If you can give up the portability of a laptop and have a spot that you can devote to work, school, or just browsing online, you should consider a desktop PC. Desktops typically last longer, and are easier to repair and upgrade, than laptops. A standard tower is also cheaper and easier to upgrade than a mini PC or an all-in-one computer. You need a monitor and a webcam (and in some cases, a keyboard and a mouse) to go with your desktop, but those separate accessories will be better than what you can get from most all-in-ones.
Though we find a lot of variation in quality and performance when we review laptops, desktops are much easier to compare, and similar features are more likely to provide similar performance. Plus, you get to choose your own screen, and replacing the included keyboard and mouse is inexpensive and easy if you want something better.
Below, we've listed the best budget desktops that we've run through our full gauntlet of testing, followed by a detailed buying guide that'll answer your most common questions before making a purchase.
Most budget desktops have adequate but not impressive horsepower. HP's Pavilion Desktop TP01-2060 stands apart with a potent eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 processor, tempting users who plan to do a bit of photo or video editing or other digital content creation in addition to routine productivity and online tasks, and its dual storage drives (a 256GB SSD plus 1TB hard drive) ensure you won't run out of room. Five USB 3.2 ports (four Type-A and one Type-C) are conveniently located up front.
Most budget desktops make you pay extra for a monitor and speakers, but the Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3i is a rare example of a bargain-priced all-in-one. Starting at $529 ($599 as tested), this stylish unit offers a 22-inch, thin-bezel screen as well as a generous 16GB of RAM and 1TB solid-state drive. The full HD display is brighter and more colorful than you might expect for the money, the built-in speakers aren't bad, and you'll find a good array of ports (though alas no USB-C).
We're big fans of all-in-one desktops, and the AIO 3i is an admirably affordable example. Its main shortcoming is an underwhelming Intel Pentium Gold processor, but its performance is suitable for an online kiosk or homework station. Its stand even has an indented niche to stash your mouse, phone, or keys.
Most under-$1,000 gaming desktops get by with a quad-core CPU and a 4GB graphics card, but Lenovo's Legion 5i ($949 at Best Buy in the case of our test unit) goes two better with a six-core Intel Core i5 processor and 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super for smooth 1080p gameplay. It even copies costlier rigs' see-through side panel and customizable four-zone RGB lighting.
Intel is a big player, but not the only one when it comes to small, inexpensive desktops. Compact-system specialists such as Azulle, ECS, Shuttle, and Zotac focus on this area, and some broader PC players such as Asus have offerings in this category, too. Apple has one, as well: the Apple Mac mini sits toward the top of budget pricing (starting at $599), but is undeniably appealing.
Read on to see what to look for in these systems, and what kind of components you can find inside. If you're interested specifically in tiny PCs but budget is less of a factor, also check out our picks for our favorite micro-desktops overall. There's plenty of crossover between the two, but not every tiny PC is inexpensive.
It should come as no shock that you'll find lower-power processors in these less-expensive desktops, but you may be surprised at how capable some of them are for the size and price. But you'll need to select carefully.
Moving on to memory, which will help move those tasks along smoothly, many really cheap desktops in the under-$400 range will come with 4GB, only enough for simple digital-signage installations or low-demand, single applications such as word processors. Up at $400 and above, 8GB is common, and some units even manage to include 12GB in under-$700 configurations. For a PC you'll rely on every day for productivity work, 8GB is really the minimum you should insist on under Windows 10 or 11.
Storage is an area you may have to set some firm expectations around, as capacities are seldom very high; these types of desktops are not meant to store huge amounts of files locally. In the cheapest, smallest desktops, you'll get as little as 32GB or 64GB of what's called eMMC flash storage, similar to what's offered in most Chromebooks. (It's roughly the equivalent of an internal flash drive or SD card.) Pay a bit more, though, and you can get 64GB or 128GB; give preference to models that call out their storage as solid-state drives (SSDs) versus eMMC; SSDs will feel snappier. Some of the full-size towers on our list include 256GB or even 512GB SSDs, at which point you're hardly compromising anymore. We strongly favor SSDs over hard drives, even in this price range.
