The 8 Best Budget Desktop PCs to Buy in 2017 for Under $400

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

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 $400 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.

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Best Overall: Acer Aspire TC

Acer Aspire TC
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Acer’s Aspire TC hits just pennies under the $400 cap and is an Amazon bestseller, which helps it plant itself as our best overall pick. Powered by a 6th 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.

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Best Budget: Acer CXI2-4GKM Chromebox

Acer Chromebox
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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 login, 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.

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Best Design: Dell Inspiron i3250

Dell Inspiron i3250
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Offering a newly styled space saving design, Dell’s Inspiron i3250 offers a good package of performance with a look that tries not to stand out. At 11.6 x 3.6 x 11.4 inches and 10.6 pounds, the Dell is smaller and lighter than most of the traditional desktop offerings, budget or otherwise. Dell created the i3250 as an opportunity to offer consumers a re-engineered contemporary form factor that has been reimagined to take up minimal space without compromising on performance. With a minimized form factor, Dell’s re-imagination of the design offers new and welcomed improvements like an improved airflow that offers optimal cooling for quieter performance. Where the design didn’t skimp is on ports; there are plenty of them (USB 2.0, HDMI, Bluetooth and wireless 802.1 b/g/n). Internally, there’s an Intel Core i3 3.7GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 1TB of hard drive space along with a tray-loaded DVD drive.

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Best for the Home: ThinkCentre M53

ThinkCentre M53
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Tucked away in a small package that's just 2.9 pounds, Lenovo's ThinkCentre M53 offers a computer that's perfect for the everyday needs of home computing. Powered by an Intel Pentium N3700 1.6GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD, it offers more than enough performance to handle daily Web browsing, Word documents and Netflix or Hulu streaming. With such a small machine, you'll lose the optical drive, which means no DVD/RW playback or burning which may or may not be a big loss depending on your daily computing needs. Countering the loss of the drive, Lenovo offers support to multiple monitors, up to three displays in total, for an expanded work and play area.

In your home computer, you'll want and rightfully expect something that can handle a little wear and tear and that's exactly what the Lenovo offers. The M53 is tested to military specifications, which validate its rugged and durable exterior. Moreover, the M53 can also be bolted to a wall for extra precaution against bumps or bruises. Beyond the hardware, the unit arrives with Windows 7, which is unusual for a computer released in late 2015 but it can easily be upgraded to Windows 10 as soon as it's set up.

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Best for the Office: Lenovo S510

Lenovo's S510
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

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Best Mini: Acer’s Revo One

Acer’s Revo One
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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 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.

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Best Gaming: CybertronPC’s Electrum QS-A4

CybertronPC’s Electrum QS-A4
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The thought of gaming on any desktop under $400 might raise some eyebrows, but CybertronPC’s Electrum QS-A4 offers excellent performance matched with an excellent price. Featuring an AMD A4-7300 3.80GHz dual-core processor and Radeon HD 8470D graphics, the QS-A4 is ready to play – pun intended. Ideally, the QS is set for gamers who are jumping into gaming as a hobby or profession and want something that offers plenty of upgrade opportunities with a wallet-friendly price tag. The ease with which the QS allows expandability cannot be overlooked (especially for gamers who will want to quickly and easily replace graphics cards, add RAM and drive space).

Beyond upgrades, the tower itself deserves a mention; the design feels every bit “gamer” as it does unique. It is eye-catching with a wide blue streak going down the middle of the otherwise black chassis. At 8.2 x 14.7 x 16.5 inches and 19.1 pounds, the QS isn’t overly large, but requires a good chunk of free space to let it slide under a desk or sit on a desk for that matter. Additionally, CybertronPC adds a wired keyboard and optical mouse for good measure, but the likelihood is that most gamers have their favorites they’ll want to stick with. The computer also comes with CybertronPC’s free lifetime technical support in case you run into problems.

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Runner-Up, Best Overall: Ideacentre 300

Ideacentre 300
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

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