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Updated: 2 Mar 2022

How we test desktop PCs

We test desktop PCs exactly as you would use them, cutting through the advertising blurb and revealing the truth about those marketing claims.
Michael Passingham
Desktop pc

To make sure you can pick up the Desktop PC that best suits your needs, we put every model through our exhaustive lab tests, so we can tell you if the model you're interested in is up to scratch or not.

We test Desktop PCs exactly as you would use them, cutting through the advertising blurb and revealing the truth about those marketing claims.

In this article:

  • What makes a Which? Best Buy Desktop PC
  • How we test Desktop PCs in the lab
  • How we make sure a Desktop PC has all right features
  • Should I buy it?

What makes a Best Buy Desktop PC?

Which? exists to give consumers impartial advice, which means that if a product isn't any good, we'll say so, without fear of penalty. Which? works for you, providing trustworthy advice without a hidden agenda.

We examine everything that matters across all products, including performance, features and how well they work in real life – so you'll know exactly what to expect. Our unique, comparative lab tests mean you can trust our Best Buy and Don't Buy verdicts, and choose with confidence.

Which? test lab

Which? tests more than 3,000 products every year, including more home technology products than anyone else. We look at new products as soon as they are announced, helping you to understand new technologies and whether they are worth your money.

Which? is different because…

  • Our tests are based on years of testing experience.
  • We don't accept adverts in our magazines or on our website.
  • We buy everything we lab test.
  • We're completely independent from any manufacturers.

Desktop PC testing in brief

  • Which? tests around 30 Desktop computers a year, and we ensure that our guides only have the models that are currently available.
  • Which? conducts over 200 individual tests on every Desktop PC we look at.
  • Our testing replicates real-world use and enables us to offer the best advice about which Desktop computer is right for you.

How we choose products for testing

Dedicated business researchers carefully select the products Which? tests, scouring the market for the latest releases and the most innovative products. Our business researchers aim to cover a very high percentage of the market in any one product area. And, while we do test some premium products, we avoid testing those products that you would need a second mortgage to afford. We take the following criteria into account when choosing all-in-one computers:

  • Popularity – we test Desktop computers that are the biggest sellers.
  • Brand reliability – we test more Desktop computers from brands that are reliable and reputable.
  • Innovation – we test innovative Desktop computers.
  • Cost – we typically test Desktop computers that cost between £250 and £1,000.

Ease of use

Our expert assessors test our products for their ease of use by running through everyday scenarios that replicate how you use your PC.

For Desktop computers, we check how straightforward they are to install and set up, and how convenient it is to perform everyday operations such as inserting DVDs, transfer files, and turning the computer on and off. We also check how long it takes for the PC to boot up, and the accessibility of USB ports.

Join Which? to find out which Desktop PCs we rated as Best Buys.

Technical testing

Our products undergo a range of extensive laboratory tests to assess performance.  

  • Benchmark testing determines the basic performance of the computer, and we compare the results against all the other Desktop PCs we test. All our tests are comparative.
  • Application tests further assess the performance of the machines when carrying out real-life tasks, such as the speed of transferring files from a USB stick to the hard drive or the speed of burning data to a DVD.
  • We check gaming performance to see if the computer is capable of running the latest memory-draining games and software.
  • Wireless connectivity is checked to ensure a wireless connection can be received and to make sure there are no performance problems when connecting to the internet.
  • We log all the features present, such as connectors, supplied software (both full programs and trial versions), accessories and performance specifications. We also note any significant omissions that may affect the versatility of the machine.

Energy use

We check all products for energy efficiency to make sure that they do not cost you, and the earth, once they are plugged in. For Desktop computers, we check the energy use when the machine is switched on but also when it's switched off, as they can still draw power.

Should I buy it?

We give the Desktop PCs we test a total test score, so you can easily see which are the best and worst, and directly compare models with each other. The score we give each all-in-one is made up of a combination of the elements of our tests, ignoring price, and is broken down as follows:

  • Performance ..................... 55%
  • Ease of Use ...................... 30%
  • Features ........................... 15%

Desktop PCs must score 75% or more overall to be a Best Buy.