HP TECH TAKES /...
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
Best Desktop Computers for the Money
December 25, 2018
Laptops are conveniently portable, but what if you need a huge screen to watch your favorite movies in stunning detail? What if you need a full mechanical keyboard for fast typing or better ventilation to handle the graphics on the demanding triple-A (AAA) video games? As convenient as laptops can be, desktop computers are optimal for gamers, creative professionals, and users who need a wide digital interface.
Thankfully, desktop computers are still a thing. In fact, they’re better than ever, and they’re budget friendly! Let’s explore the best-valued desktop computers on the market.
Difference between a tower desktop and an all-in-one computer
There are two kinds of desktop computers: the tower computer and the all-in-one (AiO).
The tower computer is the traditional desktop computer you grew up with. This setup has three main units: the monitor, the peripherals, and the tower. The “tower” refers to that big box that houses the computer’s main components - it’s usually a tall-standing rectangle, hence the name. You can hook up a variety of different computer monitors, keyboards, and mice to your setup, but the desktop tower is the mainstay.
An all-in-one computer combines the tower and the monitor into a single unit. Typically, an AiO computer features a thicker monitor, with all components fixed behind the display. However, some all-in-one computers place the components in the monitor mount.
Tower desktops and all-in-one desktops each have their strengths and drawbacks, so let’s examine them a bit more closely.
Advantages of a tower desktop
A tower desktop has a few perks over an all-in-one. It can be equipped with stronger components, has better air circulation, and is more customizable and upgradeable than an all-in-one computer.
1. Powerful components
The tower is a relatively large instrument, and there’s more than enough room to incorporate powerful hardware.
All-in-one computers have much less room to work with. They’ve got to squeeze a variety of hardware into a very compact space. Some models trade large, high-powered hardware for somewhat less powerful, space-efficient hardware.
2. Great ventilation
There’s a large amount of open space inside a tower. The airy interior makes tower computers less prone to overheating when processing intense data sets. They’re also able to incorporate large fans or liquid cooling units that provide better heat management and air circulation than all-in-one computers.
The tower shell can easily be removed, providing ready access to all the interior components. Power-hungry PC users enjoy being able to customize the hardware. You can swap out graphics cards, add stronger fans, or rearrange the hardware to better suit your computing activities.
All-in-one computers are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to open without professional equipment and know-how. The hardware is packed into a tight space, and the machine is designed to fit components in the tightest-possible set position. Thus, there’s almost no room to rearrange, swap, or add hardware even if you do manage to open it.
You’ll likely appreciate a tower desktop if you regularly update your computer with the latest, greatest tech. As mentioned, it’s easy to open up the shell and make adjustments to the interior hardware. You can replace old processors and graphics cards with updated ones, expanding the longevity of your device.
This is an important capability for gamers who have to keep up with lightspeed advancements in video game technology and want to custom built a gaming rig to gain a competitive edge. Being able to install a new graphics card or processor is much more convenient than having to buy a new computer often.
All-in-one computers are difficult to upgrade. You can upgrade the operating system, but you can’t upgrade the hardware. If you need a computer with a stronger processor, graphics card, or cooling system, then you'll have to buy a brand new computer.
Advantages of an all-in-one computer
All-in-one computers have great advantages, too. They’re more compact, portable, and space-efficient than tower computers and they may also come with touch screen functionality.
An all-in-one computer is little more than a monitor. You can fit it on a number of tight desk spaces, and it won’t take up as much of your workspace as a tower computer will.
Nowadays, the tower unit is often built with a razor-sharp design. However, even the flashiest tower desktops have an unavoidable clunkiness. The different components take up a lot of space, and they require a jungle of cables to link them all together.
All-in-ones, on the other hand, require only a single power cable plus mouse and keyboard cables, unless you’re using wireless peripherals. They boast ultra-sleek, modern designs that can add a high-tech flair to your home or office.
Laptops are your best bet if you’re constantly working on-the-go. But let’s say you want to take your work computer home for the weekend, or you want to take your computer to a friend’s house for a local area network (LAN) gaming night. If a desktop computer suits you best, but you need it to be at least a little mobile, then an all-in-one computer might be the better option.
A tower desktop, with its larger size, multiple units, and plethora of cables, is much more tedious to move around than the simple and consolidated all-in-one.
An AiO computer is optimal for tight spaces. If you have a small workspace or if you’re sharing an office space with co-workers, you (and your officemates) may enjoy the compactness of an all-in-one desktop.
4. Touch screen capabilities
Standalone monitors don’t have touchscreen capabilities because a touchscreen requires deep integration with the computer’s operating system. All-in-one computers can incorporate a touch screen within their construction. Touch screens are great for digital artists and notetakers who need an immersive interface.
The average PC user might also appreciate a touch screen. Navigating with your fingers can be faster and more convenient than navigating with a mouse. At social events, a touch screen monitor is a fun tool and an easy way for folks to access games, music, and music videos.
Best desktop computers for the money
Here are some of the best-valued tower desktops that combine powerful performance with an approachable price:
1. HP Pavilion 590 tower desktop
The HP Pavilion 590 desktop computer is fast and powerful thanks to its superior hardware. It’s powered by an 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor, which has 6 cores for processing tasks. The processor is integrated with Intel Turbo Boost Technology to enhance the speed of the core units. 16GB of memory enables you to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously, and you can upgrade to 32GB of memory for intensive creative applications and gaming.
