Best desktop PC 2016 - Windows 10 PC buying guide

The very best desktop PCs around, from all-in-ones to budget gaming to high-end custom rigs - now with Windows 10

15 Feb 2016

Need to buy a new PC this year? We have you covered: discover what PCs to buy in 2016 and read our in-depth PC reviews, as rated by our team of expert reviewers. Not sure if a computer is right for you? We've got something for everyone here, from compact computers you can hide behind your monitor or television, to the overclocked gaming PCs and space-saving all-in-one PCs from all the major brands.

You don’t even have to spend a lot of money on a PC to get decent performance with plenty of budget options available as well. A lot of the systems we review come with or without a monitor so you can always use your old one, so now is a great time to pick up a new PC. Our always up-to-date list can help you make your choice. Click through to our full reviews for all the information you'll need.

Jump to the best desktop list

Desktop buying guide

Processing power

A PC's processor defines how well it handles the most basic of tasks. The faster your processor, the snappier the operating system will feel and the faster you'll be able to perform complex tasks such as photo and video editing. The more cores a processor has, the better it will be at performing multiple tasks at the same time without feeling the strain. It'll also dramatically improve performance in programs that support multiple cores.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a modern PC with less than two cores, and most of the PCs nowadays have four. Processor speed is also very important, and a few system builders have taken the opportunity to boost performance by overclocking them.

This is something you can do at home, but it requires a lot of patience, experience and there's a fair degree of risk that you could permanently damage your PC by doing so. Professional PC builders typically stress test their PCs to ensure their overclocks won't shorten the life of your system.

Graphics cards

If you're looking for a gaming machine, though, processor speed is not the most important factor that will define its in-game performance. It's your graphics card that will handle the visuals for your games. You'll ideally want to have discrete graphics cards, forgoing the onboard graphics capabilities of their CPUs. 

You can get some very capable graphics cards in a system costing less than £700, all of which can be expected to play all of today's modern games at Full HD resolution. Whether you're able to crank up the eye candy to the max depends on what card your system has. The upper mid-tier cards such as the Nvidia GeForce 760 and AMD Radeon R7 265 and upwards have the power to run the latest games at their highest settings, while those beneath them may sacrifice some fidelity to maintain a consistent frame rate of more than 30fps in the toughest games such as Crysis 3. If you're not cost-constrained, spending more on a system with a more powerful graphics card such as the AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 can see you playing the latest titles at 4K resolutions.

Storage space

Whatever you're using your PC for, you'll want somewhere to store all your data. The ideal scenario will see you having your operating system installed on an SSD, which provide super-quick read and write speeds making your computer feel more responsive. SSDs can be pricy when it comes to capacity, however, so it's best to pair these with a secondary hard disk where you can store your media and documents.

PC Case and PSU

If your PC is a long term investment that you want to upgrade in the future, you should carefully inspect both the case and the motherboard. Some smaller cases don't leave much room for big graphics cards and don't have many extra bays for hard disks or optical drives. Furthermore, the motherboard might not have enough spare ports for extra components. Look out for PCI-E slots if you want to install an extra graphics card or wireless adaptor, and check how many SATA ports are free if you're planning on investing in extra storage. If you're installing high-performance storage such as an SSD, you'll need to make sure there are spare SATA3 ports, as slower SATA2 ports won't be able to take advantage of the higher speeds offered by solid-state storage.

Look out for extra RAM slots, too. Some motherboards will have four spaces for memory modules, but the PC builder might have only filled two. This means you could buy more RAM later when demand requires it. You'll also want to make sure the power supply unit (PSU) can provide ample power for any future upgrades.

Display

If you're starting from scratch with a brand-new PC,  you shouldn't settle for a poor monitor. There are many quality screens available at extremely competitive prices. All the monitors in this test measure at least 23 inches diagonally, with some stretching to 24 inches. We look at colour coverage, accuracy and contrast levels, and you should also pay attention to the what screen technology a monitor is using. IPS panels offer the richest and most vibrant experience, but they are more expensive. TN panels, meanwhile, vary wildly in quality and are typically cheaper than IPS screens. They have fast response times but the cheapest of them have narrow viewing angles and disappointing colour coverage. We'll let you know in our reviews if the supplied monitor isn't worthy of your cash. 

