Back To School Buying Guide 2022: Desktops

This discussion has a more recent version.
edited December 2023 in Reviews & Buying Guides

Written by Sean Mekinda

In our dynamic digital world, a computer is almost necessary. College students know the need for a personal computer too well, but many elementary, middle, and high school students are still in some form of hybrid schooling or fully remote. No matter the type of student, online schooling and homework require a reliable machine so they can focus on learning rather than troubleshooting.

Desktops are an excellent choice for those less concerned about mobility and setting up a dedicated workspace in a home can increase productivity. Additionally, desktops are less likely to be stolen, lost, or damaged in transit, and are generally more powerful for a lower cost than their laptop counterparts.

Finding the perfect computer fit can be daunting with so many options, use cases, and specializations out there. To help with the search, we’ve compiled a list of some of our top recommendations for desktop computers, along with what to look for when locking in that final decision — no matter where you’re at in the educational journey.

All-in-One PC

All-in-One computers make things quick and easy by having the bulk of the computer built into a monitor, and usually, the peripherals are included. Otherwise, the computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, would all need to be their own decisions. Additionally, all-in-one desktops are good for working areas with limited desk space and for people who don’t need a machine with intense amounts of processing power.

All-in-One computers are good for students who will mostly be doing web-based research and essay writing. This includes students in non-specialized K-12 programs and college majors like English, Marketing, or History. These computers can also easily handle video chatting and streaming.

Our Recommendation: Dell Inspiron 24 5415 23.8" All-in-One Desktop Computer

What makes the Dell Inspiron 24 5415 All-in-One special is that it has everything you need to get started right out of the box. It includes the computer, mouse, keyboard, and even a pop-up webcam that can be stored when not in use.

This All-in-One does an excellent job at mitigating some of the general pitfalls of All-in-One computers. For example, it deals with the usual lack of overall processing power by including the powerful AMD Ryzen 5 5625U, a 2.3GHz Processor.

Other features include a 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive. With this, booting up the computer isn’t the usual crawl, but allows you to get right back to your projects with little downtime.

Best Workstation

Workstations are powerful machines, used in professional settings or by those who ask a lot of their technology. They are known for their increased storage and advanced graphics.

Workstations are used by students who are taking on more intensive tasks, such as large amounts of scientific data and analysis, video editing, or computer-aided design (or CAD). Examples of concentrations and tasks that could benefit include Video Game Design, Film Editing, and Computer Science.

Our Recommendation: Dell Precision 3240 Workstation Desktop Computer

The Dell Precision 3240 Workstation prides itself on offering all the power you need from a workstation with a smaller footprint. Its compact dimensions and different mounting options create opportunity for a clutter-free space. It also comes with eleven accessible ports to keep you connected in any way you need.

With up to 4TB of Dual M.2 PCIe x4 storage, you can easily store projects locally. Additionally, it’s built on the Intel Core i7 10700 2.9GHz Processor, allowing for a streamlined user experience. Gone are the days of waiting for simple applications to load, videos to render, and data to crunch.

Gaming PC

A gaming computer may sound like a one-trick-work horse, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a student, we only want to succeed in our educational goals - and I’m sure parents of students want the same. So as the saying goes — work hard, play hard. Because gaming computers are meant to handle video games, with advanced graphics and high processing demands, they can handle pretty much everything else.

Gaming PCs can combine hard work and leisure by being a machine that can handle simple editing, document creation, streaming (for research, of course), and video calls while also holding the memory for games, any potential content creation, and streaming (for fun). In an increasingly online world, gaming computers rise to the task, simply because video games have always brought people together virtually.

A gaming desktop is a good option for students who can set efficient boundaries between work and leisure. Some educational programs that would benefit from a gaming PC are any online courses, the Digital Arts, and Software Engineering.

Our Recommendation: Dell Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming PC

The Dell Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 combines some of the biggest names in gaming, including components such as the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 3.7GHz Processor and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti 12GB GDDR6X GPU. It was designed specifically for gamers who also create.

Despite needing the usual peripheral add-ons, there are enough ports to go around, making room for monitors, headphones, and webcams. Luckily, this unit comes with a mouse and keyboard for those eager to get started.

A feature near and dear to every gamer's heart is an RGB panel, which allows for integration into any setting and decor. Additionally, with a 1TB Solid State Drive, this computer is ready to study (and game) when you are.

The Dell Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 fits right into any gamer's arsenal.

Barebones System

Barebones systems are for the technologically adept, as the computer is meant to be customized to the user. Normally, when buying a new computer system, the PC has everything needed to start immediately. However, barebones systems usually come without the hard drive, memory, and GPU.

These types of computers are for those who are passionate about self-assembly and technology. Because the case and motherboard need to make room for add-ons and be able to support it all, barebones computers tend to be higher priced but are definitely not as expensive as a fully assembled workstation or gaming PC.

Our Recommendation: ASUS ROG Strix GA35DX-MH700 Desktop Barebones PC

The ASUS ROG Strix GA35DX-MH700 Barebones PC is equipped with an ASUS X570 ROG Strix Motherboard, supported by an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 3.8GHz processor. While no memory or storage is included, it offers support through a 1TB SATA Hard Disc Drive.

When it comes to barebones systems, cooling is an especially important consideration. Open vents on the front allow for improved airflow, coupled with separate bays for CPU, power, and the graphics card, to separate the hottest components. Adding the proprietary ASUS ROG Strix 240mm RGB Water Cooling Kit allows for a system that promises to stay under 40dB to keep work and gaming distraction-free.

The ASUS ROG Strix GA35DX-MH700 Barebones PC keeps things colorful.

Budget Option

If having the latest, greatest, and most powerful isn’t a top concern, as long as that essay gets written, then budget or refurbished options are always an excellent choice.

Budget computers are good for students who will focus on word processing, online classes, and research. They are also good for learning essential tech literacy and maintenance without breaking the bank.

Our Recommendation: Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i Desktop Computer

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i is a modest yet sleek device that blends seamlessly into its surroundings with a minimalist design. Powered by Intel’s Core i5 10400, this allows for seamless word processing, video streaming, and video games on the simple side.

The inclusion of Bluetooth allows for speakers or headphones to connect for immersion in the educational content and focus on studying. This unit also comes with a wired keyboard and mouse for an easy setup process.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i’s sleek and streamlined design.

Final Considerations

While shopping for a back-to-school desktop can be overwhelming, it is comforting to know there is a computer for every need. It’s important to focus on any minimum requirements the school sets and then follow up with a wishlist of features along with a budget.

A new computer isn’t on the back-to-school list every year. Therefore, picking technology that you can rely on is an important decision. Remember, you want to be able to work with your computer — not against it.

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about tech buying? We’ve got Community sections dedicated to buying guides and reviews, as well as buying guides for Back-To-School Computers and Build-Your-Own Computers. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!


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