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The best cheap computers available right now

Need to buy a computer on a shoestring budget? You’re in luck. The best cheap computers can give you decent performance and a whole load of features, all for under $100. From kits that give you everything you need for a mini desktop PC to budget second-hand laptops and stick PCs, here’s a list of the cheapest computers you can buy.

Raspberry Pi 4 CanaKit ($99)

CanKit

Go to any random computer forum online and start asking about the cheapest computer ever — the chances are excellent that one of the top answers you get will be the Raspberry Pi, which was designed as a fun little project by the appropriately named Raspberry Pi Foundation. This small motherboard is, well, just that. Amazingly, there’s room for a GPU, 4GB of RAM, USB ports, and more on this guy. You can hook it up to pretty much any TV or monitor that you want, and use it with a typical keyboard and mouse, too. What’s not to love?

This Rasbperry Pi starter kit is the fourth version with faster components than ever and comes as part of the CanaKit starter set, with a fan, microSD card for expanded storage, HDMI cable, and quick start guide. It gives you everything you need to get started with a fun, surprisingly capable computing project. It’s good for running Windows or any other mainstream OS you like or as part of home project for robotics, games, mental and emotional health programs, coding, data visualizations, and much more.

Lenovo ThinkPad T61 ($100)

We don’t want to dig too far into the refurbished/used market. There are a lot of deals you can find here, especially for older computers. Sometimes they are good deals, and sometimes you end up with an incompatible brick. But the ThinkPad T61 represents the better side of this market. For around $100, you can get a good refurbished version with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, 160 GBs of hard drive space, a 2.2GHz processor, and Windows XP with only 3.6 hours of battery life. Still, as deals go, this is the sort of thing to look for.

You might be thinking, “what would I possibly want with a PC that’s over a decade old?” While there is something to be said for that logic, the robust design featuring a built-in roll cage helps keep your data safe if you travel a lot for work. Compared to other PCs and ThinkPads from the previous generation, the ThinkPad’s CPU held its own regarding benchmarks, making it excellent value for money.

Visual Land Prestige Elite 10.1-inch Tablet ($90)

Yes, a product with both “prestige” and “elite” in the name is trying too hard. And while you won’t get any high-end ultrabook functionality out of this little computer, you will get plenty of basics. There’s a 1.6GHz processor, 1GB of DDR RAM, and 8GB of storage (microSD available for upgrading), with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and Android 4.4 as your OS. You also get a webcam, front and back, with a microphone. It’s an excellent portable option if you are looking for the cheapest computers available, and the keyboard is included.

The PC also comes with various useful apps installed, including Adobe Acrobat Reader, Google, Google Maps, Google Play, and Chrome. In recent times, these inexpensive devices have been popular with college students and parents of children who are distance learning, making them ideal for a family who needs a cheap, reliable laptop.

APC 8750 ($50)

This little motherboard CPU combo device is even more bare-bones than other entries, but it still gets the job done. With a New-ITX form factor, the 8750 manages to include everything you need for a functioning computer, including 512MB of RAM, 2GB of flash storage, and inputs for HDMI, VGA, MicroSD, and two USB slots, as well as an Ethernet slot. The computer uses Android 2.3 for an OS.

There is even Audio output and Mic input for incorporating external devices like speakers and a microphone. For power, the APC 8750 has a DC socket for a 9 V / 1.5 A, 13.5 W mains power adapter. Feel free to play around with the chip — the price certainly encourages more casual use — but be careful with what is essentially an open circuit board.

Intel Neural Compute Stick 2($69)

Image of Intel Neural Compute Stick 2
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

Seeking a bare-bones computer that you can carry in your pocket and plug into a USB 3.0 Type-A? If so, the Intel Neural Compute Stick 2 provides an Intel Movidius Myriad X Vision Processing Unit (VPU) that supports frameworks including Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX), Caffe, Apache, MXNet, and more. Software options include both the open-source version of the OpenVINO™ toolkit and Intel’s distribution, as well as CentOS* 7.4 (64 bit), Windows 10 (64 bit), Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS (64 bit), Raspbian (target only), and open-source via the toolkit.

If you’re interested in developing using sample applications or common frameworks, you can make it happen. There’s even a built-in infrared projector to enhance data depth and a dedicated color image signal processor for scaling color data and making image adjustments. Imagine having all the power of a PC in something the size of a standard USB drive — almost enough to make you think we’re living in the future.

Intel Atom Mini PC Stick

Image of Intel Atom Mini PC Stick
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

Have you ever dreamed of a computer that fits in the palm of your hand and provides all the attendant conveniences? We’re not talking about a smartphone or tablet, but rather the Intel Atom Mini PC Stick — a slim little number with 2GB DDR and 32 GB of storage (up to 128GB with the addition of a Micro SD card). It even supports 4K graphics, and features a Quad-Core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 Processor, and 2.4/5Chz Wi-Fi for your mobile computing needs.

One great feature is that you can set up the Intel Atom Mini PC Stick to turn on automatically when plugged into a keyboard or monitor. All you have to do is load the BIOS for the Atom on startup by pressing the “Esc” key, then selecting Boot, then Enable Automatic Power On to enjoy instant access to your mini PC stick.

Visual Land Prestige Elite 10.1″ IPS [2 in 1]

Image of Visual Land Prestige Elite 10.1
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

If we told you that you could own a 2-in-1 tablet computer with a ten-inch screen, Android 7.0 Nougat OS, Vulkan API, and a keyboard case/stand to keep everything for under $100, you might wonder if we’re on the level. If it also came with a one-year limited warranty and customer support included for no additional cost, it would really sound too good to be true. Fortunately, the Visual Land Prestige Elite 10.1″ IPS [2 in 1] is very real and costs between $79 and $99 on average.

This computer also comes with front and rear-facing Bluetooth cameras (front camera 2MP), 1200 x 800 resolution, 16GB of flash storage with the capacity for 64 GB of additional SDHCstorage, and built-in Wi-Fi 802.11. For a computer that’s essentially a miniature laptop for a tenth of the cost of a new Dell, it’s hard to beat in terms of value for money.

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