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More people purchase laptops than desktop PCs these days, according to Statista, but plenty of shoppers still buy desktops, in part because they generally provide more power
and capacity for your dollar. Desktops are also more configurable, especially for gamers, and tend to be
paired with displays
that are much larger than the screens built into even the largest laptops.

PCMag has always found a loyal audience among the DIY crowd.
More than a quarter of our survey respondents (28 percent) told us they built their
desktop PC. This year, we asked the DIYers to rate their satisfaction with those
self-built rigs, the same as we ask all other PC owners.

So, should you build, or should you buy? And if you buy,
what brand should you purchase? Read on and see what your fellow PCMag readers
recommend.

Desktop PCs for 2020

READERS’ CHOICE WINNER

Alienware (Overall, Gaming)

You may pay a pretty penny for an Alienware gaming PC, but PCMag readers tell
us it’s worth it. No manufacturer of Windows PCs delivers higher overall
satisfaction this year.

READERS’ CHOICE WINNER

Apple (Overall)

Apple is a perennial Readers’ Choice Award winner for its desktop PCs. On
nearly every measure of satisfaction, aside from cost and value, Apple received
your highest ratings.

Apple seems to win our Readers’ Choice Award for
desktop PCs every year, and 2020 is no exception. You may not be in the mood to
switch to a different operating system, but it’s hard to argue with the high
satisfaction ratings our respondents give their iMacs, Mac minis, and Mac
Pros every year. And with a little effort, you can run Windows on your
Mac
if need be.

If you
want a true Windows PC for your home, though, or if you’re a serious gamer, our
readers tell us Alienware is the desktop PC for you. Alienware, a
subsidiary of PC giant Dell, wins its first PCMag Readers’ Choice Award in the
desktop PC category.

If you’re comfortable building your own computer—and there
are plenty of online resources to walk you through the process, including
our own tutorial
—you may find that to be the most satisfying experience of
all. Our DIY readers gave their PCs satisfaction ratings on par with Apple and
Alienware. You can see it in the yellow line in the interactive chart above.
(Read more about the DIY PCs below.)

Apple’s satisfaction ratings improved over its 2019 Readers’
Choice Award-winning results. Overall satisfaction increased from 8.9 to 9.2 on
a scale from 0 (extremely dissatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied). Likelihood
to recommend, an important measure of satisfaction, went from 8.9 to 9.1, while satisfaction
with reliability went from a 9.1 to a near-perfect 9.5.

Several respondents’ comments backed up Apple’s reliability ratings with a consistent theme: “It
just works,” “Works perfectly every time,” “Just plain works
all the time,” “It just works without issues—unlike my prior PCs,” and a bit more
down-to-earth, “They just work (a few issues, but minor).” Several respondents
noted how well their Macs work together with their iPhones and iPads, a boon
for those who have bought into the Apple ecosystem.

Apple also got top marks among PC brands for satisfaction with ease
of setup (9.4), ease of use (9.3), technical support (9.2), and repairs (8.7). On
the other hand, it received the lowest satisfaction rating for cost/value
(7.6), more than a point behind Acer and Asus (8.8), the highest rated brands
on this measure.

Satisfaction with cost/value wasn’t a highlight for
Alienware either, which received the second-lowest rating on this measure
(7.9). It makes expensive gear. However, Alienware had the highest rating in
overall satisfaction for its PCs (9.1), just slightly behind Apple. Respondents
also praised Alienware’s technical support, rating it an 8.6.

In fact, among gaming PCs, Alienware’s ratings were very
similar to those of its parent, Dell, but whereas respondents were more
satisfied with Dell’s cost/value (8.8), they only rated Dell’s support at 7.9.
That is still a respectable score in this category, as cost ratings tend to run
lower than on other measures.

While Alienware markets to gamers, a few respondents told us
they use Alienware desktops for other purposes, including video and
photo-editing. They’re not disappointed. Said one, “I bought this because
I needed the reliability of the brand, and more importantly the ability and
performance capability to use several photography [apps] simultaneously.”

Asus was a Readers’ Choice Award winner for its desktop PCs
last year, and its overall satisfaction rating improved from 8.9 to 9.0, but it fell
slightly behind Alienware. Still, Asus makes for a compelling runner-up. It had
the same satisfaction with ease of use (9.1) and likelihood to recommend rating
(8.8) as Alienware and actually rated slightly better in satisfaction with
reliability (9.1 to 9.0), though both scores are excellent.

If you’ve ever considered building your own PC, know that
many of our respondents highly recommend doing it. Said one respondent, “Because
you can customize your self-built computer at a reasonable price, I recommend
this path to everyone who is capable.” Another told us, “[It’s] nice
to know exactly what is in my PC, how it’s configured, and where all the
drivers came from. No bloatware, no configuration options restricted by a
manufacturer.” Then there was this: “The entire experience of
building a PC was incredible. It was nice being able to learn what goes into
making a good PC and how to make it run efficiently and connect all the pieces
together.”

Overall satisfaction for self-built PCs came in at 9.2, the same
score that Apple garnered. Satisfaction with cost/value rated 8.8, matching
Acer and Asus, and satisfaction with ease of use (9.4) beat everyone, as did satisfaction
with repairs (9.2), likely because DIYers can make the repairs themselves when
needed.

Perhaps surprisingly, self-built PCs fell short in satisfaction with
likelihood to recommend (8.5), ahead of only CyberPower (7.9), HP (8.2), and
Acer (8.4). While many raved about the experience of building their own
computers, some disliked the extra effort required to solve problems while
others felt that the cost advantage was eroded because they couldn’t get
components at the wholesale prices that PC manufacturers receive.

Below is the full table of results for Readers’ Choice
2020: Desktop PCs for Home and Gaming.

The PCMag Readers’ Choice survey for Desktop PCs was in the
field from March 30, 2020, through April 20, 2020. For more information on how
the survey is conducted, read the survey methodology.

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Further Reading

Desktop PC Reviews

Desktop PC Best Picks

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