Finding the Best Budget Desktops Under $500

Last Edited: October 14, 2017 by

The best Budget PCs

Welcome on our weekly updated list of the best desktop computers based on extensive market research, consumer feedback and expert reviews.

A good place to start would be giving CNet’s desktop buying guide a read through.  This will help you understand some of the technical terminology and assist you in making an informed decision when purchasing.

Top Picks >> Under $500 >> Under $400 >> Under $300 >> Under $200 >>

Top Picks – Best Cheap Desktops

Lenovo ThinkCentre M700Lenovo ThinkCentre M700

Not everyone needs a super powerful gaming PC to run those latest games, some just need a good desktop PC to send emails, chat with friends and family members on Skype and to browse the web. This is where the Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 comes into play, this tiny PC is perfect for the home user and can even be used as a home entertainment or home automation PC. Its tiny size makes it popular with those who have limited space and don’t want to go for an all-in-one PC. While some of the competing small form factor PCs are slightly underpowered due to using Celeron and Pentium processors, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 is fitted with a powerful Intel Core i5-6400T CPU. This CPU offers far more processing power for more intensive applications, and the most limiting factor of this PC will be its supplied 4GB of DDR4 RAM. Though the memory can be upgraded to a maximum of 32GB and we recommend adding another 4GB of RAM for better performance. You also get a superfast 128GB SSD which will allow Windows to startup far more quickly than traditional hard drives. Though the tiny 128GB of storage space will fill up rather quickly with personal files and documents. You can upgrade this SATA drive with a larger one or you could connect a good external hard drive and save yourself the trouble of reinstalling Windows 10 or cloning the drive. One of the biggest criticisms is the fact that the Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 does not feature any VGA or HDMI ports, instead you get two DisplayPorts and you will need adapters for most monitors and all TVs.

  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 8.1 lbs

Pros

  • Powerful CPU
  • Upgradable RAM and storage
  • Good amount of USB ports
  • Small form factor

Cons

  • Tiny amount of storage
  • Requires adapters for HDMI and VGA
  • Low amount of memory

Summary

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 is a tiny desktop PC that features a powerful processor and a fast SSD. Though it lacks HDMI and VGA ports and instead you will need DisplayPort adapters.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M700
$799.99$649.00
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 22:48 UTC) Details

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3

If you don’t quite need all the power of the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 and you would prefer to save a few dollars, then the Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3 is well worth a closer look. It features a sleek and elegant case and will look great in your home or office workspace. The case also features an SD card slot and you will easily be able to download your photos without needing a cable or a dedicated card reader. A slightly slower Intel Core i3-7100 processor and a smaller 1TB hard drive bring down the price, though Acer have kept the amount of memory the same at 8GB. This hardware will be more than powerful enough for you to run everyday tasks and will still allow the system to feel snappy when you need that little bit of extra power. The storage drive will offer ample storage space for all of your personal files and documents, and while we would like to see SSDs in all PCs, it’s just not possible due to their higher price to storage space ratio. However, the 7200rpm hard drive will perform great and is still far faster than the standard hard drive used in budget laptops. Its integrated HD Graphics 630 GPU will handle a fair amount of casual gaming and you can add a budget friendly PCIe graphics card to play newer games at higher settings if needed. Though a dedicated graphics card will also add HDMI, VGA and DVI ports depending on the card you purchase, you will have to make do with the DisplayPorts that this PC features and you will need to purchase adapters if your monitor doesn’t feature this port type.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 18.4 lbs

Pros

  • Seventh gen Intel i3 CPU
  • Great price
  • Keyboard and mouse
  • Good amount of storage

Cons

  • No HDMI or VGA ports
  • Not for hardcore gamers
  • Some Acer bloatware

Summary

The Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3 is a great budget friendly PC, though it will need an adapter if your monitor does not feature a DisplayPort.

Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3
$349.99
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from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 22:31 UTC) Details

Apple-Mac-Mini-MGEM2LLA-A

Apple Mac Mini MGEM2LL/A

Most Mac OS based machines are off limits to budget buyers because they’re built premium inside and out for high-paying customers. On the other hand, the Mac Mini MGEM2LL/A features the same mid-range hardware as entry level Macbooks but costs half as much. However, accessories such as a keyboard, mouse and display aren’t included in the box and have to be purchased separately, but you can save money by buying these accessories from a different manufacturer. While most Windows desktops of the same price come in cheap plastic cases, the Mac Mini uses a unibody aluminum chassis similar to the one on premium Macbook Air laptop. Occupying an area of 7.7 inches and weighing 2.6 pounds it’s smaller and lighter than Alienware Alpha, which is a compact gaming desktop with discrete graphics. Sticking to Apple’s minimalistic designs, the front panel contains only a power indicator and an IR sensor. The rear houses all the connections including four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI, Mini Displayport, dual Thunderbolt ports, Ethernet and faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The Mini bundles all the software found on pricier Macs, including Keynote Office suite, Pages, Numbers, and multimedia apps like iMovie and iPhoto. The 2012 version had upgradeable memory, but this latest version has the RAM soldered into the motherboard. While users cannot upgrade the hardware after purchase, they can do so at the time of purchase. However, higher end configurations aren’t cheap. This base model features a 1.4GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 500GB HDD. According to a Cnet review, its performance in multitasking, multimedia and basic apps is similar to other desktops in the price range like the Alienware Alpha and HP Pavilion Mini.

  • Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite
  • 2.6 lbs

Pros

  • Premium metallic design
  • Small form factor
  • Good performance
  • Ample connectivity ports

Cons

  • Cant upgrade the RAM
  • No accessories included

Summary

A small, high quality desktop PC with plenty of connectivity ports and great performance however be prepared to purchase all the accessories separately.

Apple Mac Mini MGEM2LL/A
See Price at Retailer
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from Amazon.com
(as of 08-09-2017 11:54 UTC) Details

Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5

The Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 is a refreshing updated version of last year’s Acer Aspire ATC-780-AMZi5. Acer have also updated the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 with a seventh generation Intel Core i5-7400 processor, which offers a 10% performance increase over the previous generation. Acer have also upgraded the memory with a higher frequency RAM module and while you still get 8GB of RAM, you will get the performance increase that it offers. Both the newer i5 processor and 8GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM will easily cope with everyday tasks at home and in the office. If you require more RAM, then rest assured as the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 supports a maximum of 32GB, however, 16GB will be more than enough for most users. Much like its predecessor the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 features a small 300W power supply, which will severely limit what graphics cards you can install. However, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 630 graphics card will allow you to play classic games and use applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. You will even be able to run the popular Blizzard title Overwatch on this system. However, this is not a gaming PC and is far better suited as a home or office work station. A big draw card is the large 2TB storage drive which will allow you to store about 400,000 smartphone images or around about 35,000 hours of music. Over the last few years we have slowly started to rely more and more on the Internet for our entertainment needs, that’s why the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 ships stock with a fast Dual Band AC WiFi card. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite movies and series without having to plug in a LAN cable to connect to the web.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 18.4 lbs

Pros

  • Seventh generation processor
  • Large storage drive
  • Free PCIe 16x slot
  • Free RAM slot
  • Fast AC WiFi

Cons

  • Small power supply
  • Not for gamers

Summary

The Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 is a great option for work or home use. You can install a graphics card in the free PCIe slot, however the Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5 is not suited for the avid gamer.

