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New Nvidia and AMD graphics cards have driven a PC gaming boom amid an international chip shortage.
RTX 30 and RX 6000 series cards are made at a variety of price points and performance levels.
Buying an RTX 30 or RX 6000 series card is incredibly difficult but it’s important not to overpay.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
The computer graphics cards designed by Nvidia and AMD serve as the heart of a gaming PC, with cards at a wide range of prices offering increasing levels of image quality and rendering speed.
As home-built gaming computers become more common, demand for individually sold graphics cards has spiked dramatically, leaving most stores out of stock on a day-to-day basis. Just a few retailers, like Microcenter, Best Buy, and Newegg, have advertised restocks. Manufacturer EVGA offers direct sales of the latest graphics cards, but the constant demand has created a lengthy waitlist for potential buyers.
International tariffs and resellers on eBay and Amazon have also led to graphics cards being sold way above their suggested retail price. Prices can increase if the manufacturer makes changes to the base card design too, like adding special lighting or an extra cooling fan.
To help you make the best graphics card purchase without overpaying, we’ve broken down the ins and outs of Nvidia’s RTX 30 and AMD’s RX 6000 series products. That said, it’s important to remember that stock remains hard to come by for all the models we’ve listed, so prices above MSRP are likely unavoidable for the time being.
The starting prices we’ve listed are for reference so you can decide whether any higher prices you may come across are worth the premium. We’ll update this page with more buying options and restock alerts as they’re announced.
Nvidia RTX 30 series graphics cards
Nvidia has described the demand for its latest series of RTX 30 graphics cards as “unprecedented.” Seven different cards have joined the RTX 30 line since September 2020, with recommended prices ranging from $329 to $1,500.
Priced at about $700, the RTX 3080 is an ideal choice for most people that will meet the needs of all but the most hardcore PC gaming enthusiasts. The $400 RTX 3060 Ti is a perfect pick for midrange and budget PCs, delivering excellent performance at 1080p, but struggling when pushed to 4K.
Nvidia graphics cards also have excellent software features and developer support that can benefit gamers who stream or record their gameplay for YouTube and Twitch. Nvidia’s exclusive DLSS software helps improve performance in certain games by using artificial intelligence to upscale visuals.
AMD’s graphics cards aren’t quite as popular as Nvidia’s, but they boast plenty of power and are generally less expensive than their RTX counterparts. AMD cards get an additional performance boost when paired with AMD processors, which compete with Intel as the most popular gaming CPUs, and are generally more cost effective.
At $649 AMD Radeon 6800XT offers comparable performance to the RTX 3080 for $50 less, while the $579 AMD RX 6800 is a parallel to the $599 RTX 3070ti. The $999 Radeon RX 6900XT outperforms the $1,500 RTX 3090 in some games, but AMD’s cards struggle with some newer features, like ray traced lighting and AI-powered resolution scaling.
Certain newly released games with those features will likely run slightly better on Nvidia hardware until AMD develops its own solutions to boost performance. On the other hand, some popular titles like “Borderlands 3” run better on AMD devices, so the performance differences will vary depending on your choice of games.
Recommended retailers for an Nvidia or AMD graphics card include Microcenter, Best Buy, Newegg, and Amazon (Nvidia, AMD). Unfortunately, inventory remains sold out at most store, but restocks occur from time to time. AMD also sell units from its own online store, and Nvidia has a tool for checking stock at other retailers.
If you’re on the hunt for an Nvidia or AMD graphics card we recommend checking these landing pages on a regular basis:
Manufacturer EVGA is also offering a virtual waitlist via its website, so you can choose to be contacted by email when stock is available. However, the EVGA waitlist is months long, and the RTX 3080 and RTX 3060ti are in especially high demand.
How to shop for a graphics card
New graphics cards are incredibly hard to buy right now due to an international chip shortage that began in 2020. Resellers are charging far more than retail price on eBay and Amazon and even older cards are selling for above market rate. Given the current market situation it may be more affordable to shop for a pre-built gaming PC or laptop, rather than buying a graphics card separately and building your own.
Prices for the same cards can vary between manufacturers, with upgrades like extra cooling fans or RGB lighting increasing the cost. Graphics cards shipped were also impacted by a US tariff increase that arrived in early 2021, leading manufacturers to increase their prices by $70 to $300 more than what RTX 30 series and AMD 6000 series cards originally sold for in fall 2020.
What to know before buying a graphics card
The graphics card might be the most important part of building a gaming PC, as it will likely determine your computer’s peak performance. However, the more you spend on a graphics card, the more you’ll need to spend on other parts to make sure you’re not limiting its potential.
Even a $1,500 graphics card like the RTX 3090 can struggle if paired with an old processor or motherboard, so be sure to make sure the components in your PC are all modern and compatible before spending most of your budget on a graphics card.
Specifically, you should make sure your power supply can deliver requirements for your card of choice, and you should see if your motherboard supports PCI 4.0. A weak CPU can create a bottleneck that limits the overall speed of your gaming computer too, so don’t overspend on your graphics card if you can’t upgrade your CPU to a similar quality.
If you thought this shift would result in slowdown or confusing software, it’s surprisingly simple.
Using the M1 Mac Mini is seamless, making it easy to forget that it’s using a new processor at all.
Table of Contents: Masthead StickyMac Mini (2020) with M1 (small)
The Mac Mini often gets overlooked in Apple’s lineup, but it’s actually one of Apple’s most-loved computers, and for good reason. It’s the perfect computer for those that want an inexpensive desktop Mac, especially for those who like the idea of something compact, and who don’t mind using their own keyboard and mouse. That’s why I’ve used my 2018 Mac Mini as my daily computer since its release – and why I was very excited for Apple’s refresh of the computer this year.
But the new Mac Mini represents more than just a refresh. Alongside the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, the 2021 Mac Mini is one of the first Apple computers to run on Apple’s new, self-built ARM-based processors, the M1, instead of Intel processors. And, along with the new processor comes a whole set of challenges, both for Apple, and for the user who would have to deal with any shortcomings and confusion that might come from switching to an all-new processor architecture. Does the M1 Mac Mini overcome those challenges? I’ve been using it for a while now to find out.
Design and ports
You’d be forgiven for assuming that there’s no real difference between the new M1 Mac Mini and the last-generation 2018 Mac Mini. They look almost the same. The computers are the same size and shape, coming in 7.7 inches deep and wide, and 1.4 inches thick. The silver that the M1 Mac Mini comes in is also the same silver that you can get the previous-generation model in. Unfortunately, the M1 Mac Mini is not available in Space Gray, which is my preferred color choice.
