What's the best desktop computer on a budget for students? We've witnessed a major shift in our work routines since 2020 with many organisations now permanently adopting a flexible, remote working culture. This applies to schools and colleges too where online learning has now become the norm.
That's why we now need to know how to go about choosing a computer for online learning. When schools and colleges just shifted to online classes last year, many people had to make do with their phones or tablets, which is fine if you're simply attending lectures. However, in order to complete assignments, presentations and projects at home, a dedicated computer will offer much more flexibility and convenience compared to a phone or tablet.
While most people prefer laptops, desktops still have their advantages such as being easily upgradeable and the ability to use a larger display. If you have the space at home and won't need to carry your computer around, a desktop PC still makes a lot of sense. Desktops are available in all shapes and sizes — from mini PCs to all-in-one computers such as the Apple iMac.
Today, we'll be focusing on budget desktops and the kind of options that are available in the market. We'll only be looking at pre-built options from reputed brands in this guide since there's better assurance of after-sales support. You can also go down the DIY route and build your own computer by picking and choosing your own components if you're feeling adventurous.
Decide what type of desktop you want to buy
Depending on the amount of space you have at home, there are a variety of form factors to choose from. We'll be going through some of the most common ones that are available in the Indian market.
A pre-built desktop tower will get you all the basic guts of a computer such as the processor, RAM, and storage. However, you might need to buy other things such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and webcam separately, or reuse ones that you have if you're upgrading just the PC. If you don't feel like spending on a monitor, you can always connect the tower straight to your TV via HDMI and use it as a giant monitor.
Lenovo IdeaCentre 3 series is available with prices starting from roughly Rs. 17,500 for an AMD Athlon Silver 3050U CPU or around Rs. 25,990 if you want an Intel solution. Keep in mind that these base models ship with Free DOS, so you'll have to purchase a Windows 10 licence separately.
Increasing your budget a bit to Rs. 31,000 will get you Windows 10 Home preinstalled, along with a better CPU such as an AMD Ryzen 3 3250U, more RAM, and SSD storage in addition to the traditional mechanical hard drive. Lenovo's IdeaCentre 3 series towers are relatively compact and offer a variety of configurations to suit your needs.
Similarly, HP offers tower solutions too such as their Slim Desktop series which are priced similarly. However with HP, you get Windows 10 even on their entry-level model which starts at roughly Rs. 18,000. There are a variety of configurations available, most of which even include a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2019 suite.
If you're looking for something even more compact than a slim tower PC, then mini PCs are the way to go. These palm-sized boxes, similar to an Apple Mac mini, offer decent performance for basic tasks and can easily be tucked away behind a monitor or TV, out of view. One thing to note is that they tend to be a little pricey, and these PCs are usually sold barebones, which means you'll need to purchase the RAM and storage separately, install them yourself, and then set up Windows.
Intel sells its NUC Pro mini PC for about Rs. 31,000 which gets you a 11th Gen Core i3 CPU, but without any RAM and storage. Asus, ZOTAC and ECS also offer mini PC solutions but these aren't as easily available as they once were.
All-in-one PCs or AiOs are great one-stop solutions and space savers too. Such desktops typically have all the components sitting behind the display so you don't need that much room on your desk. You get integrated speakers and a webcam too, along with Windows 10. All you have to do is unpack an AiO, plug it in, and you're ready to go.
You can find solutions from Dell, Lenovo, Asus and HP in the Indian market. HP's All-in-One 21 model starts at Rs. 28,499 and includes an entry-level Intel Celeron CPU, a 1TB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. If you need more power and a bit of future-proofing, then HP's All-in-One 24 series would be a better pick.
Lenovo doesn't have too many budget options, but there is the IdeaCentre AIO 330 which we came across. The specifications include a 19.5-inch display, Intel Pentium Silver CPU, 4GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. If you're looking for something stylish and yet powerful, the Lenovo IdeaCentre A340 (22) offers a 21.5-inch display, Intel 10th Gen Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive at around Rs. 43,990.
Dell has some good AiO models, one of which we've also reviewed in the recent past, however the models currently on sale on the expensive side, with prices starting at around Rs. 75,000.
Asus has some very interesting options such as the Vivo AiO V222 which comes with a 10th Gen Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, a 21.5-inch full-HD display and a wireless keyboard and mouse for around Rs. 38,990. Lower and higher priced variants are available too of the same model, depending on how much you wish to spend.
PC manufactures also offer complete desktop solutions which include the tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The only thing you'll probably need is a webcam for interactive online classes. Dell has a wide variety of configurations with prices starting at just Rs. 35,990. At this price, you'll get the Dell Inspiron 3891 desktop which comes with an Intel Pentium Gold CPU, Windows 10, 4GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a 22-inch monitor.
While this PC should serve you well for basic usage such as attending classes and using Microsoft's Office suite, you can always opt for one of the more powerful variants on Dell's website, based on your workload and requirements.