Mar 4 2013 - Mainstream desktop PCs are those that fall in the middle of the price range between those considered to be in the budget or performance categories. In general, these systems will provide the best overall value for your dollar. Below are my selections for the various systems depending upon what your usage for the computer will be. The systems in this list cost between $700 and $1000.
Dell's XPS 8500 looks pretty much the same as last year's XPS but it has received a number of minor updates to keep it relevant. This includes the Core i7-3770 quad core processor which provides it with some amazing performance. Storage features might be a bit bland with a 2TB hard drive and DVD burner but with incentives and upgrades, it is possible to get a bit more still for under $1000. The graphics are probably its only major issue with a more modest Radeon HD 7570 and limited upgrade options. still, Dell does a great job with their XPS systems and it is nice to see them keep up the limited software installs. An alternative to the Dell is the HP ENVY Phoenix h9
which sacrifices a bit of general performance for better storage speed, higher graphics and an HDTV tuner.
Priced under $800, the unfortunately named HP ENVY h8 actually offers a good overall balance of features. It uses a somewhat slower Core i5-3350P quad core processor but this is still fast enough for most users needs. It features two terabytes of storage space which is uncommon at this price point and even features Wi-Fi networking with Bluetooth. The only real downside is the graphics which its very limited GeForce GT 620 but it is still better than the integrated Intel HD Graphics. If you are looking to do some more demanding computing on the cheap, the ASUS CM1855-US003S
with its eight core AMD FX processor and 16GB of memory is a solid alternative that also has better 3D graphics for roughly the same price.
Gaming systems tend to put graphics and performance above other features like storage. The Cyberpower Gamer Xtreme 1372 does a good job at trying to balance all of the items. It uses an Intel Core i5-3570K quad core processor with 8GB of memory and a Radeon HD 7850 graphics card to provide a smooth experience at the typical 1920x1080 resolution of most monitors. It even does this without dropping the hard drive space like many other gaming systems do. Mind you the system did cut a few corners with the memory but most users probably won't notice much difference. It does this all for around $900. If you want even faster 3D graphics and don't mind sacrificing some features like USB 3.0 and storage space, than the iBUYPOWER Gamer Extreme NE731i
comes with a more powerful GeForce GTX 660 graphics card for the same price.
Photo and video editing are much more demanding on storage and processing than many other PC tasks. Because of this, it is important to have a system with a fast multiple core processor with lots of memory and a sizable hard drive. These are exactly the features that make the Lenovo IdeaCentre K430 is prime choice. It features a high performance Core i7-3770 quad core processor, 16GB of memory and a large two terabyte hard drive. It even features an AMD Radeon HD 7570 graphics card which can help offload some of the work from the CPU. All of this for just under $1000. Now the Dell XPS 8500
offers many of the same features but with only 8GB of memory for a slightly more affordable price tag making it an excellent alternative.