Best Cheap Desktop Computers

Our 2018 lineup of the best desktop computers under $500 features a range of cheap computers designed to carry out everyday tasks with ease. Our picks include traditional computer towers, all-in-one computers, and mini PCs from brands like Dell, Lenovo Acer, and Intel. There's even a cheap Mac on the list for Apple devotees.

What We Considered

To find the best cheap desktops, we consulted review sites including PCMag, CNET, PC Verge, Computer Shopper, TechRadar, and TopTenReviews, all of which conduct comparative testing. But computer experts focus primarily on pricey models with the latest and greatest hardware, which limits the pool of desktop computer reviews devoted to models in our price range. Only novel designs such as the Intel Compute Stick tend to capture experts attention. With that in mind, we looked at user reviews on Amazon, BestBuy.com, and other retail sites, including manufacturers' websites, to zero in on consumer favorites. Owners' comments also provide a sense of long-term performance and pinpoint everyday annoyances that experts sometimes miss, although they often don't specify the exact configuration that was purchased.  

We Looked At

We reviewed systems with processors, or "central processing units," from both of the big players, Intel and AMD. Intel CPUs are most common among budget desktops. In past years, cheaper (and slower) Celeron and Pentium CPUs were common in budget PCs, but we now see some computers under $500 with relatively fast Core i3 or Core i5 processors, which is excellent news for consumers.

The performance of AMD processors is generally on par with that of their Intel counterparts. Which is better depends on the particular CPUs you're comparing. The Dell Inspiron 22 3000 Series we researched is available in AMD and Intel configurations. Our Dell Inspiron 3265 pick comes with an AMD processor.

Even low-cost computers have sizable hard drives. Many of the desktops we researched offer 1TB of storage, which should be more than enough for home users. Like system memory, hard disk drives are rather cheap, which is why manufacturers can afford to offer copious storage without driving up the retail price. Mini PCs generally have significantly less internal storage but may be expandable via microSD card slots. An optical drive used to be standard equipment on inexpensive desktop computers. Now only a couple of models on our list include a CD/DVD drive, which can read CDs and DVDs and burn data onto disks.

Don't expect too much from a cheap desktop on the graphics front. Entry-level machines almost always use integrated video chips that draw on the system memory, as opposed to separate and more powerful graphics cards with their own dedicated memory, which are found on more expensive machines, particularly gaming computers, and allow faster video processing. The built-in video processors on low-cost desktops correspond to the CPU brand (Intel or AMD) and can handle many tasks such as photo editing, video streaming, and casual games. Try running more graphics-intensive programs like the latest 3D shooter, however, and you'll be disappointed -- budget computers simply lack the horsepower for those games.

Our Top Pick

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5
Our Picks
Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5

This Acer Aspire desktop blows competitors out of the water with a fast Intel Core i5 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive for less than $500. Although some consumers might do just fine with an even cheaper, less powerful computer (such as the Dell Inspiron 3668), a reviewer at PC Verge lauds the value for the money and asserts that buyers should be able to rely on this computer for tasks like web browsing and video conferencing for the next five years, at least.

  • Powerful quad-core Intel Core i5-7400 processor.

  • 12GB of memory (can be expanded to as much as 32GB).

  • Fast 2TB hard drive.

  • Doesn't take up much desk or floor space (about 16 by 7 by 17 inches.)

  • Top tray with 2 USB 3.1 ports for convenient smartphone charging (1 additional USB port on the back).

  • PC Verge Editors' Choice.

  • Some users complain of frequent crashes.

  • More processing power than necessary for light computer users, according to PC Build Advisor.

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5 Review

This Acer Aspire desktop blows competitors out of the water with a fast Intel Core i5 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive for less than $500. Although some consumers might do just fine with an even cheaper, less powerful computer (such as the Dell Inspiron 3668), a reviewer at PC Verge lauds the value for the money and asserts that buyers should be able to rely on this computer for tasks like web browsing and video conferencing for the next five years, at least.

  • Powerful quad-core Intel Core i5-7400 processor.

  • 12GB of memory (can be expanded to as much as 32GB).

  • Fast 2TB hard drive.

  • Doesn't take up much desk or floor space (about 16 by 7 by 17 inches.)

  • Top tray with 2 USB 3.1 ports for convenient smartphone charging (1 additional USB port on the back).

  • PC Verge Editors' Choice.

  • Some users complain of frequent crashes.