Windows 10

Until the end of July 2016, any PC running a legitimate copy of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest operating system. Most of the systems listed here will ship with Windows 10 pre-installed (we reviewed them with Windows 8.1 installed), but depending on the age of stock, you may sometimes find yourself with a Windows 8.1 PC instead. The upgrade process to Windows 10 isn't particularly long or difficult, but the 3GB software download required may be achingly slow depending on your internet connection. We'd recommend upgrading to Windows 10 as soon as you start using your new PC, so you can immediately get used to the updated user interface and more desktop-friendly design as soon as possible.

Some of the custom PC builders listed here will also supply your PC with Windows 7 or 8.1 if you'd prefer; this is something you have to choose during the customisation process.

We have a number of guides on the process, including how to install Windows 10, and a series of articles on Windows 10's new features

Best Desktops 2015

Best desktops for under £1,000

1. Acer Revo One RL85 - a mini miracle 

The Acer Revo One has one of the cleverest small form-factor PCs we've ever seen. Its tiny chassis has room for three hard disks meaning you can use it as a dedicated media PC for your living room or even set it up as a Windows-powered fileshare if you want. It's not the fastest PC on the planet, but its dual-core Intel Core i3 processor and onboard graphics are capable of playing Full HD videos just fine, which is about as much as you can expect. Depending on which model you buy, you'll also get a handy remote, perfect for those looking to avoid the inflexibility of a keyboard and mouse pairing

Price when reviewed: £300 - Read our full Acer Revo One review for details

Processor: Dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Core i3-4005U, RAM: 4GB, Front USB ports : 0, Rear USB ports: 2x USB, 2x USB3, Total storage: 2TB hard disk, Graphics card: Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, Operating system: Windows 8.1

2. Dell Inspiron Micro - dinky budget netbook in a box

Powerful it ain't, but the Dell Inspiron Micro is one of our favourite mini PCs thanks to its bargain price and attractive design. Its specifications are similar to the Intel Compute Stick-style PCs we've reviewed in the recent past, but without their crippling lack of expandability. This machine has a grand total of four USB ports, DisplayPort and HDMI connectors, a gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card reader and a headset jack, making it a perfect PC for low-end work such as web browsing. Dell occasionally puts machines like this on special offer, so check the price regularly if you're not sure whether you want to splash the cash.

Price when reviewed: £199. Read our full Dell Inspiron Micro review

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Processor: Dual-core 2.41GHz Intel Celeron CPU J1800, RAM: 2GB, Front USB ports : 1x USB3, 1x USB2, Rear USB ports: 2xUSB2, Total storage: 32GB,Graphics card: Intel HD Graphics, Display: None,Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit

3. Asus Chromebox - a great first PC


Asus Chromebox front angle

The Asus Chromebox isn't for power users or even those who want a media streaming PC. It is however perfect for somebody with very modest needs or even a child who only needs a fairly limited, web-based PC for their bedroom. It may not have heartrate-boosting specifications, but with the lightweight Chrome OS installed performance still feels genuinely sprightly. 

Working on documents, browsing image-heavy webpages and watching online videos is quick and easy, and you'll have no problem doing all the basic tasks you'd normally do on a much larger PC. A keyboard and mouse are supplied, but you'll need a monitor in order to use the Chromebox. For £208, it's a great buy.

Price when reviewed: £208. Read our full Asus Chromebox M031U review for more details.

Processor: Dual-core 1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2955U, RAM: 4GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 2x USB3, Total storage: 16GB SSD, Graphics card: Intel HD Graphics, Operating system: Chrome OS

4. Chillblast Fusion Drone - £500 gaming PC with dedicated graphics

If you're on a tight budget but still want to be able to game, the Chillblast Fusion Drone is an outstanding choice, mixing modest processing performance with capable 3D graphics power. Supplied inside a classy-looking chassis, complete with a water-cooled AMD Athlon X4 860K procesor, you won't find a water-cooled PC for less cash. 

Graphics performance is provided by and AMD Radeon R7 370 with 2GB of memory. It just undercuts the Nvidia GeFoce GTX 960 in terms of grahics performance but is cheaper by about the same degree, meaning it's an excellent budget choice. With 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hybrid hard disk, Chillblast has created an extremely appealing package suited to gamers with only a little cash available to splash.

