Best Desktop PCs Under $750

Looking for a really inexpensive--but really good--desktop computer? These five sub-US$750 desktop models include some real finds, but you'll still have to make compromises with them.

We tested the following five sub-US$750 desktop PCs for performance in productivity applications using our WorldBench 6 benchmark and evaluated the gaming capabilities--such as they were--of each system using Doom 3 and Far Cry test scripts at a variety of resolutions.

1. Dedicated Graphics: Dell Inspiron 530

The $689 Dell Inspiron 530 is powerful enough to earn Superior scores (for a value PC) in both productivity and graphics tests, and it includes a healthy amount of storage space (250GB), suitable expansion options, and a 19-inch LCD. In addition, unlike many value systems in its price range, the Inspiron 530 uses a discrete graphics card (Nvidia GeForce 8300GS) rather than integrated graphics, though our tests indicate it still isn't powerful enough for intensive gaming. The system earned a WorldBench 6 score of 73, slightly better than the 71 posted by the Compaq Presario SR5350F, which uses the same Intel Pentium dual-core E2160 CPU. If you want a value PC with an excellent price-to-performance ratio and some room to grow, Dell's Inspiron 530 is the best deal among the budget PCs we've tested recently.

2. Speedy Space Saver: Polywell Poly i7050

The $729 Polywell Poly i7050 is a compact (13-by-16-inch) desktop that's powerful enough for general applications, Web surfing, and other routine tasks. Despite its entry-level CPU, it scored admirably in our productivity-application benchmark, equaling the similarly sized Sys Technology Sys SlimLine Si200's result of 77 in our WorldBench 6 test suite (and 77 marks the best score among the systems in this slide show). Graphics performance was weak due to the use of integrated graphics, but an HDMI port lets you connect the system to a TV. (Polywell charges $72 for a 256MB nVidia GeForce 8400GS card upgrade). The package we tested included a 19-inch LCD, a 250GB hard drive, and a combo DVD/CD writer (which left only one external 3.5-inch drive bay free). The Poly i7050's small size, strong performance, and HDMI output make it a good living-room PC candidate.

3. No Frills Minitower: eMachines T5246

At $620, the eMachines T5246 is the least-expensive value PC in our lineup, but since it's a prebuilt retail system available in only one configuration (also sold as the 4200+ Desktop at Best Buy), you can't mix and match components before you purchase it. The T5246 provides respectable speed for common tasks (it scored 70 in WorldBench 6), and comes with a sizable 400GB hard drive. Limited graphics capabilities and a noticeably small 17-inch monitor, however, limit its overall appeal. We recommend going for a larger wide-screen LCD, such as the $210 eMachines E19T5W or the $220 eMachines E19T6W (both 19-inchers that are sold at Best Buy). We think you'll find the extra screen space worth the money.

4. Prebuilt Value PC: Compaq Presario SR5350F

Like the preceding $680 eMachines T5246, the Presario SR5350F is a prebuilt retail system available in only one configuration, so you can't select different components before you buy it. The package includes a 19-inch LCD and a sizable 360GB hard drive, and it delivers good performance for basic, everyday needs. It scored 71 in WorldBench 6, just behind the Dell Inspiron 530, which uses the same Intel Pentium dual-core E2160 CPU. All in all, Compaq's Presario SR5350F is a good-performing system with plenty of storage space, but you may want to add a discrete graphics card after you get it home.

5. Skimpy Storage: Sys Technology Sys SlimLine Si200

Sys Technology lets you choose different parts for this compact PC, including either an Intel or an AMD processor. Our $708 test system featured a 2-GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2180 CPU, a smallish 160GB hard disk, a combo DVD/CD writer, a multiformat memory card reader, and a 19-inch LCD. The SlimLine Si200's WorldBench 6 score of 77 puts it in a tie with the equally diminutive Polywell Poly i7050 for the best score of this budget PC group. But like all the other value systems here that rely on underpowered integrated graphics, the Si200 turned in poor performance in our gaming tests. The SlimLine Si200's case--which is not quite 4 inches high--is easily opened but has little room for expansion within. Another drawback is that the Si200 is the only value PC in this story to ship with Windows Vista Home Basic (instead of Home Premium); this means you won't be able to run Windows Vista's Aero graphical environment.

This story, "Best Desktop PCs Under $750" was originally published by PCWorld.

NEW! Download the State of the CIO 2017 report