Acer Aspire TC-780-AMZKi5
$449.99
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from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 23:10 UTC) Details

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Best Budget Desktop Computers Under $500

Lenovo ThinkCentre M600

Lenovo ThinkCentre M600

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M600 is a small form factor desktop computer that is perfect for those who have limited space or don’t want to have a big case on or under their desk. With its tiny case, it can even be slipped behind a monitor to create a pseudo all-in-one computer for small businesses and retail stores. The Intel Pentium J3710 processor and 8GB of RAM offers decent performance for basic tasks, but the Quad Core processor is slightly underpowered for heavy multitasking. The Pentium processor features Intel’s HD Graphics 405 GPU from their Braswell architecture and will easily run applications and videos, but is in no way designed for gaming. If you are looking for a gaming computer then we recommend looking at our cheap desktop gaming guide. The M600 does not come with a VGA or an HDMI port and instead Lenovo has opted for two DisplayPorts. So you will need to use an adaptor in order to connect your M600 to a monitor or a TV. You can even use the M600 as a multimedia computer as you can easily be hidden behind your TV. The 250GB solid state drive offers superfast Windows boot speeds and will allow you to launch your favorite applications within seconds. However, the 250GB of storage space will fill up quickly if you plan to store all of your series, movies and music on this drive. But without an optical drive you will have to look at an external drive for your Blu-ray and DVD collection. So if you are after a small form factor desktop for your business or for home use, then the Lenovo ThinkCentre M600 is well worth looking at.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 2.9 lbs

Pros

  • Small
  • 8GB of RAM
  • Dual Band AC WiFi
  • Windows Professional
  • Solid state drive

Cons

  • No HDMI or VGA
  • Entry level graphics
  • CPU is slightly underpowered
  • No optical drive

Summary

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M600 is a small compact computer that will easily fit behind a monitor and offers users decent hardware with ample storage space. But the M600 does not feature an HDMI or VGA port and will require an adapter to use these kinds of ports.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M600
$479.95
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from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 03:14 UTC) Details


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Best Budget Desktop Computers Under $400

Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLVDell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV

If you are after a solid desktop for home or office use, then the Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV is well worth a closer look. The sleek and elegant case is what you would expect from Dell, but the vertical DVD tray feels flimsy when you open it. Powered by a 6th generation Intel Core i3-6100 processor and 6GB of DDR3l RAM, the Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV will easily cope with web browsing, word processing and Skype. You can run more intensive apps, but it can feel sluggish and slow with heavy multitasking. A 1TB 7200rpm mechanical hard drive offers ample storage space to store all of your work and multimedia files. The Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU will handle casual gaming and you can install an entry level graphics card in the empty PCIe 16x slot. But with the primary purpose of the Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV being for work and general home use, this is not necessary as it will void your Dell warranty. If you after an affordable gaming desktop, then have a look at our Cheap Gaming Desktop guide. To connect to the net, the Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV comes with both Gigabit Ethernet and standard b/g/n WiFi. You also get Bluetooth 4.0 to connect all of your Bluetooth devices without having to purchase a separate USB device. You get a total of six USB ports, but only the front two ports are USB 3.0.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 16.50 lbs

Pros

  • Intel Skylake processor
  • 1TB hard drive
  • Elegant design
  • WiFi and Bluetooth

Cons

  • Flimsy DVD tray
  • Only two USB 3.0 ports
  • Limited audio ports
  • Warranty sealed

Summary

The Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV is an elegant desktop for home and office use. But the 6GB of RAM is slightly underpowered for more intensive apps and upgrading it will void your Dell warranty.

Dell Inspiron i3650-3111SLV
$336.03
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from Walmart.com
(as of 24-09-2017 07:46 UTC) Details

Lenovo S510 10KY002BUSLenovo S510 10KY002BUS

If you are after a small PC that will easily fit under your desk, then consider looking at the Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS. Known for their great business machines, Lenovo have once again created a small desktop PC that is perfect for a small business or for home use. The star feature of this PC is its Intel Core i5-6400 processor which offers a healthy amount of processing power. However, Lenovo have only fitted 4GB of RAM which will leave some of your applications feeling very sluggish. If you intend on running Chrome or Firefox as your default browser, then you might want to consider adding more RAM to the Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS. We recommend a single 4GB RAM module from Crucial as an affordable solution. The 500GB storage drive offers a good amount of space for everyday use, however many of its competitors offer double the storage space. You might want to consider adding a second hard drive if you have a large media collection to transfer to your new PC. Or, if you have a bigger budget you can look at adding a superfast M.2 SSD as the Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS sports one free M.2 slot. If you intend on using the Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS to play AAA gaming titles, then you will be left slightly disappointed as it only features Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 530 GPU. While this will let you enjoy some casual gaming, it is way too underpowered for intensive gaming. You will also not be able to add a powerful graphics card as the Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS only features a tiny 180w power supply unit.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
  • 9.10 lbs

