Desktop computer buying guide: How to find the best desktop for you

All the essential info you need to know when shopping for a desktop computer.

While the good old desktop computer may not be able to match the laptop in the popularity stakes, it's a clear winner for processing speed, storage space and even bang for your buck. Desktop computer prices range from less than $500 for entry-level models up to $5,000 for top-spec gaming PCs, with shoppers at all budget levels spoiled for choice.

If you're looking to buy a new desktop computer, our buyer's guide will walk you through the types of PCs available, key features to look for and how to choose the best desktop for your needs.

Compare some of the best desktop computers

Data obtained November 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Name Product Average price (AUD) Processor Screen size (inch) RAM Hard drive Purchase today
Dell Inspiron 24 3000
Dell Inspiron 24 3000
$999.99
Up to 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7500U, Up to 7th Generation AMD A9-9425
23.8
4GB-24GB
1TB
The Dell Inspiron 24 3000 has nine ports and jacks for external connections and is designed for home cinema use.
Dell Inspiron 27 7000
Dell Inspiron 27 7000
$1,099
Up to 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8700T
27
Up to 16GB
Up to 256GB
The Dell Inspiron 27 7000 is designed for gaming with fast and smooth responsiveness.
Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 730s
Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 730s
$1,249
8th Generation Intel Core i7-8550U
23.8
16GB
2 TB
The Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 730s is an affordable desktop with a thin design and one-cord setup.
HP ProOne 400 G3
HP ProOne 400 G3
$1,486.25
7th Generation Intel Core i5
20
8GB
500GB
The HP ProOne 400 G3 has an optional touchscreen and a range of HP designed security measures.
Acer Aspire S24-880-UR12
Acer Aspire S24-880-UR12
$1,522.58
Intel Core i5-8250U
23.8
12GB-32GB
1 TB
The Acer Aspire S24-880-UR12 comes with a digital voice assistant and eye-strain reducing technology.
Apple iMac 21.5 inch
Apple iMac 21.5 inch
$1,599
7th-generation Intel Core i5
21.5
8GB
1TB
The Apple iMac 21.5 inch has a 5k display for crisp graphics and can edit 360-degree videos.
HP ProOne 600 G4
HP ProOne 600 G4
$1,847.50
Intel Celeron G4900, 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 8th Generation Intel Core i5, 8th Generation Intel Core i3, Intel Pentium (G5400, G5500, G5600)
21.5
32GB
128GB-2TB
The HP ProOne 600 G4 comes with built-in security protection and an anti-glare design.
ASUS Vivo AiO V272UA
ASUS Vivo AiO V272UA
$2,137.38
Intel Core i5 8250U, Intel Core i7 8550U
27
23.8 8GB-16GB 27 4GB-16GB
1TB-2TB
The ASUS Vivo AiO V272UA has a touchscreen display, an easily tilted design and two integrated speakers.
Dell Inspiron 24 5000
Dell Inspiron 24 5000
$2,139.03
7th Generation AMD A10-9700E Quad-Core APU, 7th Generation AMD A12-9800E Quad-Core APU, 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8100T, 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8400T, 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8700T
23.8
8GB-16GB
128GB-2TB
The Dell Inspiron 24 5000 wirelessly connects to your smartphone and has a thin edge for a clear display.
Apple iMac 27 inch
Apple iMac 27 inch
$2,699
7th-generation Intel Core i5
27
8GB-64GB
1TB, 2TB
The Apple iMac 27 inch is compatible with virtual reality technologies.
Microsoft Surface Studio
Microsoft Surface Studio
$5,327.20
6th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7
28
8GB-32GB
1TB, 2TB
The Microsoft Surface Studio is suitable for creative users and can be stood upright or laid down for sketching and drafting.

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Why should I consider a desktop computer?

Why choose a desktop over a laptop? Quite simply, there are several computing tasks and features where the laptop can't match it with a desktop PC. Desktops typically offer:

Who shouldn't consider a desktop computer?

The biggest downside of a desktop computer is that it's not portable. If you want a device you can take with you when you travel – either to work or on holiday – or that's easy to move from one room to another at home, you'll need to consider buying a tablet or laptop.

Laptops and tablets also take up a lot less room than most desktops, making them a smarter choice if space is at a premium. If you think a laptop might be a better fit for your needs, check out our guide to eight of the best sites to buy laptops online.

What types are available?

Buying a desktop doesn't necessarily mean choosing a tower with cables running from it to a separate monitor. While tower-based set-ups still exist, the desktop category now includes a number of different types of computers:

Choosing an operating system

Unless this is your first computer, there's a good chance you will have developed an operating system preference. But if you've decided not to stick with what you know and are considering switching, there are a few options to choose from:

  • Windows. Windows 10 is the latest iteration of the most widely used OS. The advantage of this popularity is that you won't have to worry about compatibility when moving files between devices, while you can also enjoy access to a wide range of third-party software products. Find out more about this OS at our Windows 10 hub.
  • Mac. Released in September 2018, macOS Mojave is the latest OS iteration for iMac users. If you're already part of the Apple ecosystem, choosing a Mac will ensure that your desktop can easily interact with your iPad and iPhone, all your iTunes purchases and subscriptions, and your iCloud account.
  • Google. While it's not as widespread as Windows and Mac operating systems, Google offers its Chrome OS for PCs. If you've used the Chrome web browser before, this OS will look and feel familiar from the get-go. An increasing number of programs (including the Microsoft Office suite) now have Chrome OS-compatible versions, while you can also run Android-based apps from the Google Play store.
  • Linux. The Linux OS is a Windows alternative that's really only an option for advanced users. This free, open-source OS may be an option if you've got a high level of computer knowledge and like doing things yourself, but it's not suitable if you want a PC you can buy and use straight away.

Check out our guide to the best gaming PCs

How to compare desktop computers

When choosing a desktop computer, you'll need to consider your own requirements as well as the CPU, memory, storage space, display and cost of the available options. Make sure you take the following factors into account before deciding which desktop computer to buy.

Check out our comparison of Amazon Australia and retail prices for barebones PCs

Which desktop computer is best for me?

There's no "one size fits all" answer to this question as the best desktop computer for you will depend on how you plan to use it. For example, a dedicated online gamer will have very different requirements to someone who simply wants a PC to browse the web and check emails.

To help make it easier to find the right desktop, we've compared the pros and cons of five popular models:

The goodThe bad
Dell XPS 27 Touch
  • Display looks great
  • Impressive audio
  • Can handle VR
  • Rear ports difficult to access
  • Heavy
Microsoft Surface Studio
  • Excellent screen
  • Pen, touchscreen and dial support
  • Perfect for creative tasks
  • Expensive
  • Slow hard drive
Apple iMac 27 inch
  • Slick design
  • Stunning display
  • Features two USB-C/Thunderbolt connectors
  • Inconvenient rear ports
  • No height adjustment
Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 730s
  • Sleek design
  • Great touch display
  • Solid performance
  • Loud fan noise
  • Bottom ports difficult to access
Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IE
  • Beautiful display
  • Strong performance
  • Stylish design
  • Inconvenient rear ports
  • Not suitable as a gaming machine


 

Tim Falk

Tim Falk is a writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors.

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