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The best PC hardware and software of 2023/2024

PCWorld best of 2023 - 2024Image: Rob Schultz/Unsplash

The endless, drawn-out pandemic years are definitely over for the PC.

Just a couple of years back, lockdowns and chip shortages caused PC components (even webcams!) to plunge out of stock and products to be delayed for ages. Not in 2023. Fresh new gear flew fast and furious this year, causing an avalanche of releases seemingly every time you blinked. PCWorld’s staff reviewed more PC hardware and software in 2023 than we have anytime in recent memory.

With such a gluttony of choice, it became harder than ever for PC hardware and software to impress us. Few products earned our rare Editors’ Choice award. And only the very best of the best grace this list.

Without further ado, this is the Best PC Hardware and Software of 2023, as chosen by PCWorld’s editors. Congratulations to the winners – with a field this crowded, they’ve definitely earned it.

For even more acclaim, be sure to check out our Full Nerd awards and guide to the best work from home tech of 2023.

Best laptop: Dell Inspiron Plus 16

Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630

Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630Read our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$1,249.99Best Prices Today:$1199.97 at Amazon | $1249.99 at Dell

Whether you’re looking for a zippy gaming machine or a productivity laptop, the Dell Inspiron Plus 16 7630 is equipped to do it all. It has a big high refresh rate display, a fast fingerprint reader, solid battery life, and reliable performance. This machine can even handle gaming as well as day-to-day productivity thanks to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU.

The silver design may be nondescript, but the aluminum chassis is both strong and durable. You’ll also notice a lot of vents, which are designed to keep the laptop cool during intense gaming matches and content creation bursts. We also managed to get 11 hours of battery life out of this machine on a single charge. That’s impressive, especially for a laptop with a larger display and discrete graphics.

Simply put, you can find flashier laptops, but the Dell Inspiron Plus 16 is well-designed and does everything right. Add the fact that’s it’s more affordable than most flagship laptops and it’s easy to see why this was our favorite notebook of 2023. — Ash Biancuzzo

Best desktop PC: Falcon Northwest FragBox

Falcon Northwest FragBox (Intel 14th-gen)

Falcon Northwest FragBox (Intel 14th-gen)Read our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$2966 baseline | $5850 as reviewedBest Prices Today:$2966 at Falcon Northwest

This year, I had the pleasure of testing the single best desktop PC I’ve ever touched – better even than the high-powered, lovingly crafted DIY machines I’ve built myself over the years. Falcon Northwest’s FragBox is flawless in every aspect – and not just what’s inside the box.

The Falcon Northwest FragBox epitomizes why you buy a boutique custom PC. It packs extreme power into an unbelievably small, cool, and quiet custom chassis, while Falcon Northwest’s warranty, buying experience, and Windows/software setup is second to none. The FragBox is incredibly customizable, built by hand by a single technician, and Falcon Northwest stands so firmly by the quality of its systems that its warranty includes free express overnight shipping for repairs if something goes wrong and the U.S.-based support can’t help you over the phone.

Heck, FNW even throws in a rad mug and delicious custom-brewed coffee with every order. This boutique custom PC doesn’t come cheap, but perfection never does. When the day inevitably comes that I hang up my PC toolkit for good, I’m buying a Falcon Northwest FragBox. I’m in love. — Brad Chacos

Best gaming handheld: Asus ROG Ally

Asus ROG Ally

Asus ROG AllyRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:From $599.99 | Model reviewed $699.99Best Prices Today:$599.99 at Asus | $699.99 at Best Buy

Despite Valve owning the handheld PC space with the Steam Deck, Asus released the ROG Ally and showed that there is still plenty of room for others to be viable. From it’s beautiful and fast 1080p 120Hz adaptive-sync screen to it’s powerful AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor packing Zen4 and RDNA 3, it rivals and even surpasses the Steam Deck in plenty of categories. And while many see the fact that it’s running Windows a downside, I see it as a differentiator. It allows me to easily use other launchers or play games that just aren’t possible on the Steam Deck.

