making it great for a massive upgrade after several years.
The front I/O is rather simple, with 4 USB Type-A connectors, but the rear has 6 more, including two Type-C. The price includes Windows 11 Home, one year of warranty, and 1-month Xbox Game Pass and McAfee LiveSafe trials.
Best Gaming Value
After a year without new mainstream GPUs on the market, it's getting harder to find a gaming PC with modern hardware and an acceptable case for less than $1,500. That's why our former top choice for gamers has become our new value choice.
For $1610, you can get the Omen 30L powered by AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X, GeForce RTX 3060, 16 GB of HyperX DDR4-3200 RAM, a 1TB WD Black PCIe SSD, and a 600W power supply with 80 Plus Gold efficiency from Cooler Master (you can upgrade to 800W for $40).
HP's proprietary AMD motherboards are not as good as Intel's: they use the B550 chipset (i.e. B450 with PCIe 4.0), but only have 2 RAM slots and a single M.2 SSD slot. Also, despite the Omen 30L's height, it can't fit an ATX motherboard, but only mATX and a radiator under the top panel.
Thanks to the perforated sides of the case's front panel, the single front fan should be able to get cool air into the system. The front I/O is even simpler than the Omen 45L's, with just two USB connectors, but like the 45L's the rear has 6 more, including one Type-C.
The price includes Windows 11 Home and a year of warranty. We can only hope that the GeForce RTX 3050 will help OEMs assemble decent rigs for lower prices in the near future, like the GTX 1660 Super used to.
Best for Basic Computing
If you already have a monitor and are looking for the most affordable desktop PC that's not a waste of money, then Acer may have the answer for you with its Aspire TC series. For $540 you get a Core i5-10400 hexa-core CPU, 12GB of RAM that runs at 2666MHz, and an unnamed 512GB PCIe SSD.
The case is properly ventilated, and has two USB 3.1 ports, including one Type-C, and an SD card reader on the front. The motherboard has 6 USB ports in the rear, and two HDMI ports. The PC also offers a slim optical drive.
If you ever wanted to turn this particular model into a gaming PC, you should replace the 4GB RAM stick, which these days is inexpensive, as it can't create a dual-channel configuration with an 8GB one. If you want to add a graphics card, it should be one that doesn't require a power connector, such as the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti since the power supply only provides 300W. Storage upgradability isn't great either, with just one 3.5" bay.
The PC comes with Windows 10 Home (free upgrade option to Windows 11), a year year of warranty, and a basic keyboard and mouse.
Powered by the same M1 processor found in modern MacBooks and iPad Pro tablets, Apple's 24" iMac features unprecedented efficiency and design for a device of its kind. The AIO's monitor is just 11.5mm thick.
One thing that sets the iMac apart is its screen, with a 4.5K resolution, and support for true 8-bit (16.7 million) colors, and 10-bit (1 billion) colors with FRC. Like most of the company's iPad lineup, it also has an anti-reflective coating and uses True Tone to automatically adjust brightness and color temperature. Another standout comes in the sound department, as the iMac has 6 speakers: 4 woofers and 2 tweeters. It also has 3 microphones to complement the 1080p camera.
The iMac starts at $1,299 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. We recommend adding $200 for 16GB of RAM. You may want to add another $200 for the model with 8 active graphics units, but not for the minor difference in graphics performance. That version has two USB 3.0 Type-C ports in addition to the two Thunderbolt/USB 4.0 and headphone jack found in the base version. It also comes with a Touch ID sensor on the Magic Keyboard and Ethernet for no extra cost, and has more color and storage options. In addition, the base model has been shown to have an inferior cooling system that can make the M1 throttle under heavy workloads.
On both versions, you can expand storage although upgrades are very expensive: 512GB for $200, or 1TB for $400. Unless you need all of your storage to be as fast as possible or have an extremely limited desk space, external drives will be a much better value. By default, the iMac comes with the Magic Mouse, which you can replace with the Magic Trackpad for $50.
