Best Home Computers of 2018

Anna Burleson ·
Entertainment Writer
Updated
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We spent 80 hours testing desktops, all-in-ones and laptops to find out which ones work best for home use. The Apple iMac with a 27-inch 5K Retina display is the best option out there. Its huge monitor is perfect for watching movies or viewing pictures, and its Intel Core i7-7770K processor works hard and fast so you can flip seamlessly between applications. With 512GB of storage and 16GB of memory, you shouldn’t have to upgrade this computer for a while. Even with a rather high price, this desktop is well worth the investment.

Best Overall
Apple iMac
The Apple iMac is a powerful and sleek home desktop with a massive, vibrant screen that can make watching movies or looking at photos a lot of fun.
View on Apple
Best Value
Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S
The Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S is a surprisingly powerful all-in-one desktop computer given its reasonable price.
View on Lenovo
Best Portable
HP Spectre X360
The HP Spectre X360 is a fast, lightweight laptop that can power through any of your home computing needs.
View on Amazon
Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Price
Design
Specifications
Functionality
Form Factor
Display Size (inches)
Resolution
Processor
Base Clock Speed
Storage Capacity
Storage Type
RAM (GB)
Graphics Card
Battery Life (hr:min)
Touch Screen
Tablet Mode
Weight (pounds)
Warranty
$555.29 BLINQ
1.4 5 5 2
Desktop
27
5K
Intel Core i7-7770K
4.2GHz
512GB
Solid-State
16
AMD Radeon Pro 580
N/A
20.8
1 Year
$1344.65 Amazon Marketplace
3.8 1.7 4.3 4.5
Laptop
15
4K
Intel Core i7-8550U
1.8GHz
512GB
Solid-State
16
Nvidia GeForce MX150
8:41
4.2
1 Year
$999.99 Lenovo
4.2 1.8 3.8 3.4
Desktop
23
1080p
Intel Core i7-7500U
2.7GHz
1TB
Hard Drive (5,400rpm)
8
Intel HD Graphics 620
N/A
9.7
1 Year
$2297 Amazon Marketplace
4 1.8 4.3 2.3
Laptop
15.6
4K
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
2.8GHz
512GB
Solid-State
16
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
8:23
4.6
1 Year
$2199 Amazon
0 3.8 4.5 2.5
Desktop
27
4K
Intel Core i7-7700
3.6GHz
512GB
Solid-State
16
AMD Radeon RX 570
N/A
38.2
1 Year
$599.99 Amazon Warehouse
4.8 0.5 3 2.5
Laptop
15.6
1080p
Intel Core i5-8250U
1.6GHz
256GB
Solid-State
8
Nvidia GeForce MX150
9:20
4.9
1 Year
$1234.99 Amazon
3.7 0.5 3.4 5
Laptop
13.9
1080p
Intel Core i7-8550U
1.8GHz
256GB
Solid-State
8
Intel UHD Graphics 620
12:22
3.1
1 Year
$469 Amazon Warehouse
5 0 1.8 4.4
Laptop
12.5
1080p
Intel Core m3-6Y30
900MHz
64GB
eMMC
4
Intel HD Graphics 515
8:52
2.6
1 Year
$1641.99 Amazon Marketplace
4 0.8 3.4 2.7
Laptop
13.3
1080p/4K
Intel Core i7-8550U
1.8GHz
256GB
Solid-State
8
Intel UHD Graphics 620
12:37/8:53
2.7
1 Year
$987.99 Amazon
4 0.7 3 3.5
Laptop
13.3
1080p
Intel Core i5-8250U
1.6GHz
256GB
Solid-State
8
Nvidia GeForce MX150
9:11
2.7
1 Year
Best Overall
The large, sleek-looking Apple iMac works well for an entire household.
For starters, the 27-inch 5K display means you're looking at about 14.7 million pixels for a brilliant, clear image. This is about seven times as many pixels as are in a typical high definition display this size. In our tests, the display reproduced 167 percent of the sRGB color gamut, and we consider just 100 percent to be impressive. The 2017 update to the Mac means adaptable Thunderbolt 3 ports and better processing and graphics performance. The design has stayed the same though, with a black bezel and curved outer edges on the screen. One downside to this is the metal stand, which gives you a range of tilt but doesn’t give you very much freedom to adjust the height of the screen. At 20.8 pounds it’s also the heaviest of the computers we tested for home use. A total of nine ports are located on the back of the screen, along with the power button. The technical specs of this computer are impressive. The iMac has a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro 580 graphics card with 8GB of VRAM. This configuration not only makes for superior graphics but effectively adds processing power compared to the use of an integrated graphics card on the CPU. Put simply, the Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-770K processor is fast. The iMac we tested, which retails for more than $2,000, also had a speedy 512GB solid-state drive. SSDs typically offer less storage than hard drives but are worthwhile because of the increased data access speeds they provide. These features essentially mean you can have several applications open and a multitude of webpages without seeing any slowdown in performance. There is, of course, a built-in webcam, and the package comes with a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2, both of which feel great to use.
Pros
  • Large, crisp 5K resolution screen
  • Sleek, modern-looking design
  • Lots of processing power
Cons
  • It’s expensive
  • Port placement isn’t intuitive
  • The large and heavy design
$1,099Apple
Read the full review
Best Value
The Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S is a lightweight computer with powerful internal components and a large 23-inch display.
