5 Cheap Linux Computers You Can Buy Today
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You’re looking for a new PC, but you don’t have the $1000 or so for a solid, reliable workhorse. To cut costs, you could either build your own Is It Still Cheaper to Build Your Own PC? Is It Still Cheaper to Build Your Own PC? How much does it cost to build your own PC these days? Compared to pre-built models, are the savings worth the effort? We investigate. Read More , or look for a low cost alternative. Oh, and you have one other requirement: you’re switching to Linux, but without the expertise of being able to install an operating system, you need the computer to come preinstalled with a popular, well-supported Linux distro.

Sound like a tough request? It’s not. Let’s take a look at five Linux computers that you can order today for under $500.

An Affordable Linux PC

While Linux isn’t only for personal computers Not Just For Desktops: 10 Devices You Can Install Linux On Not Just For Desktops: 10 Devices You Can Install Linux On If you're looking for a new Linux project take a look at this list of devices you can install Linux on. Read More , you’ll probably find that your best experience of the OS will come from a robust desktop device, rather than a smartphone. You might have been introduced to Linux via the Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Whether you're a current Pi owner who wants to learn more or a potential owner of this credit-card size device, this isn't a guide you want to miss. Read More and the Raspbian operating system 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use Following the release of Debian Jessie in July, the Raspberry Pi community has been blessed with a new release of the Raspbian variant, based on the "parent" distro. Read More , a fork of the popular Debian distro, for instance, and decided that the OS was an adequate replacement for Windows or Mac OS X.

One of the advantages of switching to Linux is that the cost of the computer is lower because the operating system is free to use, unlike Windows. This has several benefits, not least the ability to occasionally find a device that is more powerful than its Windows counterpart.

So what’s on offer?

CompuLab fit-PC4 Pro Linux

This sub-$500 computer looks more like a router than a PC, but inside you’ll find a 2GHz quad core AMD GX-420CA, AMD Radeon HD8400E Graphics and 320 GB HDD. The CompuLab fit-PC4 Pro also has two USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0, two HDMI, a microSDXC slot and two Ethernet ports. Preinstalled on the HDD comes the 64-bit version of Linux Mint 17.3, and there’s also a serial port and analog/digital out port supporting Dolby 7.1+2. Inside, two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots hold up to 16 GB of memory, and the computer also has a mPCIe+mSATA slot under the chassis.

CompuLab fit-PC4 Pro Linux CompuLab fit-PC4 Pro Linux Buy Now At Amazon

This fanless, aluminium Linux box delivers good performance for a very low price, and reviews for the device are staggeringly positive.

Acer VN2620G-UC887L Desktop

Available for $299, this Acer desktop is a compact computer featuring an Intel Celeron 887 Dual-core 1.50GHz processor (with integrated Intel graphics), 2GB DDR3 RAM (expandable to 8GB), a 320G HDD and two USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports. Video out is via HDMI, there’s a single audio out port and wireless networking.

Built for office tasks, you won’t find much opportunity for gaming or image processing here, but what you will find is a competent, low-power PC that does the job it is designed for, as well as video streaming.

Acer DT.VFGAA.001;VN2620G-UC887L Desktop Acer DT.VFGAA.001;VN2620G-UC887L Desktop Buy Now At Amazon $516.59

Looking at the reviews, while a popular piece of kit, for the best results you need to install Linux Mint 16, as the included Linpus Linux OS is pretty rigid and limited.

CybertronPC Axis LyNX1 DT3204B Desktop

A far more traditional-looking tower PC, the CybertronPC Axis LyNX1 DT3204B has an AMD Athlon 5150 1.60GHz Quad-Core CPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB 7200rpm HDD with Ubuntu 14.04 pre-installed, and a Radeon HD 8400 GPU.

With a rewritable 24x DVD drive, 7.1 channel audio, VGA, HDMI and DVI video in ports, two USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, Mini PCI-E and a standard PCI-E ports, connectivity is via an Ethernet cable, with 1000Mbps Gigabit network controller.

Although difficult to upgrade, this is a competent computer that has attracted some good reviews.

Linux Ubuntu Mini PC Quad Core

So small it can be mounted in the Vesa bracket on the back of your LCD monitor, this $220 Linux PC features a quad core Intel Celeron Processor J1900, 4GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD Graphics, a 500GB HDD and build in Wi-Fi. Also in the box are HDMI and VGA video connectors, an Ethernet port, a single USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, a serial port, speaker and mic ports.

While there is only a single RAM slot (not surprising for a device of this size) it can be expanded to 8GB. The hard disk drive can be swapped for up to 256GB mSATA SSD, or you can replace it with a standard SATA HDD up to 1.5TB.

Although the device is listed as “Linux Ubuntu” on Amazon, you have to request this operating system is installed after purchasing. Otherwise, it will arrive with Windows 7 64-bit pre-installed, but without a license.

RKM MK802IV LE 8GB Quad Core Linux Mini PC

Finally, for under $100 (at the time of writing) is this quad core Linux Mini PC, a stick computer, which means that the only physical connector is the HDMI plug. With Picuntu 4.5 (based on Ubuntu 13.04) preinstalled on the 8GB NAND flash, the 1.8GHz Cortex A9 RK3188 quad core CPU should enable you to perform most browsing, streaming and office tasks.

