Distance learning and work from home have made it impossible to find laptops at affordable prices. But do not worry, you can still find a solid laptop option without saving money. These laptop options are perfect for remote work or online training, and unlike used laptops, they actually have the manufacturer̵7;s warranties.
None of these products replace your laptop 1: 1. You will lose something here, whether it is portability, screen size or ease of use. But you will not go over your budget, you will not miss any Zoom meetings and you can come out with a machine that is faster and more reliable than any laptop you have ever used.
More Bang for Your Buck: Don’t be afraid of desktops!
Shopping for a desktop computer is a bit daunting, especially if you’ve only ever owned a laptop. But do not worry, you will not end up with “wrong computer” or “a slow computer” or something like that. Desktops offer better performance than laptops at a much lower price, and they are easier to set up at a desk than you would expect.
Still, you can not just buy a desk tower and call it a day. You have to put together a lot of products, including a computer screen, a keyboard and a webcam. Here’s everything you need to enjoy your desktop experience (along with some money-saving tips):
- Specifications: Buy a computer with an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor and at least 8 GB of RAM. (An Intel Pentium processor is acceptable if you’re cash-strapped.) Internal storage is a personal preference, even if your computer feels a little nicer if it has an SSD – just make sure it has enough space to handle everything you requires. We recommend at least 256 GB for SSDs.
- Monitor: You can use any computer monitor or TV with a desktop PC. If you do not feel comfortable dropping $ 100 on a new computer monitor, go to your local Goodwill and buy one for $ 10 or $ 15. You can also find a used monitor for about $ 50 on eBay.
- Webcam: Need a webcam for Zoom or Google Meet? You can still find cheap webcams on Best Buy and Amazon. You can also use a digital camera, smartphone, tablet or anything else with a built-in camera instead of a webcam.
- Keyboard and mouse: Desktops usually come with a keyboard and mouse. If yours does not, you can buy a cheap pair on Amazon or splurge on a wireless keyboard and a mouse. You can also get into Goodwill for a cheap keyboard and a mouse.
You should not have much trouble finding a new Intel Core or AMD Ryzen computer with 8GB of RAM in the $ 300 to $ 400 price range. If you need something cheaper than that, you can always buy a computer with a slower Intel Pentium or Intel Celeron processor for about $ 200. You can also buy a used, refurbished or open box computer from Best Buy (Refurbished Dell Optiplex computers are a popular choice and have a 90-day warranty).
Some people may suggest buying an all-in-one computer instead of a standalone desktop tower. And while all-in-one computers include all the accessories you need to play Roblox or start a Zoom meeting, they can be a little too expensive. What they lack in bang-for-your-buck, they make up in simplicity because everything is included. It also makes them a decent choice if you do not have a lot of space – the most affordable all-in-one computers that fit our hardware proposals start at $ 650.
An affordable, modern desktop PC
Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 Desktop, 9th Generation Intel Core i3-9100, 8GB DDR4, 512GB SSD, 8X DVD, 802.11AC Wifi, USB 3.1 Type C, Windows 10 Home, Black
The Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 has an Intel Core processor, 8 GB RAM, a fast SSD and even a USB-C port! It’s a solid, modern desktop computer for under $ 500.
Use a Raspberry Pi 4 as a cheap desktop computer
If you are ambitious, technically savvy or outrageously frugal, you should try using a Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer. The new Raspberry Pi 4 starts at just $ 35 but has two Micro HDMI ports for dual 4K display settings, a gigabit Ethernet port for high-speed internet, four USB ports and a desktop CPU.
The Pi 4’s Broadcom BCM2711 SoC may not run Windows, but it’s perfect for Raspbian – a lightweight port in the popular Debian desktop environment. The average person should have no problem using a Raspberry Pi for everyday tasks, such as homework, Minecraft or Zoom calls, but you may need to look at some tutorial to get things set up. You will also need a computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and microSD card to use Pi 4. (Again, you can buy most of these things from Goodwill for cheap if you have a hard time finding any).
Pi 4 is available with 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB or 8 GB RAM. The more affordable variants of 2 and 4 GB are good for a regular desktop, while the 8 GB option may prove best for people who like to multitask, edit photos or open 100 browser tabs at a time. You can buy the Raspberry Pi as just the board, but we recommend that you go for a complete kit. It contains everything you need, including a case and SD card.
An economical computer
Try using a tablet or smartphone
We spend most of our computer time in the browser. So it’s no surprise that tablets, and especially newer iPads and Samsung Tab devices, provide decent portable stand-ins. Just launch the browser, connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and start working.
All iPad devices that have the latest version of iPadOS can be used for your laptop. I suggest you buy the new $ 330 iPad, although a cheap iPad Air 2 2014 could get the job done well. For Galaxy Tab devices, everything made after 2017, including the $ 280 Galaxy Tab A, should work well enough. That said, Android tablets lack iPad stability, app choice and battery life – just something to keep in mind!
You can also use a smartphone as a laptop stand-in, although you probably will not have much fun doing so. Most websites, including school pages such as Canvas and Blackboard, work well in a phone browser that is set to “desktop only”. Newer Samsung devices have the upper hand here, as you can connect your phone to a computer monitor to take advantage of desktop-like DeX mode (which is much more convenient than the phone’s small screen).
A reliable replacement for laptop
Use Chrome OS or Linux to revive an old computer
Do you have a dirty old computer floating around in the attic? Maybe it’s time to breathe life into that thing, at least until you can find a new laptop. Reinstalling Windows or releasing a hard drive is usually enough to get an old computer back in shape, although it can still feel a bit sluggish if the hardware is out of date. In that case, you may want to replace the old computer’s operating system with something light, such as a Chrome OS or a Linux distro.
If you are familiar with Chrome OS (or are trying to set up a computer for your child), you should try installing Chromium OS on your old computer through CloudReady. Chromium OS is the open source version of Google’s Chrome OS, and although it lacks the ability to run Android apps, it’s perfect for school or work.
A basic level Linux distro like Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora should also serve your needs, as long as you are willing to write things in the terminal from time to time. Don’t worry, you do not need to know how to “code” to use Linux, you may just need to look up tutorials on YouTube each time.
Keep in mind that these are free solutions to the “I can not find a laptop” problem. Using Linux may sound like a nightmare (do not turn it on until you try it), but it is better than going over budget on a laptop for distance learning.