  • More processing power than necessary for light computer users, according to PC Build Advisor.

Dell Inspiron 3265

Dell Inspiron 3265 Review

This Dell Inspiron 3265 all-in-one desktop (I3265-A643WHT-PUS) is a particularly good value considering you don't need to buy a monitor. (Cheap PC towers typically come with only a keyboard and mouse.) Reviewers say the seventh-generation AMD chipset can handle basic, everyday tasks relatively well, without freezing up, and the high-definition display is vibrant.

  • Performs basic functions well and is capable of light multitasking, reviewers say.

  • Relatively fast quad-core AMD A6-7310 processor.

  • Bright, anti-glare, 21.5-inch, full-HD display.

  • 6GB of RAM.

  • 1TB hard drive.

  • DVD drive (rare these days).

  • Attractive, space-saving design.

  • Recommended by PC Verge as an inexpensive yet powerful computer for a home office.

  • Performance is on the slow side, according to some user reviews.

  • Not ready to use right out of the box; some users report that initial Windows updates took hours.

  • No height adjustment for the monitor.

Dell Inspiron 3265

Dell Inspiron 3265 Review

This Dell Inspiron 3265 all-in-one desktop (I3265-A643WHT-PUS) is a particularly good value considering you don't need to buy a monitor. (Cheap PC towers typically come with only a keyboard and mouse.) Reviewers say the seventh-generation AMD chipset can handle basic, everyday tasks relatively well, without freezing up, and the high-definition display is vibrant.

  • Performs basic functions well and is capable of light multitasking, reviewers say.

  • Relatively fast quad-core AMD A6-7310 processor.

  • Bright, anti-glare, 21.5-inch, full-HD display.

  • 6GB of RAM.

  • 1TB hard drive.

  • DVD drive (rare these days).

  • Attractive, space-saving design.

  • Recommended by PC Verge as an inexpensive yet powerful computer for a home office.

  • Performance is on the slow side, according to some user reviews.

  • Not ready to use right out of the box; some users report that initial Windows updates took hours.

  • No height adjustment for the monitor.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny Review

Available from Amazon

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 starts around $360, but adding Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and upgrading from an Intel Pentium processor to a Core i3 bumps up the price. Wirecutter recommends an even faster processor, 8GB of RAM, and adding a 256GB solid-state drive, but that brings the price over $700. Even without those enhancements, the hardware rivals that of a cheap full-size tower but fits in a much more limited space.

  • Powerful performance in a small package (about 7 square inches by 1.36 inches).

  • 6 USB 3.0 ports; 2 DisplayPort connections for a dual-monitor setup.

  • Not much bloatware.

  • More customization options than most mini computers when buying direct from Lenovo.

  • Wirecutter's pick for the best mini PC.

  • Wireless adapter not included by default (listed price includes $25 extra for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0).

  • Large external power supply.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny Review

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 starts around $360, but adding Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and upgrading from an Intel Pentium processor to a Core i3 bumps up the price. Wirecutter recommends an even faster processor, 8GB of RAM, and adding a 256GB solid-state drive, but that brings the price over $700. Even without those enhancements, the hardware rivals that of a cheap full-size tower but fits in a much more limited space.

  • Powerful performance in a small package (about 7 square inches by 1.36 inches).

  • 6 USB 3.0 ports; 2 DisplayPort connections for a dual-monitor setup.

  • Not much bloatware.

  • More customization options than most mini computers when buying direct from Lenovo.

  • Wirecutter's pick for the best mini PC.

  • Wireless adapter not included by default (listed price includes $25 extra for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0).

  • Large external power supply.

Dell Inspiron 3668

Dell Inspiron 3668 Review

The cheapest configuration of the Dell Inspiron 3668 desktop (I3668-3106BLK-PUS) is a prototypical tower PC that's well-liked by reviewers. More than 1,500 Best Buy customers award it an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and 96 percent say they would recommend it. The Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics card are affordable and zippy for everyday tasks like browsing the web and streaming video.

  • Easy to set up and use, according to reviews on BestBuy.com.

  • Fast 7th-generation Intel Core i3 processor.

  • 8GB of RAM.

  • 1TB hard drive.

  • DVD drive (rare these days).

  • In online reviews, some Amazon and Best Buy customers complain that the machine is sluggish.

  • Older 802.11b/g/n wireless standard; not as fast as 802.11ac.

