Acer Aspire TC 885Source: Acer

Best Budget PCs for Less than $500 Windows Central 2020

Not everyone has the time, budget, or know-how to build their PC, but many are no doubt shopping for something affordable and reliable now that they're working from home. That's where a budget pre-built like Acer's Aspire TC-885 PC comes into play. It's available with 9th Gen Intel processor (CPU), plenty of RAM and storage, and a keyboard and mouse are included. 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.

Best Overall: Acer Aspire TC-885

Acer Aspire TC 885Source: Acer

Acer's TC-885 comes stocked with a 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9400 CPU, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), which combined is more than enough power to cut through a day's productivity tasks. It's all contained in a relatively compact chassis that you can easily hide under a desk or display next to your monitor, and a keyboard and mouse are included to sweeten the deal.

On the front is a DVD-RW optical drive you can use to read and burn, as well as USB-C 3.1, USB-A 3.1 (Gen 2), 3.5mm audio jacks, and an SD card reader for a smooth transfer of files. On the back are plenty more ports, including USB-A 3.1, four USB-A 2.0, two HDMI, Ethernet, and VGA. There is no dedicated graphics card (GPU) for gaming, though you can upgrade RAM and storage after purchase.

Pros:

  • Plenty of ports
  • 9th Gen Intel CPU
  • Optical drive
  • Upgradeable hardware
  • Keyboard and mouse included

Cons:

  • No dedicated GPU

Best Overall

Acer Aspire TC-885

Great all-around PC for most people

If you're looking for a great home PC with respectable hardware inside and plenty of ports, the Acer TC-885 will do the trick.

Runner-up: Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny

Lenovo Thinkcentre m720q TinySource: Windows Central

If you don't have a lot of space on or near your desk, Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q Tiny will no doubt be an attractive option. It's not much larger than an old optical drive, yet it packs in some impressive features, including dual SODIMM RAM slots and space for a 2.5-inch storage drive and an M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), all of which can be upgraded after purchase.

Ports include five USB-A 3.1, DisplayPort, HDMI, and RJ45 Ethernet, with the option to add more at checkout. Add up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-9500T CPU, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, though keep in mind prices rise accordingly.

Pros:

  • Compact chassis
  • Upgradeable RAM and SSD
  • Keyboard and mouse included
  • Plenty of configuration options
  • Generous port selection

Cons:

  • Higher-end models quickly pass the budget mark

Runner-up

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny

Compact PC with plenty of features

Starting at a low price, you can configure a model with some impressive hardware if you have a bit of wiggle in your budget.

Best Gaming: HP Pavilion Gaming TG01

HP Pavilion Gaming TG01Source: HP

Buying a pre-built gaming PC on a tight budget is tough, but HP's Pavilion Gaming TG01 fits the bill. It's not going to compete with more expensive gaming PCs, and you still won't be playing modern games on Ultra settings, but it's a good start that can be upgraded after purchase. All hardware is contained in a modern tower with green accents.

You get plenty of ports on the front and back for connecting your external devices. Performance hardware is centered on an AMD Ryzen 3 3500 CPU and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. The dedicated AMD Radeon RX 550 GPU with 2GB of VRAM is there for extra gaming power, and a 1TB HDD has plenty of space to hold your games.

Pros:

  • Dedicated GPU for better performance
  • Modern chassis with green accent
  • Can upgrade after purchase
  • Lots of ports

Cons:

  • Still underpowered compared to more expensive PCs

Best Gaming

HP Pavilion Gaming TG01

A great starting point for gamers

It's not the most powerful gaming PC out there, but it comes at an excellent price and can be upgraded after purchase.

Best Value: Dell Inspiron 3671

Dell's Inspiron 3671 is available at an attractive starting price, and you can scale things up as budget allows. The baseline model includes a 9th Gen Intel Core i3-9100 CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB SATA HDD. If you can step just above $500, you can upgrade to a 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9400 CPU to better handle multitasking and productivity work.

No matter the hardware you choose, each tower comes with plenty of ports — including six 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.

Pros:

  • 9th Gen Intel CPU options
  • 1TB HDD storage
  • Decent port selection
  • Includes keyboard and mouse

Cons:

  • No dedicated GPU
  • Slow storage

Best Value

Dell Inspiron 3671

A budget PC for general productivity

Starting at a great price, you can add and tweak hardware as your needs and budget allows.

Bottom line

Sticking to a tight budget and finding a pre-built desktop PC that's right for you can be tough, but thankfully the Acer TC-885 checks the most boxes for most people, making it our top pick. If you're working from home due to quarantine or isolation measures, it's going to be able to handle most office tasks.

It has a 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9400 CPU, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB SSD, which is quite impressive for the price you'll pay. It doesn't include a dedicated GPU for gaming — you're better off checking out HP's Pavilion gaming desktop 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. If Amazon is sold out, check out Newegg's refurbished option for the next best deal.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as 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.

Affordable accessories that'll pair perfectly with your PC

Every one of these awesome PC accessories will enhance your everyday experience — and none cost more than $30.

KLIM Aim RGB gaming mouse ($30 at Amazon)

Whether you're a gamer or not, this is an absurdly good mouse for the price. It's ambidextrous, has a responsive sensor, a braided cable, tank-like build quality, and, yes, it has RGB lighting, though you can turn it off if that's not your thing.

AmazonBasics USB speakers ($16 at Amazon)

These neat little speakers may only pack 2.4W of total power, but don't let that fool you. For something so small you get a well-rounded sound and a stylish design. And they only cost $16.

Razer mouse bungee ($20 at Amazon)

Use a wired mouse? You need a mouse bungee to keep your cable tidy and free of snags. You get no drag on the cable, and this one has subtle styling, a rust-resistant spring and a weighted base, all for $20.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.