Buying a desktop computer for school is a great choice for a few reasons. While laptops are convenient, desktops offer far more performance and power for their price. Laptops are more expensive because they have additional components: a monitor and a battery, but also because they have a small size. This adds two problems: it means laptops require small, often more expensive hardware, and it means they generate way more heat. Because they generate more heat and have more moving parts (namely a hinge), laptops are also less reliable, stable, and don’t last as long as desktop PCs. Desktops are simply a better deal.
Another perk for students is that desktops enable one to simply sit at home and get their work done quickly and effectively. And when the work is done, desktops, mean you won’t have to move far to play: playing the newest games at the highest settings on a desktop is far more affordable. That’s where all of that power comes in handy. Needless to say, if you’re editing video or doing other processor intensive-work, desktops are generally faster than laptops, and always offer more power for the same price. This is not to say there aren’t capable gaming laptops out there, but just that they are much more expensive than the PCs in this list.
There are three kinds of desktops and operating systems on our list. The kinds of computer are Minis (the first two, most cheap computers that are very small boxes, that require a monitor), towers (the bulk of the list, much larger boxes that hold components, you’ll need to attach a monitor), and All-In-Ones (three computers on this list, with built-in screens).
Details out of the way, here are the top 10 best desktop computers for students from lowest to highest price.
1. ASUS Chromebox
Warranty 12 month limited, details | Processor Intel Celeron, One core at 1.4ghz | RAM 2GB DDR3 | Type Mini | Graphics Card Intel HD (Integrated) | Hard Drive 16GB SSD | OS Chrome OS |
If your life is totes online, then this PC will work for you. If you’re not familiar with the Chrome OS operating system, it’s very simple: it’s just Google Chrome and nothing else. While for some, this could be way too restrictive, you’d be shocked at how much one can accomplish just using Chrome including creating Docs, spreadsheets, presentations, and editing photos, even editing video (low res, 480P).
While Chrome OS may seem limiting, there are some serious advantages to having a simple OS, namely speed and efficiency. It’s not hard to stay in the cloud when everything one does is in a browser. If you’re planning on doing photo-editing in Photoshop, this won’t do, but Chrome OS is shockingly capable and can edit photos, be used for coding (Repl.it), and for those who need some R&R, play 1080P YouTube (or Netflix) videos.
What it lacks in robustness, it makes up for in reliability and simplicity. For people who spend their days on Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, and don’t need anything beyond apps on the net, this Chromebox is a great deal.
- Perfect for users who can do all their work in the cloud and through Chrome
- Streams 1080P YouTube videos
- Tiny form factor with built-in WiFi
- Fast boot time, fast OS
- 4 USB ports
- No anti-virus or configuration; simple, easy
- Only does what Chrome on Windows can do
- Will not replace a full Windows or Mac desktop
- 2GB ram means one can only have 10 or so tabs open
2. Minix Neo
Processor Intel Atom, Four cores at 1.4ghz | RAM 4GB DDR3 | Type Mini | Graphics Card Integrated | Hard Drive 32GB eMMC | OS Windows 10 |
If the notion of being stuck on Google Chrome on a Mini PC seems a bit too restrictive, for about the same price, the Minix Neo crams Windows 10 onto a 32GB eMMC and lets you run a full OS on a tiny box. One reason it’s immediately better than the Chrome Box is support for 4K; if you need high-res movies, this is the way to go. Users praise it for its solid Wi-Fi, Ethernet port, and extremely low power cost. It’s about the most affordable PC one can buy, but there is a trade-off. Chrome OS actually runs Chrome better. Users on the Minix report about an 8 tab max on this machine, but on the Chrome Box 10-12 tabs is the upper bound. This is not the most important metric in the world, but it’s a testament to how lightweight and quick Chrome OS is.
Still, having a machine you can actually install some apps on, including Photoshop, could really come in handy, but you’re almost certainly going to need an external hard drive (Browse Amazon for external hard drives).