Dell Inspiron 3668

Dell Inspiron 3668 Review

The cheapest configuration of the Dell Inspiron 3668 desktop (I3668-3106BLK-PUS) is a prototypical tower PC that's well-liked by reviewers. More than 1,500 Best Buy customers award it an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and 96 percent say they would recommend it. The Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics card are affordable and zippy for everyday tasks like browsing the web and streaming video.

  • Easy to set up and use, according to reviews on BestBuy.com.

  • Fast 7th-generation Intel Core i3 processor.

  • 8GB of RAM.

  • 1TB hard drive.

  • DVD drive (rare these days).

  • In online reviews, some Amazon and Best Buy customers complain that the machine is sluggish.

  • Older 802.11b/g/n wireless standard; not as fast as 802.11ac.

Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini Review

The base configuration of Apple's Mac Mini doesn't have as much hard drive space or RAM as most competing PCs, and upgrading pushes the price well over $500. If you're intent on getting a Mac, though, this is the least expensive option. Its performance is respectable, according to reviews, and the compact design connects to most displays, making this a solid choice as a basic desktop or home theater PC.

  • Affordable Apple computer.

  • Small, portable, attractive design; less than 8 square inches and 1.5 inches high.

  • Integrated power supply and quiet, energy-efficient operation.

  • Connectivity options include 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an HDMI input.

  • Only 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; 8GB of RAM costs $100 more and a 1TB hard drive adds $250.

  • 1.4GHz dual-core processor; performance is a little slow compared with other desktops in this price range, according to reviews.

  • 4K ultra-HD video looks choppy.

  • No keyboard or mouse included.

Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini Review

The base configuration of Apple's Mac Mini doesn't have as much hard drive space or RAM as most competing PCs, and upgrading pushes the price well over $500. If you're intent on getting a Mac, though, this is the least expensive option. Its performance is respectable, according to reviews, and the compact design connects to most displays, making this a solid choice as a basic desktop or home theater PC.

  • Affordable Apple computer.

  • Small, portable, attractive design; less than 8 square inches and 1.5 inches high.

  • Integrated power supply and quiet, energy-efficient operation.

  • Connectivity options include 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an HDMI input.

  • Only 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; 8GB of RAM costs $100 more and a 1TB hard drive adds $250.

  • 1.4GHz dual-core processor; performance is a little slow compared with other desktops in this price range, according to reviews.

  • 4K ultra-HD video looks choppy.

  • No keyboard or mouse included.

Other Products We Reviewed

lg 101713gateway dx4870 250

Gateway DX4870 Review

The combination of performance, features, and price place this model at the top of the budget desktop PC class, according to Gateway DX4870 reviews. PC Mag chose this model to be an Editor's Choice recipient. The expert review says the Gateway DX4870 really delivers at a value price, and in particular notes the 6GB of RAM (more than the 4GB often found in cheap desktops), wireless support, and HDMI port. Testing of a slightly different configuration by PC World also resulted in solid performance numbers, and this Gateway DX4870 review recommends it for the types of jobs initiated by students and small businesses. Consumers give the Gateway DX4870 (starting at $430, Amazon) a thumbs-up in reviews at Best Buy, where they talk up its speed, price, and copious storage. They also say it's user-friendly -- easy to set up and boot up -- and reliable. Many are less enthusiastic about the Windows 8 operating system, an assessment that we found pervasive in the entry-level PC category.

The base configuration of the DX4870 includes an Intel Core i3 CPU, which is slightly more powerful than the Intel Celeron or Pentium CPUs often included in cheap PCs. The 6GB of RAM is also more generous than the amount of memory included in most low-priced systems, and there's enough space to add even more. This model also includes a 1TB hard drive, 6-in-1 memory card reader, and a DVD/RW drive. It boasts built-in 802.11n wireless networking, supports Bluetooth, and also features a 10/100/1000 Ethernet connection. There is an HDMI port on this PC, as well as two speedy USB 3.0 ports and six USB 2.0 ports.

Gateway's DX4870 is the best value we found in the budget desktop PC category. It's faster and more powerful than the competition and sports nice extras, such as wireless support and two USB 3.0 ports. Although this system is plenty speedy for everyday tasks and light casual gaming, it's not built for more intense games; the integrated graphics technology just isn't powerful enough for the demands of 3D gaming. Aside from that, this computer can handle anything you throw at it.