Unfortunately it does have it’s fair share of downsides too so it’s not an easy recommend over the Steam Deck, but as someone who has almost all of the major handhelds at his disposal, the Asus ROG Ally is my current go-to. — Adam Patrick Murray

Best CPU: Intel Core i7-14700K

Intel Core i7-14700K

Intel Core i7-14700K

It’s been a quiet year for desktop CPU launches—more of a drizzle than rain for new silicon. Intel’s launch of its 14th-generation processors was particularly subdued, with two of its three new chips offering similar performance as their predecessors. And yet we still got an interesting showdown: the Intel’s Core i7-14700K versus AMD’s gaming-focused Ryzen 7 7800X3D.

With its strong gaming performance, the 7800X3D was a top contender for being the best CPU to launch this year. And in fact, if that’s all you’re planning to do, it’s still an excellent choice, especially if power consumption is a concern. But Intel’s Core i7-14700K managed to nudge it aside to take our recommendation, thanks to getting four additional efficiency cores—it handles content creation tasks much more easily than the 7800X3D, while still posting similar numbers in many games. When you’re spending $400 for a CPU, a well-rounded option is always welcome. The fact that compatible motherboards and RAM are still a bit cheaper and more plentiful in options helps, too. — Alaina Yee

Best antivirus: Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360 Deluxe

Norton 360 DeluxeRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$49.99 for the first yearBest Prices Today:$19.99 at PCWorld Software Store | $49.99 at Norton

Good antivirus software protects you when you’re having an off day—and it’s gotten increasingly more complicated to deftly sidestep hazards on the Internet. There’s more to worry about than just viruses and malware. Malicious websites, bad actors on public networks, and weak passwords are just part of the bigger constellation of dangers on the web. You can forge a workable solution on your own, but most people will appreciate a suite like Norton 360 Deluxe, which handles all the heavy lifting for a fair price.

At $120 per year (though the first year is usually discounted to $50 or less), you get a lot of features with the plan. For starters, there’s dark web monitoring, access to Norton’s password manager and VPN services, and parental controls. 50GB of cloud storage is also included for automated back ups of your most important files. There are general utilities like file cleanup baked in as well, to help with managing Windows. For this much peace of mind, you’ll pay more more with rivals—if they even offer some of the features stuffed into Norton 360 Deluxe. — Alaina Yee

Best SSD: Corsair MP700 Pro

Corsair MP700 Pro

Corsair MP700 ProRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:1TB: $190 I 2TB: $325 ($10 more with fan-cooled heatsink)Best Prices Today:$179.99 at Amazon | $179.99 at B&H | $189.99 at Corsair

Our Corsair MP700 Pro SSD’s review headline says it all: “PCIe 5.0 excellence.”

An ultra-fast new generation of PCIe 5.0 solid-state drives debuted this year, bringing absolutely blistering new speeds that were previously unimaginable. We’ve tested several, and Corsair’s MP700 Pro is the best of the bunch. It’s scintillatingly fast, with a massive 2GB-per-TB of DRAM cache to keep things running even faster, and comes with a better-than-most warranty. You pay for a premium for it, but it’s worth every penny if you’re slinging massive files around on the reg. — Brad Chacos

Best password manager: Dashlane

Dashlane

DashlaneRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:Free I Advanced: $2.75/mo I Premium: $4.99/mo I Friends & Family: $7.49/moBest Prices Today:$4.99 at Dashlane

What a difference a year makes. In the past 12 months, our last pick plummeted from its exalted position, due to a severe data breach that resulted in stolen vault data.