- Can handle two 4K monitor video output at 30FPS
- Includes Wi-FI and gigabit connection
- Affordable PC, great for keeping Windows
- Electricity cost is low
- Generate very little heat
- Powering off units can lead to data corruption, be sure to follow this tip and turn off “FAST REBOOT”
- 32GB drive can be limiting
- One user had issues with updating Windows 10
- Easier to overpower than Chromebox; OS takes up a lot of ram. User said max tabs is 8
- One user had audio issues
3. Acer Aspire
Warranty 1 Year Parts and Labor Limited Warranty with Toll Free Tech Support | Processor i5-7400, 4 cores at 3.0ghz | RAM 8GB DDR4 | Type Tower (Workstation) | Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 630 (Integrated) | Hard Drive 2TB HDD | OS Win 10 Home |
This is a super basic, but very solid tower that even allows for some upgrading. With an i5 processor, we have exited the realm of Micro PCs and entered the big leagues. 8GB of ram is nothing to snooze at. Since we started with Chrome tabs, let’s stick with it: that’s at least 20 Chrome tabs. Boasting a two TB HDD is also nice, data storage won’t be an issue. That said, despite the jump in performance and capability over the above minis, it’s not exactly a workhorse. Playing modern games or editing 1080P isn’t going to be very fun. Still, for editing photos or playing relatively graphically simple games, it’ll be fine.
- Praised as quiet and solid performer
- Decent working computer, great value
- One user installed a GT 740 (see on Amazon) and was able to use AutoCad and play World of Warcraft
- Many users like the value of the machine
- One user had an issue with customer service
- Updates are time-consuming
- Will struggle with video editing or modern games
4. HP 24-inch All-in-One
Processor AMD A8, four cores at 2.2ghz | RAM 8GB DDR3 | Type All-in-one (Workstation)) | Graphics Card Integrated Radeon R5 | Hard Drive 1TB HDD | OS Windows 10 Home |
Much like the Acer above, this HP is a solid workstation, but little else. With an AMD four core processor and 8GB of ram, it’ll be good for editing photos, documents, and doing other basic PC tasks. Video editing and modern games are going to be a struggle, however, as it has merely integrated graphics (slow) and the A8 isn’t exactly a beast. One nice perk, however, is that this puppy is all ready to go. No monitor needed, as is the nature of all-in-one computers. Another benefit: it has a touch screen. This can be fun for drawing and other graphical applications, though it lacks the precision or finesse of something like an iPad Pro. Still, for people who need a basic computer, a Netflix player, and a touch screen in one convenient package, this is a solid PC at a decent price.
- Includes DVD writer
- Monitor is touch enabled up to 10 points
- Praised as decent for browsing and office work with a bright screen
- Users call it a good value for what it is: DVD-burning, picture editing, text-editing, and web browsing
- One user said the stand is of poor quality
- On the slow side, processor isn’t very powerful
- Fan can be loud
5. Jeff’s Custom Gaming Computer
Processor AMD FX-8300, 8 cores at 3.3GHZ | RAM 16GB DDR3 | Type Tower (1080P Gaming and Editing) | Graphics Card GTX 1050Ti 4GB | Hard Drive 120 GB SSD (fits OS only), 1 TB HDD | OS Win 10 Pro |
I’ll admit it, this computer is where I start to get excited. With this tower, we are well into the territory of 50 Chrome tabs. Not only does this PC have more RAM than any other on our list, its 8 core processor is a monster for using your PC and having a lot of stuff going on. Its GTX 1050i is also a formidable graphics card, capable of playing modern games at decent specs. Editing video and large photo editing projects are also within this computer’s abilities. It’s a great compromise between value, practicality, and performance.
- Built-in WiFi and DVD-RW drive
- 7x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0
- Praised as excellent gaming computer
- Reliable and runs “like a dream”
- Solid workstation with 8 cores
- One user had a bad machine, but he was fully refunded and personally apologized to by Jeff (maker of the machine, not Bezos)
- Older processor and graphics card, not for top of the line gaming and may struggle with some games and/or applications
6. Cyberpower PC Gamer Master
Warranty 1 year parts & Labor, free lifetime tech support | Processor AMD Ryzen 7 1700 8-cores at 3.0ghz | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Type Tower (Gaming, Editing) | Graphics Card RX 580 4GB | Hard Drive 2TB 7200rpm | OS Win 10 Home |
This CyberPower PC packs a ton of power for users of all kinds. It starts with an amazing processor, the new Ryzen 7 has 8-cores at 3.0ghz. While it lags slightly behind some i7 processors for single-core performance, having eight against four is an easy win. This processor is great for having tons of stuff going on your computer, no problem. It’s super for processing video, audio, and anything that’s processor intensive and can utilize its massive number of cores. With 16GB of ram and a two terabyte hard drive, it has plenty of data. The biggest weakness of this PC is this very drive; shame they couldn’t work an SSD in there. That said, there’s one final big perk: a really nice graphics card. Compared to the PC above, the RX 580 blows the GTX 1050Ti out of the water, but don’t take my word for it, check out UserBenchmark for details.
