5 Best Desktops for University Students – Price & Guide

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What are the best desktops for university students? Finishing up school and starting at a University is a big step.

The right choice of the subject that one wants to pursue and the University to graduate from can make lots of difference for anyone’s career.

A few years of determination in a good institution can get you to a lot of good places in the future.

So if you have confusions regarding which desktops you’d need for your term, then rest assured as you’ll be free from them soon enough.

We have made this presentation exclusively for University students like you, which contains a few of the best desktops suitable for your cause.

Now you might think that a laptop would be a better option for the added portability. For that, you might take a look at some of the other articles we have posted.

These have been handpicked by our experts and are currently the top prebuilt options that you may buy. So without wasting time, let’s show you the desktops we have collected.

Desktops for University Students – Price

Minimum & Recommended Configurations for University Students

The needs of a University student can be anything from running the simplest applications like MS Office, Zoom to heavier ones.

Things like editing documents or attending video lectures are never as intensive as running software like AutoCAD or DaVinci Resolve.

So in 2021, the least that we would recommend is a dual-core Intel or AMD CPU with integrated graphics and 4+ GB of RAM. An SSD is the better choice, but with a limited budget, a hard drive is still good.

To be on the safe side, take a look at the following system specs that we think would be the best for you. Both usual and heavier usage have been considered here.

Minimum System Requirements: AMD Ryzen 3 4300U or better CPU │ AMD Integrated Radeon Graphics or better iGPU │ 8 GB or more RAM │ 256 GB or bigger SSD

Recommended System Requirements: Ryzen 5 3500 or better CPU │ GTX 1650 Super or better dedicated GPU │ 16 GB RAM │ 512 GB SSD and additional secondary storage or 1 TB SSD

5 Best Desktops for University Students:

1. iBUYPOWER Element 9320 Gaming PC – Best Overall

iBUYPOWER Element 9320

Bottom Line: Good processing, decent GPU, ample storage, the iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Element 9320 has it all for any University student. It also has the potential of performing better, should you upgrade the hardware.

Key Features:

Pros

  • Decent specs
  • Impressive mid-range performance
  • Can be upgraded

Cons

  • Not the best in terms of connectivity
  • Cannot be overclocked
  • Better cooling fans could have been provided

The first suggestion we have is the iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Element 9320, positioned at a good spot among mid-range gaming desktops.

This is the newer variant, although an older one is still available with a 9th gen Core i7 CPU.

This variant is configured with a Core i7-10700F CPU that comes with 8 cores and 16 threads.

The base clock rate is at 2.9 GHz, but it can be boosted to 4.8 GHz, giving you enough power for the tasks that depend on the frequency of the processor.

Next is a GTX 1660 Ti GPU with 6 GB of GDDR6 VRAM, and based on the Turing architecture, you are sure to get more than satisfying frame rates in most games you play on the PC at 1080p and 1440p.

You can also use this for streaming, or editing videos at the same resolution, making it a highly useful desktop.

Complementing the other specs is 16 GB of RAM and both an SSD and a hard drive for storage, so the memory and storage aspects are decent as well.

Though it doesn’t have many weaknesses, connectivity is one of the areas in which we weren’t impressed. A USB Type-C port would have been a nice addition to the overall spec sheet.

Given its price tag, this is surely a great choice for any University freshman. Check out iBuypower Element MR 9320 Review.

2. Dell XPS 8940 Desktop – Runner up

Dell XPS 8940

Bottom Line: The XPS 8940 is just shy of the 1st position, but the differences are very thin. No matter what curriculum you might be pursuing at your University, the desktop provides all the necessary computing support.

Key Features:

  • Processor:10th Gen i7-10700
  • Graphics:GeForce GTX 1660 Super
  • OS: Windows 10
  • RAM: 32 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD

Pros

  • Good features overall
  • Quite upgradable
  • Compact Size

Cons

  • Higher variants can get pricey
  • Non-standard PSU
  • Doesn’t look that attractive

Next is a very reliable desktop, and since as a University student hardware reliability matters a lot, this desktop is a good option for you.

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It may not have an RGB bling like other gaming PCs, but its performance is up to the mark.

