The Top 10 desktop PCs for business
6th Nov 2012 | 13:00
The Top 10 business desktop PCs
While workforces have become far more mobile, there's still a need for the classic office desktop. The desktop is the most cost effective computing device; it's easily maintained and has the most powerful solutions available on the market. Despite the drop in laptop prices and increase in mobile processor power, there are still distinct advantages to running desktop systems in an office environment, which is why the desktop remains the most popular form-factor for computer systems.
The range of available desktop systems is as wide and varied as business needs themselves, ranging from deployments of hundreds of basic desktops to a single purchase of a high-end specialist system for rendering, audio work or 3D modelling, to everything in between.
To help narrow down your search for the ideal system for your business, here are the TechRadar Business Centre's top ten business desktop PCs.
For help on choosing an operating system or choosing between Macs and PCs we've included a short guide at the bottom of this article, and if you're unsure of your technology, or you're buying a desktop for the first time read our "How to buy a desktop PC for your business" guide .
In no particular order, here are our top ten desktop PCs for business;
Dell Optiplex 390
1. Dell Optiplex 390
If you have a business need there's a Dell Optiplex that can fill it. The Dell Optiplex 390 range is available in no less than three form-factors and starts at a highly affordable price, considering this comes from Dell with a year's on-site warranty and includes Windows 7 Pro either 32-bit or 64-bit is not to be sniffed at.
The base model ships with a low-end Sandy Bridge-based Intel Celeron G460 processor. It's actually quite capable at 1.8GHz with 1.5MB of cache, supports two threads, 64-bit instructions and includes on-board Intel HD Graphics 2000 with support for dual displays. Coupled with the standard 2GB dual-channel memory it may not set the world on fire performance wise, but that being-on-fire thing just distracts from editing office documents and replying to email.
Of course if you want more punch, Dell support ranges up to the Intel Core i5 quad-core processors and 8GB of memory, while warranty support can extend up to five-years.
2. HP Z420
If you're after workstation-power for your workforce then the HP Z420 range can offer it in droves. Built around the Intel Xeon E5 processor you benefit from running up to eight cores with 20MB of processor cache for serious computational power in a standard desktop chassis. Using the Intel C602 chipset these systems can support up to 64GB of memory and HP can supply a variety of suitable operating systems including 64-bit Windows 7 Pro to take advantage of that.
With support for PCIe Gen3 HP offer configurations with AMD FirePro 2270 and Nvidia NVS 310 for professional OpenGL acceleration. Powered by an impressive 600w 90 percent efficient power supply unit (PSU) and with an optional liquid cooling system, the PC can stay as cool as it is fast.
Protected as standard with a three-year on-site parts and labour warranty extendible to five, that should give you enough peace of mind when paying out for this type of computing power.
Zoostorm 7877-0193 Business PC
3. Zoostorm 7877-0193 Business PC
For the majority of businesses reliability, good support and value are key areas to hit. Zoostorm has been delivering systems that meet those needs for years. Its current entry-level business system is the 7877 range, built around a solid PC case using well-regarded and well-known components for reliability and ease of support.
This mid-level system from the range comes with the second-gen Intel Core i3 2120 3.3GHz processor. It's an excellent choice for a business system providing all the power needed for modern office or internet applications but keeps power, therefore also noise and heat to a minimum. Shipping with 4GB of memory it supports up to 16GB and includes Windows 7 Pro, which means it should fit right into any existing infrastructure.
It comes with a standard 1-year on-site warranty, which should offer enough peace of mind but don't expect any more thrills beyond this.
Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71
4. Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71
Here's a system that's designed around the idea of getting work done and comes with the long-standing Lenovo styling, which is to say black and angular. The Edge 71 family starts with this highly competent second-gen Intel Core i3 2100 powered model and can be configured with anything right up to a Core i7. This explains why the base option is just 2GB of DDR3 memory, but that's enough for the office basics and the supplied Windows 7 64-bit allows for expansion up to 8GB.