This desktop model has high definition 1080p resolution, so while it's not going to be as crisp as computers with 4K and 5K displays, this Lenovo is still a great home computer. The wireless keyboard and mouse included with this unit for less than $1,000 total make it a great value. This desktop is powered by a 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor, and in our tests we could use 20 browser tabs without encountering any problems. This is paired with a large 1TB, 5,400 rpm hard drive, so while it doesn't access data as rapidly as a solid-state drive, it offers twice the storage space as the usual SSD. This computer’s Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics card is not a super performer but is better than an integrated GPU and is appropriate for the Lenovo’s price point. It will do everything you need to browse the internet, watch videos and use common applications. On the outside, this desktop has six rear-mounted ports that are honestly frustrating to access because they’re right behind the stand. The stand does give you a large range of tilting ability though, so you’ll have no problem showing your family the funny cat video you found. This model stands out because it’s a desktop computer with a touchscreen, something we can see families with children appreciating and using often. The display is borderless as well, giving it a very sleek look.
Pros
  • Large screen is still small enough for most desks
  • Has a 4K display
  • Display is a touchscreen
Cons
  • Audio isn’t great
  • Keyboard isn’t high quality
  • Ports are hard to access
$899.99Lenovo
Read the full review
Best Portable
The HP Spectre X360 is a compact, adjustable home computer for those looking for something portable rather than a traditional desktop model.
You can even flip the 15-inch touchscreen all the way around to use it like a tablet. This is a versatile home computer you can easily take with you anywhere, as it only weighs about 4 pounds. The Spectre X360 is powered by an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U, so you shouldn’t have any problems running several programs at once with multiple web browser tabs open. It also has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage capacity just like many other top models of home computers on the market. This is enough storage space for the average home user. The Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card is also ideal for typical home computer use and gaming. In our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, it performed better than the category average. You'll get about eight hours and 40 minutes of battery life from one charge, which is great if you plan on using this machine over the course of an eight-hour work day. This is pretty average among the laptop models we tested. The Spectre X360, like most modern laptops, also comes with a webcam. If you don’t want to spend as much money, there is also a Core i7 model of this laptop that’s still impressive even though it has slightly less powerful components and only 8GB of memory.
Pros
  • Has a touchscreen
  • Can convert to a tablet
  • Graphics card works well for gamers
Cons
  • Laptop build means having to charge the battery
  • Rather expensive
  • Battery life isn’t very impressive
$1394.94Amazon
Read the full review
Best Battery Life
The Lenovo Yoga 920 is a premium convertible computer. Its entry-level model has impressive specs and remarkable battery life, and you can upgrade with extras like a 1TB SSD, 4K display or 16GB of RAM.
Its eye-catching hinge design disguises the computer’s ventilation and allows 360-degree movement of the screen. The computer’s 13.9-inch touchscreen has a native 1920 x 1080 resolution and works with Lenovo’s Active Pen 2 stylus. The far-field microphones cover a range up to 20 feet, and the twin JBL speakers are great for audiophiles. You can perform a variety of tasks on the Yoga 920, thanks to powerful hardware including an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U mobile processor, an Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The 2-in-1 computer has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and boasts a USB 3.0 port and two Thunderbolt USB Type-C ports for charging and connecting your peripherals. The keyboard has three backlighting settings, and its keys are shallow with a short travel distance. However, the trackpad takes full advantage of Windows 10’s touchpad drivers and multitouch gestures.
Pros
  • It has the best battery life of any laptop in our comparison
Cons
  • The speaker location isn’t ideal
-
Read the full review
Best All-in-One Touchscreen
Visually, the Dell XPS 27 7760 stands out from other desktop computers immediately.
Dell’s striking engineering choice to feature 10 discrete speakers sets the XPS 27 apart as the desktop for serious audiophiles. The 10 speakers break down to include six full-range drivers, two tweeters and two passive radiators. They not only reach over 90 dB but have a frequency range of 70Hz to 20KHz. The XPS 27 comes with a 4K display but gives you two options in addition to that: a touchscreen with an articulating stand or a much brighter screen without touch functionality. The Dell XPS 27 7760 is also packed with connectivity options. It’s got four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI-out, DisplayPort 1.2, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, audio-out and Gigabit Ethernet in the rear. Along the side there is another USB 3.0 port and an SD card reader. Of course, it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity as well. The model we tested has a 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700 CPU WITH 16GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon RX570 graphics card and a 512GB SSD, though you can substitute some of those out for different hardware as needed.
Pros
  • A 4K touchscreen and powerful speakers create an all-in-one immersive experience.
Cons
  • It has a heavy, bulky build with difficult-to-reach ports.
-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We have been testing computers at Top Ten Reviews since 2008 – and more recently with our partners at Tom’s Guide and Laptop Mag. Every model goes through a gambit of tests for speed, screen brightness and processing power. We have all the data to make sure you’re choosing the home computer that best meets your needs.