Not everything is the same. Around the back of the M1 Mac Mini, you’ll get a slightly different selection of ports, though it’s still enough for the vast majority of users. The M1 Mac Mini offers an HDMI port, two USB-A ports, two USB 4 ports (USB-C), a headphone jack, and an ethernet port. I did miss having the extra two USB-C ports on offer by the Intel-based Mac Mini, but was quickly able to change my workflow to work fine with the fewer ports – and most people will be perfectly happy with what’s on offer here.
Generally speaking, the M1 Mac Mini keeps everything users knew and loved about the design of the Mac Mini. The computer is small and compact, and should sit right at home on any desk or table. The fact that it’s small means it should also fit in tight spaces, if that’s something that’s important to you.
More important than the design of the new Mac Mini, given the switch to a new type of processor, is performance. Thankfully, the M1 Mac Mini performs like a dream.
It’s important to briefly explain why this is such a big, important switch. The M1 chip is Apple’s first self-developed processor for computers, but it leverages the years of experience Apple has in building processors for the iPhone and iPad line. The M1 processor is built using the ARM architecture, while Intel’s processors are built on the x86 architecture. ARM processors are generally more power-efficient, which impacts performance, battery life on laptops, and so on. It’s all a little technical, but the gist of things is that the software and apps on a Mac have to be re-developed to be understood by the new type of processor.
Because it’s such a big switch, it would be easy to assume that M1-based computers don’t perform all that well. But Apple hit the ground running with its new computer chips, and the M1 Mac Mini is easily able to handle the vast majority of tasks that you can throw at it.
I threw a lot at it. There were times when I had a dozen or so apps open at once, including Safari, Reminders, Podcasts, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Word, and even Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. That’s a heavy workload, and while the video editing I was doing in Final Cut Pro wasn’t necessarily as demanding as it could be if I was animating or using heavy effects, it’s safe to say that the M1 Mac Mini can hold its own.
Now, while the Mac Mini was an impressive performer, it wasn’t perfect. I was testing the base 8GB of RAM model, and as a result, on the heaviest work days, the computer could freeze up for a second or two every now and then. It was never catastrophic, but if you need something that can handle really heavy multitasking, you should upgrade the RAM.
Also, while it’s impressive, the M1 chip still isn’t a graphics powerhouse. I was able to do some relatively light video editing and image editing without issue, but if you’re a professional graphic designer or video editor, and plan on mostly using your Mac for those tasks, it’s probably worth waiting until Apple has cemented its graphics performance a little more.
But, for the vast majority of users, the computer will perform more than well enough. For productivity, it’s easily up to the task, even heavier productivity that might involve browsers, email, word processors, lots of spreadsheets, and more.
To fully take advantage of everything new Macs can offer, apps should be rewritten by their developers – but until then, Apple’s Rosetta 2 software can translate apps written for Intel Macs with surprising success.
The result is that using the M1 Mac Mini is pretty much the same experience as using an Intel-based Mac Mini. More and more apps are being rewritten and built for Apple’s new processors, but even those that aren’t seem to work perfectly fine. Upon first trying to open an app written for Intel Macs, you’ll be prompted to download Rosetta 2, and the app may take a second or two to open the first time while Rosetta 2 translates it. But once open, those apps work as well as they do on Intel Macs.
It’s kind of amazing – and definitely surprising. Many, including myself, assumed there would be a transition period where it would make sense to steer clear from a new Mac for heavier use. But while there certainly is a transition period, it’s really happening behind the scenes – and won’t affect users much.
Software translation aside, the M1 Mac Mini runs the latest version of Apple’s MacOS, called Big Sur. Big Sur represents a relatively major design overhaul for MacOS, but long-time MacOS users will still be able to navigate it with ease. Most of the visual changes make MacOS look a little more like iOS or iPadOS, hinting at further convergence between Apple’s operating systems in the future. For now, MacOS is still relatively easy to use, and Apple offers excellent support articles online for the times you might have a question.
What makes it stand out
Performance and excellent software aside, the main thing that makes the M1 Mac Mini is its price. With a starting price of $699, the M1 Mac Mini is the cheapest Mac currently available. Considering the fact that it easily outperforms more expensive Windows computers, the M1 Mac Mini is quite a deal.
Cons to consider
While the M1 Mac Mini performs super well, I still would have liked for it to keep the wider range of ports available on the previous-generation Mac Mini. More ports is always better, and some users might find that they need a docking station or adapter to use all the accessories and external devices that they want to use.
The other downside to the Mac Mini is that it’s still not really a graphics powerhouse. It’s expected that Apple’s graphic processing tech will get a whole lot better over the next few years, but those that rely on graphics performance for their job should probably wait until that happens.
The bottom line
The M1 Mac Mini is really an incredible product. It sets a high bar for a first-generation product, and along with the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, proves that Apple is serious about building its own computing processors. This was never really in doubt, but whether or not Apple could actually deliver on a seamless experience was – and those doubts should now be answered.
Because of its excellent performance, the M1 Mac Mini is worth buying for anyone who wants a solid-performing computer that can handle most productivity tasks. Heavier users should upgrade the RAM to 16GB, and really heavy users, or those that need a graphics powerhouse, should probably wait a year or two – but everyone else will get serious use out of Apple’s compact desktop.
The telescope’s payload computer suddenly stopped working on June 13, sending NASA engineers scrambling to figure out the problem. That computer, built in the 1980s, is like Hubble’s brain – it controls and monitors all the science instruments on the spacecraft. So the telescope has gone into a hibernation-like “safe mode” while NASA troubleshoots.
The agency has made three attempts to get Hubble’s computer working again – in vain. If NASA can’t fix the issue, the telescope should be able to switch to hardware on its backup payload computer, but that hasn’t powered up since astronauts installed it in 2009. It would take NASA several days to bring the telescope back to its full science operations following such a switch.
Hubble, which launched into orbit around Earth in 1990, is the world’s most powerful space telescope. It has imaged the births and deaths of stars, discovered new moons around Pluto, and tracked two interstellar objects as they zipped through our solar system. Hubble’s observations have allowed astronomers to calculate the age and expansion of the universe, and to peer at galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang.
But Hubble is getting old. None of its parts have been upgraded or replaced since the last astronaut mission to service the telescope in 2009.
In March, a software error also sent the telescope into safe mode. But in that case, NASA fixed the problem within a week. Now, with this mysterious new glitch, NASA has been struggling to get the Earth-orbiting observatory back online for 10 days.
But Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of astrophysics, told NPR that the timing can mostly be chalked up to “the inefficiency of trying to fix something which is orbiting 400 miles over your head instead of in your laboratory.”
