The 8 Best Budget Desktop PCs to Buy in 2018 for Under $500

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Dell Inspiron 3470

Dell Inspiron 3470

 Courtesy of Best Buy

Dell’s products are renowned for their solid performance and long-term reliability, and the Inspiron 3470 is no different. Priced well below $500, it’s easily the best affordable desktop computer available out there.

Powered by Intel’s eighth-generation Core i3 processor and 8GB of RAM, Dell Inspiron 3470 is more than capable of handling everyday computing tasks with aplomb. It also comes with a 1TB HDD, so you can store all the files, photos, music, and videos you want. The Inspiron 3470 includes a DVD/CD burner that can read/write all major optical disc formats (e.g. DVD+R/RW), and even features integrated Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. As far as I/O ports are concerned, the computer has USB Type-A (2.0 at the back and 3.0 on the front), HDMI, VGA, Line In/Out, Mic In, and Ethernet. All this hardware is packed into a slim and modern-looking case. Dell Inspiron 3470 comes preloaded with 64-bit Windows 10, and there’s even a wired keyboard thrown into the mix.

Runner-up, Best Overall: Acer Aspire Desktop

Acer Aspire Desktop
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Acer’s Aspire Desktop hits just pennies under the $500 cap and is an Amazon bestseller, which helps it plant itself as our runner-up, best overall pick. Powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 2TB of hard drive space there’s more than enough power to get you through both work and play. Throwing demanding tasks at the Acer won’t slow it down as multitasking on it feels as good as on computers that often cost far more.

Beyond power, there’s plenty of ports, including USB 3.0, as well as the inclusion of 802.11ac Internet connectivity for the fastest possible browser speeds. All the ports, drives and memory are bundled up in a black chassis that offers a clean and modern look that fits in beautifully with the home office or the actual office. Acer raises the bounty with an added mouse and keyboard, though they’re pretty run of the mill, so feel free to purchase upgrades separately. Topping off an already great machine, Acer adds support for a 5.1-channel audio system if you want to take your movie and video playback to the next level.

Best for the Office: Lenovo ThinkCentre M720

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720

 Courtesy of Lenovo

Originally pioneered by IBM and now managed by Lenovo, the ThinkCentre series is (and always has been) the preferred choice of numerous businesses around the globe. If you want an affordable yet secure desktop computer for your office, get the ThinkCentre M720.

Although Lenovo offers extensive hardware customization for the M720, our recommended configuration includes an eighth-generation Intel Core i3 CPU, paired with 8GB of DDR4 RAM. The 500GB HDD, while not the biggest, is sufficient for all your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Lenovo ThinkCentre M720 also comes with a handful of hardware-level features for ensuring the safety of confidential data. These include ‘Smart USB Protection’ (which enables you to restrict the number of USB devices that can access the PC) and ‘Trusted Platform Module’ (an international standard for data encryption). For I/O, the M720 features USB Type-A (eight in total, with four 2.0 and four 3.1), USB Type-C, DisplayPort, VGA, Ethernet, and much more. Having multiple expansion slots, Lenovo ThinkCentre M720 runs 64-bit Windows 10.

Best Compact: Intel NUC7i3BNK

If you think desktop computers are all about chunky tower-style cases that need to be placed on the floor, think again. Weighing just 16 oz, Intel NUC7i3BNK is a full-blown PC that can fit on the palm of your hand.

As its name suggests, the NUC7i3BNK is based on Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) small form factor. However, for its diminutive size, this thing packs quite a punch. The compact PC features Intel’s seventh-generation Core-i3 CPU and 8GB of RAM, which make it ideal for everyday usage. Thanks to the included 128GB SSD, all your programs start up in no time. Running 64-bit Windows 10 Pro, it has all the connectivity options you could ask for, including USB Type-A, USB Type-C, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort (via an optional cable), headphone/microphone combo, and Gigabit Ethernet. There’s also dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, as well as a microSD card slot. Perfect for cord cutters and those wanting to set up their own Home Theater PC, Intel NUC7i3BNK has dual-monitor output and 4K support as well.

