Best Desktops for Students Looking to Simplify Their Back-to-School Trek

by Reads (3,401)

As we start to move from summer into fall, it’s time to think about the end of vacations, Halloween costumes, and heading back to school. This is one of the best – and the worst – times to pick out your next technology purchase, but we’re here to hold your hand and help you figure out what to buy.

For 2012’s Back to School buying guide, we’ve decided to concentrate on some of the easiest desktops to set up and move around. Whether you’re moving to high school or to college, living in a dorm room, or at home with the parents, everyone could use a little more simplicity in their lives.

Of course, settling for the smallest tower or the most cord-free all-in-one isn’t for everyone! If you think you need a little more in-depth help in figuring out which desktop best meets your needs, don’t neglect to stop by our “What Desktop Should I Buy?” discussion forum. Our forum users rank among the most passionate computer aficionados on the ‘net, and they will be happy to help you out.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720

As the release date approaches for Microsoft’s next-generation Windows 8 operating system, it brings with it new opportunities for touch- and multitouch-capable desktops. When it comes to the best touchscreen-equipped PC on the market, we can’t help but recommend the impressive Lenovo IdeaCentre A720.

The IdeaCentre A720 packs a 27-inch, 1920×1080 display as well as the usual speakers, CPU, and hard drive options. What really sets it apart, however, is the fact that it offers a TEN-FINGER multitouch screen, for an experience that’s unmatched by the competition. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with your next PC purchase, be sure to check out the A720.

Dell XPS One 27

Where the IdeaCentre A720 offers a compelling touch experience in your all-in-one purchase, the XPS One 27 from Dell eschews touch – but offers a compelling everything else. The 27-inch IPS display in this desktop is built using the same panel as the one found in Apple’s 27-inch iMac – which means you’ll be mousing around at the same 2560×1440 resolution.

Partnered with the impressive display are a pair of solid speakers, HD webcam, a microphone array, wireless keyboard and mouse, and the best looking design we’ve seen from Dell since, well, forever. Users who like the elegance an Apple computer offers but prefer the Windows OS would do well with the XPS One 27. 

Worried about upgrading your all-in-one?

HP TouchSmart

Don’t be. Just a couple of years ago, buying an all-in-one desktop was something of a risky purchase. Cobbled together with laptop CPUs, mobile graphics chips, slow hard drives and not a lot of RAM, an all-in-one meant compromising your desktop needs for your design considerations.

Fortunately, that isn’t the case any longer. Today’s all-in-one desktops generally use desktop-class processors and faster desktop hard drives (or SSDs!), in adition to packing in anywhere from 4GB to 16GB of RAM – meaning you won’t need to worry about your computer limited your needs, from Photoshop to Word, from HD video editing to HD video watching.

Even gamers can rest easy, with more than one all-in-one desktop building in considerable graphics prowess – while most won’t be able to match the pinnacle of gaming desktop performance, most manufacturers offer a model that will let you play some of today’s hottest games, as long as you untick a couple of boxes in the video settings.

Finally, whether you go with an affordable option from ASUS or the ever popular iMac, even the latest all-in-one desktops let you upgrade a few components, such as memory. Buying your desktop and RAM separately is still, even in 2012, a great way of saving money by cutting out manufacturer markups…as long as you’ve got a few minutes and a screwdriver set.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M92p Tiny

It is an easy bet to say that most truly tiny PCs have left a sour taste in our mouths. Too many compromises have been made in the name of size and space, meaning nettops never reached anything approaching the popularity of the nettop craze. Lenovo’s new M92p Tiny changes all of that.

Consider it the big brother of the nettop – this little desktop that could packs in full-fledged Intel quad-core CPUs, gigabytes of RAM and more, all while taking up no more space than a hardback book. While this desktop is part of Lenovo’s storied ThinkCentre business lineup, consumers can pick one up, too – and with a starting price of under $600, it’s almost too good to pass up. 

Apple Mac Mini

It’s almost not a back-to-school shopping guide without the perennial favorite Mac Mini, Apple’s offering in the diminutive desktop market. Designed to be a low-cost option and, in Steve Jobs’ words, “the most affordable Mac ever”, Apple’s Mac Mini has been through a series of highs and lows. 

The most recent iteration saw Apple, no stranger to controversy, remove the optical drive entirely, making this a super-thin desktop perfect for many students’ all-digital workflows. Our own experiences with the Mac Mini have shown Apple’s efforts in saving power, too – with many workloads pulled under 20 watts, you won’t need to worry about the Mac Mini heating up your small space.


When we set out to compile this year’s list of Back-to-School pics, it wasn’t with the intent of pushing some of the biggest all-in-one desktops that this market has ever seen. Yet here we are with the ASUS ET2700: our third 27-inch all-in-one to grace the 2012 buyers guide.

Unlike the other all-in-one desktops on the market, ASUS’ effort impressed us on price, performance, and sheer customizability. You can pick an ET2700 with multitouch, without, with Blu-ray, without – you get the idea. Add in USB 3.0, a 1080p IPS display, and ASUS’ surprisingly good breakout subwoofer, and you’ve got the ASUS ET2700 – a perfect party machine for this year’s student.

Looking for more?

Whether you’re shopping for your student or just looking to land a great deal, back to school season is a great time to check out what’s next in tech. Let our editors help you pick the right notebook, desktop, camera, smartphone, tablet, or printer with our Back to School Buyer’s Guide.



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