What does that all mean?
Well, if you compare a processing core to a muscle, then the Intel Core i7 has a bonafide six-pack. Supplemented by 16GB memory, the computer can handle huge stacks of commands and strings of information. Turbo Boost works as a strategic speed accelerant, giving you increased performance rates only when there’s no risk of overheating.
If you’re a digital artist, you can render, shade, layer, and paint without slowing down. If you’re a gamer, you can run, jump, and shoot your way through a detailed, explosive environment with no lag.
Other great features include a built-in DVD writer and 1TB of storage space. The icing on the cake, though, is the slick design. The tower has an elegant, rounded shape with a glossy, checkered pattern in gray shades.
Get the most out of your HP Pavilion by pairing it with a 27-inch curved monitor. Curved monitors are the newest rage in technology. Inching closer to the edges of your vision, curved monitors are more immersive than the standard flat monitor and will render the graphics of your computer all the more beautiful.
2. HP ENVY 795 tower desktop
The HP ENVY 795 desktop computer has a shiny, aluminum facade that makes a bold statement in any home or office. However, this desktop isn’t just a beauty; it has the brains and the processing speed to back up its snazzy polish. It offers great value, considering that it has an 8th Generation Intel Core™ i5 processor, 1TB storage, and compact size.
If those specs don’t cut it for you, this is a highly customizable computer. The HP Store allows you to configure it in a variety of ways. You can stack it with random access memory (RAM), increase the storage capacity, and trade out the i5 processor with an i7. You can, but you don’t have to, meaning you’ll never pay for more than what you need.
For a superb deal, you can add:
- An 8th Generation Intel Core i5 processor
- Memory up to 16 GB
- A DVD writer
- An NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 1030 2G graphics card
- A full year of Microsoft® Office 365 Personal
3. HP OMEN 880 gaming tower desktop
Hardcore gamers may be willing to spare no expense on their gaming desktop, but now you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a top-of-the-line gaming rig.
The HP OMEN 880 gaming tower is part of the HP® line of famed OMEN gaming rigs. It looks as futuristic as those alien spaceships you’ll be battling in across your digital landscape. You may get distracted by the style and overlook substance. Don’t be fooled though, this is one tough machine.
The HP OMEN 880 runs on an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, which has 6 cores and 12 threads. 8GB of memory is the base component, but you can add up to 32GB of memory for extreme performance capability. We recommend that you upgrade to 16GB RAM memory for gaming, which isn’t too costly and is very well worth it. The computer can handle an immense amount of information, which you’ll need if you play intensive games that draw heavily from your computer’s subsystems.
You also have the option of adding Intel Optane™ memory. Intel Optane essentially takes your computer’s temporary memory and converts it to permanent memory. It learns your most-used applications and places them in a special storage area so that your computer will be able to open them faster. No more lengthy wake-up times and start-up periods while you’re trying to launch a game or application. Intel Optane will help you jump right back into the fray.
Even with just the base features, the HP OMEN is one of the best-valued gaming rigs on the market.
Best all-in-one computers for the money
Here are some of the best-valued all-in-one desktops:
1. HP Pavilion 24-inch all-in-one computer
The HP Pavilion 24-inch AiO desktop is a solid computer configuration weighing right at 22 lbs. It could have fooled you, though, with its weightless look due to some brilliant aesthetics: black trim, dotted soundbar, and thin trapezoid mount. It certainly makes the most of its all-in-one style.
A 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor runs the show, supported by an NVIDIA GeForce 930MX graphics card, 16GB of memory, and Intel Turbo Boost technology. Incredibly, HP® managed to incorporate a DVD writer and 1TB storage into this thin device. Even better, the 27-inch display is also a touch screen. You’ll be hard pressed to find better features at a lower cost.
2. HP 24-inch all-in-one computer
The HP 24-inch AiO desktop looks a bit similar to the HP Pavilion we just talked about, but it opts for an darker color palette and a hip, mid-century-style mount. It’s smaller and lighter than the beefier HP Pavilion model, weighing only 13 lbs and featuring a 24-inch touch screen display.
For such a reasonably-priced device, it packs a punch. The HP 24-inch AiO runs on an 8th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, with Intel’s own UHD Graphics 630, plus it comes with 8GB of memory which you can upgrade to 16GB if you choose. You’ll get strong performance when you’re gaming or using creative applications. This is an amazing deal for such a solid machine.
3. HP ENVY 27-inch all-in-one computer
The HP ENVY 27-inch AiO desktop has one of our favorite all-in-one designs. Is it a standalone monitor? Is it a TV? Where are the components located? The ultra-modern design will add an upscale flair to any environment you use it in.
Interestingly, the mount serves as the main computing center, and it offers plenty of ports and ample ventilation to take advantage of all its processing muscle. The 27-inch display offers touch screen capability and the Quad High Definition (QHD) gives you stunning resolution.
At its base features, this is one of the more powerful HP all-in-ones. It’s equipped with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, with an NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics card, 16GB of memory, plus 16GB Intel Optane memory.
If you’re looking for one of the best desktop computers for the money, take a good look at the HP ENVY all-in-one.
- Best HP Computers for Animation
- Best HP Desktops for Video Editing
- HP Workstations Complete Review
- HP OMEN Gaming Computers Complete Review
- 5 Great Reasons to Own an All-in-One Desktop Computer
About the Author: Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.