Computers have long exited the realm of luxury and are now a necessity for work, study and leisure. Luckily, as technology improves and prices come down, a decent desktop for everyday computing can easily be obtained for under $500. So-called budget PCs are ideal for Internet browsing, word processing, emailing, instant messaging, basic photo editing and multimedia organization. While you might not be rendering any CGI or engaging in any hardcore gaming, these budget desktops should deliver enough performance for the everyday user.
(Note: All prices are estimates at the time of this article’s writing.)
HP Compaq Presario p6510y - $529.99
When it comes to buying a PC on a budget, you don’t have to go generic to get a good price. HP proves it with their HP Compaq Presario line. The HP Compaq Presario P6510y is an admirable balance between price and performance, touting an AMD Athlon II 630 / 2.8 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM (expandable to 16 GB) and pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium. Applications run smoothly and quickly compared to other budget PCs and there’s plenty of room for upgrades down the road. Also, unlike many budget desktops, the p6510y comes with a FireWire port, making it apt for video editing buffs.
On the cons side, the HP Compaq Presario P6510y lacks an HDMI port, so you won’t be watching any High Definition video on it, which seems a bit contrary to the inclusion of a FireWire port. The 750 GB standard hard drive is a bit spare, but you can always upgrade.
ASUS Essentio CM5671-05 - $499.99
In spite of its suggestive moniker, the ASUS Essentio falls just shy of packing in all of the essentials. Still, it’s the closest contender to the HP Compaq Presario p6510y in terms of price for performance. With an Intel Pentium E5500 / 2.8 GHz and 4 GB of RAM (expandable to 16 GB) and Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition, the ASUS Essentio CM5671-05 is well stacked. Its stock 1 TB hard drive also one ups the HP Compaq Presario p6510y. Plus, the ASUS model wins out with its HDMI and optical audio ports, which allow the tower to double as multimedia hub for viewing HDTV. However, the ASUS’s Intel processor is a wee bit slower than the Compaq’s AMD. The ASUS also lacks WiFi, which may make it ungainly as a living room PC or a replacement for a dorm TV. However, for everyday users who don’t plan on cutting any feature films, the ASUS Essentio CM5671-05 will suffice nicely.
Gateway SX2801-01e - $519.99
Taking a cue from foreign subcompact cars, the Gateway SX2801-01e joins the ranks of slim, yet speedy PCs in the $500 range. This plucky little tower packs an Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5500 / 2.8 GHz with 6 GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium. The roomy 1 TB hard drive coupled with an HDMI out makes it a good candidate for a multimedia PC as well. Like the ASUS, however, it lacks WiFi, which somewhat mutes the benefits of its small footprint, since you’ll be running an Ethernet cable into it. In spite of its compact design, there is still room for upgrades. Overall, the Gateway SX2801-01e is a good all around choice for those who want an unobtrusive desktop.