The top performers in our review are Dell XPS 8700, the Gold Award winner; Acer Predator, the Silver Award winner; and Lenovo K450e, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a computer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
The home computers we reviewed are desktop computers that cost less than $1,000 and come ready to use out of the box. These computers are the traditional image of a PC for your home. They can handle a wide range of tasks, ranging from homework to media, and usually last between three and five years without too much slowdown or any errors. Many computers require extra equipment, including a mouse, keyboard and monitor, although some computers will come with those. You should also look into speakers and a webcam to get the most out of the computer.
If you want a ready-to-use computer that does not require extra peripherals, all-in-one PCs usually cost more but contain all of the components inside the monitor. Multimedia computers connect to the main entertainment hub of the house and store movies and music. Lastly, offices with stationary work spaces need business computers, which easily network and handle a variety of professional tasks. We also have several articles about the best home computers to help you pick.
Home computers provide strong processors, large hard drives and plenty of RAM to allow you to do nearly anything with your computer. You can surf the web and stream media, play video games or run office software to finish homework. Some people like to buy home computers as an inexpensive entry point for a new high-end computer, and all of these PCs are easy to upgrade, simply by opening the case and installing new components on your own. However, if you just want a computer for your whole family, the computers on this lineup give you a great range of options.
In case you need technical support, the manufacturer you choose should offer help. Most of the computers in our lineup include a warranty and phone support that will cover the first year of ownership, but expanded warranties are available for purchase. Expanded warranties include longer periods of telephone support and hardware repairs.
It is very rare to find a proprietary computer component, so when evaluating computers, it’s easy to see what components the desktop uses and how well they perform. We looked to our sister site, Tom’s Hardware, to compare the best processors and graphics units. Then we used average user-tested scores assembled by Passmark, and independent, third-party evaluation organization, to find specific benchmarking information on some of the low- to mid-level processors found in these computers.
All of the computers on our lineup offer a version of Windows 8, which you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Microsoft announced that during Windows 10’s first year, all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users can upgrade to an equivalent full-use version of the new operating system. In other words, if you buy a computer with Windows 8.1 Home, for example, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Home for without additional charge.
Finally, we listed which manufacturers allow you to customize the components before purchasing online. Most computers are pre-built, so you can walk into a retailer and buy the model we reviewed, but some PCs give you the extra option to choose a better processor, upgrade the RAM or add a graphics card if you buy online.
Performance: Good Components Will Improve the Life of a Computer
Despite their low prices, these desktop computers typically use the latest generation of processor, and some will include a dedicated graphics card. As long as the computer has a top-tier processor, it will last for up to five years. When deciding between a computer with an i5 or i3 Intel processor, it’s important to know how you would use the computer. An i5 CPU is a quad-core processor that is great for multitasking and gaming, while an i3 is dual-core but comes with hyper-threading, a process of improving performance by sharing workloads between the processor’s dual cores. Typically, i5 processors are more than most people need, but they are a good choice for people who plan on playing a lot of video games. Most people can save money on a computer that has an i3 processor, since these are fine for surfing the web, watching HD videos and doing homework. Only two of the computers on our lineup use AMD, and generally speaking, these processors do not perform as well as Intel. Tom’s Hardware agreed with this assessment, placing both AMD CPUs in the third and lowest tier on our lineup.
The two best computers on our lineup come with dedicated graphics cards, which means they will be great for gaming. You can play most older games on their highest graphical settings, but you may need to turn down to average for newer games. Still, the additional graphics cards allows your CPU to offload some of the tasks and allow your computer to create smooth 3D textures in real time. If you are not planning on playing games with your new computer, you won’t need a graphics card to surf the web, watch HD videos or do work.
General Info on Our Testing
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Home Computers: How Much Memory and Storage Do You Need?
Since these computers are meant to last for several years, it’s important they have enough storage space to hold your collection of documents, photos and media. The average computer on our lineup has a terabyte of storage, although one comes with a 500-gigabyte hard drive. 500GB hard drives are fine for documents and photos, but if you plan on storing your music and video collection, you’ll need the extra space that 1TB offers. These hard drives are standard SATA drives and offer high speeds. Some computers offer solid state drives as an upgrade, while others make it easy to install a secondary drive on your own. The advantage to an SSD is that it will access files much faster than a SATA drive, but they are much more expensive and come with less storage capacity overall.
On top of that, the average computer comes with a standard 8 gigabytes of memory, but like hard drives, you can upgrade this before or after purchase to make your computer faster. Many people confuse RAM for speed, but RAM is closer to the spinal column of your computer, sending commands from the hard drive to the CPU and back. People who will only use their computer for work will not need more than 4GB of RAM, but if you plan on playing video games, which require much heavier transfers between the hard drive and the CPU, you’ll need a minimum of 8GB. For those who plan to edit videos and photos, you should look into upgrading the RAM to at least 16GB. Editing media moves at a snail’s pace as the huge files transfer from the CPU back to the hard drive, so doubling the standard RAM will generally have the effect of halving the time required to accomplish such tasks.
Home Computers: Which Extra Ports Do You Need?
Your answer to this question depends on your computer usage. Typically, more USB ports are better since many peripherals plug into them: webcams, USB microphones, keyboards, mice, gamepads, drawing tablets and more. It’s also important to know what kind of monitor port the desktop uses, including DVI, VGA and HDMI. In order to answer these questions, make sure to plan where you will set up the computer and what devices you want to plug in. Then, try to make sure the computer has at least two more USB ports than you know you need and double check the monitor port to ensure that it accommodates the monitor or HD TV that you want to use.
Home Computers: How Will the Manufacturer Support Your PC?
In order to help you decide which manufacturers give you the best service, we looked to Laptop’s tech support grades, which is updated every year. All of the computers we reviewed come with a one-year warranty, which covers parts and repairs. However, computers should last longer than a year, and extended service warranties are available for purchase. Unfortunately, phone support is usually tied to the warranty, meaning that as soon as your warranty expires, you can no longer call customer support. Most manufacturers offer a variety of other support methods, including driver downloads, customer forums, email and live chat, but the scope of support you will receive depends on your warranty status. For example, if you try to access live chat with an out-of-date warranty, you may be redirected to the forums or an FAQs section.
Our favorite home computers are the Dell XPS 8700, Acer Predator and Lenovo K450e. The XPS 8700 has standard components, but when compared to a few others, it offers less in terms of performance. However, it makes up for this with excellent design, storage and support options. The Predator aims to offer a low-price gaming option, with excellent performance and upgradability, but it has fewer USB ports. Finally, the Lenovo K450e has good performance and a strong design, but it is not as powerful as the other two PCs.
As is often the case, manufacturers regularly update their series with new models and components. For that reason, our lineup changes as new baseline models are available. We previously rated the ASUS M as our Bronze Award winner, but due to model changes among the full lineup, many computers offer a better base model this time around. One of the biggest surprises comes from CybertronPC, an online retailer that allows you to customize the entire computer before purchase. Its Forge-C5 baseline computer has great performance and design, although it is not quite as good as the Lenovo computer. We reviewed the low-price model of each computer, but most of them allow you to buy an improved model or swap components for an added cost, giving you the complete computer you want.