Lenovo H520 reviews consider this a solid budget desktop, especially for anyone interested in a PC wrapped in a smaller case. In a review of a Lenovo H520 configuration with richer specs than the base configuration (i.e., more memory and an upgraded CPU), PC Mag calls attention to the slim profile -- about half the size of the usual tower, according to the manufacturer -- and commends the performance given the budget pricing. The Lenovo H520 (starting at $360, Amazon) ranked highly in testing, especially multimedia, and put on a respectable graphics show. Other positives cited in the Lenovo H520 review include wireless support and the minimal presence of unnecessary extra software. Users also comment on the lack of bloatware in posts at Best Buy and praise the system's performance, with many saying it surpasses their expectations for speed and handling of multimedia content and smoothly tackles run-of-the-mill computing tasks. A different configuration sold at a significantly higher price point likewise draws praise in posts at Staples for speed and quiet efficiency, although one reviewer wishes the included keyboard were sturdier.

The cheapest configuration of the Lenovo H520 includes 4GB of memory and an Intel Pentium CPU; the next level up offers 6GB of RAM and runs on a faster Intel Core i3 CPU. (The configuration tested by PC Mag included an even faster Core i5.) All versions are fitted with a 1TB hard drive and use the Windows 8 operating system. The Lenovo H520 also features a DVD/RW drive, 7-in-1 media reader, and built-in wireless and Ethernet support. Connections include six USB 2.0 ports.

The Lenovo H520 is just right for budget shoppers seeking a solid performer with a compact footprint. This desktop is more than fast enough for daily PC tasks, and its feature set is quite good for this price range. The entry-level specifications don't quite match up with the Gateway system we researched, but you can't quibble with its performance or price.

lg 101713hp pavilion 20 b010z 250

HP Pavilion 20-b010z Review

Buy at  Walmart.com for  $24.99 Buy at  Walmart.com for  $18.99 Buy at  Walmart.com for  $16.99

The biggest knock against this budget all-in-one desktop, according to HP Pavilion 20-b010z reviews by experts and consumers, is lack of pep. To be sure, entry-level PCs are not designed to be high performance machines, but even they must meet performance expectations. PC Mag likes the non-touch 20-inch LED display, saying in its HP Pavilion 20-b010z review that the 1600x900 resolution nicely handles 720p content, with sharp lines and colors that pop. Testing with 2GB of RAM and a low-end AMD processor, however, showed power deficits even though the review notes that this modestly-priced all-in-one is adequate for basic computing jobs, like web surfing and playing videos. Pokey performance is the major complaint lodged by users against this system. At Amazon, which has been selling machines with 4GB of memory, users' HP Pavilion 20-b010z reviews report irritating waits before a program opens and a general lack of responsiveness. On the other hand, many users assert this all-in-one is a decent value, easy to set up, and compact.

The towerless HP Pavilion 20-b010z (starting at $454, Amazon) all-in-one runs on an AMD CPU and comes equipped with 2GB or 4GB of RAM (varies by vendor), a 500GB hard drive, a multi-format card reader, and a webcam. The Pavilion 20-b010z includes two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and an Ethernet 10/100 port; some versions are configured for Wi-Fi.

Like the Dell Inspiron One IO2020, the HP Pavilion 20-b010z is designed for small spaces. However, HP cut a significant corner with the budget AMD CPU. This decision should have held down the cost to buyers, but the Pavilion 20-b010z is priced on par with the Dell all-in-one, which uses a faster Intel processor. We don't expect a budget PC to be a powerhouse, but there are better, faster all-in-ones to be found at this price.

lg 101713asus cm1735 250

The Asus CM1735 (starting at $397, Amazon) sports a few nice features but suffers from occasional technical problems and corner-cutting in places that prompt critical reviews. An expert Asus CM1735 review posted at About.com likes the 6GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive, specs that exceed those of most budget desktop PCs. But the system has no USB 3.0 ports or built-in wireless support, and its low-end AMD CPU isn't as powerful as Intel processors. The reviewer notes that the Asus CM1735 can still handle the usual mundane tasks, but it definitely doesn't have as much punch as Intel-based machines. A few comments found at Amazon and Newegg contain reports about freeze-ups and problems booting up. Other Asus CM1735 reviews are more positive but do note that the system seems a tad slow.

The 6GB of RAM and large 1TB hard drive are this model's strong points -- most entry-level systems feature 4GB of memory and a 500GB drive. That said, the lack of other features outweigh the extra RAM and hard drive space. The low-end AMD CPU helps to keep the Asus CM1735 in the sub-$400 range, but at the expense of oomph. There are also no USB 3.0 ports, which are increasingly common even in budget desktops. The CM1735 has a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, a 6-in-1 card reader, and six USB 2.0 ports.