“If this computer were in the lab, we’d be hooking up monitors and testing the inputs and outputs all over the place, and would be really quick to diagnose it,” he said.
A NASA spokesperson told Insider that “there are many redundancies available to the team that have not yet been tried, and it is extremely likely that one of these will work.”
“Hubble is one of NASA’s most important astrophysics missions. It’s been operating for over 31 years, and NASA is hopeful it will last for many more years,” the spokesperson said. “From a perspective of the value of Hubble to the scientific community, it is still the most powerful telescope available so age is not a decision-making factor.”
A computer error led NASA down the wrong path last week
NASA tried, and failed, to restart the malfunctioning payload computer on June 14, the day after Hubble went offline. Initial data pointed to a computer-memory module that was degrading as the potential cause of the problem. So the Hubble team tried switching to one of three backup modules aboard the telescope. But the command to start the new module didn’t work.
On Thursday, the Hubble team tried again to bring both the current module and the backup online. Both attempts failed.
Since then, further testing has revealed that the memory issues were a symptom of the real problem – which NASA still hasn’t identified.
Now the Hubble team thinks that the issue is related to the computer’s central processing module. NASA said in a blog update on Tuesday that the most likely culprit is either the module itself or some interface hardware that helps the module communicate with other parts of the telescope.
“The team is currently designing tests that will be run in the next few days to attempt to further isolate the problem and identify a potential solution,” the NASA blog said.
If that doesn’t work, the Hubble team is prepared to switch to the backup computer, which was also designed in the 1980s and has been sitting dormant in orbit for 12 years.
“They’re very primitive computers compared to what’s in your cell phone,” Hertz told NPR. “The problem is we can’t touch it or see it.”
Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 is our pick for best hybrid laptop for its excellent design and performance.
But there are also cheaper options we love, like Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5.
Check out our guide to the best tablets for more touchscreen computer buying advice.
There are two main types of 2-in-1 laptops – detachables and convertibles. Detachable devices allow you to remove the screen from your laptop’s keyboard so that you can use it as a tablet separately. Convertibles, meanwhile, have a flexible hinge that allows you to bend the display backward and flip it around so that it can be used in different modes as a single device.
Shopping for a 2-in-1 is a lot like picking out a regular laptop. That means taking factors like the operating system (OS), processor (CPU), memory (RAM), overall size, and display quality into account.
But since 2-in-1 laptops are ideal for creatives thanks to their flexible designs, you’ll also want to consider whether they have any extra features that may be beneficial for your workflow. Some 2-in-1 laptops, for example, come with styluses for sketching or different screen ratios for watching movies.
Here’s a look at the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy based on our testing and research.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 offers a beautiful design, plus it’s powerful, and the display can fully rotate around the body for 2-in-1 use.
Pros: Excellent compact design, attractive screen with slim borders, good performance
Cons: Not much port selection
Dell’s XPS 13 is still our favorite laptop, and thankfully it comes in a 2-in-1 configuration, too. Like the standard notebook version, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 offers the right combination of stunning design and powerful performance to make it the best choice for most people.
Let’s start with the design. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a convertible 2-in-1, meaning you can rotate the display to use it in tablet mode. You can also stand the device up in tent mode, which is perfect for tasks like watching movies on planes, or using the touchscreen without having to physically hold the device.
The Dell XPS 13 has a high quality 13.4 inch- screen with a 1,900 x 1,200 resolution. The laptop is thin, too — it’s only 0.56 inches thick, meaning that it’s easy to slide into a bag.
Of course, it’s what’s under the hood that makes this device among the best. The base model offers an Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD).
But, it can also be upgraded to offer up to an 11th-generation Intel Core i7 chip with 32GB of RAM and a hefty 1TB SSD. In other words, while the device isn’t necessarily the best gaming or video editing machine, thanks to the lack of discrete graphics card, it will easily handle heavy multitasking and productivity apps.
Dell has scaled the port selection down a little for the XPS 13 2-in-1 series, and you’ll get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. That’s not a huge selection, but it should be enough for most basic use cases.
The best detachable 2-in-1 laptop
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is sleek and portable with excellent performance for on-the-go use — making it still the most premium 2-in-1 tablet to date.
The Microsoft Surface Pro series has been a go-to for Windows fans for years now. Now on its seventh generation, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is the most powerful in the series yet, offering a very portable design, and a detachable build. That means that you fully use it as a tablet, if you so choose.
The Surface Pro 7 is built for versatility. It comes with a high-end keyboard cover and offers a great typing experience. But when you want to use it in tablet mode, simply detach the main body of the device and you’re good to go. The base model isn’t necessarily the most powerful device out there, but it’s not bad, with its 10th-gen Intel Core i3, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
But it can be updated all the way to a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. In other words, it’s a productivity machine, and will work great for everything except the most demanding gaming and video editing.
This device is built for ultra portability, and as such its thin build doesn’t allow for tons of ports. But, it’s not bad in that respect either, offering a USB-C port, a USB-A port, a headphone jack, a MicroSD card slot, and the Microsoft Connect port for charging.
Most reviewers love the Surface Pro 7. PCMag gave the device an impressive 4/5, while The Verge scored it an equivalent 8/10. The main downsides are that the ports are a little dated, considering they’re not Thunderbolt 3, and that the design is aging a little compared to the Surface Pro X.
The best 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop
If you want a big-screen experience with ultra powerful specs, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 is absolutely the way to go.
Pros: Very powerful, beautiful big screen, excellent keyboard
Cons: Expensive, aging design
Like the big-screen experience but still want a powerful 2-in-1? The Microsoft Surface Book 3 is a workhorse that continues to remain so in tablet mode — after you fully detach the display from the keyboard.
The design of the Surface Book 3 is pretty groundbreaking. It has a hinge design that allows the device to fold like a laptop, while still detaching from the main body with the press of a button. Then, you can use the device as a nice big tablet.
Like Microsoft’s other Surface devices, the Surface Book 3 has an elegant metal build that gives it a premium feel. The keyboard and touchpad are also top notch; the keys provide the perfect amount of feedback to make typing a breeze, and the trackpad is super responsive without being overly sensitive.
The display on the Surface Book 3 is also pretty stunning. It has a 3,240 x 2,160 resolution, at least on the 15-inch model. That’s not bad at all.
Even better is what’s under the hood. The 15-inch model has a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, with either 16GB or 32GB of RAM and between 256GB and up to 2TB of storage. And, it has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti graphics card, so you can use the device for gaming and video editing if you so choose.
