In many ways, the best iMac alternatives (that is, all-in-one PCs) are the pinnacle of computer product design. Instead of a clunky computer tower taking up a ton of space, they squeeze all the components out of sight, leaving just a large, gorgeous display for you to feast your eyes on. And ever since Apple packed a powerful computer and beautiful display into the same slimline device, rivals have been clamouring to one-up the Cupertino giant.
There’s no doubt Apple’s iMac is the best-known all-in-one computer, especially since its major redesign earlier this year. That said, it’s definitely not for everyone. For one thing, it runs Apple’s macOS operating system, which means you’re limited to the apps it can run. If you’re a Windows user and don’t want to make the switch, that means the iMac is a non-starter for you.
Luckily, there are plenty of great iMac alternatives that will be perfectly suited to your needs, which we have rounded up in this buying guide. Aside from running Windows, each one offers something different – after all, opting not to go down the Apple route doesn’t mean you have to limit your choices.
If it turns out an all-in-one computer is not right for you after all, fear not, as we’ve put together a guide to the best laptop for graphic design. And if Apple is your thing, you’ll want to check out our round-up of Apple deals for all the latest savings on the company’s devices.
The best iMac alternatives
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Most all-in-one computers have to make performance compromises due to their incredibly constrained proportions and tight thermal limits. Not so the HP Envy 32. While some alternatives use mobile processors, HP’s offering gives you the full experience with a proper desktop chip. It has powerful graphics cards (up to the RTX 2080 Super) and a Thunderbolt 3 port – an all-in-one rarity outside the Apple ecosystem. And then there’s the display, a huge 31.5-inch screen with a sharp 4K resolution. No matter what you do on this computer, it’s going to look gorgeous.
We could criticize its lack of 11th-generation Intel processors and RTX 3000-series graphics, but these concerns are just small fry in the grand scheme of things. When rivals are mostly offering mobile chips and integrated graphics, HP’s Envy still offers excellent components that are leagues ahead of its competitors. Simply put, it’s the best iMac alternative you can buy.
With all the design work and complicated planning that goes into them, it’s unsurprising that so many all-in-one computers cost a fortune. After all, packing so many components into a slimline monitor frame is no mean feat for any company. The Acer Aspire C 27 bucks that trends, though, with a starting price of well under $1,000 that makes it far more accessible than you would think.
Sure, there are some compromises here and there. Its resolution is not the sharpest and it only has options for integrated or mobile graphics chips, which aren’t the best for playing games. But you will love the silver-and-black aesthetic, and if your work isn’t too demanding, it could be the perfect machine to sit pretty on your desk. It goes to show all-in-one computers do not have to be totally out of reach to all but the wealthiest purchasers.
When it comes to all-in-ones – or any computer, for that matter – there’s really nothing quite like Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2. While most competitors’ machines are fixed in their form factor and offer very little in the way of display adjustment, the screen of Microsoft’s device can be tilted all the way downwards, transforming it into a large digital drafting table. It’s perfect for illustrators and designers who want to work with its included Surface Pen as if they are drawing on a large sheet of paper.
It’s not perfect, though. The internal components are looking a bit long in the tooth these days and it costs an absolute fortune – its price starts at $3,500 and only goes upwards. But for the outlay it offers unquestionable benefits, and having a huge drawing pad on your desk will be absolutely worth it for many a creative. Here’s hoping Microsoft updates it soon.
An antidote to the sticker shock of the Surface Studio 2, Dell’s Inspiron 27 7000 series brings prices back down to Earth and into mortal realms. It starts at under $1,000, yet interestingly it is one of the few all-in-ones currently offering the latest 11th-generation Intel processors. If most of your work is processor-led, that could make the Inspiron something of a hidden gem and a real bargain to boot.
Like the Acer option above, Dell has had to make some compromises to keep the price down, which is unsurprising. You only get a 1080p display and a maximum of 12GB memory, so it’s not really suited to super-demanding workloads where RAM is of key importance. But the speedy, up-to-date processors give it an edge where its rivals might look tired. Add in a flexible design (there are four chassis options to choose from) and it is absolutely worth considering.
As any creative will tell you, having a color-accurate display on your computer is essential to producing reliable, top-quality work. Lenovo’s Yoga AIO 7 steps up to the plate in this regard, with a gorgeous 4K display that hits 99% of the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB gamuts, making it excellent for graphics and photography work where utmost accuracy is required.
It’s not a one-trick pony, though. All-in-one computers are often graphical lightweights, but Lenovo’s offering can be kitted out with an Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card that makes it a very capable gaming and rendering machine. Its entire display, meanwhile, can be rotated into portrait mode, something that is highly unusual among similar machines. It’s also one of the prettiest all-in-ones on the market. The catch is it’s not yet available in the US, but Lenovo says it’s coming soon. Keep your eyes peeled for its arrival.