Fortunately, other excellent password managers exist, like our top recommendation for the year—Dashlane. For years it’s been a strong contender, simplifying online security and making it effortless. In addition to creating and saving all your passwords, its paid plans include dark web monitoring for your personal info and credentials, as well as VPN access for the Premium tier. What kept it in second place was its pricing, but that ended up changing to include a more affordable Advanced plan. The best part? You can first use it for free and see if you like it.– Alaina Yee

Best Chromebook: Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip

Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip

Asus Chromebook CM34 FlipRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$499

I was so positively gobsmacked by the Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip‘s 19-hour battery life, I had to run the test twice. Not only does it have superb battery life, but it also has a spacious 5.5mm touchpad as well as a lovely 1200p display. The display actually has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which makes browsing social media and working on spreadsheets a real breeze. The other cool thing about this laptop is the 1080p webcam, which is a nice touch and all but a must-have these days. — Ash Biancuzzo

Best Thunderbolt dock: Sonnet Echo 13 Triple 4K

Sonnet Echo 13 Triple 4K Display Dock

Sonnet Echo 13 Triple 4K Display DockRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:239.99Best Prices Today:$199.99 at Amazon | $199.99 at B&H | $239.99 at Sonnet

While considering my best pick, I discovered I didn’t love any one Thunderbolt dock without reservation. Of my final three – including the Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma (lack of display ports) and Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Pro Dock (lofty price) – I settled on the Sonnet Echo 13 Triple 4K as the best of them all.

Sonnet’s dock uses DisplayLink, which has really grown on me as a more than capable alternative to Thunderbolt. Not only have DisplayLink docks been as stable or more than Thunderbolt, they’re cost-effective and offer a wide variety of display options. The Echo 13 does as well. The one flaw of Sonnet’s dock, glitchy audio, can be easily overcome in several ways, and with a two-year-warranty, to boot. Otherwise, every aspect of this dock conveys power, flexibility, and care. — Mark Hachman

Best VPN: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPNRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$6.67 per monthBest Prices Today:$6.67 at ExpressVPN

It’s never easy to select the best overall VPN. You need to take into consideration factors such as privacy, ease of use, server spread, and speed. Then you need to account for which is best for everyone’s intended usage. Will the VPN be used to get around geo-locks, stay incognito online, torrent, or something else—the list goes on and on. Many VPNs excel at one or two of these functions, but seldom manage to be successful across the board.

ExpressVPN is one of the only services that consistently ranks at the top of each category. That’s why, once again, it’s our top VPN. Not only does it continue to be one of the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested, but it has a ton of country locations to choose from, it’s dead simple to use, and it offers wide device support. It has also never failed to unblock streaming services and it has full P2P support. ExpressVPN also regularly has third-party auditors review their service to back up their privacy claims. — Sam Singleton

Best keyboard: Razer BlackWidow V4 75%

Razer BlackWidow V4 75% keyboard

Razer BlackWidow V4 75% keyboardRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$189.99Best Prices Today:$184.99 at Amazon | $189.99 at Best Buy | $189.99 at Razer store

While there were a number of excellent keyboards released this year, only one rose above the crowd by breaking through conventional categories and carving out its own. The Razer BlackWidow V4 75% might have the worst product name I’ve seen in a long time, but it’s also the best keyboard for anyone who wants both premium, custom-style features and gaming capability.

By embracing some of the mech community’s most beloved “mods” and focusing on truly excellent switches, Razer has stepped it up a notch, both against its usual gaming-grade competition and more expensive premium designs. — Michael Crider

Best graphics card: AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT

AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT

AMD Radeon RX 7800 XTRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$499Best Prices Today:$509.99 at Best Buy | $539.99 at Newegg | $549.99 at Walmart

Most of this graphics card generation’s heavy hitters launched last year, with Nvidia, AMD, and Intel fleshing out the ranks in 2023. But a clear star still launched this year: When it comes to 1440p gaming, AMD’s $500 Radeon RX 7800 XT is the only true option worth considering from any manufacturer this GPU era. It’s great.