RKM MK802IV LE 8GB Quad Core Linux Mini PC RKM MK802IV LE 8GB Quad Core Linux Mini PC Buy Now At Amazon $94.91

Built in wireless networking means that you can connect this ridiculously small PC to your network, and support for a variety of audio formats (MP3/WMA/APE/FLAC/AAC/OGG/AC3/WAV) makes it a good choice as a stripped down media center.

What Tasks Can You Use These PCs For?

They’re small, and they’re low cost. You’re probably thinking that these computers aren’t up to much.

You would be wrong.

While the quality of the graphic processor might restrict HD video and intensive image editing, and it is unlikely you’ll be able to play the latest video games (whether you’re using Steam for Linux How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux Installing Steam on Linux computers is straightforward, and the result is usually the same seamless gaming experience you had on Windows. Read More or not), these limits are true of Windows PCs of a similar spec.

But these computers will be suitable for browsing the web, word processing, email and other office tasks, light image editing (photo fixing, for instance), retro gaming, webcam chats, and even running media center software like Kodi How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center XBMC may have evolved into Kodi, but if you have an old version installed this guide will help you set it up and get started. Read More . For under $500, that’s not a bad deal.

A Wider Selection of Devices

If you’re looking for something more powerful, and are happy to pay over $500, then a good place to start looking is at the Ubuntu website, where you will find a large list of devices from Dell and HP (among other big names) that come with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS or 12.04 LTS preinstalled.

Have you purchased a Linux desktop? Perhaps you’re in the market for one? Let’s talk about the options available – share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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  1. Jerry
    August 30, 2016 at 8:35 pm


    • Dave
      January 6, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      Toshiba Satellite loads well and all devices start without a lot of tinkering, sound, WiFi, etc. Just converted a friends laptop to Xubuntu 17.10 and flawless integration

    • Greg k
      February 22, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      Try Linucity.com. Their prices are better then the providers listed

  2. CaliforniaHitori
    June 5, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Those mentioned above are either expensive and not powerful.

    I would recommend

    - Pine64 (1.2Ghz A53 Quad, 2GB ram)

    - ODROID C2 (2Ghz A53 Quad, 2GB ram)

    - Upboard x5 Z8350 Quad, 4GB ram

    - MagicStick Z8700, 8GB ram

  3. Ron Ablang
    March 20, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    The hardest part is not installing a Linux OS on a new computer, but rather trying to get wi-fi to work.

    • randama
      July 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      With Linux-Mint Wi-Fi is no problem ... I switched 4 years ago, and everything (1 Ubuntu Desktop, 1 Linux-mint Desktop, 1 Windos 7 Laptop, 2 Andorid-Mobiles, 1 Android-Tablet, 1 Multi-Functional-printer) where all connected via Wi-Fi, and online within 1 hour after initial-updates of the downloaded Mint-Version where ready ... no real problems since then (1 time my daughter forgot her password)

    • Dave
      August 27, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      I personally found Wi-Fi to work automatically with both Linux Mint and Linux Deepin on a Lenovo Thinkpad T410s and T420. This was a HUGE relief because getting Wi-Fi to work on windows 7 on these machines after a clean install took me an entire week to figure out.

  4. Anonymous
    March 19, 2016 at 2:15 am

    That last one was a real turd.

  5. Pankaj
    March 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    What about Raspberry PI 2 $35

  6. oneaty
    March 18, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I have a J1900 running Ubuntu server 24x7 for a year now, and it's still in great shape. Worth of mentioning that it is a fanless mount, I live on a tropical country and there's no ar conditioning in the room, so during the summer, if gets pretty hot. Nevertheless, it's alive.I use it as a file server for my home network and also as a network monitor server (I run Cacti)

  7. Anonymous
    March 18, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Please clarify the connector(s) on the RKM MK802IV LE 8GB Quad Core Linux Mini PC. Article says that the only physical connector is the HDMI plug. You'll need a keyboard and a mouse -- would that be via a USB hub connected to a USB port, or through Bluetooth.

    I'm guessing the latter if it indeed has only the HDMI plug

  8. Anonymous
    March 17, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    "without the expertise of being able to install an operating system"
    With popular Linux distros there is no need for "O/S Installing" expertise. The expertise, if any, may be in downloading a distro and burning it to a DVD or writing it to an USB stick. Popular distro install programs have an Automatic option that does all the techie stuff after the user answers a few simple questions.

    "One of the advantages of switching to Linux is that the cost of the computer is lower because the operating system is free to use"
    Another advantage is that if you do not like the distro that came installed, you can easily replace it with one that appeals to you more. Ex. on the Acer PC replace Linpus with Mint 17.3 or Zorin or even Ubuntu.

    "Have you purchased a Linux desktop?"
    I have never purchased a desktop. I have always built my own. However, the Compu-Lab unit looks mighty tempting despite costing almost $200 more than the next most expensive one. Of course I would immediately replace the Mint 17.3 with PCLinuxOS but that is not relevant to the article.