Pastors, ministers and church staff don’t make a ton of money unless you’re a famous TV preacher, so they have to be careful when spending money on their church computer. We want something that’s affordable and powerful enough to keep running even if the pastor or staff member needs to multitask. That’s why we decided to offer a round-up of the best low-cost church computers for the pastor, ministry staff, and other users at church.
The five church computers on this list will fit some specific needs, but none of them will cost more than $1,000. In each case, they’re affordable for the church, pastors or ministry staff people. Most of them run Windows, but not all.
Chromebooks as Church Computers
People may not know a lot about Chromebooks, but they can work well as a great ministry computer, especially now that Google updated the operating system to let users install Android apps on the latest Chromebooks. A lot of companies make great Chromebooks, but the best options come from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung. However, the two Chromebooks below look like great bargains. They’re both versatile and should last.
These low cost options run a special version of the Linux operating system. They don’t run Windows or Apple’s macOS, which only works on Macs or MacBooks. Instead, ChromeOS gives users a really secure and simple operating system that’s easy to repair if things get messed up. Consider the following reasons to go with a Chromebook:
- No viruses and almost no malware
- Easy to reset if things get messed, but they seldom get messed up
- Easy to learn how to use for computer beginners
- Anyone can log into their Google account and all their software and settings show up in a minute or two even if they’ve never used that computer before
- They cost less than Macs or Windows
- The start and restart really fast
Despite these benefits, Chromebook users will need to remember a few things. First, you can’t install your Windows or Mac software on one. They don’t run iPad or iPhone apps either. However, most Chromebooks can or soon will allow users to install most Android apps. If you own an Android phone, like a Galaxy from Samsung or a Droid, then you can probably install your apps from the phone on any new Chromebook released in the last six months. The two below work great with Android apps.
Acer Chromebook R13 – $399.99
Acer’s 13-inch convertible Chromebook came out late in 2016 and quickly sold out. It’s now more readily available and stays near the top of the list of most popular Chromebooks. I own and love this Chromebook.
A convertible computer works like a traditional laptop laying on a desk, table or someone’s lap. However, the user can flip the screen back so that it’s in tablet mode. Hold it and use it like you would any tablet. Then open it a little and rest it on a flat surface in a tent mode (see below) so that the screen faces forward and the keyboard part of the computer faces away from the user. Put the keyboard facing down to use in stand mode (see above).
The machine looks attractive and seems more like a premium laptop at first look. Acer built it with an aluminum body and put a nice full-HD 1920×1080 resolution touchscreen in it. The keyboard feels great for both fast touch-typists and the slower hunt/peck users. It comes with a huge trackpad and the battery runs all day with usually around 10-12 hours depending on how it’s used.
Take a look at the specs listed below:
- 13.3-inch IPS screen with 1920×1080 resolution with touchscreen
- MediaTek M8173C 2.10GHz Quad-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 32GB of fast flash storage (64GB option available, but harder to find)
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
- Built-in headphone and mic combo port
- 1 USB 3.0 port plus 1 USB 3.1 Type C port that also charges the computer
- 3-cell Lithium Polymer 4670mAh battery that lasts up to 12 hours
- .6-inch thick, 12.8-inches wide and 9-inches deep
Buyers can get one at the Acer website or over at Best Buy for the full price. If you want a less expensive device that’s smaller, consider the Acer Chromebook R11. It starts at $279 and offers a slightly more powerful processor but has the same benefits of the computer above.
ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA – $499
The second generation ASUS Chromebook Flip just came out and it’s beautiful. The company took everything they learned when the first released the C301CA model and improved in some significant ways.
The new ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA is another convertible computer that works really well as either a tablet or a laptop just like the Acer above. The ASUS Chromebook Flip weighs less and has a smaller 12.5-inch 1920×1080 screen making it a better option if you plan to use it as a tablet more often.
This Chromebook comes with more storage and memory than the older C301 model. It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of fast storage that lets it boot in seconds just like the Acer.
The faster Intel Core m processor runs faster than the MediaTek processor in the Acer above. It also cost $100 more than the Acer.
Other key specs:
- 12.5-inch touchscreen with 1920×1080 resolution
- Intel Core m or Pentium processors
- 4GB or 8GB of RAM
- 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage (harder to find the 32 or 128 options)
- SD-card reader
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
- 2 USB 3.1 Type C ports (one for charging)
- Mic/Headphone combo port
- 2 cell-39Whrs battery with up to 10 hours of life
- 1.2lbs and measures 8.3 x 12 x 0.5 inches
If $500 or even $400 seems like too much, consider the first generation ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA that’s still easy to find. It costs only $259 at Best Buy and works great. It’s not as powerful, but will handle basic tasks and run Android apps just fine. I wrote about it at GottaBeMobile.com. That post also includes other Chromebooks that might fit your needs better than the two recommended here.
