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5 Best Computers for the Home Office

Learn about five great notebook and desktop PCs for every home office need.

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What makes a desktop or laptop computer great for the home office? We look at five outstanding desktop and laptop computers that address five different home office needs. From a powerhouse desktop workstation to a slim-and-mobile notebook, these five PCs are among your best options when looking for a home office system.

 

The Home Office Warhorse: Dell Studio XPS 9100

Software development. Photo and video editing. Computer-aided design. These are the applications that bring most desktop PCs to their knees. If you need a home office system that can handle top-end tasks, check out the Dell Studio XPS 9100. At $1099, this powerful, full-height tower packs an Intel Core i7-930 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a potent ATI HD5670 graphics card to provide top-end performance across the board. Higher end models of this line feature the i7-960 CPU and up to 18GB of RAM, but at $800 or more in extra cost. With its expansive case and robust 525 watt power supply, the XPS 9100 line welcomes upgrades, while the huge array of ports welcomes connections. There’s 8 USB ports, a FireWire port, a 15-in-1 card reader, and multiple HDMI ports for driving separate monitors. With its glossy good looks and spacious interior, the Dell Studio XPS 9100 is a top end PC that is poised to go even higher.

Business Class on a Budget: Gateway SX2840-01

Setting up a home office is costly enough, without dropping big money on a desktop computer. The Gateway SX2840-01 is a slim and stylish midsize tower that costs just $559, yet delivers strong performance, excellent connectivity and adequate upgradability. Inside the sleek black chassis is an Intel Core i3-530 processor, 6GB of RAM, a spacious 1TB hard drive and a DVD writer, but what sets the SX2840-01 apart is connectivity. The front panel includes five USB ports, a FireWire 400 port, and a multiformat card reader, while the back panel offers four more USB ports, an eSATA port for external disk drives and a fast, gigabit Ethernet port. Whatever you need to hook up for your home office, the Gateway SX2840-01 is prepared to handle it, with style.

 

Home Office in a Box: Dell Zino HD 410

Compact PCs always impose sacrifices, but the Dell Zino HD 410 does a fine job minimizing the hit. With its quad core AMD Phenom II X4 P960 CPU, large 1TB hard drive and 8GB of RAM, the tiny Zino can tackle virtually any business application, while the ATI HD5450 Mobility Radeon graphics engine and combo Blu-Ray/DVD burner provide outstanding video and media support. Dell also includes a 21.5-inch LCD monitor in the $799 discounted price. What’s unique about the Zino HD 410, however, is its design. This stylish box measures just 3.5 inches high and 8 inches on each side, yet offers a bevy of connectors, including USB, eSata and HDMI ports. It even boasts integrated 802.11n wireless networking. The colorful Zino HD 410 is a stylish, space saving solution for even the most cramped home office.

The Elegant Traveler: Toshiba Satellite 215D

The Toshiba Satellite T215D is a slim-and-functional workhorse that offers the portability of a netbook with the performance and features of a mainstream budget laptop. Weighing just 3 pounds and less than an inch thick, the Satellite T215D is equipped to run almost any business app and handle HD quality video playback, thanks to its dual-core AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor, 2GB of RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics chip. What really sets the T215D apart is its build quality, which is outstanding for a $450 notebook. Clad in stately red, the T215D feels solid, with little flex in the chassis or keyboard, and offers a comfortable and quiet chiclet keyboard. The glossy 11.6-inch display is sharp and bright, while VGA and HDMI video ports can drive external monitors at high resolution. Compact enough for tightest airline seat, yet powerful enough to perform as a home office centerpiece, the Toshiba Satellite T215D is a do-it-all laptop that is as valuable at home as it is on the road.

The Desktop Replacement: HP Envy 17

Yes, you can take it with you. At least, that’s the message from Hewlett-Packard’s rugged-yet-sleek $1299 HP Envy 17. Clad in aluminum and magnesium, this 7.5-pound powerhouse features a quad-core, Intel Core i7-720QM processor, 6GB of RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 graphics chip for fantastic all-around performance. The 500GB hard drive is a bit smaller than we’d like, but spins at a quick 7200rpm (most notebooks use slower 5400rpm drives). The huge 17.3-inch display is sharp and bright, and the rangy, full-size chiclet keyboard includes a number pad. There’s ports galore on this beast, including 4 USB ports (one of which supports the faster USB 3.0 spec), an eSATA port for external drives, and VGA and HDMI video outputs. Like most desktop replacements, the HP Envy 17 is bulky and short on battery life, but this no-compromise notebook will step up where lesser laptops fail.

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