Best for Gaming: HP Pavilion 690-0010

HP Pavilion 690-0010

 Courtesy of Walmart

Love playing games but don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars on a maxed-out gaming rig? You don’t have to. There are many affordable computers that offer a very good (if not great) gaming experience, an example being HP’s Pavilion 690-0010.

Priced a little over $500, the Pavilion 690-0010 is undoubtedly among the best affordable gaming PCs you can buy today. It’s powered by AMD’s Ryzen 3 2200G CPU (with integrated Vega graphics), complemented by a Radeon RX 550 GPU with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory. This hardware allows the computer to handle most games at medium to high settings without any issues. Having 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD, the Pavilion 690-0010 is also ideal for everyday computing tasks. The Windows 10-based PC comes with a wide array of I/O ports, including USB Type-A, USB Type-C, Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI. There’s also integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.2, as well as a 3-in-1 card reader and a DVD/CD burner. As a gaming PC, HP Pavilion 690-0010 looks the part too, complete with distinct angular bezels and green LED lighting.

Best Value: Acer Aspire TC-885

When it comes to bang-for-your-buck computing products, Acer is one of the first names that comes to mind. The Taiwanese company is famous for its affordable and high-quality PCs, and the Aspire TC-885 is just that.

The Acer Aspire TC-885 is powered by Intel’s eighth-generation Core i3 processor and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a combination that makes it ideal for light computing tasks like web browsing and multimedia consumption. With a 1TB HDD, you don’t have to worry about running out of disk space. For connecting external peripherals, the Aspire TC-885 features USB Type-A, USB Type-C, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, and more. There’s also high-speed Wi-Fi 802.11ac, the latest Bluetooth 5.0, a multi-format DVD/CD burner, and a card reader. The computer runs Windows 10 with a pre-installed ‘Acer Care Center’ utility, which can be used to run diagnostics, update system software, and more. To top it all off, the Acer Aspire TC-885 comes bundled with a wired keyboard and mouse, which make this PC an even better value.

Best Design: Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

 Courtesy of Lenovo

Considering that they’re essentially rectangular cabinets with a bunch of electronic components inside them, computer towers don’t really offer much in terms of aesthetics. However, exceptions are always there. Say hello to Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A.

Having an elegant and contemporary design, the IdeaCentre 510A is hands down the best looking affordable PC you can buy right now. Its front panel has a brushed finish and a minimalistic design with just a vertically-mounted DVD/CD burner and two logos (Lenovo and IdeaCentre). That said, the right part of the panel is actually a magnetic door that hides the front ports (e.g. USB Type-A, Headphone/Microphone) from sight. Other standard I/O ports, like HDMI, VGA, and Ethernet, are located at the back. Our recommended configuration of the Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 2200G CPU, paired with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. Running Windows 10, the computer also features integrated Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity.

Best Chrome OS: Acer Chromebox CXI3

Acer Chromebox CXI3

 Courtesy of Newegg

If you’re in the market for an affordable PC that you only intend to use for basic tasks like web browsing and streaming music/videos, a Windows 10-based computer is most likely going to be overkill for your needs. As an alternative, we recommend Acer’s Chromebox CXI3.

An entry-level PC intended for students and first-time users, the Acer Chromebox CXI3 runs Chrome OS, Google’s browser-based operating system. This means you can access a diverse array of web apps, as well as the entire suite of Google’s services (e.g. Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube). The CXI3 also enjoys all other benefits of Chrome OS including increased security, background updates, and the ability to run (some) Android apps. In terms of hardware, our recommended configuration includes an Intel Celeron 3865U processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of SSD storage. While this hardware may seem basic, it’s more than capable of handling the cloud-based Chrome OS. Acer Chromebox CXI3 comes with all modern I/O ports, including USB Type-A, USB Type-C, HDMI, Ethernet, and Line Out. There’s also integrated support for high-speed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.