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The best budget PCs manage to avoid making massive sacrifices in performance or storage to deliver a quality machine for less than $500. While you won't find high-end gaming PCs in this price range, you can definitely get a very competent productivity machine that will still be able to handle the vast majority of games at low to mid settings, and certainly competent enough hardware for the vast majority of work applications.
Finding the best budget PC often means specializing. If you are looking for a reasonably competent PC for gaming, you'll want a machine with a dedicated graphics card. For productivity and work, you should prioritize a decent CPU, or for a media server, storage will be key.
For more options, our roundup of the best desktop PCs has the top options overall, or read on for our best budget PC picks.
A combination of impressive, brand new hardware, the Aspire squeezes a ton of value out of its extremely low price point. Fast storage is becoming more prevalent now that SSDs are getting closer to universal adoption, but getting a machine with a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD for less than 500 bucks is still exceedingly rare. A speedy drive means faster boot times and shorter load times, and the latest Aspire also drives performance with one of Intel's new 10th generation processors, backed by a solid 8GB of RAM.
The Aspire also supports Wi-Fi 6, the latest generation of Wi-Fi connectivity. This means not only that much higher theoretical max speed is available, but also improved performance when multiple devices are connected to the network. The Aspire is a surprisingly forward-facing machine given its low price, and its sleek, unobtrusive black chassis won't look out of place in nearly any environment.
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 Core i3-8130U processor, paired with 8GB of RAM and 64GB 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.
If form factor is a concern but you don't want to spend a fortune, Lenovo's ThinkCentre lineup is an amazing option. They're pretty broadly customizable, but the SKU we're highlighting here packs a very nice 8th Gen Core i5-8265U CPU from Intel and a fairly remarkable 512GB PCIe SSD. That's a lot of performance and storage in such a tiny little package, a chassis small enough you could tuck it into a drawer if you wanted, or perch it somewhere unobtrusively on your desk.
That said, it still packs all the ports (and Bluetooth connectivity) to serve as the hub for your media empire, whether you're setting up a home office, a streaming nook for Netflix, Hulu, etc., or saving space in a dorm room.
Finding a gaming PC for less than $500 is a big challenge, but that's not to say it's impossible. The DeskMini A300W is a small PC that packs a lot of power, enough to run the majority of modern games at reasonable settings/resolutions. The key to keeping the price down is leaning into AMD's mid-tier product stacks for both the processor and the GPU in this machine, meaning you get very solid performance without completely draining your savings.
The A300W is built around the Ryzen 3 3200G and the Radeon RX Vega 8, a solid CPU/GPU combo, but it also sports an impressive 512GB NVMe SSD, so you'll spend less time staring at games loading screens (and the system will boot significantly faster, as well). It's also got a welcome 16GB or RAM, which is pretty rare in this price range but virtually required to run some of the latest triple-A games.
If you don't already have a bunch of desktop peripherals, like a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and just want everything in one inexpensive, convenient package, this HP all-in-one is a fantastic option. It's extremely affordable, sports a decent 7th gen AMD processor, and delivers everything you need to immediately get to work, without any additional expenses. It even includes a DVD/CD burner and a slot for SD cards (as well as SDHC and SDXC).
There's also Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity if you do decide to add additional peripherals at some point, or want to upgrade to a wireless mouse or keyboard. The all-in-one design also means that it's extremely portable, so anytime you want to shuffle it into another room or send it off to college with a new student, it's ready to pick up and move.
For the best budget PC for most needs, the Acer Aspire is an amazing all-around machine built to deliver surprising performance for less than $500. For a tiny option that delivers big horsepower (but will tuck away practically anywhere), give the Lenovo ThinkCentre a look.
All-in-one - Most budget PCs that clock in under the $500 mark don’t come with a monitor, and adding even a small one can end up breaking your budget. All-in-one PCs are the exception, because they’re literally monitors that have all of the necessary computer hardware built right in.
Ports and connections - Manufacturers invariably end up cutting corners on budget-priced PCs to save you money. You may have trouble finding a PC under $500 that comes with USB-C ports, but there are a lot of options that include multiple USB 3.1 connections, built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more.
Upgradability - The great thing about buying a budget desktop is that you have the ability to upgrade most of the components later on. If you want the option to install a video card, an SSD, additional USB ports, or anything else, look for a PC that’s built in an ATX tower case. If you go with an all-in-one, or a mini PC, you’ll have more difficulty upgrading.