Price when reviewed: £500. For more information, see our full Chillblast Fusion Drone review

Processor: Quad-core 3.7GHz AMD Athlon X4 860K, RAM: 8GB,Front USB ports : 1x USB3, 1x USB2, Rear USB ports: 4x USB2, 3x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hybrid hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB AMD Radeon R7 370, Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64-bit

5. Yoyotech Warbird RS10 - the complete gaming package

Yoyotech Warbird RS10

Yoyotech's Warbird RS10 squeezes and awful lot of power into the £700 budget we set them (£600 without a monitor). The quad-core Skylake-series Intel Core i5-6600K has been overclocked to 4.4GHz, producing stellar results in our benchmark tests. Video and photography work are well within the reaches of this PC. For graphics, you get an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, which is one of the best-value graphics cards you can buy, and is perfect for Full HD gaming. There's 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard disk and plenty of room for future expansion, making this a solid all-rounder.

Price when reviewed: £700. Click here to read our full Yoyotech Warbird RS10 review

Processor: Quad-core 4.4GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (overclocked), RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 6x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960,Display: 22in Iiyama ProLite E2283HS, Operating system: Windows 10 Home

6. Palicomp Intel i5 Raven - Gaming PC rules the living room

The battle for the living room has hotted up, but Palicomp's Intel i5 Raven easily meets the demand of the PC buyer who no longer wants to be trapped behind a desk. Indeed, the SilverStone case employed  by this PC build is compact enough to fit in most reasonably sized media cabinets, and the supplied wireless Xbox 360 controller means you don't have to struggle with a keyboard and mouse when playing games.

Processor performance is reasonable, with a decent mid-range Intel Core i5-6400 supplied. Graphics performance is also excellent, with the 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 handling the latest games in Full HD resolution without much trouble. It's a solid choice for anybody who wants to game without being tied to a particular console.

Price when reviewed: £700. For more details, see our full Palicomp Intel i5 Raven review

Processor: Quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400, RAM: 8GB,Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 4x USB2, 2x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hybrid hard disk, Graphics card: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Operating system: Windows 10

7. Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 700 - stylish all-in-one with plenty of power


Lenovo AIO 700 lead

Despite its mid-range price, the Ideacentre AIO 700 is a classy-looking machine, coming in a choice of black or white. With hard edges and lots of angular corners, it's a quality piece of kit. This extends to performance, too. The quad-core Intel Core i5-6400 is a great mid-range chip with enough power to handle photo and HD video editing with relative ease. The Nvidia GeForce GT 930A graphics card is also a welcome addition, although you'll still have to drop the resolution and detail settings on most modern games in order for them to be playable. Our only real complaint about the Ideacentre AIO 700 is its screen, which is lacklustre at best. Overall, though, it's a good buy for someone who wants a complete PC for under £1,000.

Price when reviewed: £700. Read our full Lenovo Ideacentre 700 review

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Processor: Quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400, RAM: 8GB,Front USB ports : 2x USB3 (side), Rear USB ports: 2x USB2, 2x USB3, Total storage: 2TB hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 930A,Display: 23.8in integrated touchscreen display, Operating system: Windows 10

Best desktops for over £1,000

1. Scan 3XS Z170 Performance GTK6 - Overclocked Skylake perfection

Scan was quick off the marks when it came to producing a stable, overclocked Intel Skylake-based system, but within their £1,000 budget, the firm managed a very well specified and powerful machine. The quad-core 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K, overclocked to 4.6GHz, is astonishingly quick for the money, ready to power through any multimedia tasks you throw at it.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card provides great gaming performance, meanwhile, and the 256GB SSD and 1TB hard disk will eat up your files and games with ease. Our only complaint is with the choice of chassis, which is a trifle dull. But that's something you can configure to your liking, so it's not a big deal. 

Price when reviewed: £1,000. Read our full Scan 3XS Z70 Performance GTK6 review

Processor: Quad-core 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (Overclocked), RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 4x USB3, Rear USB ports: 2x USB 3.1, 1x USB 3.1 type-C, 2x USB2, Total storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB hard disk,Graphics card: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, Operating system: Windows 10

2. Wired2Fire Diablo Elite - Extreme gaming for under £1600

The Wired2Fire Diablo Elite topped our benchmark rankings with the highest score we've ever seen from a desktop PC. There's little surprise, though; the Skylake-generation 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K has been overclocked to Turbo Boost at 4.7GHz, and the firm has thrown in a Fractal closed-circuit water cooler to keep temperatures in line. 

