Saturday, February 16, 2013
2011:10 best PCs to choose from
So what's the best desktop PC for you? Although they've been overshadowed by just about everything recently, the fact that they're comfortable to use and can be upgraded easily means that they're still our weapon of choice when it comes to both gaming and general computing.
We've poked through the TechRadar archives to bring you 10 of the best desktop PCs, including the best all-in-one PCs. If you're after a top desktop, look no further.
The Acer Aspire Z5763 knows the deal: all-in-one (AIO) PCs aren't supposed to be masters of all things, they're slimline entertainment boxes. We all know that they are usually weak in the processor and more importantly the graphics department, but that doesn't mean they need to hide from the limelight. This all-in-one proudly struts its credentials, this is a 23-inch entertainment system that boasts a 1080p resolution and a Nvidia 3D-ready screen with Blu-ray 3D support.
From the unassuming chassis, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Liquid Xtreme GT was just another mid-range machine from CyberPower. Maybe packing a Core i5 2500K, or a new GTX 560 Ti 448 Core. Or maybe, just maybe, it's a combination of a £500 processor and a £400 graphics card. It's the latter. CyberPower has dropped the lower-end Sandy Bridge E chip, the Core i7 3930K, into this machine and paired it up with the best single-GPU card currently available, the Nvidia GTX 580. That's around £900 worth of processor and graphics cores, easily covering half the price of this full machine.
We're certainly warming to all-in-one computers, and if they continue to be as good the Dell Inspiron One 2320 we can happily see them taking over all of our desks. The £799 price means a lot, and there's a lower-end Pentium model also available, at an MSI Wind Top AE2210-beating £599. As with the other PC all-in-ones we've mentioned, the main "new" headline feature - despite the option of the Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor - that the marketing boys are dying to tell us about is the touchscreen. Decades of careful mouse-based interface design down the tube, as it's far more fun stabbing your podgy fingers at a desktop screen.
We're keen to see if the well-priced MSI Wind Top AE2210 can manage to balance a £700 price tag with good performance. Wire-free is also something the MSI Wind Top AE2210 almost achieves - the only lead you actually need connected is the main power supply. MSI has opted for an external power supply unit, which is something to lose and an additional thing to have to lug around. We'd argue that this could help with cooling, but the unit has an obvious cooling fan. While it mostly ticks over at a low level, it's a little disappointing that it's audible at all.
A triumph of form over function, Acer's ultra-tiny media center PC includes a slide-out backlit touchpad keyboard. It also packs a Blu-Ray/DVD-RW combo drive, with an Nvidia Ion 2 processor to power those high-definition films and a touch of light gaming. An integrated digital TV tuner means that it will compliment a plush home cinema set up quite nicely, and it runs very quietly. It's not the cheapest media center option, but it does perform perfectly adequately.
A great place to start your media centre PC. Stick a Core i7 CPU, some DDR3 RAM and a DX11 graphics card in this barebones PC and you'll have a fully-fledged unit that's actually capable of running the latest games. It's got a compactl form factor, and it'll certainly look the part next to a TV of epic proportions. It is a tad pricey for what it is, but in recent years Shuttle has got tiny PCs like these down to a fine art.
The mighty Apple's first venture into the world of Intel's Sandy Bridge processors comes in a 21.5-inch form factor (below), and this whopping 27-inch model. It's the most powerful iMac we've ever seen, and it totes a 2TB HDD in partnership with a 256GB SSD so it doesn't get too bogged down. Graphics are catered for with an AMD Radeon HD 6970M, and as gaming on Macs becomes more popular you'll need every megabyte of its 1GB of DDR5 memory. It looks pretty darn nice, too.
Apple's smaller all-in-one addition is a powerful upgrade from 2010 models, and not hugely pared down from its bigger 27-inch brother. Its 21.5-inch screen doesn't need quite as much power, and the price reflects this. The graphics chip - a HD 6750M in this case - can handle games and video editing, and there's even a built-in 720p camera to take advantage of Apple's FaceTime. Just about everything impressed us here, and it's a great first step if you want to move away from Windows.
So PC Specialist, what have we here with the Vortex M59 OC? An overclocked Core i5 2500K? Why, a system with a CPU specification like that puts you in some pretty illustrious company: there's Chillblast's Fusion Rocket for starters. Chillblast's overclocked 2500K runs at 4.5 GHz, which is 300MHz slower than this rig, but then it's also £150 cheaper. There's also our new favourite Core i5 system, the AT-FX Polaris. Inside that rig lies a 2500K overclocked to 4.8 GHz, matching PC Specialist's rig. It costs nearly £300 more, but there are several luxurious higher specified components inside to justify that.
The Sony Vaio L Series is the Japanese firm's latest stab at this expanding market and it comes in two powerful derivatives – the VPC-L21S1E and VPC-L21M1E – the latter of which we're focusing on here. The S1E costs just under £1,500, while the M1E is a touch more down-to-earth at £1,200. The discernible differences between the pair are a Core i7 processor rather than a Core i5 in the VPC-L21M1E, an extra 4GB of RAM (making for 8GB in total) and a Blu-ray writer instead of just a Blu-ray player. Whichever of these machines you opt for, it's a considerable investment for the privilege of owning one.