How we test desktop PCs


HP Omen 30L standing by a window.

Desktop PCs are available two flavors. You’ve acquired prebuilt machines and DIY methods that folks construct themselves. We overview each, whether or not it’s a fully-configured PC from an organization like Dell or HP or the person elements that energy the PC you constructed your self.

However right here, we give attention to the primary case — prebuilt methods that you just purchase proper off the shelf. These vary from easy residence workplace computer systems to maxed-out gaming PCs that glow in all the best locations.

Reviewing a desktop is a singular course of as a result of there are considerations related to them that aren’t related to units like laptops, tablets or smartphones. Right here’s how we do it.

Appear and feel

A desktop laptop normally is positioned in a chosen spot and stays there, however this doesn’t imply construct high quality is irrelevant. Customers way back grew uninterested in black and tan mid-towers. At present’s desktops are available all styles and sizes for all kinds of functions, whether or not it’s a mini-ITX compact PC or a behemoth gaming battlestation.

We take a cautious have a look at the scale of the methods we overview in order that you know the way the PC will match into your workplace, residence theater or lounge. Primary performance and construct high quality are key, as nicely. A great desktop must have simply accessible ports. Some merchandise include panels that cowl their optical drives or flip-up front-facing ports. If these exist, they should have a strong really feel and easy operation.

Aesthetics are notably subjective, however we do present some commentary on them — and a pleasant number of high-quality pictures. There’s nothing fallacious with slightly vainness. Desktops are sometimes positioned in public areas of a house, comparable to the lounge, and they should at the very least look as in the event that they have been definitely worth the worth paid. Lighting has grow to be vital for a lot of potential patrons, so we at all times touch upon how a lot RGB goodness a system does or doesn’t have — and the way customizable all of it is, in fact.

What’s inside counts, too

CPU cooler on the Alienware Aurora R15 desktop.
Jacob Roach / Digital Developments

There’s extra to a desktop than its exterior look and options, nonetheless. Rather more. Many desktops, not like different trendy electronics, are nonetheless partially or completely consumer serviceable — at the very least, they need to be. Processors will be changed, graphics playing cards upgraded, and exhausting drives added. However that is solely a bonus if a system is simple to work on.

We open up all of the desktops we overview and report on the heart. A spacious format that is freed from litter from numerous cords is right. Small desktops have problem as a result of not sufficient house obtainable, however we wish to see that the producer gave at the very least a second of thought to creating the internals clear and straightforward to work with. Some producers use proprietary components too, which makes servicing or upgrading a PC rather more tough. On the opposite aspect of the spectrum, boutique customized PCs from manufacturers like Origin or Falcon NW put a variety of time into small particulars like cable administration.

Instrument-free design options and readily accessible expandability are additionally a boon. We want case panels that pop off with a latch system, exhausting drives that may be exchanged with out hassling with screws and RAM slots which might be free for an improve. Even small methods could make exhausting drive swaps a breeze — in the event that they’re correctly designed.

Not all desktops are upgradeable, in fact. One thing like a Mac mini or iMac are widespread selections, however they supply nearly no capacity to develop the system or restore it your self.

The additional mile

Most computer systems see success due to a mixture of nice {hardware} and cheap pricing, however we are able to’t decide a PC solely by the configuration we’re despatched. When reviewing a desktop, we take a cautious have a look at how the producer enables you to configure your PC. Are there numerous choices? Are they overly costly? These are all vital to think about.

Past simply worth, points like software program will be each a hazard and a boon, relying on the way it’s carried out.

Warranties and peripherals may also be a defining trait. If all different issues are equal a system with a 3-year guarantee will likely be a greater purchase than one with a 1-year guarantee. Producers are notoriously stingy with guarantee durations, so we at all times remark when a system gives distinctive service at no further price.

The check bench

Lenovo Legion Tower 7i gaming PC sitting on a table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Developments

Efficiency is clearly a priority for anybody shopping for a pc. We put all desktops by means of plenty of benchmarks that present a strategy to objectively gauge efficiency.

Our common CPU benchmarks embrace a video encode check utilizing Handbrake to run a 4K video by means of x265 encoding, Geekbench’s single and multi-core checks, and Cinebench R23’s single and multi-core checks. These checks put the processor on most assault and provides us an thought how a system performs in demanding purposes. We’ll additionally check it on PCMark 10, which provides a really well-rounded have a look at the PC’s efficiency throughout a large breadth of duties and purposes.

After that is accomplished we run CrystalDiskMark (or Blackmagic, for Macs), to check every disk drive’s sequential learn/write velocity.

We wrap up our suite with 3DMark’s Time Spy, Hearth Strike, and Sky Diver checks, three artificial benchmarks that provide a great window into general graphics efficiency. If a system is constructed for gaming we additionally conduct real-world recreation checks at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K with titles like Civilization VIFortnite, Cyberpunk 2077, Pink Lifeless Redemption 2, and Murderer’s Creed Valhalla. We additionally check the system with artistic purposes, such because the Pugetbench Premiere Professional benchmark.

Now, it must be mentioned that always instances, we’re already acquainted with how briskly a overview unit’s CPU and GPU will likely be as we’ve typically already examined them on our personal check bench. However how they carry out inside this particular system is what we’re evaluating, which brings us to cooling.


Desktops normally don’t grow to be as heat as different, smaller PCs, however cooling should nonetheless be thought-about. Some methods are quieter than others, and a few provide higher cooling of inside elements. That is of specific concern for gaming methods, which may grow to be extraordinarily loud and scorching throughout intense use.

To evaluate how a system is to reside with we use a decibel meter and take a measurement of noise from two toes away from the entrance of the desktop. A studying is taken at idle, in the course of the 7-Zip processor check, and after a ten-minute run of the Furmark graphical stress check. This offers a broad thought of how loud the desktop is below numerous circumstances.

Placing the items collectively

The Alienware Aurora R15 desktop with the side panel removed.
Jacob Roach / Digital Developments

Desktops are advanced merchandise that encompass quite a few elements. This makes the decision vital, but in addition tough to succeed in. There’s no easy 1+1 system that may be utilized. Each element has an impact on each different.

With that mentioned, we normally attain our verdict by means of the lens of the desktop’s meant function. A price range PC meant for primary computing won’t severely penalized if it doesn’t ace our benchmarks, however a high-end workstation with the identical failing could be almost nugatory. We attempt to put ourselves within the sneakers of the one that is prone to be shopping for the system and ask if the pc does what is anticipated of it — and extra.

Pricing and competitors are apparent considerations, as nicely. Our verdicts normally embrace some market analysis into the worth of comparable desktops and their worth in comparison with the system being reviewed. A low worth can forgive some — however not all — shortcomings.

Our overview course of is supposed to supply a broad platform on which any given desktop will be judged. We don’t count on each reader to agree with each verdict, however we do hope that you just depart extra knowledgeable than whenever you arrived.

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