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

Need a new desktop computer but you're on a budget? We can help.

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While laptops, all-in-ones, and tablets are all the rage in today’s computer world, the desktop remains the workhorse of both the office and the home. Considering a desktop means evaluating a variety of factors from design to RAM, hard drive space and even how many ports are available. If you’re looking at these factors and considering a budget under $500 option, you might have to make some compromises, including looking at smaller form factors. Still, if you’re not looking to edit hours of video or work in Photoshop for days on end, there’s a budget desktop option that’s sure to work for the office or family.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Ideacentre 300

Ideacentre 300
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Basic and budget are two words Lenovo can proudly claim with the Ideacentre 300, which can do everything you ask without any additional flair. The included 6th generation Intel Core i3 3.7GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and 1 TB of hard drive space don’t stand out in any way, except for how well they perform at this price point. Daily computing is responsive for surfing the Web, watching movies, listening to music and more without any concern over speed. Lenovo even includes a specialized “AccuType” keyboard to provide extra comfort while using the Ideacentre 300. The integrated HD graphics are basic, but the included support for high-definition audio with 5.1 channel support allows the Ideacentre 300 to serve as an entertainment hub. Additionally, there’s a slew of ports and connectivity options, including 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 3.0.

Runner-up, Best Overall: Acer Aspire Desktop

Acer Aspire Desktop
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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 high-definition audio with 5.1 channel support allowing movie and video playback, so you don't need to spend extra money on speakers.

Best Budget: Acer CXI2-4GKM Chromebox

Acer Chromebox
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Released in June 2015, Acer's CXI2-4GKM Chromebox remains one of the best budget desktops that offers powerful day-to-day performance. Powered by a Broadwell Intel Celeron 3205U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD drive, the Chromebox works almost entirely on the cloud, making the inclusion of loads of hard drive space unnecessary and, therefore, an easy way to reduce cost. The Chromebox offers an exciting way to get online without the bloat or extras that come with Windows or Apple's Mac operating systems. Just add your own keyboard and mouse and voila, you're online within seconds. 

Designed with cloud-centric PC users in mind, Acer's Chrome OS runs entirely off the Chrome Web browser with a small partition for downloading files for offline use. The result is a desktop that takes up almost no room at 1.2 pounds and 6.8 x 5.5 x 2.3 inches. If you're familiar with Google's apps, there's very little learning curve once you're connected via WiFi or Ethernet. Once you log in, you're immediately placed into Google's ecosystem offering direct access to the Web, Gmail, YouTube, video chat with Google+ and cloud document creation with Google Drive. The inclusion of Chrome's Web store offers thousands of Windows-alternative apps, themes and extensions to personalize your Chromebox to your heart’s content. Add in the comfort of a secure working environment that protects against viruses and you'll find a budget-friendly, easy-to-use desktop that welcomes all types of users.

Best Value: HP 19-inch All-in-One Computer

For just over $300 you can score this HP 19-inch All-in-One Desktop PC, making it one of the best values on the market. HP is well-known for creating solid, reliable computers that have plenty of power, and this one is no exception. With an Intel(R) Celeron(R) Processor J335, this HP computer can easily handle everyday computing tasks. With 4 GB DDR3L-1600 SDRAM, it has enough memory to run reliably and efficiently so you don’t have to deal with frustrating slowdowns. Plus, the huge 1 TB 7200RPM SATA hard drive ensures you have enough space for all your files, music and pictures with room to spare. View them on the space-saving 19.5-inch diagonal widescreen WLED-backlit monitor that boasts 1.4 million pixels for great image quality and resolution. Windows 10 is also included with this machine, so you can be up to date with all the latest Microsoft features, too. 

Best Design: Dell Inspiron Desktop (2017)

The 2017 Dell Inspiron Desktop.
Dell / All Rights Reserved

Let’s be honest for a second about desktop computer design. Most towers are uninspired and some are even downright ugly, with little or no thought put into the design. So, when we look at the design for desktops, just making an attempt at elegance goes a long way.

That’s why we like latest in the Dell Inspiron desktop series, as it aims for black-box simplicity while not being outright boring. It has a sleek black outside and useful front-panel placement for things like the power button, an SD card reader, headphone jack and two USB ports. On the back, you’ll find more ports with audio out, audio input, mic input, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and four USB ports.

On the inside, it’s not bad either. This model runs Windows 10 and has an Intel quad-core i5-6400 2.70 GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce 730 2GB GDDR3 graphics card. It also has support for WiFi and Bluetooth, two things you won’t find on every desktop. All in all, this will satisfy most desktop purchasers, especially those who don’t want an ugly black box.

Most Compact: Fusion5 Ultra Slim All-in-One Desktop PC with Battery

You’ve never seen a desktop PC like the Fusion5 Ultra-Slim All-in-One Desktop PC. Vanishingly small with just 10 mm thickness towards the edge, this Fusion5 machine is extremely lightweight at only 2.2 kilograms and it's portable like a laptop, but has the power of a desktop PC. With 4GB DDRIII RAM, 500GB HDD and 32GB of storage, this Fusion5 computer has impressive specs for such a compact machine. Its space-saving design includes just one adapter cable and a built-in battery capable of powering the PC for hours. It comes with a Fusion5 wireless keyboard, Fusion5 Mouse and the AC adapter.  Even though Fusion5 may not be as well-known as other computer makers, you can buy with confidence thanks to the included 12-month warranty. 

Best for the Office: Lenovo S510

Lenovo's S510
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With good performance and security-enhanced Windows 10 Pro, Lenovo's S510 business class PC is an excellent addition to any office. The addition of the Pro version of Windows 10 software adds an entirely new level of security with encryption features like BitLocker that secures hard drivers from potential hackers. Beyond software, the S510 has an Intel Core i5 2.7GHz quad-core processor, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM to assist in the day-to-day creation of spreadsheets and PowerPoints. To top things off, the S510 packs a small footprint, weighing just 9.1 pounds and tucking away nicely under a desk at 11.6 x 12.6 x 3.5 inches. 

Working in a business environment requires reliability and Lenovo prides itself on having put the S510 through over 200 reliability tests, including shock, drop and vibration tests to ensure maximum quality with long-term use. Hardware quality aside, the machine itself offers USB 3.0 and 2.0, as well as the standard fare of a DVD/RW, Intel Graphics card and 802.11ac WiFi. If you need a little more performance, upgrading the S510 is easy with RAM support for up to 32GB and extra hard drive storage.

Best Mini: Acer’s Revo One

Acer’s Revo One
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While the typical vertical black box is what most computer users imagine when thinking of a desktop, the “mini PC” has sealed its place as a desktop-friendly home and office computer. Acer’s Revo One leads the pack with a standout design that has you’ll all but forgetting it sits right on your desk. At just 4.2 x 4.2 x 6.1 inches and weighing just over two pounds, the Revo One is a small, but a ​mighty, machine that packs an Intel Core i3 2.1GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 1TB of hard drive space.

Offered in a stylishly white and glossy design, Acer considers the look both “classic” and “elegant” without compromising on performance. To keep everything in order, Acer also adds an equally classic white wireless keyboard and mouse to keep that sleek feeling on your entire desk. Beyond the eye-popping design, there’s also a downloadable Android-ready smartphone app that turns your device into a remote control for the Revo desktop. Add in the usual slew of ports, Bluetooth and 802.1ac and the Revo One positions itself as a big offering in a small package.