The Radeon RX 7800 XT delivers smashing 1440p performance, absolutely trouncing its GeForce RTX 4070 rival despite Nvidia’s card retailing for $100 more. Better yet, it comes with an ample 16GB of memory and a wide memory bus perfect for 1440p, while Nvidia’s rival RTX 4060 Ti GPUs pack nerfed memory configurations (and slower performance) that make them unappealing for long-term gaming at this resolution. AMD’s Radeon RX 7800 XT also offers decent ray tracing performance, unlike prior-gen Radeons – and if you have an AMD Ryzen processor, the company’s superb Smart Access Memory feature pushes performance even further. — Brad Chacos

Best PDF editor: Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat ProRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$19.90/mo I $239.88/yrBest Prices Today:$239.88 at Adobe

Are you surprised? Adobe Acrobat Pro has been, and continues to be, the undisputed champion of PDF Editors. It is the industry standard and it’s what most third-party competitors can only attempt to emulate. The combination of tools for editing, creating, reviewing, and PDF security are unrivaled.

Adobe doesn’t just rest on their laurels either. They continue to improve and upgrade Acrobat Pro with each passing year. It’s now easier than ever to navigate the robust toolset, they’ve added a cloud subscription option, and created a mobile app for Android and iOS users. Plus, unlike some other services, Adobe Acrobat Pro is a subscription-based service. This means that as long as you maintain a subscription, you’ll always have access to the latest version and updated feature set. — Sam Singleton

Best monitor: Philips Creator Series 27E2F7901

Philips Creator Series 27E2F7901

Philips Creator Series 27E2F7901Read our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$499.99Best Prices Today:$369.99 at Amazon | $399.99 at B&H | $400.99 at Best Buy

The best monitors can cost well over a thousand dollars, and while that might be fine for some people, the best monitor for the majority of people is one that they can actually afford. At $499, the Philips Creator Series 27E2F7901 hits that sweet spot of premium features at a more practical price.

The 4K IPS Black panel provides a sharp image with excellent color accuracy. USB-C connectivity with Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode means it can be used to charge a laptop and/or daisy-chain a second monitor. Four downstream USB-A ports are ready for powering peripherals. The display also has Adaptive Sync for gamers, although the 60Hz refresh rate is in line with the 27E2F7901’s general-use status – at which it thoroughly excels. — Katherine Stevenson

Best gaming mouse: Razer Viper V3 HyperSpeed

Razer Viper V3 Hyperspeed

Razer Viper V3 HyperspeedRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:69.99Best Prices Today:$69.99 at Amazon | $69.99 at Best Buy | $69.99 at Razer

Razer’s Viper V3 HyperSpeed has quickly become my go-to mouse for FPS gaming, creeping into my favor with mouse-like stealth. With its speedy 30K Razer Focus Pro Optical Sensor, high-back precision design, and well-positioned eight buttons, its handling is as good as it gets.

In standard 1000Hz polling mode it proved lightning-quick in games like CounterStrike: Global Offensive and Fortnite, but after adding on the 4,000Hz HyperPolling dongle (sold separately) this rodent really cooked with fire.

I love this mouse’s unpretentiousness too; with its uni-color black casing, simple wi-fi connectivity, and AA battery slot, it’s the mouse that nobody would think has the gumption to win out in matches, but shows them all how it’s done in the end. — Dominic Bailey

Best remote desktop software: TeamViewer and RemotePC by iDrive

TeamViewer

TeamViewerRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:FreeBest Prices Today:Free at TeamViewer

This year’s best remote desktop software is a toss-up between the free to use TeamViewer and the premium RemotePC by iDrive. For the individual user or those who just need to use a remote desktop software occasionally, TeamViewer is our favorite. It’s extremely easy to use, comes with just about every remote-desktop software feature you could ever need, and is free for personal/occasional use. It’s so simple that even our technologically-challenged relatives could set it up remotely without having us guide them through it.

