How to Shop for a Cheap Desktop PC 2020

In an era of ultrathin laptops, buying a big, boxy desktop can feel downright archaic. But a cheap desktop PC is a great option for anyone who needs to work from home, for kids who have to do remote learning and want to play games, or for entire families who want to share. For the price of a cheap laptop, it’s possible to get a cheap desktop computer and a roomy monitor that will perform just as well—and often a little better. And thanks to easier upgrades and repairs, desktops can last longer than laptops, too, delivering even more value over the long term.

There are too many variations to test. Instead, we’ve highlighted models from major, reputable manufacturers that we think will provide the best everyday performance for the lowest possible price. And if you’re looking for more options or shopping for sales, we have advice on what to look for in an entry-level cheap desktop for basic computer work, as well as guidance on when to spend a little more for something that’s capable of playing games more demanding than Minecraft.


Who this is for

If you’ll hand over the portability of a laptop and have a spot that you simply can devote to figure, school, or simply browsing online, you ought to consider a cheap desktop PC. Desktops typically last longer and are more comfortable to repair and upgrade, than laptops. a typical tower is additionally cheaper and easier to upgrade than a mini PC or an all-in-one computer. you would like a monitor and a webcam (and in some cases, a keyboard and a mouse) to travel together with your cheap desktop, but you’ll still recover accessories for fewer by buying them individually instead of buying an all-in-one.

Cheap desktop aren’t ideal for demanding games or virtual reality, but they will play basic games like Minecraft or older titles like Portal 2. we’ve some basic gaming models capable of playing modern titles at reasonable settings if someone in your family wants to play PC games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, or Apex Legends. Note that, although upgradability may be a major advantage of desktops over laptops generally, cheap desktops without graphics cards often accompany cheap power supplies that can’t provide enough power for a graphics card installed after the very fact. So it’s better to shop for a desktop with a fanatical graphics card installed than to shop for one without it and add one later.

This guide focuses on buying a replacement desktop, but if the worth is your biggest concern, you’ll get an honest desktop for even less by buying a second hand one.


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What to look for

Mostly, an honest desktop is defined by its specifications—the processor, what proportion memory it’s, what proportion and what quite storage it uses, and its graphics card (if it’s one). Whether you’re buying a mini PC or a more traditional tower, the subsequent is what you ought to look for:

  • Processor: Choose a ninth- or 10th-generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7, or i9 processor, or any AMD Ryzen 3000–series processor. These CPUs have four to eight cores and many speed to handle everything from basic browsing to gaming to video editing. If you’ll be making extensive use of industrial quality apps like Photoshop or Lightroom or playing demanding games, stick with the Core i5 and i7 or Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. attempt to avoid Celerons, Pentiums, and AMD A-series and Athlon processors.
  • Memory: 8 GB may be a good baseline for general-purpose computing and most gaming, but 16 GB is best if you’ll be using professional apps like Photoshop or Premiere. Having more memory can also be an honest idea if two or three people are going to be sharing the pc and running all their apps at an equivalent time.
  • Storage: A 256 GB solid-state drive (SSD) may be a good minimum, and with such a drive your computer will feel much faster than one with a bigger but slower disk drive (HDD). A smaller, 128 GB SSD paired with an outsized, 1 TB or 2 TB HDD is additionally fine—Windows and your most-used apps will enjoy the speed of the SSD, while the HDD can collect large video collections and games.
  • Wi-Fi: An coaxial cable from your router to your PC will provide the fastest and most reliable internet connection and help other devices on your Wi-Fi network perform better. But if your home’s layout doesn’t allow that, search for Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and avoid Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n). If you would like Wi-Fi but your desktop doesn’t support it, good USB Wi-Fi adapters are available for as little as $20. Bluetooth, which you’ll use to attach wireless keyboards and mice also as gamepads, is additionally nice to possess.
  • Front ports: These are the ports you’ll be interacting with the foremost, so confirm the front of your computer has everything you would like . an honest front panel should include a minimum of two USB ports (either two Type-A or one Type-A and one Type-C) and a headphone jack. If you employ a high-end camera or do the other quite work with SD or microSD cards, card readers are often available.
  • Rear ports: an honest desktop should have a minimum of four USB Type-A ports, also like two or more ports for connecting monitors (whether HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-C, or VGA).1 It should even have audio jacks for any speakers you would possibly use and an Ethernet port for connecting to your router.