Price: $999.99 (12 percent off MSRP)
- Includes DVD reader and gaming mouse
- Includes gaming keyboard and fancy LED lights
- Many USB ports: 2 USB 3.1, 4 USB 3.0, 4 USB 2.0
- Ethernet port
- Praised as great for streaming and gaming
- Ryzen processor has 8 cores meaning this computer is an excellent work station
- Needs a Wi-Fi adapter to connect to wireless internet
- AMD cards don’t work as well with Adobe programs which perform best with Nvidia
7. CyberPowerPC Gamer Extreme (Editor’s Choice)
Warranty 1 year parts & Labor, free lifetime tech support | Processor i7 7700 Kaby Lake, 4 cores at 3.6ghz | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Type Tower (Gaming, Editing) | Graphics Card GTX 1060 6GB | Hard Drive 120GB SSD (fits OS only) & 1TB HDD | OS Windows 10 Home |
Now we are starting to really hit beast mode. The i7 7700K is a great processor; it’s much better than the Ryzen 1700 for single core tasks like gaming. That said, it is slightly slower for multitasking and video processing. Still, it’s nothing to be scoffed at, this is just a slight difference. The Ryzen 1700 is a superior workstation processor, but the i7 7700K is a better all-arounder; most tasks, after all, involve a single processor.
Beyond this, this PC has a few advantages to the CyberPowerPC above it: namely an SSD. The SSD is only big enough to fit Windows, but this is still a nice performance gain for day-to-day use.
The GTX 1060 is also an overall better pick than the RX580 according to User Benchmark, but not by much.
This PC is the editor’s pick because it’s got it all. Having the OS on an SSD leads to noticeable performance gains, the GTX 1060 is a great card, and while the Ryzen on the PC above is a great workstation processor (leading to faster render times for video editing), I’d rather have a better processor for gaming. When I render videos, I usually just take a break and eat a snack, but that’s my preference.
Price: $1075 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Hard drive on SSD for responsive OS
- Users love it for its great specs and fast performance
- Great value for solid specs
- GTX 1060 is a solid card for most games, but not necessarily for the most graphically intense games at the most intense settings
- Short boot times
- One user had an issue with the front USB ports
- No DVD reader
- One user had an issue with the lack of a VGA connection
8. 21.5″ Retina iMac
Warranty 1 year defects and workmanship (details on mnfg website https://www.apple.com/legal/warranty/products/embedded-mac-warranty-us.html) | Processor i5, 4 cores at 3.0ghz | RAM 8GB DDR4 | Type All-in-one (Editing, Gaming, Workstation) | Graphics Card Radeon Pro 555 2GB | Hard Drive 1TB HDD | OS Mac OSX |
Macs are strange beasts. For awhile, they were super trendy and cool, but now having a PC is almost more interesting. PCs have more personality. Still, there’s a reason Apple grew from a niche computer-maker to a global giant: Macs don’t break. These machines last longer and they perform great, even when their specs aren’t quite up to snuff. This iMac, however, boasts the highest resolution screen of the three all-in-ones on this list, a solid processor, and an acceptable graphics card. It’s not the best gaming or video editing machine, but if you want a Mac, this is a great one to buy. It should be solid for editing 1080P video, though iMacs do get hot when exporting huge clips or large projects and this slows down their performance. Still, for most users, where 10 minute videos will be the max, this isn’t going to be a substantial issue. Only back off the iMac if you need a truly powerful PC; the solidity, durability and longevity of a Mac are excellent. Not only that, they hold their value better so reselling means actually recouping some of the cost.
Needless to say, OSX is much better than Windows in terms of stability. In my experience, it’s also perhaps 10% faster and easier to use for virtually any task. Some users find it jarring to switch, but this is a slight adjustment, perhaps a day or two of Googling and learning some of Mac OSX’s traits.
