“cheapism helps you find the cheapest "best buys"” — lifehacker
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Desktop Computers
  2. Desktop Computer Reviews
  3. Desktop PC Components
  4. Desktop Deals
  5. Discount Desktops Features Comparison Table

Desktop PCs Buying Guide

When purchasing a cheap desktop computer it's important to understand what you're getting. Entry-level computers are simple systems designed to carry out everyday PC tasks.

Related Guides:
Cheap Gaming Computers, Cheap Laptops, Cloud Storage, College Textbooks, Computer Mice, Ereaders, External Hard Drives, Laptop Bags, Laser Printers, Netbooks, Printer Ink, Universal Chargers and Wireless Routers
They're not ideal for more intensive, graphics-heavy activities such as video editing or 3D gaming. Still, the best cheap PCs can do much more than handle email and surf the web. We sought out sub-$500 systems with the hardware for multitasking and multimedia. We found contenders from major manufacturers including Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, Asus, and HP.

Our top picks are the Gateway DX4870 (starting at $430) and Lenovo H520 (starting at $360). The Gateway offers the best combination of features below $500 that we've seen, and it's speedy, to boot. The Lenovo H520 boasts slightly different specs and is a tad slower but costs about $70 less. We found a pair of good cheap desktop computers from Dell: The Inspiron 660s (starting at $300) comes with two USB 3.0 ports and support for 802.11b/g/n wireless connections yet manages to keep the price well within budget range; the Dell Inspiron One 20 (starting at $400) is an inexpensive all-in-one (no tower) system, an unusual package in the budget market, but Dell delivers without sacrificing too many features or display quality. HP also has a sub-$500 all-in-one, the Pavilion 20-b010z (starting at $454), which presents a nice display but is undone by the slow AMD CPU. The Asus CM1735 (starting at $397) also relies on a relatively pokey AMD CPU, which overshadows the appeal of 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive; red flags also include complaints about this system's tendency to freeze and shut down.

In terms of features, some of the cheap desktop PCs we researched come in various configurations at various price points depending on the vendor. That said, they all contain processors from Intel or AMD, both makers of good components, although Intel CPUs tend to be more powerful than budget AMD processors. A worthy entry-level computer should have at least four gigabytes of RAM, as do all those discussed here; still, the more the merrier. Even cheap desktops generally have sizeable hard drives, and our picks feature drives with at least 500GB; a couple even come with a 1TB (terabyte) drive -- the equivalent of about 1,000 GB -- which is quite generous for home users. And remember, the days of Windows 7 are now past; Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system is standard on all new budget PCs.

What most cheap desktop computers lack is a monitor included at the base price. If you want a PC with a monitor for less than $500, consider an all-in-one, which has the guts of the PC built in behind the display. The Dell Inspiron One 20 and HP Pavilion 20-b010z are two examples of budget all-in-ones.

Low-cost desktops showcase nearly the same hardware, so we leaned on expert and user reviews to choose the best among them. In general, reviews indicate that our picks easily handle most everyday tasks, including web surfing, email, word processing, and playing video clips. Cheap computers are not designed for intense 3D games, but users can certainly play simpler games, such as Bookworm and Bejeweled. What separates cheap desktop computers from the big boys? Pricier PCs boast faster and more powerful processors, more gigabytes of memory, and massive hard drives; some also include a Blu-ray drive. Consumers can drop a couple thousand dollars on a high-end PC without much difficulty.

Many computer users may be tempted to choose a sleek, sexy laptop PC over a boxy, mundane desktop, but it's worth taking some time to weigh the pros and cons of each. The simple fact is you get more bang for your limited buck from a cheap desktop than from a low-cost laptop. A desktop might seem so last decade, but it's easier to repair and upgrade and delivers more power per dollar. With a laptop, the manufacturer must fit the same hardware into a smaller package and add a hefty battery, both of which increase the cost of the end product. If you're looking for value and portability isn't a priority, a cheap desktop is the better deal.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

Back to top »

Best Cheap Desktops

Gateway DX4870
Gold Medal

Gateway DX4870

Gateway's DX4870 offers the best combination of features among all the desktop PCs we found for less than $500. It sports 6GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive, runs on the speedy Intel Core i3 CPU, and offers Bluetooth. Experts and users laud its performance.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Lenovo H520
Gold Medal

Lenovo H520

The H520 from Lenovo packs in plenty of features, including a 1TB hard drive and, in its base configuration, a pretty fast Intel Pentium CPU. Experts like its general-purpose and low-intensity multimedia capabilities and users like the value.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap Desktops

Dell Inspiron 660s
Gold Medal

Dell Inspiron 660s

Like so many budget Dell PCs we've seen in the past, the Inspiron 660s is a solid journeyman system. It's a bit on the slow side, but is a very good value, especially at its starting price. The cheapest configuration includes 500GB of memory and an Intel Celeron CPU.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Dell Inspiron One 20
Gold Medal

Dell Inspiron One 20

All-in-one desktop PCs are becoming more popular, and Dell's Inspiron One 20 is a worthy buy. The cheapest configuration lacks a touch display (the monitor has good picture quality) and the Intel Celeron CPU and 500 GB of memory adequately handle users' everyday needs.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

HP Pavilion 20-b010z

The HP Pavilion 20-b010z all-in-one desktop PC has most of the features you'd expect to find, but it's held back by a slow, budget AMD CPU. The lack of power at this price (even for an all-in-one) just isn't very attractive.

Read more »

Asus CM1735

The CM1735 from Asus contains a budget AMD CPU, which slows down this entry-level desktop PC. Some users complain that the computer is prone to freezing and shut downs.

Read more »

Cheapism.com on Facebook
 
Is It Cheaper to Buy a Printer or Go to the Copy Shop?

Investing in a printer is worthwhile for anyone who prints fairly often. Save photo printing for providers with the right equipment.

What to Buy in April

April is an excellent month to take advantage of sales on car parts, laptops, cookware and more!

Best Cheap Replacements for Ousted 60-Watt Light Bulbs

We highlight four energy-efficient light bulb models (three CFL and one LED variety) to replace the classic incandescent sort.