The base unit provides dual-monitor output, and comes with a host of business security features inducing USB disable, Computrace and Auto PC lock that uses a webcam to detect when the system is unused and locks it.
With smart touches like a spill-resistant keyboard, a design that embraces maintenance plus the choice of a full tower or slimline desktop the Edge 71 is designed as a solid workhorse.
HP Z1 Workstation
5 HP Z1 Workstation
Another all-in-one? Not really. The HP Z1 is a little different to most all-in-ones, first HP class this as a workstation as it comes with high-end Intel Xeon processor options, alongside Nvidia Quadro 1000M graphics for professional OpenGL applications. It's these high-end options that really help the HP Z1 stand out, even the entry-level model is built around the same impressive 27-inch IPS LED display with its startling 2560x1440 resolution, which makes it perfect for graphic professionals of all persuasions.
Unlike most all-in-ones HP has made this model entirely serviceable, so it can be opened up, upgraded or self maintained. Another slick feature is the fold-out stand, capable of positioning the screen at any angle.
The base-model only offers a Intel Core i3 2120 with 2GB of memory, which seems somewhat underwhelming for the price, however it is preinstalled with 64-bit Windows 7 Pro and comes with a reassuring three-year warranty.
Dell Vostro 360
6. Dell Vostro 360
The all-in-one is often overlooked in the business environment and historically that's not without reason. The regularly required upgrade and maintenance cycle PCs of old required didn't really play to the all-in-one strengths and they also incurred extra costs. Modern versions like this Dell Vostro 360 manage to combine the power of a desktop with the space-saving and elegant design of an all-in-one. There's even the option of a touchscreen for minimal extra cost, which makes these an elegant way of presenting information and potentially delivering point of information to the public.
With a second-gen Intel Core i3 2120 processor, 64-bit Windows 7 Pro, 4GB of memory and 500GB of storage, not forgetting that lovely LED 23-inch 1920x1080 display, all in the base machine there's an awful lot to like here.
It may seem a touch more expensive than other plain desktops but remember you get the display included in the price and Dell service too.
7. Chillblast Fusion
For highly specific tasks a high-end system is the answer you're after and it's difficult to find better made high-end workstations than those produced by Chillblast. By selecting the best components on the market at the time Chillblast provide a totally customisable build process, so you're able to pick almost every component that goes into a system from the processor, right down to the thermal paste used on the cooler.
Recently TechRadar awarded the Chillblast Fusion Cosmos its Recommended award as it delivered one of the highest-end 3D workstations we've seen, powered with an Ivy Bridge third-gen Intel Core i7 3770K processor running at 4.8GHz, utilising dual GeForce GTX 670 graphics cards.
The high-end Cosmos configuration comes in at an eye watering £2159, however Chillblast provide a full gamut of models to suit everything from HD video editing to music production, all tuned to your exacting requirements.
Acer Aspire Revo RL70
8. Acer Aspire Revo RL70
Often less is more and the netbook surge that took off during the early 2000s also bred a good number of small-format Atom processor-based desktop systems – aka nettop - , effectively the same hardware but in a desktop configuration. One of the front runners was the Revo range from Acer and this latest Aspire Revo RL70 uses the specifically designed AMD E450 dual-core processor, which packs reasonable 3D prowess above and beyond that of the equivalent Intel Atom D2400 found in similar systems.
The Revo RL70 comes with a base of 3GB of memory and a desktop-matching 320GB 2.5-inch hard drive. The low-price and tiny size are both attractive for small office start-ups and these machines are more than capable of handling office and internet tasks coming with wireless and wired network capabilities.
This base model does lack an optical drive and only ships with Linux, but both of these can be upgraded if so desired.
HP Pro 3400 MicroTower PC
9. HP Pro 3400 MicroTower PC
It's amazing to think that HP was considering pulling out of the PC market but then the crazed CEO left and life went back to normal. If you need a solid PC system that's going to work day-in day-out then the HP Pro range should get a good chunk of your attention.
