Best small PC for your money as of Summer 2021

So you are looking for a cheap computer for your kids to do their basic games and school work… There are so many options available for you to choose from. Many options look similar, but there’s an obvious difference in price, so what’s the deal?

What to look for:

  • CPU: This is the brain of your computer, there are two major manufacturers of consumer CPUs AMD and INTEL, I am sure you’ve seen these names mentioned in most if not all PC ads.
    • INTEL CPUs of the last 10 years at least are generally broken down into four classes of power, I3, I5 & I7 with a more recent addition of I9
      • However, not all ‘I’ CPUs are equal, each one will have a four or five digit model number in the description, the first one (in four digit) or two (in five digit) numbers in the model number indicate the generation… higher generation, more modern the CPU. Newest as of this writing is 11xx.
    • AMD CPUs that are fairly recent are called Ryzen and are split into 3, 5, 7, 9 series, which are also followed by a model number (currently four digit).
  • Memory: Amount of memory shipped with a PC has been fairly stale for several years, i would not buy anything with less than 12GB RAM. Memory is usually classified by generation number which follows the letters DDR.. example DDR4
    • Memory also has a clock speed, measured in Mhz. Generally, faster memory is better as long as the system can handle it. However, if you are buying a brand name PC, it was designed with the specs in mind.
  • Storage: You have 4 choices in memory.
    • HDD – slowest of the bunch, depends on a magnetic platter disk. This will be the cheapest and the slowest option.
    • Hybrid HDD – still an HDD drive but with a certain amount of SSD space to cache highly used files. Gaining some speed, but still cheap.
    • SATA SSD – a standard SSD drive is now very affordable and is significantly cheaper than previous years. Sizes are still lagging behind HDD drives for the money, but the load speeds are significantly improved. No moving Parts.
    • M.2 SSD – no moving parts. Many times faster than a standard SATA SSD. A little more expensive than a SATA SSD, but the performance improvement is significant. Computers run as fast as it’s slowest part, HDDs often make the whole system feel sluggish. M2 SSDs address this issue quite nicely.

There are many cheaper models available, but if you pay attention to the three major components I listed above, you will see that those cheaper models could have CPUs that are 7-8 years old already – no wonder they offer killer deals like $400 computer and monitor package. Remember that the four or five digit number at the end of the CPU description contains the generation. Some of these ‘cheap’ PCs are already so outdated they are going to be nothing but a frustration.

My top pick for a cheap home PC is below. Why? It has a 10th generation INTEL i5 processor, 12GB DDR4 RAM and a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD drive checking off the major concerns I outlined above.  Other bonus feature that are nice to have are Wifi-6, USB 3.2 Type C, Bluetooth 5.1

My current recommendation:

Acer Aspire TC895 UA92
Acer Aspire TC895 UA92

Acer Aspire TC-895-UA92

Acer R240HY bidx 23.8-Inch IPS

To complement it, I recommend the Acer R240HY bidx 23.8-Inch IPS monitor