GR8

Need a new desktop PC for home theater, home office, or small office use, but don't know where to start? No problem - you've come to the right place! This guide profiles ten of the very best off-the-shelf PCs on the market, and we're positive you'll find a system in this guide that will work for you! For the Summer 2017 edition of this guide, our picks start at under $400 for a great all-around family PC and go beyond $2,000 for the elite gamers out there. Also on the list are some perfect small office and home theater PCs.

Now, a few words on the components that really make a difference to the average user. First, you have the CPU, which most consumers are at least a little familiar with by now. Intel has five main processor lines: Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7, from slowest to fastest. We recommend at least the Core i3 for most users, which means you'll be getting two processing cores plus Hyperthreading, which provides virtual cores for multi-tasking. With the Core i5 you step up to four real cores, which is a much more future-proof design, and the Core i7 features four real cores plus an equal number of virtual cores for extreme multi-tasking.

Secondly, we come to the solid-state drive. We think just about every user should have an SSD in their PC at this point to improve boot up speed and system responsiveness, but PC manufacturers have been very slow to embrace the technology, in part because consumers have been trained to look for big numbers. For example, a 500GB hard drive is better than a 250GB solid-state drive, right? Wrong! Until vendors start to trust that consumers actually know how to value solid-state drives, you have to do a lot of combing through component lists to pick out the winners. We've done that for you here, although there are still a few systems that depend on a hard drive where other factors, like price or storage capacity, may trump the need for an SSD.

One last note: it's unfortunately become pretty clear that all the major manufacturers have pulled out of the low-cost, ultra-compact PC business. In past years, models like the Acer Revo, Asus VivoPC, and HP Stream Desktop offered excellent features in a tiny form factor, often for less than $400. All have been discontinued or languish on virtual store shelves years after release. Alas, we have a feeling the margins on these systems were just too thin, especially given the substantial increase in the prices of RAM and solid-state drives over the past year. We also have a hunch that Microsoft's discounted OEM Windows program for low-cost PCs has come to an end. Luckily, gamers and business users looking for small form factor PCs have plenty to choose from, starting at around $600.

And just a plug here for our Do-It-Yourself PC Build Guides - if you have any technical inclination whatsoever, you should really consider building your own PC. It's very rewarding, and you'll get to choose exactly the components you want (starting with a big SSD, of course!). That being said, a few of the specialized pre-built systems in this guide would be impossible to put together on your own, given their innovative, custom-designed exteriors.

One last note: to support continued development of this guide, please use the links we provide if you decide to purchase one of our recommended PCs.

Desktops - Summer 2017

    The Basic Office Desktop:

    Lenovo Ideacentre 300

    Equipped with Intel's Core i3-6100 dual-core processor, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive, this is a great entry-level PC. It offers six USB ports (two in front, four in back), HDMI video out along with the older VGA analog standard, as well as a built-in DVD burner and memory card reader.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is about as cheap a PC as you'll find from a major manufacturer that includes an Intel Core processor.

    The Perfect Family PC:

    Acer Aspire Desktop TC-780-AMZKi5

    Equipped with a powerful Intel Core i5-7400 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive, this PC is perfect for the whole family to use. It's even well-equipped for photo work, with its built-in DVD burner and SD memory card reader.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While we typically recommend solid-state drives due to their increased responsiveness, it can be difficult managing their smaller size when everyone in the house is loading them up with files, games, photos, etc. So we think the tradeoff offered by a traditional hard drive is reasonable here.

    The Home Office Desktop:

    Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 Tiny (Quad-Core)

    Packing tremendous processing power into a truly tiny chassis, the appropriately named M700 Tiny from Lenovo will make any home office look good! It features a potent Intel Core i5-6400T quad-core CPU, 8GB of memory, and the all-important 128GB solid-state drive for fantastic responsiveness. It even has built-in 802.11ac networking and Bluetooth connectivity. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while it does not have HDMI ports, it has two DisplayPort outputs, which are the most capable digital video connection available, and a simple adapter cable will allow connection to HDMI-only monitors.