A desktop computer’s physical size also can affect how well it performs, what quite work it’s good at, and the way much you’ll upgrade it afterward. Desktops are available all shapes and sizes, but you’ll run into these the foremost often:

  • Mid-tower: Also sometimes called “mini-towers” or “micro ATX” (after the dimensions of their motherboards), these computers are relatively large. Their cases typically have room for multiple hard drives or solid-state drives, a DVD or Blu-Ray drive, and a minimum of two full-height expansion cards (such as a graphics card, a video capture card, or an indoor Wi-Fi adapter). They’re also generally easy to upgrade—you can do most upgrades with nothing quite a Phillips-head screwdriver, and sometimes you don’t even need that.
  • “Small form factor” (SFF) PC: About an equivalent height as a mid-tower externally half approximately wide. An SFF PC may be an excellent selection if you would choose to retain the largest of the upgradability of a mid-tower but don’t care about installing tons of expansion cards. you’ll still install graphics cards and other parts, but you’re limited to “half-height” cards.
  • Mini PC: Roughly the dimensions of a paper-back book, a mini PC is more sort of a laptop without A battery, keyboard, trackpad, or screen. you’ll still upgrade many components yourself, and such PCs have many ports; they’re also fast enough to use for many non-gaming tasks. But they’re costlier than other forms of desktops, and you can’t install a graphics card (or the other quite expansion card). we have got a full guide to mini PCs with more information.

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The cheap desktop we’d buy

Though we discover tons of variation in quality and performance once we review laptops, cheap desktop are much easier to match , and similar features are more likely to supply similar performance.

Plus, you get to settle on your own screen, and replacing the included keyboard and mouse is inexpensive and straightforward if you would like something better.

These entry-level cheap desktop are best for doing basic computer work, including web browsing, document tasks, and spreadsheet work, and for enjoying basic games like Minecraft. But they can’t play more demanding, modern games; if you would like to try to do that, you’ve got to spend a touch more for an entry-level gaming desktop.

With all of that in mind, we’ve collected some cheap desktop that meet our recommended specs, are an honest value for the worth, and are available from trusted manufacturers. (Dell and HP are the main brands that sell entry-level desktops. We also checked Acer, Asus, and Lenovo but didn’t find any desktops that met our specs and price criteria.) But we haven’t tested these models. If you’ve got any issues together with your new desktop, return it and allow us to realize your experience.

HP Slim Desktop (S01-pF1025se) cheap desktop
Photo: HP

HP Slim Desktop (S01-pF1025se)

Recommended configuration

Processor:Intel Core i3-10100Storage:128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 630Dimensions:11.9 by 10.6 by 3.7 inches
Memory:8 GBWireless:Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2

HP Slim Desktop (S01-pF1048xt)

Recommended configuration

Processor:Intel Core i5-10400Storage:256 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 630Dimensions:11.9 by 10.6 by 3.7 inches
Memory:16 GBWireless:Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2

Why we like this one: The HP Slim Desktop is fast enough for many people’s computing needs, it’s comparatively inexpensive, and it takes up less space than full-size desktop PCs. The S01-pF1025se model can handle web browsing, documents and spreadsheets, media streaming, Zoom calls, and even some light gaming. If you would like to spend a touch more for a faster computer, we also recommend the S01-pF1048xt version, which features a faster processor, double the memory, and more solid-state storage. Both models are around $100 cheaper than the similarly configured desktops we considered.

As alittle form factor PC, the HP Slim Desktop takes up less room than midsize towers common during this price range. But it’s less room for upgrades later—if that’s important to you, consider the Dell Inspiron Desktop instead. The HP supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting to the web and pairing wireless peripherals, it comes with an optical drive which will read and write DVDs and CDs, and it’s an honest array of ports front and back. But the HP Slim Desktop’s 180 W power supply won’t support a fanatical graphics card added later—if you propose to play more-demanding games, inspect our entry-level gaming picks below.

Dell Inspiron Desktop (3880)
Photo: Dell

Dell Inspiron Desktop (3880)

Recommended configuration

Processor:Intel Core i5-10400Storage:256 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 630Dimensions:12.8 by 11.5 by 6.1 inches
Memory:8 GBWireless:Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2

Why we like this one: Our recommended model of the Dell Inspiron Desktop is fast enough for doing schoolwork or performing at home. It’s also an honest choice for a general family computer, and it’s cheaper than the remainder of the competition. But compared with the HP Slim Desktop, it costs a touch more and takes up more room. a bit like the HP Slim Desktop, the Dell Inspiron Desktop supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2, has an optical drive which will read and write DVDs and CDs, and offers all the ports most of the people need. The Inspiron provides more room for upgrades later, but its 200 W power supply can’t support dedicated graphics cards, so if you plan to play more demanding games, you would like to spend more for an entry-level gaming PC or upgrade the facility supply yourself.