RemotePC by iDrive

RemotePC by iDriveRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$19.50 per computerBest Prices Today:19.50 at iDrive

RemotePC by iDrive on the other hand is a premium service that is an excellent choice for businesses—especially those with mixed operating systems. RemotePC edges out the competition by offering a rich feature-set that includes servers for all major desktop OSes, drag-and-drop file transfers, multi-monitor support, screen recording, whiteboard, remote sound and printing, as well as a bunch of other useful tools. The best part is that it gives you all of this at a more affordable rate than most other services. — Sam Singleton

Best gaming laptop: Acer Predator Triton 17X

Acer Predator Triton 17X

Acer Predator Triton 17XRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:3599.99Best Prices Today:$3329.99 at Walmart | $3599.99 at Acer | $3,699.99 at Amazon

The Acer Predator Triton 17X is one whopper of a gaming machine, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. This beast has a 17-inch display with a wildly fast 240Hz refresh rate, a powerful RTX 4090 GPU, and a diverse port selection. During our graphics benchmarks, it outperformed much of the competition, including the ever-beefy MSI Titan GT77 HX 13V. I mean, what more could you want out of a gaming laptop? — Ash Biancuzzo

Best USB-C Hub / Dongle: Dockcase 10-in-1 USB-C Dock

Dockcase Smart USB-C Hub 10-in-1 Explorer Edition

Dockcase Smart USB-C Hub 10-in-1 Explorer EditionRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$159.99Best Prices Today:$159.99 at Dockcase

How could I not vote the Dockcase 10-in-1 USB-C Dock my favorite USB-C hub of the year? It’s a nerd’s tool: connect it to a USB-C port, and then to peripherals, and it reports everything it sees on a tiny LCD screen that offers something close to professional diagnostics. It’s totally impractical for most people, as it’s both wildly overpriced and offers way more insight than most users care to have. But I still can’t get it off my desk. — Mark Hachman

Best Windows backup: R-Drive Image 7.1

R-Drive Image

R-Drive ImageRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$44.95Best Prices Today:$44.95 at R-tools Technology

Stalwart R-Drive Image has always been a favorite, but thanks to a much-needed interface refresh and added functionality in version 7.1, this Windows backup program is now firmly at the top of our list.

For starters, of all the backup programs we’ve tested, none has the impeccable record of R-Drive Image in never once failing at the task of creating partition or disk images. Now the program is more versatile than ever, with an easy-to-use interface, scheduled file and folder backups, the ability to save images to a variety of mediums, and speedy performance. In a nutshell: It’s an uber-reliable one-stop shop for backup and disaster recovery. — Katherine Stevenson

Best webcam: OBSBOT Tiny 2 4K

OBSBOT Tiny 2 PTZ 4K Webcam

OBSBOT Tiny 2 PTZ 4K WebcamRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$329.00Best Prices Today:$329 at Amazon | $329 at B&H

Get past the gimmicks – the voice commands and beauty enhancements – and you still have a fantastic webcam that offers both great video and a superb software interface to control it all. Need a 4K webcam? 60 fps? Adjustable field of view? An auto-tracking gimbal? All of these options add value, and they’re all built into the OBSBOT Tiny 2 4K with a new and improved 1/1.5-inch 50Mpixel CMOS image sensor at the center of it all.

I really, really loved the image on the Razer Kiyo Pro Ultra, a close runner-up, but the configurability and utility the Tiny 2 4K offers put it over the top. — Mark Hachman

Best gaming headset: Audeze Maxwell Wireless

Audeze Maxwell Wireless

Audeze Maxwell WirelessRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:329Best Prices Today:$299 at Amazon | $299 at B&H | $299.99 at Best Buy

The Audeze Maxwell Wireless produces such a rich and varied soundscape that some rivals almost sound monotone by comparison. Its superior sound quality comes courtesy of large 90mm planar magnetic drivers in the earcups, which are a change from the 40 to 50mm neodymium drivers I usually see in gaming headsets.

