Best budget PCs less than $500 Windows Central 2021
Not everyone has the time, budget, or know-how to build their PC. Thankfully, some of the best budget PCs already come assembled. Acer's Aspire TC-895 is our top pick thanks to a modern processor (CPU), plenty of RAM and storage, and an included keyboard and mouse. If you're on a tight budget, it's a great device to get you going on Windows 10, and it will have enough power to tackle daily productivity tasks. However, there are more best budget PCs that we've included here if the Acer option isn't quite what you're looking for.
- Best overall: Acer Aspire TC-895
- Runner-up: Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i
- Best value: Dell Inspiron 3891
- Best PC stick: Terryza W5 Pro
- Best All-in-One: HP AiO 22
Best overall: Acer Aspire TC-895
Acer's Aspire TC-885 was our top pick of all best budget PCs for a long time, but it's been usurped by the updated TC-895. This pre-built has been updated with 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 and Core i5-10400 CPU options, as well as up to 12GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM and a 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) for speedy read and write speeds. There's no dedicated GPU for gaming or an otherwise heavy workload; the addition usually pushes the price of a PC well above $500.
An optical drive is still built into the front of the tower, and it still has plenty of ports. The front has USB-A, USB-C, an SD card reader, and dual 3.5mm audio jacks, while the back has audio, HDMI, and more USB-A. Also upgraded is the wireless adapter, now able to support Wi-Fi 6 for faster and more reliable wireless internet. Included are a keyboard and mouse, meaning you only have to add one of our picks for best computer monitors to get going.
If you'd like to make the jump up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU for better processing power and slightly more RAM at 12GB, the cost moves up to just $550. If you have a bit more budget, it might be worth opting for the more powerful PC. Our Acer Aspire TC-895 review has a much deeper look at this affordable PC.
- 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Plenty of ports
- 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
- Wi-Fi 6
- Keyboard and mouse included
- No dedicated GPU
- DVD drive might be a bit loose
Runner-up: Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i has a textile top cover and compact build, making it a great PC for your living room or home office. The top panel pulls away for easy access to dual SODIMM RAM slots and an M.2 PCIe SSD slot, plus you can access the bottom if you'd like to add a 2.5-inch SSD or upgrade the Wi-Fi card. As it stands, you get 8GB or 12GB of RAM, Wi-Fi 6, and up to 256GB of SSD storage with a 1TB HDD.
You also get desktop-class 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs for performance suited to productivity work. If you're checking email, writing, web browsing, or streaming, this PC is going to do quite well. Despite its tiny size, there are plenty of ports; the front has USB-C, USB-A, and 3.5mm audio, while the back has four USB-A, HDMI 1.4, Ethernet, and DisplayPort 1.2.
Prices fluctuate quite a bit at Lenovo, and at the time of writing the IdeaCentre Mini 5i is about $50 over budget. However, you might find it cheaper with a different coupon or promotion. In any case, this is well worth the money if you're looking for a compact device.
- Desktop-class CPU
- Upgradeable RAM and SSD
- Compact design and premium quality
- Lots of ports
- Limited CPU choices
- No SD card reader
Best value: Dell Inspiron 3891
Dell's refreshed Inspiron 3891 is available at an attractive starting price, and you can scale things up as the budget allows. The baseline model includes a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10105 CPU, 8GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, and a 1TB SATA HDD at 7,200 RPM. An even better deal is a model with 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10400 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB SATA HDD, though it might be priced too high at about $539. All models now include Wi-Fi 6.
No matter the hardware you choose, each tower comes with plenty of ports — including USB-C, five USB-A, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, 3.5mm, and an SD card reader — as well as an optical drive for CDs and DVDs. A keyboard and mouse are included in the price.
- 10th Gen Intel CPU options
- Large storage options
- Decent port selection
- Includes keyboard and mouse
- Wi-Fi 6
- No dedicated GPU
- Slow storage
Best PC stick: Terryza W5 Pro
The best Windows 10 PC sticks allow you to carry around what appears to be a pint-sized USB drive in your pocket. All you need to do is add a screen with an HDMI port and you have a Windows 10 PC ready to go. The Terryza W5 Pro is an excellent low-cost option with enough performance for streaming, web browsing, word processing, and any other light work you might need to take care of while you're on the move.
It has inside an Intel Atom Z8350 CPU with four cores and four threads, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and 120GB of eMMC storage. There's also a microSD card reader if you're looking to expand storage (it will handle up to 128GB). The PC stick comes with Windows 10 Pro installed, has Wi-Fi 5 capabilities, and Bluetooth 4.2 allows you to connect your favorite wireless accessories. There are also a couple of USB-A ports on the side of the stick for your wired hardware.
- Cost-effective PC solution
- Can expand storage with microSD
- Two USB-A port for accessories
- Quad-core Atom CPU performs well
- Don't expect Intel Core performance
- Won't really replace a full-size PC
Best All-in-One: HP AiO 22
Those who don't have a lot of space in an office, kitchen, or living room might be looking to combine all the different parts of a desktop PC into one package. The best All-in-One PCs answer the call, putting the performance hardware behind a built-in monitor. You end up with a desktop display (hiding the PC hardware), keyboard, mouse, and not much else. And if you're sticking to a budget, the HP AiO 22 should be a top choice.
It's built into a 21.5-inch chassis, with 1920x1080 screen resolution and IPS panel. Above the display is a 720p webcam, and below is a grille that holds dual 2W speakers. Inside is an AMD Athlon 3050U CPU, 4GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, speedy 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. There's also a model with 11th Gen Intel Core i3 CPU for $550 if you need extra performance.
Ports include an SD card reader, four USB-A, HDMI, Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio. Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 are standing by for wireless connectivity, and a mouse and keyboard are included for a bit of extra value.
- Monitor included in the price
- Enough performance for most general tasks
- Clean look
- Tons of storage
- 21.5-inch display might be too small
Sticking to a tight budget and finding a pre-built desktop PC that's right for you can be challenging. The pros and cons of pre-built PCs might sway you one way or the other; however, the Acer TC-895 checks the most boxes for most people, making it our top pick out of all the best budget PCs.
It has a quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i3 or i5 CPU, up to 12GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, and a 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, which is a considerable amount of hardware for the price you'll pay. It doesn't include a dedicated GPU for gaming — you're better off checking out one of our picks for best gaming desktop PC in that case — but it has the performance to handle daily productivity work.
The addition of a DVD-RW optical drive on the front and plenty of ports on the front and back only sweeten the deal, and you can even upgrade internal hardware after purchase to keep the PC relevant long into the future.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, accessory coverage, and the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
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