Performance of the Asus CM1735 is undermined by the AMD processor, and we'd prefer to pay a little extra for an Intel-based PC. Generous hard drive space and a little extra memory aren't enough, in our opinion, to compensate for the slow CPU and absence of USB 3.0 ports. Reports of this system's tendency to freeze are also a bit disconcerting.

lg 101713dell inspiron one io2020 250

Dell Inspiron One 20 Review

Buy at  Dell.com for  $699.99 Buy at  Walmart.com for  $399.00 Buy at  Dell.com for  $838.99

More and more budget PCs are appearing in an "all-in-one" form, and Dell Inspiron One 20 reviews reveal that users are nuts about the space-saving design (the operational system is in the back of the monitor) as well as the performance. In particular, reviews of the Dell Inspiron One 20 posted at Best Buy laud the speed and easy set up, and features like the built-in webcam. Some posts at Amazon report the system manages simple video applications without any snags although graphics-intense gaming lags a bit. Dell Inspiron One 20 reviews also commend the quality of the display and say the model is appropriate for students, youngsters, seniors, and anyone with run-of-the-mill computing needs.

The Inspiron One 20 (starting at $400, Amazon) uses an Intel Celeron CPU in its cheapest configuration, which also includes a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. A step up in price by about $100 nets an Intel Pentium processor, and, depending on vendor, another 500GB in the hard drive for a total of 1TB. The lower-priced systems feature a non-touch 20-inch screen with a 1600x900 LED display; several buyers expressed regret in their reviews at not having opted for the pricier touch screen given that this machine runs on Windows 8. There is also an integrated webcam, support for wireless connections as well as Bluetooth, and five USB 2.0 ports.

For consumers short on space and in need a low-cost desktop, the Inspiron One 20 is a good way to go. It offers enough power to handle typical PC tasks without effort despite its diminutive footprint. The absence of USB 3.0 ports is a bit of a letdown, but the speedy hard drive, wireless/Bluetooth capability, and built-in webcam are strong lures.

lg 101713velocity micro vector z25 250

Velocity Micro Vector Z25 Review

If you're willing to spend more than $500 on a desktop PC, an expert Velocity Micro Vector Z25 review suggests this desktop is worth the investment. The system is easy to customize -- Velocity Micro being primarily an agile online vendor -- and after testing by PC Mag with an upgraded (Nvidia) graphics card, the Vector Z25 review concludes that its graphics performance is impressive. This model earns the review site's Editor's Choice award for mid-priced desktops on the strength of its prowess on day-to-day tasks, photo editing, and 3D gaming. The Velocity Micro Vector Z25 earns additional points for eschewing extra bloatware, a scourge on many entry-level PCs.

The Vector Z25 (starting at $799) is based on a speedy Intel Core i5 CPU and runs Windows 8 (a free upgrade to Windows 8.1 is now available), although it can be ordered with Windows 7. The base configuration features integrated graphics, but buyers can kick it up a notch or so by opting for a dedicated video card for as little as $90. This mid-level desktop includes a fast, 1TB hard drive and 8GB of RAM, with space to expand both. For connections, the Vector Z25 boasts four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, and a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. Unlike many entry-level desktops, this higher-priced model does not come with a mouse and keyboard.

Budget desktops certainly fulfill an important need in many homes, but not everyone wants to use a bare-bones system as their primary computer. Consumers who prefer a desktop with significant power won't find what they're looking for in the budget category, and that's where midrange systems like the Velocity Micro Vector Z25 step in. These PCs are pricier than those on our list, but that doesn't mean there aren't good values to be found. The Vector Z25 is one of the better deals around -- a powerful PC that can be configured to suit individual requirements without costing a small fortune.

Intel Compute Stick CS325

The Intel Compute Stick looks like an accessory, but it's a full-fledged Windows PC that can plug into any TV or monitor with an HDMI port. The Core M3 processor on this model is part of Intel's line of M chipsets, designed for small PCs. The Compute Stick can't compete with tower PCs, of course, but its portability makes it a good buy for frequent business travelers who need to make presentations on the fly or leisure travelers who want to leave their laptops at home.

  • Turns any display with an HDMI port into a computer.

  • Measures only 4.5 by 1.5 by 0.5 inches.

