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Desktops aren't dead: HP adds new towers for back-to-school

New desktops in the Pavilion and Envy and lines cover everything from basic schoolwork to 4K video.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Following its recent announcement of new back-to-school laptops and hybrids , HP is now adding a new series of desktops, covering budget systems, performance machines and all-in-ones.

Desktop PCs have long been something of an afterthought for many computer makers, with much of their recent efforts in design, features and branding going towards slim laptops and hybrids. It's been a long time since we've seen a PC maker launch four new consumer-friendly desktop designs at once. But desktops can offer better performance-per-dollar, plus easy expandability for those willing to open up the chassis and swap in components in order to extend the life of their system.

For the 2015 back-to-school season, HP is offering three new tower desktops, all built around a similar mid-tower desktop shape, plus an all-in-one system with a very iMac-like look and feel.

The HP Pavilion tower. Sarah Tew / CNET

The HP Pavilion Tower offers a burst of color, despite its budget price, starting under $500 in the US. It will be available in white, blue, silver or red, and features a plastic front panel with an indented dot pattern across its face. Some ports and an optical drive are all aligned in a vertical row running down the front of the system. At the bottom, a Bang & Olufsen logo indicates the new partnership between HP and the Danish audio company (replacing a previous partnership with Beats Audio, now owned by Apple).

These Pavilion desktops can be configured with Intel 4th-gen Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, as well as AMD A-series A4 through A10 processors, plus basic discrete graphics cards (up to the Nvidia GTX 745 card) and up to 3TB of HDD storage.

The HP Envy tower next to the HP Envy Spectre. Sarah Tew / CNET

A step-up model, called the HP Envy Tower, keep the same vertical optical drive orientation, but the front panel is now brushed metal. The graphics options take a big step up to the Nvidia GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 380 cards, and processor options are 4th-gen Intel Core i5 and Core i7, or AMD A-series A8 through FX chips.

The highest-end of the new HP desktops is the HP Envy Phoenix. It again has a similar overall design with a vertical optical drive slot in its face, but this time with an aluminium chassis in a dark brushed-metal finish, with a sci-fi-like red LED accent light on the front, surrounding the optical drive.

HP says the Spectre is "built for the customer who needs the best graphics frame rates and performance for gaming or hardcore tasks," so it's restricted to 4th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, plus Nvidia GTX 980 or AMD Radeon graphics.

But anyone looking to use this system for serious gaming will want some of the more expensive options, including higher-end Intel K-series Core i7 processors that will work with an overclocking app HP is building into the system. There's an optional internal liquid cooling system on offer as well, which is not something you commonly associate with HP desktops.

The HP Pavilion All-in-One. Sarah Tew / CNET

While we rarely see interesting new tower desktops, all-in-one computers remain an area with lots of inventive new designs. The HP Pavilion All-in-One is a slick-looking example of this kind of PC, with edge-to-edge glass over the entire front face of the system.

The 21.5-inch, 23-inch and 27-inch displays sit on a pedestal-style foot that looks very similar the Apple's iMac design. The back of the chassis differs, in that it's white plastic with an indented dot pattern. Ports and connections are behind the pedestal stand hinge, and you can easily route any cables through a large slot in the stand.

A rear view of the Pavilion All-in-One Sarah Tew / CNET

An optical drive sits behind the right edge, and the processors are again Intel 4th-gen Core i3, i5 or i7, or a wide variety of mainstream AMD processors. Optional discrete graphics are AMD Radeon R7 A330 or A360 cards, and internal storage can go up to 3TB.

The Pavilion All-in-One will be available starting June 28 in the US, from $649. The HP Pavilion desktop is coming on June 10, from $449, while the HP Envy and HP Envy Phoenix desktops are coming the same day, at $699 and $899, respectively. HP has not yet provided international pricing and availability, and we'll update this story when that information is available.