However, the absence of RGB lights can just be to your advantage if you want to draw the least attention to your rig, while it keeps doing all the work fluently. This is possible through the 10th gen Core i7 CPU in it, and a GTX 1660 GPU.

Also present in it is 32 GB of RAM, and given the sizeable SSD present in this variant, you’d never feel low on space either.

Now, these are all mid-range specs, but you are free to upgrade the PC if you want to.

The tower size is small, and even then you are allowed to make some changes here and there, except the CPU.

The swing design of the power supply unit that Dell has introduced in some of its prebuilt desktops seems to be quite effective.

While this isn’t entirely a dedicated gaming PC, you can still play most of your favorite AAA titles, albeit on adjusted settings.

However, for other forms of productivity tasks that a student like you may have, it offers plenty. Check out Dell XPS 8940 Desktop Review.

3. Apple iMac 4K – Smooth AIO Experience

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Apple iMac

Bottom Line: This 4K iMac can be an excellent choice for any University student who wants to waste no time compromising to poor optimization. Overall, this is a great machine to pump up your productivity.

Key Features:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 AMD
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 560X
  • OS: Mac OS
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256 GB

Pros

  • Good performance
  • Smooth and efficient OS
  • Decent Connectivity

Cons

  • Slightly expensive
  • Limited Upgradability
  • Still a 720p webcam

Next on the list is the Apple iMac, an iconic 21.5-inch AIO that has an excellent 4K resolution display, much delightful for a University student like you.

This is the Hexa-cored Intel Core i5 variant of the iMac that comes with 256 GB of SSD storage and 8 GB of RAM.

There is a Core i3 version that you may opt for, which you’d get at a slightly lower price, but the performance is to take a hit as well.

This version comes with a Radeon Pro 560X GPU, so the desktop can handle light to moderate graphical workload easily. With the right software installed, it is no less useful than a Windows PC.

Like most cases, Apple has provided good connectivity on this too. For example, other than four USB Type-A ports, you also get two Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) ports.

These can be used both for file transfers, as well as adding displays.

Upgradability is one of those things in which the iMac is not very proficient, and hence it becomes one of its drawbacks.

You can always use external storage or buy some other variant that has more storage by default, but that would add more costs.

There is one other aspect that it lags in, and that is about gaming performance.

Also, its price is on the higher side, which can be a bit of a problem. Check out Apple iMac Review.

4. Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3 – Value For Money

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3

Bottom Line: The IdeaCentre AIO 3 is not as portable as a laptop, but it sure is almost as sleek as one. With its price being in the affordable margins, you can now focus on other things that would be needed for your span at a University.

Key Features:

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 4300U
  • Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics
  • OS: Windows 10
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB

Pros

  • Attractive features
  • Affordable pricing
  • Decent performance

Cons

  • Almost no upgradability
  • Limited internal storage in this variant
  • No USB Type-C port

We cannot emphasize enough why an AIO desktop can be useful for the type of usage any University student has, and hence this is another alternative to the one above.

The iMac is probably the best choice for anyone who can afford it, but those of you with lower budgets would find the IdeaCentre AIO 3 is worth it.

This is an entry-level variant, featuring a 4th gen AMD Ryzen 3 mobile processor with integrated graphics. 256 GB of SSD storage and 8 GB of DDR4 memory present in two RAM modules accompanies it.

This AIO from Lenovo has a wide enough FHD 24” display and the bezels on either side of it are barely visible.

Now, this is a desktop that you may use for studying, basic productivity, multi-tasking and even playing some lightweight games. The storage is on the smaller side, so you might have to use an external drive.

Upgradability is one of the things that this Lenovo desktop lacks, like most other All-in-Ones out there.

So you’re stuck with the same configuration throughout, which is slightly disappointing.

But if you ignore the upgradability part, you’d be getting a decent performer at an affordable price.

Other than performance for the tasks that you do, it also offers other useful features like a private webcam, inbuilt speakers, and good cable management too.

There is also an HDMI output port, which you can use to hook up another display. Check out Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3 Review.

5. HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop – Great Connectivity in a Compact Frame

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

Bottom Line: If compact desktops are your thing, then you must consider the Pavilion Gaming Desktop. Coming from a brand like HP, it is sure to be reliable and industrious towards the tasks that a University goer like you may have.

Key Features:

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3500
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Super
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD

Pros

  • Compact Size
  • Decent specs
  • Good connectivity features

Cons

  • The processor doesn’t have hyper-threading
  • Only two RAM slots
  • Major Graphics upgrades need better PSU

And finally, here is a prebuilt gaming rig from HP, the Pavilion gaming desktop. This is one of the newer variants, and although the case has a similarity to the previous models, there are a few changes as well.

These are not just exterior ones, but also in terms of both hardware and software.

The configuration of the desktop includes a Ryzen 5 3500 processor, a GTX 1650 Super GPU, 256 GB of SSD storage, and 8 GB of RAM.

The CPU has got 6 working cores, and a clock rate ranging from 3.6-4.1 GHz. There are only 6 threads though, and thus multi-threaded performance is not the best on this.

The GPU that has been used is a capable one, and you can surely game at 1080p with it, without any frame drops.

You may upgrade to a better one, but that would be possible only when the PSU (Power Supply Unit) already present is replaced by one with more wattage.

You’d be getting the standard upgradeability on this, like a 2.5-inch bay for a SATA SSD or a hard drive.

You can also replace the default SSD with a bigger one, without much trouble.

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The RAM can be upgraded to 32 GB as well, and thus with a few changes, the PC can run even better.

At a price of just below $800, this is an excellent choice that any University student may opt for. There are only a few things that the desktop misses, but depending on usage, you may not notice them at all.

Buyer’s Guide for Best Desktops for University Students

It takes a lot of hard work to get admitted to one’s favorite institution, and even more so to score good grades in it.

To make sure you can maintain your focus consistently, a good computer is vital.

Life in a University is not just about academics, there are other aspects too that have to be taken care of, your hobbies for example.

These can be anything from making and editing videos, live streaming, and such.

Therefore, you need a desktop that can handle both projects and assignments, as well as other things you do in leisure, say gaming. The former is relatively easier to handle for any desktop, but the other not so much.

A dedicated configuration would be also necessary when you study things like music, videography, and such, which cannot be handled by an average desktop.

While you won’t need any extreme kind of specs, some room for expansions would be preferred.

We have talked about things like this in this guide, and the hardware requirements especially, that every desktop used by a College or University goer must-have.

Budget

Among other things, the most important feature of any desktop that you choose for use while you’re still in a University is that it has to be affordable.

There are many other expenses that you’d have to bear, and additional expenses regarding the desktop shouldn’t be one of those.

There are desktops available at different prices, and it depends on what configuration you prefer.

In any case, you’d be able to get a Windows-based PC or a Chromebox at a much lesser price than an Apple product.

So, having a budget of about $700 should be great, and some more if you prefer an iMac or a Mac Mini.

There are great options at this price, and you’d be able to get a balanced desktop. If you can build one yourself, then it would surely provide a better value, but this requires additional efforts too.

Now if you are a gamer or a content creator of some sort, then a gaming PC with mid-range features would be preferable. A budget of $1000-$1500 is great and presently, you won’t be short of options.

You can invest in an even better desktop with better specs too, given that you’d need an RTX GPU even after University.

What Sorts of Uses Do You Have?

The kind of usage you have would largely determine the options available since a desktop purely intended for coding, completing basic projects and assignments may not be able to handle graphics-intensive tasks.

This is the same when you game or stream in your free time, which requires a decent GPU, CPU, and better specs in general.

Also, make sure to look out for upgradability if you need to keep using the desktop for a longer time, and not just for the University.

As a University scholar, you can save some bucks by picking the features that you need most and avoiding those that you don’t.

Sorting one’s priorities beforehand can make decisions easier, and is better for your pocket too.

Form Factor

Next is the form factor of the desktop, which may not have a direct relation to your performance requirements, but still has a role to play.

For example, you may prefer a tower when ample space is available and you need expansions in the future.

If you choose an AIO, then you get a decent performance while saving space and wouldn’t have to worry about cable management too much.

