The top performers in our review are the Dell XPS 8700, the Gold Award winner; the Lenovo ThinkCentre M93p, the Silver Award winner; and the Dell OptiPlex 9020, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a computer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
The most important aspects of a desktop business computer in the $1,000 price range are its individual performance and its ability to network with other PCs in the office. These computers range in size, shape and included peripherals, but they all share the threads of strong performance and excellent networking capabilities.
If you're looking for a simple and low-priced computer for homework or a home office, we recommend looking at our home computer review site. We also have reviews for all-in-one PCs, computers that pack all of the components in the monitor. Finally, for those who need a computer to store and stream all of their media, our multimedia computer review has the best entertainment-hub PCs.
We recognize that most people looking for business computers are associated with a company's IT department or are entrepreneurs versed in customizing the computer to fit their needs. Therefore, we did not look for bonus software as a main selling point. The extra software is easily removed before employees start working. Instead, we looked for the computers that offer the best performance.
Depending on the computer's form factor, you may have to buy additional monitors or extra equipment to get the computer working the way you need. Also, computer size is important, since the computers have to fit in the employees' working spaces. Finally, before picking your final computer, you should look into bulk-order deals. Manufacturers often offer discounts on bulk orders, but the amount of the discount varies by the number of products in the order and which sales representative you talk to.
If you have any questions that aren't addressed here, check out our articles on business computers.
In reading this site, you should know that we normalized the products on our lineup by featuring PC builds as close to $1,000 as we could while maintaining similar performance expectations. Nearly all of the computers on our lineup can be upgraded far beyond what we kitted them out with. We gave top priority to processors, ensuring that the computer at least had the best processor possible for around the target price.
Perhaps the most important part of any business computer is its processor. We evaluated each processor based on its specifications, considering base clock speed, cache and hyper-threading. We gathered information from our sister site Tom's Hardware, and we also took into account each processor's score from PassMark, a third-party organization that consolidates a wide range of user test data. Because PassMark is a synthetic benchmark, it may or may not reflect real-world performance. However, it is a useful measurement for comparing processors and seeing what they're capable of.
In addition to processors, you want to consider how the business computer will handle graphics-intensive work. While the integrated Intel HD graphics are fairly capable, you may need a dedicated video card to get your work done. We evaluated each video card based on its specifications. Generally, with graphics cards, it's easy to determine performance by looking at specifications. Including a dedicated graphics card can up the price of a PC considerably, so not all of the builds on our lineup have them – in fact, not all of them are capable of even using discrete graphics cards.
We also made a point of looking at the RAM for each computer. Two important considerations are how much the manufacturer puts in the computer for you and how much is the system capable of using. We also looked at the frequency of the RAM, as this can have a big impact on normal work tasks. Most of the computers we looked at run the fairly common 1,600MHz RAM, but a few have the much quicker 2,133MHz RAM.
For small businesses and businesses with small or inexperienced IT departments, it is crucial that the PC manufacturer offer warranties, extensions to those warranties and all sorts of technical help. We evaluated each PC manufacturer to determine what support options it has and what that means for you. For example, we found that many manufacturers offer three-year warranties, but not all of them.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in a way that best serves the consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation, nor was the evaluation method provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What we've discussed up to this point are the most important things to consider, but business computers are complex machines. There is a lot to know and consider. Below, we've detailed some more specifications to look at before you purchase.
Business Computers: How Much Memory and Storage Do You Need?
As far as storage is concerned, you generally want as much as you can afford. Because we've standardized the price for the computers on our lineup, the PCs with the greatest amount of storage are more appealing. Most of the business computers we looked at come with at least 1TB hard drives by default. Should you need more, it's important to know how much can be built in. The most expandable computers on our lineup offer options up to 4TB of storage. If you deal with video files or raw files on a daily basis, make sure your computer has plenty of storage space.
Business Computers: Which Extra Ports Do You Need?