  • Packs 4GB of RAM, a microSD card reader, and a USB 3.0 port into its tiny form; the power brick contains 2 more USB 3.0 ports.

  • Compatible with Intel's Remote Keyboard app, for wireless control from a smartphone.

  • PC Mag Editors' Choice.

  • Digital Trends pick for best stick PC.

  • 64GB of internal storage can't be upgraded; memory cards are the only option for expansion.

  • Initial setup of a wireless keyboard and mouse (not included) requires a USB keyboard and mouse.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Desktop PC

When purchasing a cheap desktop computer, it's important to understand what you're getting. Entry-level computers are simple machines designed to carry out everyday personal computing tasks. They're not powerhouses designed for intensive, graphics-heavy activities such as video editing or 3D gaming. Still, the best cheap PCs can handle more than just email and web browsing. They often include a decent processor, adequate memory, and generous storage space. We sought out sub-$500 desktops with the hardware for everyday multitasking and multimedia and found contenders from manufacturers such as Dell, Lenovo, Acer -- and even Apple.

It's important to keep in mind that computers, including our picks, are often available in many different configurations. Things like the processor, memory, and hard drive size vary from model to model, and prices and reviews reflect those differences. Having an eagle eye for specs and model numbers is an integral part of shopping for a computer.

Computer Towers.

The prototypical budget PC takes the form of a tower and comes with a keyboard and mouse. Our top pick among cheap computer towers is the Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5 (est. price $480), which has a powerful Intel Core i5 processor and a whopping 12GB of RAM. For an even lower price, the base configuration of the Dell Inspiron 3668 (I3668-3106BLK-PUS) (est. price $350) offers impressive performance considering its hardware, which includes a seventh-generation Intel Core i3 processor and 8GB of RAM.

All-in-One Computers.

Most tower PCs don't include a monitor at the base price. If you want a desktop computer with a monitor for less than $500, consider an all-in-one, which has the guts of a PC built in behind the display. The Dell Inspiron 3265 (i3265-A643WHT-PUS, the cheapest configuration in the AMD-based Inspiron 22 3000 Series) (est. price $400) is our top pick among cheap all-in-one computers.

Mini PCs.

Desktop computers usually are not designed to be portable, but there is a subcategory of mini computers that are small and light but still powerful. Our top pick under $500 is the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny desktop (starting at $430.00). A cheaper option is a stick PC like the Intel Compute Stick CS325 (est. price $325), which looks more like a flash drive than a computer and can turn any HDMI display into a desktop PC. It's not as powerful as other systems we looked at, and provides much less storage, but it can handle typical PC tasks well enough, and the price is compelling.

Apple Computers.

Microsoft's Windows is nearly ubiquitous on cheap desktop computers. Nearly all the models we researched come with Windows 10 Home (the 64-bit version) already installed. If you're a fan of the Apple ecosystem, the Mac Mini (starting at $499) is the only way to get in under $500. To get the price (barely) below that mark, Apple limits the RAM to 4GB and the hard drive to 500GB; many competing PCs have twice that amount of memory and storage. But if you want a Mac desktop, this is the cheapest one on offer.

Laptop vs. Desktop.

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 century, 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.

Features Comparison

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Review Score:
Product Title
Type
Processor
Memory
Storage
Inputs
Wireless
Product Title
Type
Processor
Memory
Storage
Inputs
Wireless

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5

$480
Tower PC
Intel Core i5-7400 (3 GHz quad-core)
12GB
8GB
3 x USB 3.1, 4 x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0

Dell Inspiron 3265

$400
All-in-one PC
AMD A6-7310 (2 GHz quad-core)
6GB
1TB
2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, 4-in-1 media card reader
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710 Tiny

$430
Mini PC
Intel Core i3-7100T (3.4 GHz dual-core)
4GB
500GB
6 x USB 3.0, 2 x DisplayPort
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0

Dell Inspiron 3668

$350
Tower PC
Intel Core i3-7100 (3.9 GHz dual-core)
8GB
1TB
2 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, HDMI, 5-in-1 media card reader
802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

Apple Mac Mini

$499
Apple mini
Intel Core i5 (1.4 GHz dual-core)
4GB
500GB
4 x USB 3.0, 2 x Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, SDXC card reader
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0

Intel Compute Stick CS325

$325
Stick PC
Intel Core m3-6Y30 (900 MHz dual-core)
4GB
64GB
3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, microSD card reader
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2