Desktop PCs are computers that sit on or under a desk. In contrast to a laptop or tablet, a desktop computer is designed to be used in a single location. Desktops come in various shapes and sizes (or form factors) running from a full sized tower PC down to an ultra small form factor PC and even a stick PC that resembles a flash/pen drive that can plug into a monitor for basic tasks. Typically, a desktop PC is supplied with a power cable, keyboard and mouse but you would need to connect it up to one or more monitors to be able to use it.
Choosing the best desktop PC is much like choosing any type of PC. Once you’ve thought about the type of work you’re going to use it for most of the time, you’ll want to evaluate the desktop’s core specifications including the type of processor installed, amount of RAM, storage, operating system, available ports and future upgrade capability. For a detailed breakdown of these considerations, please see our complete guide to buying a PC. Let’s now take a closer look at the different types of desktop PCs that are available.
The most common type of desktop PC is the traditional tower PC. These vary in size and can be used in both a vertical (hence the name tower) or horizontal configuration. Towers are the bulkiest type of desktop PC but offer the most configuration flexibility and expansion potential. The extra space in a tower PC’s chassis means you can fit bulkier, more powerful components inside such as a separate graphics card. Tower PCs often have a bigger quantity and variety of ports and interfaces than other types of desktops for easier connectivity.
A mini PC is a compact desktop that’s roughly the size of a wireless router. Ideal for cramped spaces, mini PCs are small enough to be tucked behind a monitor but still contain all the essential components (processor, RAM, storage) and ports you need to connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Mini PCs are power-efficient, economical and portable but on the downside, they are the least configurable and upgradeable type of desktop due to the lack of room in the chassis and the fact that many of the pre installed components cannot be replaced.
All-in-one PCs combine the PC unit with a monitor and speakers in a single, integrated chassis. They require less space and less cabling than tower desktop models and can sometimes work out cheaper because there’s no need to go out and buy a separate monitor (mouse and keyboard are often included too). All-in-ones often have large, high quality screens and are quick and easy to set up. Some all-in-one desktops feature a touchscreen monitor which is useful for creative work and multimedia applications.