Elsewhere, the 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti is a superb 4K performer, managing to post some seriously high frame rates in games running at Ultra HD resolution. If you only have a Full HD monitor it's almost certainly overkill, but if you run multiple screens or have a high-resolution panel, it will fit the bill. A 500GB SSD and a 2TB hard disk mean there's plenty of room for pretty much everything you can think of, and a generous 16GB of RAM means the machine will likely exceed the recommended specifications of games for years to come. 

Our only complaint is the slightly drab chassis, and while you can switch it out for another one on Wired2Fire's website, none of the alternatives are particularly appealing. Still, it's a ridiculously powerful PC at a great price.

Price when reviewed: £1,549. For more information, read our full Wired2Fire Diablo Elite review

Processor: Quad-core 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (overclocked), RAM: 16GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 1x USB3.1, 1x USB3.1 Type-C, 4x USB3, 2x USB2, Total storage: 500GB SSD, 2TB hard disk, Graphics card: 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti, Display: N/A, Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64-bit

3. Chillblast Fusion Ares - A beautiful beast


The Chillblast Fusion Ares is a breathtakingly beautiful and well put together PC that uses a powerful 

six-core Intel Core i7 “Haswell-E” processor and a high-quality Intel X99-based board all housed within an elegant and understated NZXT H440 case. A quality Samsung 840 Evo SSD makes everything feel super responsive and the2GB VTX3D Radeon R8 285 X-Edition GPU brings great gaming performance, making the Fusion Ares a fantastic all-round performer.

Price when reviewed: £1,400. Read our full Chillblast Fusion Ares review for details.
Processor: Six-core 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-5820K, RAM: 16GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, 2x USB2, Rear USB ports: 6x USB3, 4x USB2, Total storage: 250GB SSD, 2TB Hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB VTX3D Radeon R9 285 X-Edition, Operating system: Windows 10

4. Apple 27in iMac with Retina 5K display (2015) - Perfect for photographers

You know what to expect from an Apple iMac: a powerful all-in-one computer with a fantastic display and looks to shame a supermodel, but a slightly wince-inducing price. This late 2015 version of the 27in iMac is all of those things and now with a stunning 5K display with a resolution of  5,120x2,880.

It also has fantastic colour accuracy and contrast, which has been improved for this year's model. The 2015 5K iMac now supports the DCI P3 colour space, which will be a big deal for photographers and videographers alike.  If you can afford the iMac, it's impossible not to fall for. It's the ultimate all-in-one.

Price when reviewed: £1,599. Read our full Apple 27-inch iMac with Retina Display review

Processor: 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-6500, RAM: 8GB,Front USB ports : 0, Rear USB ports: 4x USB3, Total storage: 1TB fusion drive, Graphics card: AMD Radeon R9 M390, Display: Apple 27in integrated,Operating system: Apple OS X 10.11 El Capitan

5. Asus Zen AiO Z240ICGT - premium all-in-one for professionals


Slightly less expensive than the iMac in #4 slot, with a very temping specification. The Intel Core i7-6700T is a quad-core chip running at 2.8GHz with the addition of Hyper-Threading, giving Windows 10 the ability to multitask across four physical cores and four virtual ones for a big performace boost on complex tasks such as rendering photos, videos and 3D models. It also comes with high-end graphics, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M for handy 3D and gaming performance. The 3,40x2,160 resolution screen is absolutely fantastic, with accurate sRGB colour accuracy and and a huge 303cd/m2 brightness. The speakers are brilliant, too. 

If you don't mind the gold-ish colour, you'll be impressed by the Zen AiOs desk appeal. It has a funky-looking high-heel stand and a reasonably thin design alongside fairly inoffensive peripherals. Our only real complaint about the Zen AiO is its sluggish 5,400rpm hard disk, which is crying out to be replaced by a faster primary SSD. 

Price when reviewed: £1,500. Read our full Asus Zen AiO Z240ICGT review