The 3400 range is based on a no-nonsense microtower system, which comes with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit a basic 2GB of memory and a low-cost but capable AMD Dual Core E2 3200 processor. With an optical drive and a roomy 500GB of drive space this system has everything you need to get your business up and running, while remaining expandable as you go.
Support costs are kept to a minimum by the basic 1-year collect and return warranty. There's nothing here that's going to change the world but with HP's reliability it's a system that you can be sure will keep on running.
Apple iMac 21.5-inch
10. Apple iMac 21.5-inch
There's no denying the solid build-quality and sheer design elegance of the Apple iMac all-in-one. If you were going out to build the most futuristic, glamorous looking office there's no doubt the Apple iMac would be at the top of your shopping list. With the base model built inside a floating-style 21.5-inch display with an impressive 1920x1080 resolution, even the "basic" model is capable of high-end video and photography work.
Apple backs up its impressive design style with an impressive specification using the second-generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5 processors that feature quad cores running at 2.5GHz. Even the basic model comes with dedicated AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics for 3D acceleration. With wireless mouse, keyboard and integrated wireless networking.
Of course all of this mounts up in costs with this being more than double many other business systems we've looked at, but its initial high-spec could help it outlast its cheaper rivals.
Mac versus PC
Mac versus PC
The huge success of the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod has helped Apple in the old PR stakes, but shipments of its desktops and laptops remain a single-figure percentage of total PC shipments – however is certain markets like the US, Macs now account for 1 in 10 of all desktops shipped and the figures are rising year-on-year. The real questions are how does a Mac or PC deployment integrate into any existing business IT infrastructure, meet your IT budget and provide the security you demand?
In reality both PC and Mac systems can meet your business's functional needs, however most businesses end up opting for a PC deployment due to lower hardware and software costs, greater choice and flexibility in system specification, easier maintenance and lower training costs. Until recently support for legacy software and systems could have demanded a PC-only hardware solution, but virtual PC software effectively eliminates this as an issue enabling legacy software to run on new PC and Mac hardware alike.
Largely Macs find their way into the creative industries, where to a greater extent their ease-of-use and to a lesser extent their aesthetic design, make them more desirable for publishing, audio production, web and graphic design, but largely these systems still run on top or alongside PC systems with no issues.
For more information see How to run Windows applications on your Mac
Which operating system?
Windows 7 Vs Windows 8 Vs Chrome Vs Linux Vs ...
What's in an operating system? Quite a lot as it happens. For a large business or enterprise choice is probably mute as a site licence will cover the entire business. For small and perhaps even medium businesses a supplied OS will still be desirable. For most this will be Windows 7, choosing Microsoft can reduce support costs thanks to its well established deployment tools and widespread hardware support.
With Windows 8 out in October 2012 there will be a question of if businesses need to migrate to this. Microsoft will be pushing Windows 8 on desktop, phone and tablet alongside Office 365 with its cloud storage as the complete multi-modal business solution. Ultimately extended support for Windows 7 is guaranteed by Microsoft until 2020, so its longevity and security shouldn't be a worry. While that gives plenty of time for businesses to evaluate the new features within Windows 8.
Linux remains an alternative to both Windows and Apple Mac OS X, but is generally perceived to have a higher cost of ownership. For a small business this might be the case, as generally it'll require a user with Linux system administrator skills to deploy and maintain, but for any sized business that would be employing someone to do so that's a mute cost point. Importantly what Linux can do is remove lock-in and migration costs to a large degree and offers greater flexibility in choice.
The OS landscape will continue to evolve with new cloud-aware OSs such as Google Chrome and even Android desktops becoming a reality, but currently these are likely unsuited to a business environment due to their single-user orientation and lack of remote administration tools.
Read our guide to Windows v OS X Windows 8 vs Windows 7 vs OS X Lion