General-purpose business PCs aren't about speed, entertainment or gaming. Designed for productivity, their main requirement is to run productivity applications such as your word processor, spreadsheet and email client, along with some web browsing. We expect conservative styling and competitive pricing, usually no more than £500 when including a monitor. See all PC reviews.
In a typical networked business environment, most file storage will be on the LAN, so you're unlikely to need a large hard drive. Although 1TB drives are relatively affordable, a 500GB drive should be ample unless your business involves storing a lot of video or other large media.
Some PCs in this group test do without a hard drive, instead relying on a smaller, faster SSD for storage. This increases system responsiveness and reduces application load times. If you're not using a network file server or NAS, simply add a hard disk to one of the available internal bays.
Provided you have sufficient memory, any modern CPU will provide enough power for daily administrative tasks. Intel's dual-core Core i3 chips provide ample performance for general use and come with integrated graphics. Demanding users may prefer a more powerful Core i5 chip, which will help to maintain pace when manipulating very large spreadsheets, for example.
AMD's processors, such as the Trinity A8-5600K, can form the basis of a low-cost system. Performance is roughly comparable to Intel's slower Core i3 processors, although AMD's quad-core chips may be better suited to intensive multi-tasking environments.
A 4GB memory setup will be fine – even 2GB should be okay, although memory is so cheap that 4GB will prove cost-effective. You may prefer to plump for 8GB now and delay the need for future upgrades.
We would normally expect a standard processor cooler to be installed, but better third-party cooling fans can help to keep down noise levels.
The motherboard won't need the latest and greatest features, although some spare memory slots may prove useful for adding extra RAM later. Power-management and fan-speed control can also help to save you money and create a more peaceful working environment. The features gained by investing in an enthusiast-grade motherboard, such as overclocking and the ability to add multiple graphics cards, are of no benefit to an office worker.
If you want an Intel Haswell processor – and the improved efficiency may be compelling in business economy terms – the low-cost B85 Express chipset should provide all you need.
Integrated GPU solutions provide enough graphics power for business applications, so you're unlikely to need to add a graphics card. However, If you're not using a Haswell or AMD processor, and you're running a multi-screen setup or ultra-high resolutions, you may want to consider adding a separate GPU.
Wireless keyboards and mice can cause issues in the workplace due to interference between adjacent workstations. A decent wired kit is ideal, while quiet-typing keyboards can be less distracting to others.
For small businesses with just one or two PCs, you may be tempted to save money by opting for Windows 7 Home Premium. Windows 7 Professional is a better option for most offices, as Microsoft disables some networking options for its consumer OS. It provides better compatibility with older software designed for XP, too. Windows 7 Professional adds around £50 to the price.
Pay close attention to the warranty offered with your PC. When you're relying on your PC for the running of your business, an onsite arrangement can save you considerable time and money.
When reviewing business PCs we're not looking for a family PC with the gaming features removed. Businesses demand systems that deliver good economy, with a low purchase price, manageability and ease of maintenance. The latest and fastest processor is simply a distraction.
Two vendors here have selected Windows 8 Pro, while the remainder have chosen the more popular Windows 7 Professional option. All vendors should offer a choice of OS at purchase, so it's up to you to pick the option that best fits your business. Beware of consumer versions of Windows, since Microsoft strips out essential workgroup and domain-join features.
All these office PCs are assembled by UK systems builders more used to selling performance-first gaming PCs. Their prices are still too high for the needs and budgets of most sensible businesses.
In most cases, you'll save money by selecting a more suitable processor – a quad-core Core i5 is over the top for running email, spreadsheets and word processing. Aria and Eclipse have provided less powerful PCs at a lower cost, although their final price still busts a nominal £500 budget.
We'd like to see better-quality peripherals bundled with these PCs. For maximum productivity, the keyboard should be comfortable to type on and a monitor, where supplied, crisp, clear and height-adjustable.
Although we consider a decent keyboard to be relatively important for a workhorse PC, most of these systems are shipped with low-cost examples priced at around £10 or less. You can get by with any of these, but if you're doing a lot of typing we'd suggest you consider something more suitable.
Chillblast and Dino PC have both provided powerful systems with high-grade 23in IPS monitors, with Dino PC's featuring a height-adjustable stand that is essential for health and safety if you don't want to put the monitor on a riser.
Wired2Fire's Business Accelerate is both the fastest and most expensive PC on offer. It comes with productivity-boosting dual monitors and may prove a good investment.
Special mention goes to Aria's Gladiator Logic as the least expensive PC here, despite offering many features. Its performance is adequate and the build quality is good. It's also the most economical to run. Only its consumer OS cautions us against recommending it as our business Best Buy.