Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011: desktops

Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! We're well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties surrounding the seasonal shopping experience, so we're here to help you sort out this year's tech treasures. Below is today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.

Just because most folks have moved onto lighter and more portable playthings doesn't mean there aren't those of you that still enjoy some good old-fashioned "real computing" -- you know, of the immovable persuasion. We jest, as despite their waning sales, desktops still serve an important role in the PC market, especially for those of you serious about all-out performance or a no-frills experience. And, while the pace of innovation in a once burgeoning category has slowed to a consolidated tranquil pace, there are still some hotspots of innovation -- especially around all-in-ones and high-end gaming solutions. As you mavericks press on, so will we, so join us after the break as we suggest some of our favorite desktops for your holiday perusal.

On the cheap

Dell Inspiron One

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

Though it may not be what we'd call powerful in its base incarnation, you can't fault Dell for the Inspiron 2320's clean looks and low starting price. Six Benjamins nets you an all-in-one rocking a 23-inch display, replete with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Pricier configs wield touchscreens, HD webcams and scrap the budget Pentium for more brawny Core series processors. If you've got a penchant for speed, the $1,399-range topper awaits with its Core i7 married to 8GB of RAM, NVIDIA's GeForce GT 525M and a Blu-ray burner, which should be able to handle what you'll hurtle its way. But before you pull out that plastic, do note: USB 3.0 is nowhere to be found, and -- despite us wishing it wasn't so -- all variant ship with Windows 7 Home, not Professional.

Price: $599 and up from Dell

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

HP Pavilion s5

HP's Slimline S5 packs quite a potent punch despite its diminutive looks. This little number can be stuffed with up to 8GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and a quad-core Core i7. While it isn't made of svelte aluminum like its counterpart to the right, even the base config comes with a keyboard, mouse and optical drive -- proving that miniature and cheap doesn't have to be barren.

Price: $329+ from HP

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

Mac Mini

The Mac Mini's still the cheapest way to get on the OS X train -- and this year Thunderbolt's on-board. We're still smitten with its unibody design, which finally houses a processor from this decade. Yet, we find it egregious to demand users bring keyboards and mice to a computer that costs more than half a grand in 2011. And expect to shell out an additional $79 for an external Superdrive.

Price: $568+ on Amazon


Samsung Series 7

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

While it might be down on graphical brawn, it's certainly not lacking originality. Marking the first time an all-in-one from Samsung has made it stateside, the 23-inch LED-powered beaut is unique in its ability to fold completely flat. Available in two SKUs, you're looking at either Core i3 or i5 internals coupled with 1TB of storage and Intel's integrated graphics. But unlike in many of its contemporaries, you'll find USB 3.0 support, although you'll only get one port. Oh and that panel? It's a touchscreen, so it won't be long before you're swiping on the custom touch layer, at radical oblique angles.

Price: $949 and up from Best Buy

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

Maingear Vybe

No-one said fast had to be svelte. While some of you might appreciate its utilitarian chic looks, we're after the Vybe Super Stock's vigor. Performance ranges from "good" (with the stock Core i5 and a GTX 450) to "awesome," with an overclocked 4GHz Core i7 and dual GeForce GTX 570s in SLI. Just promise you'll leave us some kills, okay?

Price: $949 and up from Maingear

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

Toshiba DX735

If you're looking for a little more "TV" from your all-in-one, the DX735 might be up your alley. The 23-inch touchscreen features multitouch and is powered by Intel's Core i5 or i7. Turn it around, and you'll find a lone USB 3.0 port and a neighboring HDMI input -- allowing it to double as a miniature boob tube.

Price: $899 and up from Best Buy

Money's no object

Apple iMac

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

While it's no longer the freshest desktop on the block, there's no denying it is the benchmark -- at least when it comes to details like fit and finish. Like the rest of Cupertino's meticulously-crafted lineup, the iMac is carved out of a single piece of aluminum and then fused with über-reflective glass. You'll find roughly the same sorts of specs on the 21- or 27-inch variants, but those looking for a touchscreen, Blu-ray or USB 3.0 support ought to look elsewhere. But, hey, at least it's got Thunderbolt, right?

Price: $1,120 and up on Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

HP TouchSmart 620

If you've always wanted your all-in-one to have a little more 3D, the search ends here. The 620 is a rehash of its predecessor -- the TouchSmart 610 -- and that's a good thing, as the stellar, tiltable 23-inch 1080p panel carries over from its predecessor. HDMI didn't make the cut, but who'll notice that while you're taking 3D snaps of yourself wearing those active shutter glasses that come in the box.

Price: $1,600 from HP

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 desktops

Digital Storm Ode Level 3

We know, we know. You can build something more powerful for less dough, but not everyone wants to roll their own. Boasting an overclocked 4.7GHz Core i7, dual NVIDIA GeForce 570GTX's in SLI, complete with 8GB of RAM, the Ode Level 3 means business. Still not sold? Well how about that trick white case? We think it's pretty rad.

Price: $2,339 from Digital Storm