Derek Meister, a Best Buy Geek Squad agent, said you should figure out what you want to use your computer for before you buy one, so think about what you want in performance, comfort, value and durability. He compared it to shopping for a car: If you have a large family, you’re going to need a minivan. If you want to go fast, you’ll need a sports car.

“Stop in a store and take the laptops for a test spin,” Meister said. “Some are comfortable, some are compact. Some of them have clicky keys and others feel like typing on a membrane. That feel is a lot more important than a lot of people expect."

Meister said people are using their smartphones and tablets more frequently when they’re out and about, so desktops have become a far more popular home computer option than they were around 2010. But whether you want a desktop or a laptop, how you’re going to use it is still the most important factor.

“You always want to get as much memory as you can afford and is reasonable, but I would look at the system as a whole,” Meister said.

Philip Michas built his first computer at 12 years old, has a degree in computer science and now owns Tech Authority in Salt Lake City, Utah. He recommends always buying a computer with a solid-state drive because they’re more likely to keep working if you – for instance – drop your laptop.

“Hard drives are mechanical things,” Michas said. “They’re spinning and moving and they don’t do well with shock.”

He also recommends sticking with higher-end processors. This typically means the higher the number, the better. Always avoid going any lower than an Intel i5 or equivalent AMD chip.

“For the more powerful user, go with a desktop,” Michas said. 

How We Tested

We spent roughly 80 hours testing 10 different computers to see which ones were the best for using at home. This meant taking both laptops and desktops through a gambit of tests to check their speed, power and screen brightness along with our partners at Laptop Magazine and Tom’s Guide. We opened multiple programs and dozens of internet browser tabs to make sure these computers could handle doing a lot of work at once. We used 3DMark Fire Strike and 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited tests to evaluate graphics and gaming performance and then a color gamut test to measure each model’s ability to recreate color. The Geekbench test was used to test the computer’s processor and memory. On some models we even took typing tests to see how comfortable the keyboards are.

On laptop models, we made sure to use them in demanding, real-world scenarios. If a computer has a touchscreen, we tested how responsive it is. If it can be turned into a tablet with extra flexible hinges, we tested those too to make sure they worked. We also tested battery life by continuously using the internet until the battery was dead to give you a realistic expectation of how long you can expect to use the computer without needing to recharge.

Key Features to Look for When Buying a Home Computer

Speed & Power
If you think about a computer like a car, the processor is essentially the engine. They tend to have seemingly complicated names, so just keep in mind that generally a higher number means it's a faster and more powerful processor. The dominant manufacturers are Intel and AMD. Intel is better known but both make fine chips.

Another thing to look at is a computer’s RAM – random access memory – which is the internal space your computer uses to accomplish a task. Everything you open and every app you use requires your computer's RAM. Storage, on the other hand, is the measure of how much data can be saved on your computer. In short, Microsoft Word uses RAM but the document you save goes in your computer’s storage, whether hard drive or SSD. Having more RAM and storage is always a good thing but comes at a cost, so it’s important to make your purchase based on what you’re really going to use your computer for.

Aesthetics
The old days of having a tower and monitor are slowly but surely coming to an end for most basic home computer desktops. For our comparison, we stuck to models that didn’t require an extra tower because we felt the average home user would rather have a compact unit. If you prefer, there are also a plethora of laptops that also work very well as a home computer, with the added bonus of portability. You can flip some laptops’ screens all the way around to turn your traditional L-shaped model into a flat tablet, which can be really fun for kids. Most of the computers we tested are lightweight and aesthetically modern with curved edges and a slim profile.

Your screen resolution is important because it’s what you’re going to spend your time looking at. While 1080p used to be the standard, now many computer companies are gravitating toward an even better 4K display. A computer with 1080p resolution has a horizonal resolution of 1,920 pixels, while 4K has a horizonal resolution of 4,096 pixels and 5K has a horizontal resolution of about 5,000 pixels. As usual, bigger numbers are better.

Cost
You can buy a computer for work or personal use and pay anywhere from $300 up to several thousand dollars, depending on the hardware and peripherals you want. However, most options cost between $500 and $1,400 and offer you flexibility in design.

Asking for Help
If you’re not a computer person, it’s best to simply ask for help. Whether you’re shopping at a big box store or a locally owned mom and pop place, the most expensive computer isn’t necessarily always the best. It’s important to let whoever you’re buying from know what you want out of your computer so they can give you the best buying advice. If being able to play online games is a priority, you’re going to want a different and probably more expensive computer than someone who just wants to use email and social media.