The downside is that it’s pricey since the 15-inch model starts at $2,299.99, although that’s not unheard of for a high-end laptop of this size. The 15-inch display can also feel a bit unwieldy to use in tablet mode.
The best 2-in-1 Chromebook
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is more than powerful enough to handle Google’s lightweight ChromeOS, plus it has a beautiful display and plenty of ports.
Pros: Great performance, good selection of ports, great display, inexpensive
Cons: Speakers aren’t the best
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 that’s plugged into Google’s ecosystem, then the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is the Chromebook to beat. The device isn’t the most stylish out there, but it is pretty powerful, has a decent keyboard, and works great with Google’s cloud-based services.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a convertible 2-in-1, so the display can be folded back over the keyboard for use in tablet mode. Acer just announced a new version of the Spin 713 launching in June 2021 that comes with 11th-generation Intel processors, a screen with 18% more vertical screen space, the option for a fingerprint reader, and Thunderbolt 4 support.
Acer clearly had remote work use cases in mind with this update, considering these upgrades boost security and make it easier to use the Spin 13 with external displays.
Google’s ChromeOS isn’t known for needing high-end specs, but as far as Chromebooks go, the specs on offer by the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 aren’t bad at all. The previous-generation version I’ve tested came with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processor, with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage.
One of the best features of the device is the display — which offers vibrant colors and a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution. It also has a taller 3:2 aspect ratio that makes it great for reading and watching movies.
I’ve been using the older Acer Chromebook Spin 713 sporadically for work and personal use, and I’ve been impressed with its spacious and vibrant display and solid battery life.
The speakers can sound a little shallow since they’re located on the bottom of the notebook, meaning they’re usually covered while in use. But otherwise, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a solid laptop.
The best budget 2-in-1 laptop
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 packages reliable performance and useful features into an affordable machine that’s a joy to use.
Pros: Great price, excellent keyboard and trackpad, decent performance
Cons: Fans can get noisy
If you’re looking for an affordable yet reliable laptop that can double as a tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex is tough to beat. For hundreds of dollars below the $1,000 threshold, you’re getting a recent processor that has plenty of power, a spacious touchscreen, and 128GB of storage.
The 15.6-inch version of Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 is currently on sale for $479.99, down from its usual price of $579.99, which makes it an even more compelling reason to name it our best budget pick. That configuration comes with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor — which is just one generation behind Intel’s current chips — a 1080p touchscreen, and 4GB of RAM.
Those aren’t top-of-the-line specifications, but they’re more than enough for anyone that spends most of their time on laptops browsing the web, writing emails, streaming Netflix, taking notes, and managing spreadsheets. There’s also a physical webcam shutter to block your camera when it’s not in use.
The configuration I’ve been testing runs on an AMD Ryzen 5 processor and includes 16GB of RAM, a smaller 14-inch screen, and a digital stylus. That configuration costs a bit more at $629.99, but it might be worth it for those who want more performance at a reasonable price.
Other than the excellent value, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 stands out for its comfortable keyboard and smooth trackpad, which are consistent no matter what configuration you go with. But don’t push it too hard: the fans can get a little noisy if you have too many tabs open.
Essential buying advice for new laptop buyers
With so much choice out there, choosing the best laptop for your needs has become an involved process. Other than deciding whether a convertible or detachable design is the right choice for your workflow, here are other important factors to consider.
A laptop’s operating system (OS) is the interface through which you access everything in the computer, from work apps to games and more. The most popular laptop OS is Windows 10, which is found in hundreds of different laptops from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and more. It’s a widely adaptable OS and most supported by third-party app makers.
Apple’s macOS is exclusive to Mac laptops and desktops, and is the most compatible with Apple’s other products like iPhones. Finally, all Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Google’s Chrome browser-focused OS that works best when connected to the internet and integrates deeply with Google services like Google Drive and Gmail.
The internal hardware that powers a laptop is considered the “specs,” and will dictate how effective your laptop is at various tasks. The processor (CPU) and memory (RAM) impact the laptop’s raw power and multitasking capacity, respectively. The storage (hard disk drive or HDD, or solid-state drive or SSD) will determine how much space for files the laptop has.
The graphics processor (GPU) dictates how effective the laptop is at rendering video and 3D visuals for games. Many laptops, particularly in the low-to-midrange, utilize what’s called internal graphics, which shares RAM with the CPU rather than a dedicated GPU.
The laptop’s display sharpness is determined by pixel density, with 1080p (or Full HD) being the generally desirable target. Finally, all of these factors contribute to the laptop’s battery life, with eight hours generally being the minimum acceptable number — unless it’s a gaming laptop.
Another thing you’ll want to think about is how big the laptop is. A smaller laptop will ultimately be more portable, but a larger one will have a larger display, which is better for watching movies, photo editing, video production, and playing games. Common sizes for laptops are 13 inches and 15 inches, though 11 inches and 17 inches also appear every now and then.
Other 2-in-1 laptops we look forward to testing
Laptop makers launch new models throughout the year, and the 2-in-1 notebooks below are at the top of our list to test next. Intel also just announced two new additions to its family of 11th generation processors with faster clock speeds of up to 5GHz. That means we’re expecting to see new thin and light devices in the coming months, many of which will likely be 2-in-1s.
Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360: Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro 360 seems like it has the potential to be the laptop of choice for Samsung phone owners that prioritize screen quality in a laptop. Samsung’s new convertible laptop comes with an AMOLED screen similar to the one on many of its popular smartphones, Intel’s 11th-generation Core i7 processors, and comes with Samsung’s S Pen. It also has features like background noise removal for those who often take conference calls on their laptop while working remotely.
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Samsung aimed to make a premium Chromebook with its original Galaxy Chromebook, but its high price ultimately hampered its appeal. Now, Samsung has launched a more affordable $549.99 sequel known as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, which comes in an eye-catching red color, features a 13.-3-inch QLED screen, and runs on an Intel Core i3 or Intel Celeron processor. It looks like a potentially compelling choice for those who want a stylish yet affordable Chromebook.
The 2021 iMac features a bigger 4.5K Retina screen, fun color options, and Apple’s powerful M1 chip.
The 2019 model, meanwhile, has a smaller 21.5-inch 1080p display and a slower Intel-based processor.
Apple has officially unveiled its new 24-inch iMac with prices starting at $1,299. The redesigned desktop boasts several major upgrades over the previous 21.5-inch model, which Apple currently lists with a $1,099 starting price.
The 2021 iMac is the first to feature Apple’s powerful M1 chip. It also comes in a variety of color options and boasts a higher resolution screen. Compared to the older model, the new iMac includes a redesigned keyboard with Apple’s Touch ID processor as well.