All in all, the iMac is a premium priced all-in-one affair, but a modern and well rounded take while at it. We wished there was a larger iMac with M1, but the 27" iMac has not been updated yet, so don't expect the same features and power efficiency -- or rather, don't bother with that model until it's updated.
Best Windows All-in-One
With growing power requirements of GPUs, and the thinner bodies and higher screen resolutions of all-in-one PCs, it's getting harder to recommend any such PC for gaming, but here is one we can definitely recommend for GPU-accelerated graphical work.
The new HP Envy 34 is finally available to purchase, with an ultrawide 5K IPS display and 98% NTSC color coverage. For $2,500 you can get it with Intel's prev-gen Core i7-11700 8-core CPU, GeForce RTX 3060 (with laptop-version frequencies), 16GB of RAM at 2,666Mhz, and a 1TB TLC-based NVMe SSD.
We wouldn't recommend getting the PC with higher-end parts, because they would be limited by the 330W power supply. The memory and storage are easy to upgrade with two M.2 slots and 4 RAM slots.
The 16MP camera is magnetically detachable to remove privacy concerns, and can be attached to any point of the bezel. Connectors include two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SD card reader, and 7 more USB ports, including another Type-C The price includes Windows 11 Home, HP's 915 wireless keyboard and mouse combo, and a one month trial of Adobe apps and McAfee LiveSafe.
Best Value All-in-One
If you don't need a gaming-grade machine but still want to enjoy a great display, HP once again has the best offer for you. The Pavilion 24 has a full-HD touchscreen with an IPS panel that offers great viewing angles and full sRGB coverage. For $800 you get AMD's 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H, 2 x 8GB of RAM at 3,200MHz, a 256GB NVMe SSD, and a 1TB disk drive spinning at 7,200 RPM.
The PC has five USB 3.0 ports, including one Type-C, two HDMI ports for connecting another monitor or using the PC as another PC's monitor, an SD card reader, Ethernet and a headphone jack. It also has a pop-out 5MP camera, and a massive soundbar made by Bang & Olufsen.
This PC now ships with Windows 11 Home. Wired keyboard and mouse are also included. The Pavilion comes with 1 year of warranty, and you can expand it to 2 or 3 with 24/7 technical support. If you want something a bit more powerful, for $1,050 you can grab a very similar AIO with a 27" display and an 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H CPU.
Best Mini PC
For $699, Apple's Mac Mini is as powerful as the more expensive version of the 24" iMac, it's driven by the M1 chip and 8 active graphics units. This small form factor computer is 7.7" long and wide, and 1.4" tall, including an internal PSU.
Connectors include two Thunderbolt/USB 4.0 with 6K display support (using either connector), one HDMI 2.0 with 4K support, two USB-A 3.0, Ethernet and a headphone jack with no microphone support. The Mini also has a basic built-in speaker.
The base Mini configuration comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. As with the iMac, you may want to add $200 for 16GB of RAM. Unlike the iMac, relying on external storage devices will hurt the Mini's portability, so you may also want to add $200 for 512GB of storage, or even $400 for 1TB. If you want 10Gb Ethernet instead of the default 1Gb, it'll be another $100.
Best Windows Mini PC
The mini PC is another category where models are being discontinued and newer ones are in development, but for the time being, the Dell Optiplex 3080 Micro offers a good combination of power, price and compact size. For $780 you'll get Intel's Core i5-10500T, a 6-core part often found in all-in-one computers, 16GB of RAM at 2,666Mhz, a 256GB NVMe SSD and Windows 10 Pro.
What makes the Optiplex Micro unique is the ability to mount it behind a monitor with a kit sold for $25, and basically turn a monitor with an unused VESA mount into an all-in-one.
At 7.16" x 7.03" x 1.42", the Optiplex Micro is about the same size as the Mac Mini, but it will need an external power brick. On the other hand, it has the space for a 2.5" SATA drive if you need more storage. Connectors include six USB (all Type-A), HDMI, DisplayPort, 1Gb Ethernet and audio ports.