But these are limited on upgrades, and even though compact, are not the most portable.

Mini PCs or Stick PCs are by far the most suitable choices if saving space is your utmost concern, but are not ideal for long-term usage due to the absence of suitable upgrades.

If you have short-term uses, well nothing could be better than a computer that you may also move around with.

An SFF or compact desktop would ensure you do not have to worry about a shortage of space in your apartment or dormitory.

Also, other desktops used by your fellow mates and colleagues can be placed.

Moreover, certain SFF desktops still allow upgrades and even the addition of an entry-level GPU, all the more reason why you should be buying one.

OS

Before you turn towards hardware, there is one other thing that needs your attention. That being the Operating system, it imposes certain limitations over hardware, and hence performance as well.

We haven’t suggested a Chromebox on the list because the Google Chrome OS, though plenty useful, doesn’t have as many mainstream uses as the other two operating systems.

The features it provides make it a great secondary desktop, at least in this case. If you need access to Google’s online tools and other web-based applications, better get a Chromebook instead of a Chromebox.

Next is the Mac OS, which could be a very useful tool if you have a lot of graphics and processing to do. It has a variety of uses, and though we cannot mention all of them here, know that gaming is not one of these.

Also, the prices of iMacs are upwards of $1000, so that becomes an issue as well.

Mac Minis can be considered too, but you’d have to buy a monitor additionally, and yet upgrades and expansions are not that good.

As for Windows, these are excellent choices for a University student, but certain optimizations in it are not as good as the Mac OS.

But you’d get one of these even with a limited budget, so this makes Windows a good choice for most.

Processor

Like always, the processor is the one component that matters most when looking for a desktop.

If you are looking for a desktop for intensive usage, or are planning to build one for the same, then there’s good news for you.

The Ryzen 5000 series CPUs are here, and the performance improvement they bring over the competition and older generations makes them worth the wait.

Your budget would play a key role here since every budget segment has certain options.

Both Intel and AMD processors can be considered when choosing a PC, but AMD can be a bit budget-friendly.

For the average University student, any modern quad-core processor is a decent choice, irrespective of the brand. If you need to push the performance limit upwards, then you’d need a 6 core or an even more capable 8 core CPU.

These are for performance cravers, gamers or live streamers, and anyone else of the kind.

So any Core i5 or Ryzen 5 is good, while Core i3 and the Ryzen equivalents are better choices when one is low on budget.

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The costlier options, in this case, are Core i7 and Ryzen 7 alternatives, dedicated to providing better performance.

Graphics

Regarding graphics, the first choice to be made is whether you’d be satisfied with the integrated GPU present already, or a discrete video card would be necessary.

The graphics that most processors have by default are usually the best options when you have lighter graphics needs.

So, this can handle anything from web browsing, document editing, and even a little bit of photo editing.

Now a discrete GPU is for intensive graphics-related usage and with a good video card installed, your PC can be used for video editing, gaming, and other such things.

But this is an additional cost, and as you opt for more VRAM, it usually increases.

So when you need better graphics than what the integrated GPU can provide, those GPUs with 1 or 2 GB of VRAM are best.

These are not very pricey, and yet adding one can bring about a considerable difference.

For those of the University goers looking for more graphics performance, any mid-range option with 4-6 GB of VRAM can be chosen.

Like the NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1650 Ti, etc, and AMD’s options include the Radeon RX 570 (4 GB), or the RX 5500 XT.

You might even opt for a budget RTX card, such as the RTX 2060 Super or RTX 3060 Ti.

There are better video cards, but these can be quite costly, and unless dedicated to run graphics-intensive tasks, you wouldn’t need them.

RAM

As for RAM, it largely depends on the kind of applications you want to run. Some need only 4 GB of RAM, while there are those with PCs having 32 GB or more.

It usually depends on the department you’re in, for example, if you are an Architectural College trainee, then you’d need more RAM than someone in the History department.

The amount of RAM needed also depends on whether you multitask a lot, and use much software together.

Too many things running at the same time and not enough free RAM would inevitably lead to a system crash.

For moderate needs, you can make do with 8-12 GB of memory. More would be necessary if you run video games or any such software that has a requirement of its own.

