Best computers in 2024 - March top picks

The best computers give you enough power to handle both work and play, so on this list we've included systems suited to everything from remote work and school to photo and video editing, gaming and even virtual reality. 

Whether you want the uncluttered design of an all-in-one computer, the compact size of a mini PC or a gaming desktop that can handle the latest titles with ease, we've got you covered. Be it Windows or Mac, these are the best desktop computers we've reviewed.

To help you choose the right PC that meets your unique needs we've got recommendations for systems that will meet your budget, whether you need lots of power for content creation or a more affordable system for projects and education. 

Written by
Alex Wawro
Written by
Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong journalist who's spent over a decade covering tech, games and entertainment. He oversees the computing department at Tom's Guide, which includes managing laptop coverage and reviewing many himself every year.

The quick list

In a hurry? Here's a brief overview of the computers on this list, along with quick links that let you jump down the page directly to a review of whichever PC catches your eye.

The best overall

Apple iMac M3 review unit on desk

(Image credit: Future)
Best computer overall

Specifications

VR Ready: No
Processor: Apple M3 chip
RAM: 8-24GB
Graphics Card: Apple M3 chip
Storage: 256GB - 2TB SSD
Accessories: Apple Magic Keyboard and Mouse

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, beautiful (and thin) 4.5K display
+
Speedy performance
+
Great audio 
+
Solid 1080p webcam

Reasons to avoid

-
$1,299 model feels underpowered
-
Lack of height or angle adjustment hurts

The Apple iMac M3 looks an awful lot like its 2021 predecessor, but under the hood this all-in-one is powered by the all-new Apple M3 chip that helps propel it to our top spot on this list.

That cutting-edge slice of Apple silicon gives the 24-inch iMac a much-needed shot in the arm, since the previous model was powered by 2020's Apple M1 chip. That model's still fine for basic work, but the M3 upgrade gives the 2023 iMac more power and more features than before, including upgraded wireless connectivity, better image processing and support for modern graphics tech like hardware-accelerated ray tracing. 

Factor in the iMac's great speakers and beautiful 4.5K display and you start to see why it's so easy to recommend to families, students and teachers.

Read our full Apple iMac 24-inch review.

The best gaming PC

Alienware Aurora R15 review unit on desk, Cyberpunk 2077 playing onscreen

(Image credit: Future)
Best gaming PC overall

Specifications

VR Ready: Yes
Processor: Intel Core i9-13900KF
RAM: 32GB
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
Storage: 1 TB SSD, 1 TB HDD
Accessories: Dell Multi-Media Keyboard, Dell Optical Mouse MS116AW

Reasons to buy

+
Compact, attractive case design
+
Top-tier performance (if you pay for it)
+
Easy to open, plenty of ports
+
Stays cool and quiet under load

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited upgradability

The Alienware Aurora R15 is an excellent gaming PC that can be configured to fit a broad price range, and its whisper-quiet performance make it one of our top recommendations for folks buying their first gaming PC.

If you can afford it, Alienware will fill the Aurora R15 with top-of-the-line components that make it a top-tier gaming PC. At over $4,000 our review unit is far from cheap, but it's powerful enough to play the latest and greatest games for years to come. 

Make sure you check our Dell coupons page to find the latest discounts!

Read our full Alienware Aurora R15 review.

The best mini PC

Mac mini M2 on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best mini PC overall

Specifications

Size (Inches): 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4
Weight: 2.6-2.8 pounds
CPU: Apple M2/M2 Pro
Storage: 256GB - 8TB SSD
Geekbench 5 Score: 15,038

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful, especially with M2 Pro
+
Small, quiet and looks good on a desk
+
$100 cheaper than predecessor

Reasons to avoid

-
Not user-repairable or upgradable

 Apple outdid itself with the Mac mini M2 ($599), a pint-sized powerhouse that’s cheaper and faster than its predecessor thanks to the speedy M2 chip. The option to upgrade it with an M2 Pro ($1,299) sweetens the deal, turning this into a decent Mac for gaming or light photo/video editing.

Of course, you get more than just speed when you pay for Pro: the entry-level Mac mini with M2 Pro is not only more powerful, it also has more memory and storage than the entry-level Mac mini, as well as more ports. It’s a great mini PC for Mac fans, one that delivers nearly as much power as the Mac Studio M2 in an even smaller chassis.

Read our full Mac mini M2 review.

The best Mac for power users

Apple Mac Studio M2 on desk, running No Man's Sky

(Image credit: Future)
Best Mac desktop for power users

Specifications

Size (Inches): 7.7 x 7.7 x 3.7 inches
Weight: 5.9/7.9 pounds (M2 Max/M2 Ultra)
CPU: Apple M2 Max/M2 Ultra
RAM: 32GB - 192GB
Storage: 256GB - 8TB SSD
Accessories: None

Reasons to buy

+
Remarkable performance
+
Promising gaming potential
+
Plenty of ports
+
Elegant, quiet design

Reasons to avoid

-
M2 Ultra configs get pricey fast

Apple's Mac Studio M2 looks identical to the original Mac Studio 2022, but if you peek under the hood you'll find an all-new set of Apple M2 chips that deliver more power than ever in the same squat silver chassis.

