Desktop Buyer’s Guide: Spring 2009

by Reads (4,385)

Summer is quickly sneaking up on us and with it comes Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the all-important high-school and college graduation season. Whether you’re looking for a new computer for yourself or a family member, we’ve got you covered.

Moms, Dads, and Grads

We’ve built a list of our most highly rated desktops in every price range, meaning there’s a system on this list for you – whether you’re looking to spend $500 or $5,000. And as always, if you need additional help deciding on the perfect gift, head on over to our discussion forums to post questions and get advice on choosing a system for yourself or someone else.

Under $600 | $600-$1000 | $1000-$1500 | Over $1500 | More Guides…

arrow Under $600

Dell Studio Hybrid

Dell Studio Hybrid


The Dell Studio Hybrid caused quite the fuss when it came out, both on the Internet as a whole and within our own office. One of the smallest desktops we’ve reviewed at less than three inches thick, the Studio Hybrid offers stunning design in a tiny package. A removable shell can be swapped out to match your décor; Dell even offers a solid bamboo covering. Eco-friendly from its packaging to its components, the Studio Hybrid would look good anywhere in your home or office.
Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini


While some may find Apple’s little desktop that could to be underpowered for its cost, it offers certain features that can’t be denied. Aside from being one of the most stylish on our list, the Mini offers outstanding power savings; it idles at only 15 watts. It uses what are essentially Macbook parts in a desktop to achieve its unique form factor; the Mac Mini is only 6.5 inches on a side. Paired with Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, and this little desktop’s a winner.
Dell Studio Slim

Dell Studio Slim


Dell’s Studio Slim desktop is small and shiny, but still manages to pack the power inside. Designed with an eye to the home theater, the Studio Slim incorporates a TV tuner, HDMI ports, IR receiver, and wireless networking to let users hook it directly to their HDTVs and control it from the couch. Naturally, the slim desktop can be used with a monitor after a more traditional fashion, and the optional Core 2 Quad processor keeps it from being a slouch.

arrow $600-$1,000

Dell Studio XPS

Dell Studio XPS


Dell’s Studio XPS desktop offers consumers access to Intel’s newest Core i7 microarchitecture at a lower price than anywhere else we’ve seen. Coupled with a respectable video card and abundant faster RAM, the Studio XPS will chew through any content creation you can come up with. Its incredibly high price/performance ratio made this machine worthy of an Editor’s Choice.
HP Pavilion Elite m9600t

HP Pavilion Elite m9600t


Much like Dell’s Studio XPS, HP managed to bring a mainstream desktop powered by Intel’s high performance Core i7 processors to market for under a thousand dollars. What sets this machine apart then isn’t the computing power you get for the price; it’s all the extra stuff. HP put together a unique and very useful charging station into the top of this desktop for your iPod or cell phone. Additionally, the more robust power supply can handle a few upgrades down the road.

arrow AMD vs. Intel: Which is the better choice?

AMD vs. Intel

There are two main processor companies when it comes to most computers: AMD and Intel. Both companies offer single, dual, and quad core CPUs, low power versions, high power versions and everything in between. Intel’s latest CPUs, the Core i7 series, do offer higher performance than AMD’s latest efforts, the Phenom IIs. To make up for it, AMD-based machines often go for slightly cheaper than the Intel offerings. Regardless of which system you choose, either one will offer you more than enough performance to get everything done, whether its surfing the web, watching an HD movie or even doing a little gaming.

Lenovo IdeaCentre K210

Lenovo IdeaCentre K Series


Lenovo’s Idea line of computers are geared toward consumers, a market that the business computer giant has finally decided to capture. We reviewed the last gen K210 and found it a capable machine when configured with a quad-core CPU and low-end NVIDIA GPU to give solid performance; the computer is enough to manage some (very) light gaming. The read draw of the IdeaCentre over other desktops is the fantastic custom software Lenovo includes: utilities to perform automatic backups, facial recognition logins, eye strain meters and more.

arrow $1,000-$1,500

HP TouchSmart IQ506t

HP TouchSmart IQ506t


While every major manufacturer has an all-in-one desktop, HP’s line is unique, as they’re all built around high-resolution touch- (and multitouch-) capable displays. The IQ506t is stylish, functional, and above all, fun. With a custom touch-optimized software suite, HP has really changed how we interact with our computers.
Dell XPS 625

Dell XPS 625


Dell’s first desktop computer featuring the new AMD Phenom II processor, the XPS 625 mixes elements of Dell’s in-house luxury brand with its recent Alienware acquisition. The X4 940 CPU housed within provides significant opportunities for overclocking while the sleek aluminum case makes this computer instantly noticeable.
Lenovo ThinkStation S10

Lenovo ThinkStation S10


Despite sharing a model number with a diminutive netbook, the ThinkStation S10 from Lenovo is definitely no slouch. With high-end Quadro workstation graphics, multi-core CPUs from Intel, and multiple SAS hard drives, this workstation would find itself equally at home in a render farm or running scientific models. Typical staid design and high build quality, trademarks of Lenovo’s business lines, help set this machine apart from the rest.

arrow Over $1,500

HP xw4600

HP xw4600


Sometimes users need the capabilities and support that a business or workstation machine carries. HP puts a lot of effort into its workstation lines, and it shows in the xw4600. From the sturdy, all-metal case to the built-in speaker, this machine doesn’t leave out the little details. Workstation graphics processing, high-end CPUs, and eighty-seven million ports and inputs make the xw4600 a very versatile choice. Two words, emblazoned on the side, sum this beast up: WORKSTATION POWER.
Alienware Area-51 x58

Alienware Area-51 x58


Alienware is known for providing a high-end experience with an accompanying pricetag, and the x58 shows no sign of stopping the trend. With the fastest desktop CPU, quad CrossFire, four hard drives (including two SSDs) and Blu-ray burner to boot, the Area-51 x58 will demolish anything you throw at it.
Alienware Area-51 790i

Alienware Area-51 790i


As part of the Area-51 line, the the 790i shares the same case as its more powerful x58 sibling, but cuts down on the hard drives, features “only” one dual-GPU video card and a less powerful processor. The downgrades still offer a great gaming experience, but at roughly half the pricetag of its higher-end counterpart.

arrow Looking for more?

Moms, Dads, and Grads

Has Dad been dropping hints that he’d really like an iPhone this year rather than another “#1 Dad” mug? Is your grad ready for a new notebook? Let the editors of TechnologyGuide.com help you pick the right camera, smartphone, printer, desktop, or notebook, with our Moms, Dads and Grads Buyer’s Guide.

To see our top tech picks in all categories – not just desktops – visit our main buyer’s guide page on TechnologyGuide.com.

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