Apple says the improved specs should translate to up to 85% faster CPU performance compared to the 21.5-inch iMac, as well as twice the GPU performance. The new iMac’s base model costs $200 more than the 2019 starting model, but the added power and bigger screen could be well worth the higher price.
A full verdict will have to wait until we get our hands on the new iMac in the coming weeks, but we’ve been impressed by Apple’s M1 chip in the new MacBook Air. If the 2021 iMac offers a similar leap in performance, it could be a very worthy desktop upgrade.
Below, we’ve compared some of the key starting specifications for the new 24-inch iMac versus the 21.5-inch model.
24-inch iMac (2021) versus 21.5-inch iMac (2019)
24-inch 4.5K Retina display
21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LED display
8-core Apple M1 chip
2.3GHz dual‑core Intel Core i5
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
8GB of RAM
8GB of RAM
1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 image signal processor
Apple just announced a new version of the iMac with a refreshed design that runs on its M1 processor. It comes in a range of colors such as purple, yellow, and blue among others like the iPhone, which is reminiscent of the vintage colorful iMac G3 from the late 1990s. Apple is also highlighting the new iMac’s improved speakers, camera, and microphones as being ideal for working remotely.
Release and pricing information
The new iMac is available in four colors starting at $1,299.
It’s available in seven colors with additional features beginning at $1,499.
Orders start on April 30 and it launches in the second half of May.
What’s new about the 2021 iMac
Apple is highlighting the new iMac’s sleek build, which measures just 11.5 millimeters thin. There are only comes two fans, reducing the computer’s size and keeping it quiet even under high performance.
The screen is 24 inches with a 4.5K resolution, meaning the screen slightly larger than that of the previous model. The iMac will be available in green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver.
The iMac should offer 85% faster CPU performance compared to the latest 21-inch iMac models and twice the GPU performance, the company claims. And iPhone and iPad apps also run on the new iMac since it uses the M1, much like the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
The iMac comes in two configurations: a $1,299 model with an 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, two Thunderbolt ports, a Magic Keyboard, and a Magic Mouse. That model is available in green, pink, blue, and silver.
The $1,499 model comes with an 8-core GPU, 8-core CPU, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3 ports, the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, the Magic Mouse, and Ethernet.
The iMac is also getting a redesigned keyboard and power adapter that attaches to the computer magnetically. The keyboard has Apple’s Touch ID processor, marking the first time Touch ID has come to the desktop.
This story is developing. Please check back for the latest.
How you plan to use your computer mouse will dictate which one you should buy.
At higher prices, you can find mice with programmable buttons and different speed settings.
Using a mouse for long hours can fatigue your wrist, so you may want an ergonomic choice.
The best computer mice do more than point and click; they offer accurate, quick cursor movement without creating wrist strain. Logitech, Razer, SteelSeries, and Anker produce some of the most recommended mice.
“The number one thing to consider when buying any computer hardware is ‘What will you be using the device for?'” says Tom Gilmore, the technology education coordinator at Free Geek, a nonprofit that refurbishes computer hardware. “This single question dictates exactly what you need and can help guide you to either cheaper or more premium options, and help you to narrow down the vast number of options to just a few.”
A poorly designed mouse can increase the strain on your wrist and hands. Weak connectivity can lead to slow performance (and losing that computer game). Some won’t roll over rugged surfaces.
As a freelance writer and photographer for nearly a decade, I’ve been working from home since before 2020 made it the norm. I consulted a certified ergonomics expert and spent hours digging through expert mouse reviews. I’ve rounded up nine of the most recommended computer mice, from budget options to fully-featured stand-out products.
The Logitech MX Master 3 is great for professionals who spend a lot of time mousing and need both comfort and superior performance.
With reviewer nods from Wirecutter to PC Mag, the Logitech MX Master 3 is lauded for its large but ergonomic shape. The mouse has a curve designed to fit your right hand, with a wheel and gesture pad near the thumb. A scroll wheel and forward and back buttons are also built into the mouse.
The control scheme offers app-specific shortcuts for programs from Zoom to Photoshop. Using controls built into the mouse may mean less back and forth between the mouse and keyboard.
That scroll wheel is capable of rolling through 1,000 lines per second, Logitech says. Slow the spin, and the wheel goes from line-to-line for more precision. The laser mouse offers 4,000 DPI for more sensitivity and is capable of tracking on difficult surfaces such as glass. (Higher DPI, like the Razer Pro Click‘s, make for a faster mouse.) The downside? It’s pricey. The $100 price tag makes the mouse best for power users that are using a mouse for several hours a day.
The best mouse for precision use
With a 16,000 DPI optical sensor, the Razer Pro Click is ideal for long-haul users that need the most precision for detailed mousing.
The Razer Pro Click has one of the best optical sensors for a mouse, with four times more dots per inch than the Logitech MX 3. That superior sensor combined with the optical design (that doesn’t fall victim to the occasional jitter of a laser) makes the mouse good for detailed work, such as precise adjustments in Photoshop.
The mouse is designed with a large curve that Razer says prevents your wrist from resting on the desk. TechRadar’s review says that the mouse is so well designed that “you’ll barely notice you’re using a mouse at all.” The curve does prevent left-handed use, however.
The mouse houses eight different buttons that you can customize to your liking. The mouse can connect to multiple devices through wireless. For twice the battery life at 400 hours, it also connects through Bluetooth. The charger isn’t the more modern USB-C, however.
The best ergonomic mouse
For power users that need to reduce wrist pain, the Logitech MX Ergo‘s trackball design means your hand rests comfortably in one spot.
The Logitech MX Ergo offers a custom tilt angle designed to better fit the shape of your hand, plus a lot of other features geared towards minimizing wrist strain. It’s a trackball mouse, which means you can keep your wrist in one position and use the trackball that sits near the thumb to navigate, instead. Trackball mice are not for everyone — using one requires reprogramming years of using a traditional mouse — but they can be more comfortable.
The MX Ergo’s plentiful buttons can also be programmed for different functions based on what app you are using. A mode button near the trackball allows you to switch between fast or more precise tracking. The mouse requires little power; Logitech says it lasts 70 days on a full charge, and plugging it in for just a minute will power another 24 hours of use.
Trackball mice are innately different, and not everyone will love this pricey option. The MX Ergo is also not made for lefties.
The best budget ergonomic mouse
The Logitech Ergo M575 is for everyday users who want a comfortable trackball mouse but don’t need the extra buttons and custom tilt of pricier models.