The number of RAM modules can make a slight difference, but not always. However, you can use more than a single module not just for performance, rather for better reliability too.

If for some reason one of these stops working, the other would keep your PC running.

The same is true for the frequency of the modules being used, which also matters for specific tasks and software. Those of you with gaming or editing setups might need to pay more focus on it though.

Storage

While most of the performance on your desktop is to be handled by more prominent hardware, the storage still has something to do with it.

For example, if you don’t know it already, having an SSD in your PC, even though small in size, can boost system responses.

The SSD can be of the SATA interface, and still, there are many benefits. With the necessary files stored in it, you may expect reduced opening and closing time of the programs you run, as well as the desktop itself.

Now to save money, get a smooth enough system, as well as enough space at the same time, you may combine an SSD and a hard drive.

As a University student, external drives and Cloud storage are equally important, so make sure you have those available along with the regular storage on your PC.

Connectivity

The right connectivity on your PC is also another important aspect of it, so it must have all the right ports necessary for your use.

This refers to the free USB ports, USB Type-C ports, and those for headphones and speakers.

Internet connectivity is extremely vital to make sure you are up to date with the lessons being taught online, and it’s nothing wrong to check up on your social media once in a while or play multi-player games.

Hence, an Ethernet port is useful for University Seniors and freshers alike.

Wireless connectivity is equally important, and so to avoid trouble later on, it would be better to choose a desktop that has WIFI and Bluetooth adapters in it already.

Now they may not be the latest versions, but as long as these aren’t outdated either, they are worth it.

Upgradability

The provision of making upgrades is one of the reasons why you may have chosen a desktop over a laptop, so it would hardly be right if your PC doesn’t allow you to.

Every University student might be needing various kinds of upgrades on their desktops like RAM, storage, GPU, and even CPU, over the years.

While the others are usually possible anyway, free PCIe slots would be necessary when adding or replacing a GPU or NvME SSDs, so make sure your PC has these.

Not everyone needs a high-end GPU upgrade, but graphics is one of the things that could be of benefit unless you have very light needs.

Your desktop, whatever be its specs, must at least let you add an entry-level GPU, and whether or not you make that upgrade is at your discretion.

That is not usually possible with Mini PCs and AIOs, so these have to be used with the same integrated graphics throughout.

Not only graphics, but these kinds of devices also limit other forms of upgrades, and make sure you know this before buying one.

Accessories

The choice of accessories is somewhat personal, and the basic suggestion here would be to choose branded ones, even though they could be slightly costly.

It is entirely up to you if you like RGB peripherals or a Wide-angle monitor, but choosing reliable products is better in the long run for everyone.

AIO desktops come with the monitor and some of the accessories attached with them already, one of the added advantages of buying one.

It may not have a high refresh rate or a 4K resolution, but yet can be used for basic computing purposes.

With enough budget, you may even have a dual-monitor setup which can be a very useful way to increase your productivity.

But that kind of space is not always available for a University goer when sharing a room with others, so it depends on the surrounding factors.

For leisure usage as well as studies, make sure you have speakers and a webcam ready.

FAQs:

What is the best desktop for University Students?

The best desktop for any University student would depend on what his curriculum is about, but it should be budget-friendly and efficient.

We have some options that you can check out:

iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Element 9320
Apple iMac 4K
HP Pavilion Gaming desktop
Dell XPS 8940 SE Desktop
Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3

Should I get a Mac or PC for University?

Both a Mac or a PC can be very useful for your use at a University. However, if you need a Mac at all, choosing a Macbook makes more sense as it can also be carried around. A Windows PC on the other hand is an overall better investment even if you buy a desktop.

What should I look for when buying a new desktop for University?

Every university student, be it newly admitted or about to graduate, has to look out for some basic things on their desktop such as:

Affordable pricing
Provisions for upgrades
Low to mid-range graphics at least
Decent overall specs like CPU, RAM, and storage

Finishing up

Studying in a University often leads to certain adjustments, a less familiar city, new studies, newer people, and so on.

But regarding the performance of your desktop, you shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than what you need.

Make sure you explore multiple options and hopefully our suggestions would come in handy.