Budget desktops might not be all that exciting, but the Gateway SX2870-UR10P slim tower shows you can still find a worthwhile day-to-day PC for under $500.
Samsung Chromebox Series 3
The attractive, fairly priced Samsung Chromebox desktop turns Google's Web-based Chrome OS into a not entirely unreasonable option for certain low-cost PC shoppers.
HP Omni 220-1125
HP's nontouch Omni 220-1080qd all-in-one boasts a strong, performance-oriented configuration that will satisfy anyone looking for a mainstream desktop.
Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002
Not everyone wants a living-room computer, but the Acer Revo 100 is one of the better low-cost HTPCs we've seen thanks to a wisely chosen feature set, its attractive design, and a mostly well-conceived input device.
Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P
The Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P is a poorly configured, overpriced budget desktop with little to recommend it. Look instead to Acer's Gateway subsidiary for better slim-tower options.
Apple Mac Mini ( 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 160GB, Fall 2009)
The lower-cost Mac Mini offers respectable budget performance and Apple's usual compelling design, but a puny hard drive and a lack of HDMI hurt this system's value and overall potential. It's actually more versatile next to its budget-priced Windows competition than the higher-end Mac Mini, but this entry-level Mac is still best left to Apple loyalists.
HP TouchSmart 300-1020
With a small screen for its price, we can't justify the TouchSmart 300 as a home entertainment all-in-one PC. It's also slower than more affordable midtowers, so you can spend less for more productivity. This leaves HP's touch-based software as the TouchSmart 300's primary selling point. We'd recommend this PC in the kitchen, but it's less appealing elsewhere.
We're fond of the Gateway DX4300-11's clever design, but halfhearted performance scores mar its overall worth. The TV tuner and 1TB hard drive may tempt you to stick it in your living room as a media center PC, but your money is better spent on the Asus Essentio CG5270-BP004.
As shown: $679.99
Check manufacturer's site for availability
HP Pavilion P6110y
HP's Pavilion p6110y isn't necessarily an offensive system, and its case might even entice you to give it a second look. We just wish HP had taken a more substantive approach to help this desktop stand out. Its FireWire port might sway you, but otherwise you can find more interesting features from other PCs on the shelf.
Apple Mac Pro ( Intel Xeon Quad-Core 2.66GHz, Winter 2009)
Apple's new eight-core Mac Pro demonstrates marked improvements over the older model in high-intensity digital media and multitasking scenarios. We also love the design tweaks that improve on Apple's already industry-leading sensibilities. Any Apple-bound design professional would welcome this new tool in his or her arsenal.