Look for higher-capacity storage if you're a serial downloader, but as evidenced by Chromebooks, internet-connected devices can get away with a lot less local storage thanks to the cloud. Flash storage and SSD will be the norm in the really small budget desktops, as these models are too tight inside for conventional 3.5-inch (desktop-size) hard drives, but some can take 2.5-inch (laptop-size) drive upgrades or gumstick-size M.2 SSDs. If you ever need more storage space, USB 3.0 and USB-C ports will also let you attach a speedy external hard drive or SSD.
Mini-towers and the usual towers, though, can often take a hard drive or two in an empty internal 3.5-inch drive bay if you need bulk storage on the cheap. We've even seen isolated mini-tower models preconfigured with a small SSD as the boot drive, plus a mass-storage hard drive. This is the best of both worlds in a budget config, but you'll have to shop around to find one. (Usually, you get just one or the other.)
It goes without saying that an enthusiast gamer should look elsewhere (check out our favorite cheap gaming laptops and gaming desktops), but you could still get away with some light gaming on these. Gaming models with dedicated graphics cards start at several hundred dollars higher than the $500 range, but a few are starting to creep in around budget pricing.
If you're remotely interested in upgrading your desktop down the line, traditional tower desktops will do the job, even at this price point. The niche small-form-factor desktops are less friendly to maintenance, but your go-to standard tower will welcome additions easily. In a traditional case, you should expect to be able to remove the side panel and add more storage (like, as mentioned, an additional drive or two) and more memory.
That said, keep your expectations in check. An eMMC boot drive won't itself be upgradable (it's made up of soldered-down chips), but in some unusual cases, you might be able to add a secondary SSD or hard drive alongside the eMMC drive as extra storage. The stick-style, super-compact PCs (like the Azulle Access4) are resolutely not upgradable. Also, in many compact, cheap desktops, the CPU and RAM are not socketed and removable but are part of the mainboard.
One big caveat to your cheap-desktop dreams, whether Windows-based, a Pi, or something else: You'll still need a monitor. To be fair, this is no different than buying a standard screenless tower PC, unless you were to buy an all-inclusive all-in-one desktop. In this instance, though, the added cost hurts extra given you're trying to be thrifty. Still, if you need to invest in a panel, don't fret. You can find good, serviceable 1080p (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) displays starting just under $100. That's for a just-fine, roomy 23-incher. Ideally, you may even have a monitor from a past system, and key peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse to go with it. (We have you covered if you want to shop for a keyboard or mouse, too, by the way.) Even better, many tower-style budget PCs include a basic keyboard and mouse in the box.
Using a TV as a monitor is also an option for a system with an HDMI-out port if you're in a situation where you can display your PC on a TV that's already set up. This is especially useful for ultra-compact and stick PCs, as they can plug right into an HDMI port on the TV and need no major cable runs for setup in a living room, a dorm room, a lobby, or anywhere else a PC may look unsightly. Indeed, small PCs like these make excellent solutions for powering a home theater for streaming, file playback from a network drive, and the like.
If you're replacing an older system that has become a bit too slow or worn out, or are setting up a new workspace and need something simple, a budget desktop may be in your future. Check out our recommendations list below for some of our favorites. If you'd like a more traditional tower and can swing the extra money, check out our overall top desktop picks or, alternately, our favorite cheap laptops.
The question is, which budget gaming PC is worthy getting? With so many options to choose from, you might end up with a crappy system if you don't do your research. Lucky for you, we've tested more than our share of budget gaming PCs as well as cheap graphics cards and cheap processors that usually go into such systems. And, we gathered the best value options for you on this list.
One of the biggest advantages to putting together your own budget gaming PC build is the ability to essentially choose every single component in the system. This allows you to take your time shopping around for deals and finding the perfect combination of parts to fit your budget and performance needs. The downside for most inexperienced builders is that this whole process can take some time and has the potential to cause quite a headache if something goes wrong. This is where prebuilt gaming PCs really shine.
Unquestionably. In real terms, it's more expensive in terms of hardware, but there is a games library stretching back decades that no other gaming platform can possibly match. Games are also regularly cheaper, or free, on PC, too. 781b155fdc