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Best computer 2021: the best PCs we've tested

Spending money on the best computer is more of an investment, rather than a treat. Cheap, low-powered computers might get you by, but they’...

Spending money on the best computer is more of an investment, rather than a treat. Cheap, low-powered computers might get you by, but they’ll also be more likely to have slow performance and other issues, especially when performing processor and graphics-intensive tasks. Plus, they’re also not likely to last more than a couple of years as more software and apps become even more demanding.

While you might save a lot of money now getting an underpowered, cheap computer, you’re probably not getting the best value. You could end up buying a replacement in a couple of years or so, which means you’re not really saving money in the long run. You’re better off, therefore, investing in the best computer for your needs. That’s especially if you’re going to use it for daily productivity or creative projects. Besides, the increasingly powerful yet more affordable processors and graphics cards that Intel, AMD and Nvidia are rolling out, it’s no longer necessary to blow your budget to get a powerful PC. Quite a few budget PCs out there deliver top-notch performance while keeping the cost low by forgoing a few features instead of sacrificing on PC components.

To help you find the one that gives you the best value for your money, we’ve gathered the best PCs in this guide, from the best gaming PCs and the best computers for creative workflows to budget PCs touting enough power for whatever you need.

Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition

(Image credit: Dell)

Best PC: Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition

Performance meets beauty and affordability

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9 | Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Super | RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4 2933Mhz | Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVME SSD + 2TB SATA 7200RPM HDD

Great price
A lot of power
Beautiful white chassis
Only one USB-C port

Dell’s XPS laptop line may have gone premium, price-wise, but its desktop line is still going for the trifecta – offering affordability without sacrificing performance and aesthetics. The Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition might not be a budget offering, but it remains within most people’s budgets, especially at its low- and mid-range configurations fitted with the latest innards. In fact, an Intel Core i7, RTX 3060 Ti configuration will set you back a whole lot less than its 21.5‑inch iMac equivalent while touting newer specs. Plus, it’ll look just as good in your office as it will at home.

iMac 27-inch (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Best all-in-one PC: iMac (27-inch, 2020)

A formidable AIO

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 - Radeon Pro 5700 XT | RAM: 8GB – 128GB 2666MHz DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 8TB SSD | Display: 27-inch (diagonal) 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K display

Improved internals
Can be configured to be very powerful
Design is getting old
Just two Thunderbolt ports

Even though the iMac 27-inch’s last update was only last year, Apple couldn’t help but step up in the upgrades department with its 2021 follow-up. Specs-wise, this model sports some massive improvements while also upgrading its webcam and microphones for a felicitous update. More people are working from home these days, and this seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make some considerable space in your existing area. Sure, its overall design hasn’t seen so much as a tweak, making it look a bit tired, but if power is at the top of your list, this one’s the best PC for you in the all-in-one sphere.

Read the full review: iMac (27-inch, 2020)

Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

(Image credit: Alienware)

Best gaming PC: Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

Powerful gaming for all budgets

CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 5950X | Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 | RAM: Up to 128GB 3200MHz DDR4 | Storage: Up to 2TB SSD + 2TB HDD

Powerful specs
Affordable
Stunning design
Still very expensive at highest configurations

With AMD’s solid campaign to win the CPU and GPU markets, it’s no surprise that many of the best PCs are switching over Team Red’s cause. Our favorite Alienware Aurora gaming desktop PC line is among them, fitting its R10 models with AMD’s powerful yet affordable Ryzen CPUs. Not only do these deliver brute strength when it comes to gaming, but they also tout affordability, giving budget gamers to partake in what those with souped up rigs experience everyday without burning a hole in their pockets.

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

(Image credit: Dell)

Best budget gaming PC: Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

Budget PC gaming at its best

CPU: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900KF | Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER | RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4 2933Mhz | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD + 2TB HDD

Affordable
VR-ready configurations
Base models won’t get you through the most demanding games

A unique chassis coupled with a price to beat, Dell’s latest in its G series gaming PCs is a solid contender in budget gaming. The Dell G5 boasts 9th-generation Intel chips as well as Nvidia’s most powerful gaming GTX and RTX graphics cards, starting with an i3 processor and the GTX 1650 to handle many powerful games without burning a whole in your pocket. Of course, if you’ve got more case to spare, it’s VR ready configurations are also on hand, though even those are absolutely affordable.

Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

(Image credit: Intel)

Best mini PC: Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

Small, but dangerous

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 64B DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD – 2TB + 2TB

Affordable at its low configurations
Highly upgradeable
Great performance
Can get pretty pricey at the highest configurations

Intel’s NUC has come a long way from its humble beginnings. For example, while the previous Hades Canyon didn’t come with a RAM or storage, the newer Ghost Canyon has both. In fact, not only does it have more offerings now in terms of specs, but it’s also highly configurable so you can personalize it to your liking before hitting that buy button. With 9th-generation Intel Core chips, up to 64GB of memory and up to 4TB dual storage, we’re all for it. The only catch is that it's pricier now as well. The lower configurations are still quite affordable, and a terrific option for the budget-conscious. However, you may want to stay away from the highest configurations.

Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Best mid-range gaming PC: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

Plenty of power for the price

CPU: up to 10th-gen Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super | RAM: Up to 16 GB DDR4 2933MHz | Storage: Up to 2 TB HDD + 1 TB SSD

Great design
Not a lot of bloat
No USB Type-C among front ports

A well-powered machine with an affordable price might be what you need if your gaming appetite isn’t approaching the competitive sphere. Many gamers don’t really need the priciest and mightiest gaming rig, and the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i proves this, delivering plenty of power without forcing you to go broke. Nothing especially stands out with this gaming desktop, but it also offers a great gaming experience with the latest AAA titles right out of the box, which is really all that matters.

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

Apple Mac mini (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Best Mac: Apple Mac mini (2020)

Same size, more storage space

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

More storage
More RAM options
Aging processor
Older integrated graphics

Apple is changing up a bit, giving its updated Macs more storage than their predecessors as well as the option for even more RAM. It’s the case with the newly-updated Mac mini (2020). Sadly, this isn't quite the generational upgrade we were hoping for. It’s the same Mac mini with the same processor and integrated graphics that are both, unfortunately, aging at this point. Though, both are still pretty potent for the Mac mini’s target audience. Combined with more storage space, this is certainly the best computer for many Apple fans.

Intel Compute Stick

(Image credit: Intel)

Best stick PC: Intel Compute Stick

The tiny computer that can

CPU: Intel Atom – Intel Core m5 | Graphics: : Intel HD Graphics – Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 1GB – 4GB | Storage: 8GB-64GB eMMC

Wide CPU choices
Extremely portable design
Limited fan cooling
Limited RAM and storage

Some people have issues with desktop PCs, as they’re often rather bulky. The Intel Core Compute Stick has made that irrelevant. Looking more like a thumb drive than an actual computer, this tiny renegade can connect to any monitor with an HDMI input. Its base starts with a lowly 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor running Linux, but can be configured up to an Intel Core m5 processor. This is one of the best PCs, but one that you can literally slip in your pocket, whether you need to get some work done during your daily commute or squeeze in some PC time while you’re traveling.

Lenovo Yoga A940

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Best in features: Lenovo Yoga A940

Thoughtful design, innovative features

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8700 | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 560 4GB | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1 TB 5400 RPM + 256 GB PCIe SSD | Screen: 27" 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS Multi-touch 100% Adobe RGB

Good price
Some nice features
Older components

As a designer, if you don’t fall in love with Lenovo Yoga A940’s thoughtful design, then we don’t know what will. This innovative all-in-one desktop boasts a stunning 27-inch 4K UHD display with up to 25-degree tilt, pen support and a rotating hinge for stability. It’s full of impressive features as well, like the Lenovo Precision Dial that you can attach on the left or right side of the hinge, whatever feels most comfortable for you and your process. And, unlike the best Macs, it offers 100% Adobe RGB support, an LED light at the bottom of the screen and even wireless smartphone charging. If you’re a content creator or designer, and you’re looking for an AIO that allows you a truly seamless workflow, this is the best computer for you.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga A940

iMac Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Best for content creators: iMac Pro

Raw power

CPU: 8 to 18-core Intel Xeon W | Graphics: Radeon Pro Vega 56 - Radeon Pro Vega 64 | RAM: 32GB – 256GB DDR4 ECC | Storage: 1TB – 4TB PCIe 3.0 SSD | Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color)

Most powerful Mac ever
Excellent design
Keeps cool
Very expensive
Non user-upgradable

Unfortunately, what does hold Lenovo Yoga A940 back are its less powerful, slightly aging internals. If you want an all-in-one powerhouse that absolutely blows you away in terms of performance, then the iMac Pro is the best computer for you. This AIO designed specifically for professionals and creatives may not be super rich in features, but it’s got a lot to offer where it truly counts. That includes its vibrant 27-inch 5K display with a P3 wide color gamut, mind-blowing Radeon Pro Vega graphics, and plenty of memory for all your exacting workloads. Just be prepared to shell out a bunch of cash, as this doesn’t come cheap.

Read the full review: iMac Pro

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

(Image credit: Raspberry Pi)

Best single-board computer: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Small yet mighty

CPU: Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) | Graphics: OpenGL ES 3.0 | RAM: 1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM

More powerful CPU for a smoother user experience
The 4GB RAM model is almost a desktop replacement
Even at idle the CPU gets rather too warm

Despite its tiny size – it’s so small, it doesn’t even have its own chassis, the Raspberry Pi boards have proven themselves to be utterly capable little machines, surprisingly capable of handling everyday productivity tasks like word processing and spreadsheets. And, with the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, we see this powerful computer getting the fantastic update it rightly deserves. Finally, the Raspberry Pi line gives you a desktop computer and a platform to experiment and create.

Read the full review: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Image Credits: TechRadar



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