Pros

  • Intel i5 processor
  • Price
  • Size
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Free M.2 slot

Cons

  • Only 4GB of RAM
  • No WiFi or Bluetooth
  • Limited internal space
  • Tiny power supply unit

Summary

The Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS offers a good processor with a healthy amount of storage space, however the 4GB of RAM are the Achilles heel of this PC.

Lenovo S510 10KY002BUS
$549.00
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 19:37 UTC) Details

ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 Desktop

The ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 is an entry level desktop tower that offers users a great everyday PC for under $400. While it is not designed for hardcore gamers, the ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 fits well into a small business setup or at home for everyday use. The 6th generation Intel i3-6100 processor and 8GB of DDR4 RAM give the ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 enough power to be used for more intensive apps such as Photoshop and AutoCAD. Its built in WiFi allows users to connect to their networks without the use of an Ethernet cable, furthermore it has Bluetooth 4.0 for extra connectivity. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU will allow for casual gaming, but users can install a single PCIe graphics card for increased gaming performance. We recommend the NVIDIA GTX 750Ti as a good graphics card that will still run on the existing power supply unit. Please note that opening the tower will result in the loss of your limited 1 year warranty from ASUS. The ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 also offers a great selection of ports for connectivity. 4x USB 3.0 (two front with AI Charging), 2x USB 2.0 for your keyboard and mouse and 2x USB 3.1 for 10GB/s transfer rates. For users who are looking at using it as a home entertainment system, the ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 has an HDMI port for effortless connection to your flat screen TV or HD projector.

  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 18.27 lbs

Pros

  • Price
  • Built in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Skylake processor
  • Excellent port selection
  • 1TB 7200rpm drive

Cons

  • Warranty sealed
  • Integrated graphics
  • Only space for two HDD
  • Only one PCIe slot
  • Smaller PSU

Summary

The ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 is a budget friendly desktop PC that can be used for home and office use. Users who are willing to void their warranties can upgrade the ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 with more RAM and a dedicated graphics card.

ASUS VivoPC M32CD-AS31 Desktop
$399.99
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from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 02:28 UTC) Details


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Best Budget Desktop Computers Under $300

HP Slimline 260-a011HP Slimline 260-a011

If you are looking at setting up a small business then you might want to consider looking at the HP Slimline 260-a011 as it offers good performance for its very attractive price. The HP Slimline 260-a011 does equally well at home, however don’t expect this PC to run any modern day gaming titles. However, if all you need is a desktop PC for basic tasks such as browsing the web or typing up emails, then the HP Slimline 260-a011 might be worth considering. The Quad Core AMD E2-7110 processor offers good performance, however the 4GB of RAM will struggle with more intensive applications and will leave this PC feeling sluggish while using Google Chrome. Luckily, the HP Slimline 260-a011 can be upgraded up to a maximum of 16GB. However, due to the processor that HP have used, we only recommend adding a second 4GB RAM module for better performance. The 1TB storage drive offers ample storage space, meaning you would be able to save over 200,000 Smartphone photos or over 17,000 hours of music. The hard drive speeds are not quite as fast as those of the more expensive solid state drives, however the 7200rpm drive speed is far superior to the slower hard drives found in laptops of the same price. If you want to add a second drive, then you will have to unplug the DVD ROM as the motherboard only allows for two SATA devices to be connected. The other, more costly option is to remove the wireless card and use the M.2 socket to install a superfast solid state drive, however these are not cheap and offer far less storage space. The HP Slimline 260-a011 also features a 3-in-1 card reader, allowing you to copy over those holiday snaps as most point and shoot or budget DSLR cameras use the SD card format.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • 9.7 lbs

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Price
  • VGA and HDMI
  • Ample storage space
  • M.2 wireless card

Cons

  • Only 4GB of RAM
  • No PCI slots for GPUs
  • No Dual Band AC wireless
  • Only two SATA sockets

Summary

The HP Slimline 260-a011 is a great budget friendly PC for home and office use, however the processor and 4GB of RAM limit this PC to basic tasks.