Your answer to this question depends on your computer usage. Typically, more USB ports are better, since many peripherals plug into them: webcams, USB microphones, keyboards, mice, drawing tablets and more. Monitor connectivity is also important. Do monitors you intend to use and the computer support DVI, VGA or HDMI connections? In order to answer these questions, make sure to plan where you will set up the computer and what devices you want to plug in. Then, try to make sure the computer has at least two more USB ports than you know you need.
Business Computers: Which Operating System Is Best?
The operating system your computer uses can have a major effect on your business – especially when other computers are connected to your network. Often, the latest operating system is the most secure and the best supported. However, buying the newest operating system for your computer may cause problems with any applications that weren't designed to run on the new operating system. For this reason, many companies lag behind on operating system versions. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you can continue using the tools you need with the operating system you pick.
Microsoft Windows is the de facto standard in most businesses. There are many good reasons for this, but perhaps the greatest reason is its scalability and wide compatibility with many different hardware configurations.
Windows 10 is a significant milestone for most businesses, as many are still running Windows 7. Microsoft is giving current owners of Windows 7 and Windows 8 free upgrades to Windows 10 when it is released. For the first year after Windows 10's release, all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users can upgrade to a full-use version of the new operating system for free. This means that if you buy a computer with windows 8.1 Professional, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Professional without additional charge. However, that may or may not apply to your business. Usually, the licensing agreement Microsoft makes with businesses specifically includes or excludes operating system upgrades.
Mac OS X is a viable choice that can be preferable for certain industries. Keep in mind that mixing operating systems within a business is not a good idea. It creates compatibility issues and is a major headache for any IT department.
Business Computers: How Will the Manufacturers Support Your PC?
The last thing you need is a fried computer wasting your time. In order to help you decide which manufacturers give you the best service, we looked to our colleagues at Laptop Mag for their tech support grades, which are updated every year. Most manufacturers are happy to work with your business to ensure that your PCs have excellent uptime. Of course, when things go wrong – and they always do at some point – it's reassuring to know that the PC's manufacturer will help you in several ways.
Look for manufacturers that allow you to extend warranties, as this can help you put off buying new computers a little bit longer. Most manufacturers give you access to 24/7 support for troubleshooting. Many also offer on-site support, which means that if something goes terribly wrong, the manufacturer will send a technician to you in order to get everything working. Other services, such as accidental damage protection, asset recovery and data backup, are also attractive and useful options.
Business Computers: Bulk Discounts
When you need to upgrade your business computer, it makes sense to consider whether any other computers in your business need to be upgraded as well. Many manufacturers offer discounts for bulk orders. However, you may need to order a very large number of units to get a discount. How large the discount is also depends on the sales representative you talk to and how well you can negotiate the price. In short, for small businesses, don't expect great discounts unless you have some good tricks up your sleeve.
Compared to the other computers on our lineup, the Dell XPS 8700 offers more of just about everything at the same price point as its competitors. Its i7-4790S isn't quite as powerful as its bigger brother, the i7-4790, but it comes close enough that the difference is likely negligible. You get 16GB of RAM and a solid-state drive (SSD), neither of which other computers on our lineup offer at this price. The only problem you might encounter is that the warranty for the XPS extends for one year, unless you opt to extend it.
Lenovo offers some of the best support options you can get for business computers. The Lenovo ThinkCentre M93p is no exception. With such strong support options, including a three-year warranty, you won't have to worry much about your computer failing. The ThinkCentre also comes with an i7-4790 at this price point – enough processing power for most business applications. You won't get an SSD in this configuration, but it is available as an upgrade.
Dell has some of the strongest business computer options on the market, and the Dell OptiPlex 9020 is an excellent choice. In our price range, you get an i7-4790 to power through all of your work applications. You also get an AMD R7 250 graphics card that should provide you with enough GPU power to handle just about any business task. However, there are a couple of downsides to the OptiPlex. There isn't an upgrade option for SSDs, and you won't find an HDMI port.