Thanks to that hardware, it’s quite heavy (490 grams), but honestly that’s never an issue in multi-hour play sessions because of comfort features like its plush leatherette coverings and swiveling earcups. The round, saucer-shaped cups are also unique and stylish.

I’m a big fan of device versatility and the Maxwell Wireless cranks that to the max. It comes with three connectivity types: wired, 2.4GHz wi-fi and Bluetooth. The Xbox version is cross-compatible with Xbox 360, Xbox X/S, Mac, PC and Android and iOS devices. It also works with PlayStation 5, although it’s not specifically made to. This headset sounds great, feels great, and does it all. — Dominic Bailey

Best online backup: iDrive

iDrive Online Cloud Backup

iDrive Online Cloud BackupRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$79.50Best Prices Today:$79.50 at iDrive

For cloud backup, it’s hard to beat iDrive. It’s got it all: support for multiple PCs and devices, online and local backups, snapshots, syncing, even two-way physical shipment service for emergency data recovery. The amount you pay per year (starting at $2.95 and going up to $99.50) determines the number of users per license and storage space. Other than that, all tiers (including free) enjoy the same comprehensive feature set. Besides being well-rounded, iDrive is an exceedingly simple client to use, making it an obvious recommendation. — Katherine Stevenson

Best gaming monitor: Innocn 27MV2

Innocn 27M2V

Innocn 27M2VRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$679.99Best Prices Today:$599.99 at Amazon | $749.99 at Innocn

For superb gaming that’s not financially out of reach, it’s hard to top Innocn’s 27MV2. The $750 Mini-LED 4K monitor (which often sells for $100 less), offers up phenomenal image quality, HDR support, a 160Hz refresh rate, and AMD FreeSync Premium Pro support for a no-compromises gaming experience.

What’s more, it bests other premium gaming monitors with an abundance of connectivity, including four video inputs as well as USB-C with Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode and a couple USB-A ports for expansion. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better bang-for-the-buck gaming monitor. — Katherine Stevenson

Best laptop for tinkerers: Framework Laptop 13

Framework Laptop 13

Framework Laptop 13Read our reviewPrice When Reviewed:From $1,049 | Model reviewed $1,469Best Prices Today:$1048 at Framework

Framework’s line of repairable laptops continue to impress me, especially this year. The Framework Laptop 13, which we reviewed over the summer, is a good machine with powerful hardware, a nice keyboard, and a fantastic matte display. You can also repair or upgrade this laptop. Just crack this bad boy open and scan the QR codes on the individual parts. You’ll then be directed to that exact part on Framework’s website.

I love the way these laptops encourage folks to get in there and tinker away. Plus, they’re sustainable and may save you some money down the road, as you can easily swap out the storage, upgrade the battery, and so on. — Ash Biancuzzo

Best innovation: Frore Systems AirJet Mini inside the Zotac ZBOX pico PI430AJ

When we first saw Frore Systems’ solid state active cooling module at CES, called AirJet Mini and AirJet Pro, we knew that this had a chance to truly revolutionize cooling in electronics. Without getting too deep into the specifics of how it works (watch our awesome lab tour for that), know that the AirJet uses MEMS technology, is far thinner than a traditional fan found in something like a laptop, but far outperforms it thanks to immense back pressure that just can’t be achieved with today’s thin fans.

In the months since that show we’ve seen a number of demos with various product categories. The release of the first product featuring this system comes from Zotac in the company’s ZBOX pico PI430AJ with AirJet. It’s going to take a lot to change an industry, but I’d love this technology to be commonplace in the future and continue to drive performance and cooling for our electronic devices for years to come. — Adam Patrick Murray

Brad Chacos spends his days digging through desktop PCs and tweeting too much. He specializes in graphics cards and gaming, but covers everything from security to Windows tips and all manner of PC hardware.

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