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The minimum we’d buy for basic gaming

If you or someone you’re sharing your desktop with wants to play PC games every once during a while, you don’t get to spend thousands of dollars to play those games at reasonable settings. For around $200 quite you’d buy any of the essential desktops listed above, you’ll buy an honest entry-level gaming PC that will even be better at running photo and video editing apps, running 3D modeling software, and connecting to multiple monitors directly. Compared with a budget gaming laptop. These desktops are ordinarily a touch cheaper and quicker, and if you select one among these systems. You won’t get to settle up with a budget laptop’s mediocre screen, whiny fans, excess heat, or lack of upgradability.

HP Envy TE01-1165t
Photo: HP

HP Envy Desktop TE01-1165t

Recommended configuration

Processor:Intel Core i5-10400Storage:256 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD
Graphics:Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
(4 GB)
Dimensions:13.28 by 6.12 by 11.97 inches
Memory:8 GBWireless:Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5

Why we like this one: The HP Envy Desktop brings everything we like from the HP Slim Desktop and adds an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card (as a conclusion, it’s also about 2.5 inches wider and a touch taller and deeper). A GTX 1650 won’t run every game at higher resolutions and maximum settings, but it should allow you to play most games at 1080p and medium to high settings for the subsequent few years. this technique is (barely) fast enough to power a virtual reality game headset, and its 400 W power supply is sweet enough that you simply should be ready to upgrade the graphics card during a few years if your games aren’t running as fast as you’d like them to. and therefore the combination of a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD gives you much space to put in large games.

Dell G5 Gaming
Photo: Dell

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

Recommended configuration

Processor:Intel Core i5-10400FStorage:256 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD
Graphics:Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
(4 GB)
Dimensions:14.45 by 6.65 by 12.13 inches
Memory:8 GBWireless:Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0

Why we like this one: It costs just a touch quite the HP Envy Desktop, but the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop runs games even as well, and its LED lighting and (optional) clear side panel can make it look flashier if that’s something you wish. Paying an additional $20 for the five hundred W power supply will offer you more headroom to upgrade your graphics card afterward. But this system’s Wi-Fi adapter may be a bit slower, and it’ll take up more room on your desk than the HP Envy. It also lacks an optical drive—most people don’t need those anymore, but the HP Envy still has one if you would like one.


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The competition

We dismissed desktops using eighth- and ninth-generation Intel Core processors, which still perform perfectly fine but don’t usually prevent much money compared with the somewhat faster 10th-generation processors. (But if you discover a purchase on an otherwise great computer, those older versions are going to be okay.) We also skipped computers using AMD’s 3200G and 3400G processors with Radeon integrated graphics, since they’re now being replaced by 4000-series chips.

We didn’t consider business desktops from HP’s ProDesk and EliteDesk lineups, Dell’s Vostro and Optiplex series, and Lenovo’s ThinkCentre line. Business desktops can include high-end features that we didn’t see within the typical desktops we researched, like more room to put in drives and 4 slots rather than two for memory upgrades. But if you’re trying to find something cheap, business desktops aren’t an honest fit—they’re usually costlier than typical “consumer” desktops for an equivalent or similar specs.

HP’s Pavilion Gaming Desktop TG01 comes with the newest Intel or AMD processors and therefore the same graphics card options because the Envy Desktop TE01, but it doesn’t include an optical drive; either configuration may be a good alternative if the Envy is out of stock or if you only prefer the design of the Pavilion Gaming Desktop.

We considered and dismissed multiple iterations of the Pavilion Desktop TP01, which doesn’t (yet) include the newest Intel or AMD processors. and that we dismissed all versions of the HP Omen 25L Desktop for being larger and costlier than our other gaming recommendations.

The Dell XPS Desktop (8940) is out there with our recommended entry-level PC specs and basic gaming PC specs, but it’s typically a few hundred dollars costlier than the Inspiron Desktop and therefore the G5 Gaming Desktop when configured to handle gaming.


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1 Comment
  1. […] you’re buying a first or second monitor for your desktop computer or buying a big screen to use with your laptop at home, a good monitor is a wise investment. […]

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