- High quality 4K monitor included, price is usually around $300
- Stunning appearance, display, and decent specs
- Mac OSX considered by most to be the most reliable, stable, and user-friendly operating system
- Great for editing 1080P, will struggle with 4K
- Rock solid hardware reliability. Macs last longer than PCs
- No CD player
- Overpriced for the specs of the graphics card, and RAM
9. Skytech Omega
Warranty 1 year parts & Labor, free lifetime tech support | Processor i7 7700k Kaby Lake 4 Cores at 4.2 ghz | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Type Tower (Gaming, editing) | Graphics Card GTX 1080 8GB | Hard Drive 240GB SSD & 2TB 7200rpm | OS Windows 10 Pro |
If you can afford it, this is a serious PC. Boasting the same processor as the PC above, the top of the 4 four core i7 series, the 7700K, an awesome graphics card which is essentially top of the line for consumers (There’s also the GTX 1080Ti, which is technically a bit better (see on Amazon), a fast SSD with some wiggle room for your data (about 100GB) and a two terabyte data drive, this is the best gaming PC on our list and there’s no game it won’t be able to play at high settings. For gamers and editors of big videos, this is the way to go.
What else can you need? Seriously, nothing. Well, I can think of one thing, a monitor, and it’s what makes the last PC on our list so special.
- Includes wi-fi adapter
- Ports include: 4 USB 3.1, 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0
- Top of the line mid-range processor is a beast for gaming and more than solid as a workstation
- GTX-1080 is the top of the line consumer graphics card; there’s no game it can’t play
- Beast for gaming, editing, and any high end PC use
- Includes keyboard and mouse
- One user had an issue with the quality of the lighting, claiming they were not like the manufacturer pictures
- One user had an issue with the wi-fi adapter, claiming the quality was poor
- Overkill for anyone not editing videos or playing newer games
- Included keyboard and mouse are not for gaming (they’re compatible but not specialized unlike some other models. Gaming keyboards are mechanical and mouses often have extra buttons or increased sensitivity)
10. HP Envy Curved
Processor i7-7700T, 4 cores at 2.9ghz | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Type All-in-one (Editing, Gaming, Workstation) | Graphics Card RX 460 4GB | Hard Drive 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD | OS Win 10 Home | i7-7700T is not a bad processor, only 20% slower than the top of the mid-range intel processors, the i7700K. http://hwbench.com/cpus/intel-core-i7-7700k-vs-intel-core-i7-7700t
It’s not the most powerful PC on our list, but it is definitely the only one that will have your friends saying, “Whoa. What’s that?” Boasting a stunning curved screen with 3440 x 1440 resolution, I’ll bet your next question is: is it 4K? It’s actually not; 4K is 3840 x 2160, about three million pixels more, but sometime more is less. Curved screens are all the rage in gaming because let’s face it: our eyes are horizontal; 21:9 is a very cool ratio that helps immerse one’s self in the gaming experience (most monitors are the far less wide 16:9). Since the screen alone retails for around $750 (see on Amazon), this PC is essentially $1080, which isn’t an amazing deal, but you’re essentially paying for the convenience and pretty form factor. If that sounds like a rip-off, I’d recommend going with number six or seven on our list and buying the display separately (see more curved displays on Amazon).
That said, for most, having everything come in one, super easy-to-setup package is well worth the reduction in performance, especially if you’re a non-gamer who will hardly notice the difference. The choice is yours, if you make it, the HP Envy will certainly make some people feel its name.
Price: $1829 (9 percent off MSRP)
- Unique look; solid value, monitor alone retails for $749.99 http://amzn.to/2ufDAj5
- Monitor has ~5 million pixels, 1080P has ~2 million; 4K is 8 million pixels
- Built-in webcam, wi-fi, card reader, and high quality audio
- Some users strongly prefer curved displays (with less resolution) to 4K monitors
- Includes premium quality mouse and keyboard
- NVMe for fast boot times
- RX 460 is a bit weak for modern games and 4K video editing
- Newer model has identical specs, but has a touch screen for $1999 (See on Amazon)
Still looking for the right desktop pc? Browse more top-rated desktop PCs on Amazon.