These days, practically every household needs a computer. Even if your job doesn’t require you to peddle presentations afterwards hours, everything from shopping to budgeting to keeping in touch with friends is a vastly more user-friendly with a keyboard and mouse. And who tin can resist the occasional foray into the spectacular world of YouTube “neglect” videos?
PCs can be expensive, though. That’southward why hundreds of millions of people rely on 5-twelvemonth-old-plus computers. For many folks, PCs are appliances rather than toys—pricey tools that are replaced only when they break, and reluctantly even then.
But PCs don’t have to be expensive.
Here’due south how to build a cheap PC that tin expertly handle all the “normal stuff” people exercise—web browsing, Office tasks, email, video playback, you lot name it—and do so on a tight budget. In fact, at less than $300, this budget PC is far cheaper than the average $448 selling cost of Windows laptops, while however far less pokey than the cheap-o $250 Chromebooks stuffed with Celeron processors. And
yous’ll accept a full keyboard and mouse to get stuff done. We didn’t actually build and exam this configuration, simply as with our $500 gaming PC build, this
is what I would put together if I wanted an ultra-affordable PC that won’t chug under the weight of Discussion documents.
Got it? Good. Let’s beginning with the heart of it all.
While graphics cards are the cornerstone of a gaming PC, this computer isn’t built to power digital adventures. It’s focused on the normal tasks people perform. So we’ll bypass graphics cards completely and outset with the middle of this detail PC: Intel’southward three.3GHz Pentium G4400 processor ($59.14 on Newegg).
Yous tin can find cheaper chips, just the Pentium G4400 strikes a superb residuum of power and cost. It’south roughly half
the cost of the cheapest Core i3 processor, simply blows away AMD’s similarly priced A6-7600K APU ($51.95 at Amazon) in performance, according to Hardware Secrets. The CPU should handle bones everyday tasks without frustrating slowdowns—exactly what you want from a cheap PC.
The Pentium G4400’southward onboard Intel Hd 510 Graphics are as entry-level every bit entry level gets, but the flake still plays 1080p videos without event as long as you aren’t performing an intensive task in the background at the aforementioned time. This processor isn’t really made for video processing or gaming, Legit Reviews’ testing shows, but that’s not what a PC similar this is made for anyhow. If yous do
decide to dabble in gaming, Legit Reviews says the G4400 holds upwardly nicely if you slap a discrete graphics card adjacent to information technology. (Just sentinel out for PC games that require iv processor cores.)
This tiny $450 PC proves AMD’s APUs can power competitive gaming on a tight budget
The Pentium G4400 also provides a solid upgrade path if you want to requite your PC more oomphin the future. It’southward built using Intel’s 14nm Skylake compages, and then you can swap in a Core i3, Core i5, or Cadre i7 Skylake chip for much more authorization if your computing needs ramp up. What’s more, Intel’s next-gen Kaby Lake chips are expected to apply the aforementioned motherboards as Skylake when they release in 2017.
I’m going to go with the same motherboard suggested in my $500 gaming PC build, Gigabyte’s GA-H110M-A ($45 on Amazon). But while it was a matter of balancing the budget in the budget gaming build, hither it’southward a matter of practicality.
The Gigabyte GA-H110M-A features Intel’s H110 chipset—by far the nigh bare-bones Skylake motherboard technology available. Y’all won’t exist overclocking the Pentium or using cutting-edge NVMe SSDs here. But you lot aren’t looking for those sorts of features in a PC congenital for web surfing, document slinging, and video playback. You might likewise save cash past skipping upgrades you don’t need.
You only need 4GB of retention in a PC designed for everyday tasks. The Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 ($20 on Amazon) delivers that in a single RAM stick, leaving the other memory slot on your motherboard open in case you decide to get into gaming and add another 4GB downward the line.
Take note: If y’all decide to get with another memory option, Skylake motherboards require newer DDR4 retentiveness, not
Again, we’re going for practicality hither. Solid-country drives are the single best upgrade y’all can make in a PC, only while SSD prices are plummeting, traditional hard drives remain far more than affordable. Western Digital’due south 1TB Bluish hard bulldoze ($fifty on Amazon) packs enough of infinite for everybody’south files, and that “Blueish” designation means its platters spin at a brisk vii,200RPM, making it ane of the faster mechanical hard drives available.
You don’t need a big power supply for a PC this pocket-sized. A mere 300-watt unit would suffice, according to Outervision’southward PSU calculator. Merely here’s the affair: EVGA’southward 500 W1 ($37.48 on Amazon) actually costs slightly less
than the cheapest decent 300W to 400W power supply I could find on Newegg, Seasonic’s SSR-350ST at $40. The Seasonic unit of measurement features 80 Plus Statuary certification that the EVGA 500 W1 lacks, but EVGA’south a trusted name in power supplies. You might besides get more ability for less money in case yous make up one’s mind to add more storage drives or aggrandize to gaming later on.
Yes, you tin can find no-name or OEM power supplies for less, merely don’t go down that road. A bad power supply can blow up your whole system. It’south worth investing in a known brand.