HP Slimline 260-a011
$294.99$279.99
Order Now
from Walmart.com
(as of 24-09-2017 08:52 UTC) Details

Best Budget Desktop Computers Under $200

Intel Compute Stick CS125 BOXSTK1AW32SCIntel Compute Stick CS125 BOXSTK1AW32SC

If you are looking at turning your HDTV into a media center that runs a full version of Windows 10, then the Intel Compute Stick CS125 BOXSTK1AW32SC is well worth considering for its price. You will get the same hardware that you will find in mid-range Windows based tablets, so don’t expect to be able to be playing any AAA gaming titles on this mini-PC. But it will allow you to enjoy Windows 10 apps such as VLC Player, Microsoft Office and Google Chrome on your HDTV. Powered by a Quad-Core Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor and 2GB of DDR3L RAM, the Intel Compute Stick CS125 will run most of your apps with ease. The newer Intel processor offers slightly more power than its predecessor, the Intel Atom Z3735F processor. But the Atom processor and 2GB of RAM are underpowered for heavy multitasking and more intensive apps. The eMMC flash storage allows you to boot into Windows in seconds, But the 32GB of storage space is quite limiting as you only get about 18GB of space with Windows 10 installed. Luckily you can install a high-speed microSD card to expand the mini-PC’s internal storage. Don’t forget to format the card to NTFS so that you can copy multimedia files that are larger than 2GB. With two USB ports, you can easily connect a wireless keyboard and mouse and an external hard drive will all of your multimedia files. We recommend making use of the Intel Compute Stick CS125’s Bluetooth to connect your keyboard and mouse, allowing you to make full use of the two USB ports.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Windows 10 Home 32-Bit
  • 0.83 lbs

Pros

  • Small and portable
  • Easy to install and setup
  • Fast eMMC flash memory
  • Dual-Band AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Quad-Core Intel Atom processor

Cons

  • Limited storage space
  • Underpowered CPU
  • Only 2GB of RAM
  • Only two ports

Summary

The Intel Compute Stick CS125 is a mini-PC that will allow you to enjoy all of your favorite Windows 10 apps on your HDTV. But the limited storage space will require the use of a microSD card or an external hard drive.

Intel Compute Stick CS125 BOXSTK1AW32SC
$125.76$119.99
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 11-12-2017 03:39 UTC) Details

ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop

ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U

In a world where streaming HD content over the web has become the future of television the Asus Chromebox M004U has found a niche as a home theatre PC. With the ability to stream media via the web with ease this PC is at its best hooked up to your HDTV as a central entertainment unit. The Chromebox is, however, much more than just a media player – it’s able to surf the web, play browser based games and even run applications like Netflix and still make use of all the Google applications such as Google Drive, Docs and Gmail. At this price the Chromebox M004U is a great alternative to a Windows machine especially if you mainly need a PC for browsing and streaming.

  • Display not included, pixels
  • Chrome OS
  • 1.3 lbs

Pros

  • Small size
  • Fast performance
  • Ease of use

Cons

  • Chrome OS limitations

Summary

A handy small Chromebox that runs smoothly and is incredibly easy to use however Chrome OS is limiting.

ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U
$159.00$153.99
Order Now
from Amazon.com
(as of 12-12-2017 00:24 UTC) Details

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Conclusion

This brings our list of the top budget desktop computers to a close. If you are after a slightly more powerful tower to upgrade your current setup at home, then head over to our Best All-Purpose PCs guide where you might find your next upgrade. For those who are after a desktop computer that is designed for gaming, then head over to our Best Cheap Gaming PCs guide if you have a tighter budget or our Best Gaming PCs guide for those who have a bigger budget.

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