You may not want one as your primary PC, but if you're after a basic system you could do worse than snap up a real bargain costing as little as £143 ex VAT. Here, PC Advisor assesses the pros and cons of buying a really low-cost PC.

Every month PC Advisor rigorously tests the latest desktop PCs, ranking and rating them into price categories, starting with an 'entry-level' category that covers systems costing less than £500 including VAT.

Many of the low-cost models we test cost around £499 inc VAT (see reviews section), because manufacturers want to produce well-specced systems and we recommend only the best PCs. But it's escaped neither our notice nor yours that it's possible to buy even cheaper systems than those found in our charts. So we decided to take a snapshot of the new systems available for only a tiny outlay.

Sure, you may think, there are plenty of ways to undercut that headline price: eBay, computer fairs, buying a refurbished model or purchasing from another non-standard outlet. But these deals come with a huge (but invisible) tag stating 'Buyer Beware'.

So we avoided end-of-line examples that clutter up clearance corners, or XP-based setups that PC retailers are desperate to get shot of. We're giving an overview of PCs bought from established web retailers and high-street stores.

You can always rely on PC Advisor to give it to you straight,
and some of the PC setups we looked at are challenged in various ways.

There are systems supplied as PCs only – some are missing a keyboard, a mouse and some even lack a screen. However, we thoroughly check out these deals because there are a number of reasons why an ultra low-cost system might appeal to you. Perhaps you already own all the peripherals you need and simply want a second PC or a more powerful one than you already own? After all, a decent screen will generally need upgrading less often than will a computer.

Most of the PCs we looked at, however, are the full monty, with relatively powerful processors, good-sized hard drives, a DVD writer and are supplied with a screen as well as standard peripherals.

So without further ado, let's have a look at what's available.