Side by side folio: Terminal hardware picks, software, extras, and calculation information technology all up
Cooler Master’south N200 mini tower ($l on Amazon) is a favorite amidst budget builders, and for good reason. Its exterior is spartan all the same inoffensive, and there’s enough of room for upgrades—fifty-fifty water-cooling setups if you want to get fancy. The case offers solid ventilation, a pair of preinstalled fans, and a trio of front-side USB ports, i of which is the speedier USB iii.0 variety. That’s a cracking feature set for an affordable case.
I propose buying information technology on Amazon because the shipping’s free; Newegg charges $6 to deliver it. That said, Newegg frequently offers a $twenty rebate on this item case, then take a peek at both places if you plan on picking it upwards.
The Gigabyte motherboard features just a single fan header, so you’ll demand to pick up a i-to-two fan splitter cable like the Silverstone CPFO1 ($4.39 on Amazon) to ability the Libation Primary N200’southward duo. Any fan splitter volition do, really.
Keyboard and mouse
At that place’s a wide range of keyboard and mice out there. In the interest of keeping costs downwardly, I’1000 suggesting the affordable AmazonBasics 3-button USB wired mouse ($7 on Amazon) and HP K1500 wired keyboard ($9 on Amazon), both of which have very high ratings from hundreds and hundreds of Amazon users.
Here’s where I’thou going to toss out a curveball. Y’all should really try using Linux on this PC.
Expect! End rolling your eyes. Linux used to be a bear, but at present, distros like Ubuntu take become amazingly user friendly, and hardware woes from years past are much rarer now. For basics like web browsing, video playback, and productivity—aka the very things this PC is built for—Linux gets the job done. Chrome behaves the aforementioned on whatever PC, VLC works everywhere, and LibreOffice is a wonderful Microsoft Office replacement. The learning curve is smaller than you lot’d think.
There’s cipher to lose, since Linux distros are costless-every bit-in-beer free. PCWorld’southward primers on the best distros for beginners and getting started with Linux can point you in the correct direction, while our guide to the all-time free, open-source software can help yous stock your PC with superb programs. A surprising number of excellent PC games even call Linux habitation these days.
If you make up one’s mind open up-source operating systems aren’t your cup of tea, Windows ten ostensibly costs $120 on Amazon. But if you caput to Kinguin—a sort of eBay for software—yous can find licenses for as depression as roughly $30. Just be sure to purchase the optional buyer protection in case someone in this open market place sells y’all a bad key. I’m not counting OS costs in the total for this PC, though
I’grand also not including the toll of a monitor. That’s standard do in PC build guides, equally many people already accept a monitor available, or know someone with a spare. Worst case, y’all can ofttimes discover free monitors at local swap shops or on Craigslist, as people wait to offload them rather than pay an electronics disposal fee. To wit: I live in an incredibly rural area of New Hampshire and could find three dissever freebie monitors within one-half an hr’s driving altitude right at present.
If you demand to pick ane up, nevertheless, I’d consider the twenty-inch ViewSonic VA2055SM ($85 on Amazon). Not only does it feature a 1080p screen, this model includes integrated speakers. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, HP offers a 21.v-inch monitor ($100 on Amazon) with a step-upward IPS screen, which offers super color accuracy and viewing angles. It lacks speakers, though.
Many people too get by simply fine without optical disc drives these days. If you need one, though, the Asus DRW-24B1ST ($nineteen.95 on Amazon) rates highly with over 2,600 users, and it can burn down DVDs too as read them.
Adding it all up
And that’s it! Here’south the rundown on the full budget PC build.
Intel Pentium G4400 processor – $59.fourteen
Gigabyte GA-H110M-A motherboard – $45
Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 4GB RAM – $20
Western Digital’s 1TB Blue hard drive – $fifty
EVGA’s 500 W1 ability supply – $37.48
Cooler Master N200 example – $fifty
Silverstone CPFO1 fan splitter – $4.39
AmazonBasics iii-push button USB wired mouse – $7
HP K1500 wired keyboard – $9
Ubuntu OS – gratuitous
Add together it all up and you’re looking at a thousand total of $282.01 (though pricing often fluctuates slightly in the world of PC hardware). That’s not shabby at all, and this build would blow away any Chromebook or Windows 10 laptop in its toll range, as they all pack processors with far less oomph and smaller difficult drives. This build offers a decent path for upgrades if you need more ability in the futurity, too, whereas laptops are forever locked to their initial configuration for all intents and purposes.
Even if you need to choice up a monitor and make up one’s mind to go with a Kinguin-supplied Windows 10 license, you’re looking at roughly $400 total—about $50 less than the average selling price of a Windows laptop.
I’d telephone call that mission accomplished. If yous need help assembling it, be sure to check out PCWorld’s all-encompassing PC building tutorial, as well as our guides to mutual PC edifice mistakes and 7 things we learned once we built our offset PC. They’ll all help a ton.
Would you lot change anything near this $300 budget PC? I’d beloved to hear well-nigh it. Drop your suggestions and alternative hardware configurations in the comments!