The Logitech Ergo M575 is a good compromise when the $100 Logitech MX Ergo is too much. While the M575 lacks the custom tilt, extra buttons, and precision mode switch of the MX Ergo, it still offers some of the same ergonomic features. Despite selling for about $50, the M575 still has a custom DPI from 400 to 2,000.
The Ergo M575 is a trackball mouse; you don’t move the mouse around the desk, you move a trackball with your thumb. That design will take some getting used to, but keeping your hand in a stationary position is much more friendly on the wrist. The mouse is curved to fit better in the right hand.
Besides the typical mouse buttons, scroll wheel, and trackball, the mouse also houses back and forward buttons that you can reprogram with Logitech’s software. Connecting with Bluetooth, the mouse can run up to twenty months on one AA battery, according to Logitech. Used as a wireless mouse with the USB dongle, the battery life bumps up to two years.
The best portable mouse
Logitech’s MX Anywhere 3 is geared towards on-the-go computer users that demand more from a mouse. It’s also good for those with smaller hands.
The Logitech MX Anywhere 3 takes some of the features in the flagship MX Master 3 and adapts them to mobile users. The Mac version can even be used on iPads. The mouse still offers customizable buttons but in a travel-friendly size.
Logitech says that the mouse has a quick, 1,000-lines-per-minute scroll wheel with the ability to get down to pixel-level details. It’s made to withstand the typical bumps from riding in a laptop bag. Despite the smaller size, there is a slight curve made for a better fit in your hand.
The fast scrolling and 200 to 4,000 DPI sensitivity range mean the MX Anywhere 3 isn’t a budget travel mouse. A full charge will last 70 days, which is good but not as good as the Microsoft Surface Mobile.
Designed specifically for laptops, the Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse is made for portability. The mouse uses a slimmer design that’s easy to tuck into a laptop bag. The Bluetooth mouse lasts up to a year on one charge, so you shouldn’t need to bring the charger with you.
The Surface Mobile has a symmetrical shape that’s suitable for left or right-handed users. But besides being lefty friendly, the symmetrical shape means you can use either hand to reduce strain on a single wrist. The base isn’t smaller than a typical mouse, and PC Magazine’s review says it tends to be more comfortable than smaller travel mice.
The portable design doesn’t curve to the shape of your hands as well as with ergonomically-focused mice, however. At around $35, it also won’t deliver the extreme speed and precision of a high-end mouse.
The best gaming mouse
Gamers who prioritize comfort, as well as speed and accuracy, will appreciate what the Razer DeathAdder V2 has to offer.
The Razer DeathAdder V2 is a favorite among gamers because the computer mouse offers speed, precision, and a comfortable grip. With up to 20,000 DPI, the wired customizable gaming mouse has plenty of speed and accuracy.
Beyond just the high-precision hardware, the mouse has a large arched grip and a comfortable thumb rest, which earned it a recommendation from The Verge. The mouse is also outfitted with several different buttons. Both the buttons and DPI settings can be adjusted using Razer’s software. A switch on the bottom allows the mouse to store up to five different setting combinations, which is ideal for different games or moving from gaming to web browsing.
While the $70 mouse is fast, some of that speed comes from the fact that it’s wired. That’s preferred by many gamers but can still be an inconvenience.
The best customizable gaming mouse
The SteelSeries Rival 600 has two sensors and custom weights for gamers that want ultimate customization, all for an affordable price.
The SteelSeries Rival 600 has two optical sensors that create a mouse with excellent tracking, including detecting when you pick it up. While SteelSeries says the mouse is best for esports, Tom’s Guide calls it one of the best all-purpose gaming mice.
The 12,000-DPI mouse offers custom sensitivity settings as well as custom weights. Four weights can be configured into slots on both sides of the mouse to customize the feel and balance. The lift-off distance can also be configured between 0.5 and 2 mm.
The mouse is made from reinforced plastic and has seven buttons. The buttons use mechanical switches that have been tested to 60 million clicks. The downside is that the button placement isn’t quite perfect, according to PC Gamer.
The best budget gaming mouse
The Logitech G502 Hero is good for gamers that balk at the higher price points of most gaming mice.
Gaming mice tend to be higher in price, but the Logitech G502 Hero is around $50 and still offers the features most gamers look for.
The Logitech G502 allows gamers to customize the weights as well as the RGB lights. With DPI from 100 to 16,000, the mouse can easily be customized depending on if speed or accuracy is most important to the game. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Wirecutter’s biggest complaint is that the many buttons can limit where you place your hand.
Buying computer peripherals is seldom a one-size-fits-all scenario. Both the shape of your hand and your primary use will change your definition of a great mouse. When choosing a computer mouse, consider the following:
Optical or Laser? Optical and laser mice are quite similar, says Free Geek‘s Gilmore. Both use a camera-like sensor to look for changes in the surface to tell the computer how to move the cursor. A laser mouse uses a laser to light that sensor and tends to do a bit better on glossy surfaces. Some can even work on glass. But on a typical wood desk, most users won’t notice a difference.
DPI or CPI: The dots-per-inch (or counts-per-inch) specification on a mouse is similar to the resolution of the sensor. A higher DPI means a faster mouse, Gilmore says, which is even more important when using a high-resolution monitor. A lower DPI mouse can be more precise. Some high-end mice allow you to choose different DPI settings, so you can switch based on whether you want speed or precision.
Connectivity: A wireless mouse eliminates the cord but uses a USB dongle to connect to the computer. A Bluetooth mouse is similarly wireless but doesn’t need that dongle to connect with a Bluetooth-compatible device. You might want to consider that option if you have limited ports. Take a look at wireless and Bluetooth mice’s battery lives so you’ll get a sense of how often you’ll be charging them. Wired mice still have their place, particularly for gaming. Wireless and Bluetooth mice may introduce some lag that’s noticeable in fast-paced games.
Weight: Lighter mice are typically easier to move around. Fast-paced gamers tend to consider the weight of a mouse.
Comfort: How a computer mouse feels will depend on the size of your hand, says Kevin Weaver, a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy at New York University. He is also certified by the Board of Certified Professional Ergonomists and the Oxford Institute.
He suggests using both hands with an ambidextrous mouse to halve the time spent on a mouse. “As best as you can, centralize your mouse,” he said. “If you look at most laptops, the touchpad is built into the base, right under the space key, in a centralized position. That’s a best-case scenario because you can use your left or your right and have half the frequency.”
If using your non-dominant hand feels too odd, he suggests choosing a contoured mouse that fits with your dominant hand. “[I]t’s important to go test these out in a showroom or store. One size does not fit all, one rule does not fit all,” he said.
