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Computer Kit

Cheap PCs

With tight budgets and limited time, it can be difficult to source high-quality PCs.

This is what most educators look for:

  • Value-for-money computers that make the most of stretched budgets
  • Kid-proof (to an extent)
  • Low heat and noise output (to keep rooms cool and minimise energy cost)
  • Take up little room to maximise physical desktop space available
  • Computers that will last at least 3 years
  • Inexpensive maintenance

Gigabyte BRIX and Intel NUCs are generally exceptional value for money. High-end Celeron processors are generally reasonable for typical classroom computers.

Be aware that specifications vary considerably. If opting for a different model, make sure you compare the processing power beforehand, and that you buy the correct type of memory! Simply typing in the processor names into a search engine should yield results that allow you to easily compare them, e.g. J3455 vs. J4105.

Don’t be put off by the computer’s small size! In fact, this can be a bonus for making the most of available physical space.

You really don’t need to pay an excessive amount to a third party to source them for you. They are very easy for IT technicians to build (I’ve had students building them).

Example build:

Total per PC: £184.65 (as of Feb 2020)

The PCs have USBs for keyboard, mouse and memory stick. Support WiFi and have a normal network connection. They can output to VGA and/or HDMI (or both – so perfect for hooking up to a projector without any adaptors). There are also audio ports.

Of course, if you are not replacing existing PCs, you’ll need a few extras.

A keyboard and mouse will add around £15. I’ve never used a bad Microsoft Keyboard. Yes they cost a few more quid, but typing productivity goes up no-end owing to the smooth key pressing action. I once bought Logitech keyboards thinking they were a good buy, but the quality was awful and the typing motion was hard work.

Recommended keyboard: Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600 £8.78. The black keyboard is more expensive than the white, but other than this they are the same!

If you need a screen, it will add around £70. Just make sure it has a suitable VESA mount for the PC and is suitably adjustable to the user’s eyeline. I’d recommend making sure that your chosen monitor makes use of a kettle cable instead of having an external power supply. This is only because I’ve experienced problems with external power packs.

I am making the assumption that you have a school licence for an operating system. If you are moving to ‘The cloud’, there is always Chromium OS, but this may take some technical know-how to get up and running.

For a total cost of around £270 for a reasonable-spec computer, I think it’s difficult to go wrong!

And those who are more thrifty may be able to pick up components on eBay or similar.

They are very quick and easy to set up (my students did most of this) and mount on the back of existing LCD monitors – so they are generally out of the way and probably less likely to be fiddled about with. They are silent, consume little power and take up next to no physical space, helping to keep energy bills down and maintain a nice working environment.

Yes, there are limitations if you ever wanted to upgrade (although the model mentioned does support two memory modules), but given the cost of these machines, it would be less hassle to replace them in 2-3 years’ time if needs be, and I’d like to think they could be recycled elsewhere.