Configurable with up to 192GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage and a top-tier M2 Ultra chip ((20-core CPU, 64-core GPU), the Mac Studio M2 sets a new high-water mark for power in Mac desktops. It has more than enough ports for most creative pros, but beware: If you want the power of M2 Ultra (which starts at $3,999) this pint-sized Mac gets pricey fast.

Read our full Mac Studio M2 review.

The best starter gaming PC

Acer Predator Orion 3000 on a desk, viewed front on

(Image credit: Future)
Best gaming PC for first-timers

Specifications

VR Ready: Yes
Processor: Up to Intel Core i7
RAM: 16GB
Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
Storage: Up to 1TB HDD, 1TB SSD
Accessories: Predator wired keyboard and gaming mouse, both w/ customizable RPGB lighting

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish design looks good on a desk
+
Easy to open and upgrade
+
Quiet, even while gaming
+
Great 1080p performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Underwhelming performance vs. competition
-
Low-quality keyboard and mouse

The Acer Predator Orion 3000 ($829 to start, $1,949 as reviewed) is a mid-sized gaming PC that's attractive, (relatively) affordable, and great for playing games at 1080p to 1440p.

It's not a great choice if you're looking to play games at 4K, however (for that, go for something like the Aurora R15) and its packed-in keyboard and mouse leave much to be desired. The Orion 3000 also fared slightly worse in our suite of performance tests than some similarly-priced gaming PCs, perhaps because our review unit arrived with just 16GB of RAM.

The case is well-organized and easy to open though, so it should be pretty easy to upgrade this machine with more RAM when you need it. With its sub-$2,000 price, beefy components, and stylish, accessible case, Acer's Predator Orion 3000 is a great first gaming PC for someone looking to get into the hobby.

Read our full Acer Predator Orion 3000 review.

How to choose the best computer for you

Finding the right computer is mostly about form and function: What do you want it to look like, and what do you want it to do? In our roundup of the best desktop computers, we look at a free different styles of computer, each offering unique designs and tailored to specific use cases.

Standard PC towers are often the most affordable desktop option, as well as the most basic. With simple designs and plenty of configuration options, a basic desktop tower is still the best option for cost-effective computing power. And thanks to the flexibility of the design you can outfit these standard computers for everything from basic web browsing and media streaming to incredibly demanding uses such as gaming and animation.

All-in-one desktops, as the name suggests, provide a combination of PC and monitor in the same device. These all-in-one designs give you a powerful desktop without the bulk of a tower or the tangle of cables that come with a separate monitor. The best all-in-one computers range from budget-friendly systems to high-powered workstations, so check out our in-depth reviews of the best all-in-one computers.

Gaming desktops, by and large, use the traditional tower design, but are outfitted with powerful components optimized for high performance gaming. These high octane systems are built to accommodate the latest discrete graphics cards, potent processors, large volume storage, and all of the cooling necessary for a high performance machine. There are several options for gaming, whether it's your choice of hardware, or the stylized design that fits your taste. check out our in-depth reviews for all of the best gaming PCs.

Mini PCs take a very different approach, leveraging the tiny components used in laptops and tablets to provide a desktop experience that fits in the palm of your hand or into a pocket. These pint-sized or smaller desktop computers can be easily stashed out of sight or incorporated into less traditional arrangements, such as into a home theater system for streaming movies. Whether it's a small box on your desk or a stick PC in your pocket, our reviews layout the features and performance of the best mini PCs.

Once you know what type of computer you want to get, it's a question of what you want to do with it. While any of the systems on the list above can be used for web browsing and basic productivity uses like typing up documents or putting together a PowerPoint presentation, different use cases have slightly different demands.

The best desktop for gaming will feature graphics cards built for gaming performance, while systems for video editing or animation may use equally powerful GPUs, but with models that focus on reliable performance and certification for different applications. A great desktop for kids will keep things fairly basic, focusing on speedy web browsing and streaming capability, with less of an emphasis on raw horsepower.

How we tested these computers

As we evaluate and review all sorts of computers, we run a series of standardized tests to measure how each machine performs, what uses it's best suited to, and what sort of capability you get for the price.

These standard tests include generalized performance benchmark tests, like Geekbench 4 and 5 (for processor performance), 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra (for graphics), and a custom file transfer test to measure hard drive performance.

Gaming-oriented benchmarks test the performance of systems using current games, measuring the frame rates each desktop will produce in games like Tomb Raider, Far Cry: New Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. We'll also run individual game tests and the SteamVR performance test to evaluate how well-suited they are to the unique demands of virtual reality.

Most importantly, we spend a ton of time simply using each desktop computer for everyday activities. We watch movies, do work, play games, and blast music on the speakers, all to get a better sense of which ones are worth your money.

For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.