While the mice above come with excellent reviews from reputable publications, we’re testing all the mice to determine what’s the best for different applications. In addition to the mice above, we’re also testing two more.
The Logitech MX Vertical: This vertical mouse is recommended by several publications. Using a vertical mouse takes some getting used to. We’ll try it out to see if that learning curve may be worth the effort for users with wrist pain.
The Apple Magic Mouse 2: Apple’s mouse uses gesture controls on the surface, much like the trackpad on a MacBook. The mouse is slimmer, however, and doesn’t fit into your hand like a contoured mouse.
Working from home? Check out our other home office guides
So many jobs involve sitting at a desk for hours each day, and it can be hard to break away to incorporate more standing without sacrificing productivity. If you have a standing desk, you can convert your space to a much more active one, improving your health and energy levels. These are the best standing desks.
Active seating promotes movement, improves posture, and activates your core while sitting, and some models can work in tandem with a standing desk, so you can find the perfect combination of sitting and standing throughout the day. These are our top picks for the best active seating.
If you spend the majority of your day parked in your office chair, you owe it to your body to choose a chair that gets an A+ for ergonomics. Our top picks will help improve your posture and may even help relieve back pain.
If you have a home office, it’s important to have good lighting so you don’t strain your eyes while typing away on your computer or going over documents. There are dozens of different desk lamps to choose from in all kinds of styles. These are the best desk lamps you can buy to light up your workspace in style.
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting all forms of computer technology from malicious attacks. It includes the preservation of computers, servers, mobile devices, networks, applications, and data in the event of damage, destruction, and unauthorized access. As an industry, cybersecurity is enormous and growing to help protect everyone from new and evolving threats.
RAM, or Random Access Memory, isn’t just a cool Daft Punk album. It’s an important part of any computer, phones included. Without it, even switching browser tabs could take ages.
Here’s everything to know about what RAM is and how it works, what the different types of RAM are, and how much memory your computer needs.
What is RAM?
RAM is the part of your device that functions like its short-term memory. It keeps track of what programs are running in the background and what they’re doing, so when you focus on them again, they can get right back to work.
This goes for browser tabs, too. You can switch between browser tabs quickly because your computer’s memory keeps them ready to use.
The benefit of RAM is that it keeps your computer fast, and makes multitasking convenient. Because of RAM, your computer doesn’t have to lean on its slower hard drive to perform basic functions. Without it, we’d be living in a less instantaneous world.
But RAM, much like our own short-term memory, is limited. If you’re making it keep track of more things than it can handle, it’ll start to “forget” whatever it deems low priority. And if you don’t have enough of it, your computer can slow to a crawl.
When talking about RAM, there are a few different terms you should know.
Common RAM terminology
DDR stands for “double data rate,” and in essence, refers to how fast your RAM is. DDR4 is the most common type of RAM sold today, but older computer models may have DDR3 or DDR2.
The higher number the better, and because each successive generation of RAM has undergone design changes, you can’t switch out one for another.
VRAM, or Video RAM, is another beast entirely. Rather than being part of your computer’s general memory, VRAM is an intermediary between the CPU and graphics card. Before you see an image on the screen, the data is read by the VRAM processor and converted from digital information to an analog image on the screen.
How much RAM do I need?
Most computers, tablets and phones have between 4GB and 32GB of RAM, although more advanced computers could have even more. On computers, 8GB to 16GB is standard. Some cheap tablets have around 2GB of RAM, which isn’t enough for your laptop.
8GB of RAM is more than enough to power a Windows or Mac computer, but won’t be able to handle too many intensive apps. 16GB RAM will handle advanced programs. 32GB of RAM and up is good for serious computer engineers, gamers, or audio and visual professionals.
Most modern phones have 8GB of RAM. And unlike computers, you can’t really upgrade the RAM in your phone.
The amount of RAM that you need depends on what you’re using your device for. Over-investing in RAM isn’t going to make your computer magically better or infinitely fast – even 100GB of RAM won’t mean anything if the rest of your computer is slow.
You can buy RAM in various combinations, or modules. For example, if you want to buy 16GB of RAM, you can get:
One 16 GB stick
Two 8 GB sticks
Four 4 GB sticks
The combination you get doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s compatible with the rest of your computer, and fits in the case.
We’ve also identified top desktops for other uses, such as gaming, compact spaces, and for those on a budget.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Laptops have gotten better and better over the years, but the fact remains that size matters when it comes to computers – and with the size afforded by desktop computers, you can get more power, better graphics, and more user upgradability.
When buying a desktop computer, you’ll need to consider all the usual things that you would consider for any other computer purchase. A solid processor (CPU) will keep everything you can throw at it running smoothly without stutters or crashes. Memory, also known as RAM, also plays a big role, especially if you plan on running several apps at the same time and gaming, where a computer needs to store and quickly access files associated with those apps. Last but not least is storage and if you want to keep lots of games or files on your computer, you’ll need plenty of it.
There are other considerations too. If you’re a gamer, you’ll need a solid graphics card to ensure that your games can run properly. And, you’ll want to make sure you have enough ports and a design that fits in with your style – all while staying within your budget.
No matter what you’re looking for from a solid desktop computer, there should be something on this list for you. Here are the best desktop computers money can buy right now.
The Dell XPS 8940 is relatively sleek and stylish, plus it offers solid performance at a pretty low price.
Pros: Inexpensive, lots of ports, sleek design
Cons: Not much graphics performance on low-end models
Looking for a solid all-a rounder? The Dell XPS 8940 desktop is sleek, powerful, and versatile — without breaking the bank. The computer doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a gaming PC, but for everyone else, it’s more than enough.
The XPS 8940 is available in a series of different configurations, but the base model is still pretty powerful. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage — all for a relatively affordable $600. Upgrade it a little, and you get serious processing power, with up to an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB solid-state drive, and a 2TB hard drive. In addition, you can get up to an AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card for the gamers out there.
There are plenty of ports on offer by the computer too. You’ll get a hefty seven USB 3.1 ports, along with a USB-C port. There’s also a DisplayPort, a HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and so on. Safe to say, you should run out of ports, though most of them are on the back. And, you’ll get some additional ports if you get a graphics card, which may be helpful for your needs.
We’re not the only ones that love the Dell XPS 8940 desktop. The computer scored a very respectable 7.6/10 from PCGamer, while the extremely similar previous-generation 8930 scored 4/5 on Top Ten Reviews. The downsides? Well, there aren’t many at this price, except maybe that the graphics on the lower-end models is pretty limited.