    The Budget Gamer Pre-Built Option:

    CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme VR GXiVR8020A3

    In the crazy world we live in, where cryptocurrency mining can wipe out worldwide stocks of just about every video card, it's amazing to see that CyberpowerPC is able to provide consumers with a budget-priced gaming system that really has the guts to game. Featuring an Intel Core i5-7400 quad-core processor and the potent Radeon RX 580 4GB graphics card, which has been sold out on store shelves for over two months, this system is truly far less expensive than any true gaming system you could build yourself at this point.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You get a keyboard, mouse, and even a 802.11ac wireless USB adapter with this system!

    The Ultra-Slim Business PC:

    HP Elite Slice

    HP's new ultra-compact Elite Slice is the ultimate streamlined business PC solution. Simply put, if you are equipping a next-gen workstation, whether at home or in an office, skip the clunky towers and go for the Slice! Equipped with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-6500T 35W quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a big 256GB solid-state drive, along with HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, this is all you'll ever need from a workstation for many years to come. It also includes two USB 3.0 and two USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, along with "Slice" add-on components like an optical drive, an audio drive, and a wireless charging cover, making it truly future-proof!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We believe that this form factor will become the norm in business desktop computing within the next 2-3 years. There's simply no reason for offices to be outfitting their workstations with desktop towers given the state of today's PC technology.

    The Home Theater Gaming PC:

    Asus GR8 II-T069Z

    While Asus is marketing this as a gaming PC, given its small size, we think its ideal use is as a high-powered slimline home theater PC! Equipped with a Core i5-7400 quad-core processor with Hyperthreading, a GTX 1060 3GB video card, ultra-high-end SupremeFX HD Audio, and a 512GB solid-state drive, it's the perfect machine to use as a media player, game console replacement, or even a standard desktop PC.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model even features the new Asus Aura RGB system, which allows you to customize the color scheme to match your style!

    The Small Business Desktop:

    HP EliteDesk 800 G3

    If you need a lot of processing power for serious business applications along with a compact design, the EliteDesk 800 G3 from HP is the system for you. It features an Intel Core i7-7700 quad-core processor with Hyperthreading, which boosts speed tremendously in applications like spreadsheets and photo/video processing. The system also includes 8GB of RAM (expandable to 64GB!), a 256GB PCIe-based solid-state drive for great responsiveness, and Windows 10 Pro pre-installed.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Packing in a total of 11 USB ports (including a USB Type-C port), along with dual DisplayPort outputs for high-resolution monitors, this model has plenty of  connectivity.

    The Ultra-Compact Gamer:

    Zotac ZBOX-EN1070

    This model from Zotac is a high-powered gaming machine packed into a mind-blowingly small case. At just 8" by 8" by 2.5", this system is simply tiny! And yet you still get a fast Intel Core i5-7500T quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive plus 120GB solid-state drive, along with the potent Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 video card. It even has ultra-fast 802.11ac wireless networking built in. Note that some ZBOX models are "barebones" and don't include RAM, a hard drive, or Windows, but this version is ready to go out of the box!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Zotac is marketing this system for virtual reality, and with a GTX 1070 inside, it's more than powerful enough to run both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets! Note that this system uses the mobile version of the GTX 1070, which is how Zotac was able to make this system so small, but it's nearly as powerful as the regular desktop version.

    The Premium Gaming PC:

    CyberpowerPC Gamer Supreme SLC8600A

    Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! This is a monstrous gaming PC at a fantastic price! You get a liquid-cooled Intel Core i7-7700K quad-core CPU, 32GB of memory, and a 240GB SSD along with a 3TB hard drive. Oh, and did we mention the seriously-high-end GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB video card, the fastest GPU ever?!?

    The Guru's Tip:

    With a 1-year warranty and free lifetime tech support, this system is perfect for anyone who wants the ultimate gaming experience but isn't quite ready to build their own PC!

    The Ultimate Compact Gamer:

    Corsair ONE GTX 1080

    If you want both extreme gaming power and amazing portability, look no further than the custom-designed ONE from Corsair. It's just 15" tall, 7.9" deep, and 6.9" wide, giving it an absolutely tiny footprint. And yet it packs in a Core i7-7700K processor and a GeForce GTX 1080 8GB video card, both cooled by Corsair's class-leading liquid cooling. Also along for the ride are 16GB of RAM, a 480GB solid-state drive, and a 2TB hard drive. This thing is the real deal!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The really innovative aspect of this system's design is that just a single fan is used to drive cool air through the dual radiators, making this system amazingly quiet despite the compact dimensions and massive gaming firepower.