April is an excellent month to take advantage of sales on car parts, laptops, cookware and more!
Computer Storage.Even low-cost computers have pretty sizeable hard drives. Most of the traditional desktops we researched offer 1TB (or about 1,000 GB) of storage, which should be plenty for home users.
Like system memory, hard disk drives are fairly cheap, which is why manufacturers can afford to offer large hard drives on most desktop computers without making much of an impact on the retail price. The Chromebox employs a different and much more expensive type of storage called a solid state drive, or SSD, which seldom shows up on budget computers. What an SSD lacks in capacity it makes up for with speed. A reviewer from CNET raves that, with an SSD, the Chromebox can boot up in about 10 seconds -- a fraction of the time it takes even a premium PC -- and power down in just one second.
Computer Optical Drives.An optical drive is usually standard equipment on an inexpensive desktop computer. However, nettop computers such as the Lenovo Q180-31102VU and Samsung Chromebox forgo an optical drive, in part simply because their cases are so small. Consumers who want an optical drive can upgrade to the Lenovo Q180-31102WU for $50 more.
All the traditional desktops on our list include a CD/DVD burner, which can read CDs and DVDs and burn data onto recordable CDs and DVDs. Some more expensive PCs include Blu-ray drives, which are still too expensive to make it onto budget systems. If you buy through a manufacturer that lets you configure and buy a PC online, you may be able to add a Blu-ray drive for an extra fee.
Additional Features.Computer manufacturers may not add lots of frills to budget computers, but there are some basic extras that most low-cost PCs include, such as a keyboard and mouse. The exception among our picks is the Samsung Chromebox nettop computer, which includes neither. Consumers should note that none of the desktops on our list comes with a monitor, so if you don't already own one, be sure to factor in that added cost.
Look for a low-cost PC with a generous number of USB ports, including USB 3.0 ports, which transfer data faster than older USB 2.0 ports. Most of the budget PCs we researched have at least six USB 2.0 ports for connecting everything from a mouse to a printer. The Dell Inspiron 660 has four but also four USB 3.0 ports -- more than any other system we reviewed. The Gateway SX2370-UR10P, the Lenovo Q180 nettop computer, and the Asus Essentio CM6730 have two USB 3.0 ports. The Acer Aspire AM3970 (starting at $478, Amazon) has no USB 3.0 ports but is overloaded with a whopping 12 USB 2.0 ports. Otherwise it's a run-of-the-mill budget option -- not especially powerful but a decent system for the price, according to a reviewer from PC World. The Samsung Chromebox nettop computer also sticks to USB 2.0 ports and includes six of them.
Virtually all budget desktops have Wi-Fi connectivity and an Ethernet port that can support connection speeds up to 1 gigabit. Many low-cost computers, including the Dell Inspiron 660, Gateway SX2370-UR10P, and Lenovo Q180, feature a media card reader.
Don't Bother Cheap Desktops
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180
The Lenovo Q180 is a cheap nettop computer that's marketed as a home-theater PC. The idea is to set up this little box in your entertainment center in order to watch online video or even surf the web on a TV. As an everyday desktop, however, this model falls flat due to its limited Intel Atom CPU and graphics power.Read more »
Asus Essentio CM6730 Review
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180 Review
Samsung Series 3 Chromebox Review
Dell Inspiron 660 Review
Gateway SX2370-UR10P Review
HP Slimline s5220y
Acer Aspire AX3200-U1790A
Asus Essentio CM1630-05
Dell Inspiron 580s
Compaq Presario CQ5720F
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150
Compaq Presario CQ5720F
January brings deals on linens and electronics -- and, in much of the country, winter weather that can disrupt power. ...
January is an excellent month to take advantage of sales on Christmas decor, electronics, furniture and more.