The best gaming desktop computer
The Alienware Aurora R11 is well-designed and incredibly powerful — and as such it should be able to easily handle everything the average gamer can throw at it.
Pros: Cool design, very powerful, tons of ports
Cons: Can get expensive
Perhaps you’re looking for a workhorse, in which case it’s worth considering the Alienware Aurora R11. The computer, built by Dell, offers the top-end performance that you need to run all your favorite games, plus its design ensures that it should look pretty great on any gaming workstation.
As you would expect, the Aurora R11 offers high-end base specs. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of Ram and a 1TB hard drive, plus an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. Upgrade it to the max, and you’ll get a 10th-gen Intel Core i9 with an absolutely huge 128GB of RAM and a 2TB solid-state drive with a 2TB hard drive too. All that, with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card.
The Aurora R11 expectedly offers a pretty gamer-friendly design, too. It looks like a big oval, with blue lighting at the front. There are plenty of ports too — including three USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C port, and audio ports on the front. On the back, you’ll get a massive six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C 3.2 port, and more. That’s not to mention the ports you’ll get as part of your graphics card. Safe to say you should never run out of connectivity options.
The Aurora R11 has gotten excellent reviews since its release. Notably, LifeWire hailed it as the best gaming PC of 2020, while PCMag gave it an impressive 3.5/5. The main downsides noted in these reviews were that the rig can get pricey quickly.
The best Apple desktop computer
The Apple iMac offers a powerful all-in-one design for anyone who wants to remain in the Apple ecosystem.
Pros: All-in-one, relatively powerful, multiple configurations, solid port selection
Cons: Slightly aging design, most will want to upgrade
If you love Apple’s ecosystem, then you’re probably looking for a desktop computer that will work within that ecosystem. In that case, it’s worth buying the iMac, which has long been the go-to desktop for Apple users.
The iMac isn’t just a desktop — it’s an all-in-one. That means that it has a display built into it, too, so you don’t need to buy an external monitor to use with it. No hassle required.
The iMac is pretty high-powered too. The computer comes in two sizes — a 21.5-inch model, and a 27-inch model — and while the 21.5-inch model doesn’t have the exact same specs as the larger device, it’s still relatively powerful. The base model offers a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, while the highest end 27-inch iMac can be upgraded to offer a 10th-generation Intel Core i7, 128GB of RAM, and a whopping 8TB of solid-state storage. You’ll even get up to a Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics card.
The iMac is beautifully designed too, like any Apple product. It’s got a stunning aluminum build that will look great on any desk. Around the back is where you’ll get ports, including four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an SD card slot, and a gigabit ethernet port.
The iMac has long gotten great reviews. PCMag gave the 27-inch iMac an impressive 4/5, while Wired gave it an equivalent 8/10. The downsides? Well, notably that while the iMac looks great, it has had the same design for some time now, so it’s aging a little. Also, most will want to upgrade to at least 16GB of RAM, up from the 8GB in the base model.
The best compact desktop computer
The Apple Mac Mini boasts a sleek and stylish design, Apple’s new processor, and integration with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem.
Pros: Sleek design, powerful performance, works with all apps
Cons: More USB 4 ports would be nice
Unless you’re seriously against Apple’s MacOS operating system, the Mac Mini is the best compact desktop computer right now. It has a sleek and stylish design with enough ports for most, plus it runs on Apple’s all-new M1 processor, which is incredibly powerful and makes the transition seamless.
When Apple announced the transition to a new M1 processor architecture, many were concerned that apps built for Intel Macs wouldn’t work on M1 Macs, and wondered how difficult switching would be. The answer? It’s absolutely simple. Many apps now work with both classic Intel processors and Apple’s new processors, and even those that don’t can be translated in the background by Apple’s Rosetta 2 software. In other words, the worst you’ll experience is an app pausing for a second or two before opening, after which it’ll run as well as it always has. It’s actually kind of incredible.
The only other thing you might be wondering about is whether you should get 8GB of RAM or upgrade to 16GB. I’ve been using an 8GB model for a few weeks now, and find that even as a power user, it’s more than capable the majority of the time. With Mail, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Word, Podcasts, Safari, Reminders, and often both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro open at the same time, the computer still feels responsive and quick. On the heaviest of heavy days, which included 4K video editing, the computer can sometimes skip a little, and as a result we recommend getting 16GB of RAM if you plan on using those pro-level apps. For most workflows, however, 8GB will be enough.
The only downside to this Mac Mini compared to the last generation is that it has slightly fewer ports. But you’ll still get two USB-A ports, two USB 4.0 ports (USB-C), an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an ethernet port, which should be more than enough for most.
The best desktop computer under $500
The Acer Aspire TC is inexpensive, sure, but it still offers excellent performance for a computer in its price range.
Pros: Inexpensive, excellent port selection, solid performance for the price, customizable
Cons: Lackluster graphics performance
If you want a decent desktop on a budget, there are some great options. Namely, it’s worth considering the Acer Aspire TC, which offers excellent performance for the price, plus it can be upgraded down the line as needed.
Despite being low-cost, the Acer Aspire TC has a lot to offer. The base model of the computer comes with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, but it can be upgraded to offer an Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive – though of course, those specs will pass the $500 line.
There’s a great-selection of ports on offer too. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a hefty five USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, two HDMI ports, and more. Safe to say, you should never run out of connectivity options on this computer.
The Acer Aspire TC has made a name for itself for offering excellent value-for-money, and reviews reflect that. PCMag gave the computer a 4.5/5, which is a glowing score. The only real downsides to the computer are that the computer doesn’t offer great graphics performance, but that’s somewhat to be expected from a computer in this price range.
What to look for in a desktop computer
As with any computer, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re browsing for your next desktop. For starters, you’ll want to think about the operating system (OS) that you prefer: Windows or macOS. Of course, the OS comes down to one’s personal preference. A good number of people happen to find that macOS is easier to use than Windows. However, Windows computers are on the cheaper side compared to Macs, and are widely more compatible with various programs and external devices.
You’ll also want to think about how powerful you need the computer to be. Most of the computers on this list feature Intel Core i processors (CPUs), which come in a range of models. At the most basic level, the entry-level CPU is the i3, the mid-range is between the i5 and i7, and the high-powered option is the i9. Additionally, gamers and visual media professionals need to consider the graphics card inside the computer, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX series being the highest-end graphics cards available today.
Apart from the processor, there’s memory, or RAM, which impacts the overall speed and day-to-day use as well as multitasking capability — we would recommend at least 8GB of RAM; and storage, which dictates how many files, including videos and music, can be stored on the desktop. For this, we’d recommend going for at least 256GB of space to start.