Need a homework machine for your kids? Or maybe you want a PC that will act as dedicated storage for all your digital devices? A low-cost desktop could be the way to go. That’s right a desktop. Although most of us rely on laptops, not to mention tablets and smartphones, desktop PCs still have plenty of uses for the consumer.
And because desktops PCs are relatively cheap, you can buy one to fill a need that would otherwise be too pricey. Adding a desktop PC to your home network makes it easy to store files, pictures or music that you can then share with any device that can access your network. That way you’re always backed up, and you take the load off other devices, such as tablets, that don’t have much built in storage, but still have the content readily available.
Similarly, if you like your younger children to get started using computers, a low-cost desktop PC will run any of the programs they’re likely to use, and you’ll be risking less if the milk spills or the peanut butter somehow finds its way to drive door. And you might like a spare in case your PC is in the shop or a family member has borrowed.
Another plus: Nearly all desktops come with a built-in optical drive, something many of today’s compact laptops no longer offer, plus they generally have lots of ports to plug in many peripherals and other digital devices. (See the back of the Inspiron pictured below.)
One caveat. None of these prices include a monitor, so if you don’t already own one, you’ll obviously be spending more than $400. Still there are some good deal. Dealnews was the source for a number of these systems; I found others by checking around the Web.
Dell’s Inspiron 660 is a compact system for $299. You have choice of Windows 7 or Windows 8 –don’t opt Windows 8 since you won’t have a touchscreen. If you want this machine for backup, spend an extra $89 and double your storage space to one terabyte.
Dell Vostro 270s Intel Pentium 2.9GHz Desktop PC is $349 with free shipping. It features an Intel Pentium G2020 2.9GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive, DVD burner, 802.11n wireless, media card reader, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Deal ends July 31.
Newegg is selling the Lenovo H520s, which offers a faster CPU and more storage than either of the Dell systems. It comes with 4GB of memory and a one terabyte hard drive. It’s selling for $319 and ships with Windows 8.
Hewlett Packard offers what it calls Essential Home Desktops. The line includes four systems starting well under $400; two are under $300. Again, they come without monitors and you’ll pay sales tax and shipping, but still worth checking out if you are interested in a bargain desktop.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.