Windows Church Computers
I didn’t include any Macs on this list nor did we include a desktop system. Desktop computers are mostly commodities at this point. While you can get a powerful system for a lower price on a desktop, laptops offer more versatility and don’t cost that much more.
If you really want a desktop, then consider the Mac Mini from Apple. It’s a little more than these computers, but will last you forever. Avoid the cheap desktops you find at consumer electronics stores like Best Buy or office stores. Consider a local computer shot that can build a custom system and ask for the following:
- A fast SSD for storage
- Integrated graphics because you’re not likely going to play games at church
- Either 4 or 8 GB of RAM are plenty
- HDMI output, Ethernet built-in with 10/100/1000 for the best performance on the network, and plenty of power supply performance (at least 500watts) to connect USB peripherals
- High quality keyboard and monitor since that’s the way the user will interface with the system
Macs aren’t low-cost computers. The Mac mini starts at over $500 and the cheapest MacBook costs a $1,000. You get more bang for your buck with Windows or Chromebooks.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Windows PC
At only $200, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 offers an incredible deal for one of the lowest prices we’ve seen for a brand new laptop. You can run Windows software and use it for hours with great battery life. It’s not a powerful computer and only comes with 32GB of storage, half which Windows takes up.
Dell makes these little 11-inch systems in one of three colors, Bali Blue, Alpine White and Tango Red. They look kind of cool.
The detailed specs show us that Dell made a low-end system for people with simple needs like web surfing, streaming video or music and doing a presentation at church or in a Bible study class. You can install Bible software on it, but a large library may not fit on the built-in storage. Thankfully it comes with a micro-SD card slot to expand storage for library books, videos, music, and files. See the full specs below:
See the full specs below:
- 11.6-inch screen with 1366×768 resolution
- 2.48 GHz Celeron N3060 processor
- 4 GB DDR3 RAM
- Intel HD Graphics with shared graphics memory
- 802.11 A/C Wi-Fi
- 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 HDMI, 1 micro-SD card, 1 security lock port
- Battery Life = 9.5 hours
- Item Weight = 2.8 pounds
- Dimensions = 7.7 x 11.5 x 0.8 inches
Get the computer at Dell’s site for $200 or at Amazon for a little more at $209. There’s also a model available with only 2GB of RAM for about $50 less at Dell or $30 less at Amazon. Don’t fall for the temptation because the smaller RAM will bog down this system terribly. Get the 4GB model or find another computer.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Microsoft released the latest version of their Surface Pro line last year, but you can still easily find the previous generation and it’s a great computer even though its a few years old now. The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a tablet that works great as a laptop and a laptop that works great as a tablet. In other words, it’s one of the best convertible computers available today.
The beautiful hardware design and high-resolution touch screen make for the best sub-$600 tablet/laptop option available. The Surface Pen is the best Windows-based inking device. You can take notes, draw and use it while doing presentations. It behaves like your mouse while your holding the device.
The power of this machine means you can run most software, except for high-end games or hardcore engineering applications. Most churches and ministers will enjoy the speed while they do office work, write sermons, and enjoy some entertainment.
Here’s a list of the specs for the model that we recommend:
- 12-inch touch screen with 2160×1440 resolution
- 1.9 GHz Core i5 processor
- 4 GB or RAM
- 128GB of SSD storage
- 3MP webcam
- 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi
- 1 USB 2.0 Port, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 mini-display port, micro-SD card slot, headphone/mic combo port
- Up to 4 hours of battery life in real-world testing
- Weighs 1.8 pounds
- Measures 15.1 x 9.2 x 1.6 inches
The computer comes with the Surface Pen, but buyers will need to add the Surface Type cover or buy a third-party Bluetooth or Wi-Fi keyboard. Get the Type Cover. It’s worth the $130 price.
Find it at Amazon for under $600 with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
There’s a pair of options you should consider if you like the idea of the Surface Pro 3. The Microsoft Surface 3, not the Pro, but the Surface 3 costs even less. It’s got a smaller 10-inch screen and slower processor. You can find one as low as $330 on Amazon without the Type Cover or Surface Pen. It also only ships with 64GB of storage. Pay $40 more on Amazon to get one with 128GB.
The second option goes higher in price. The cheapest Surface Pro 4, the current generation Surface computer/tablet, costs $800 from Microsoft directly. If you can afford it, it’s worth the higher price. It comes with the Surface Pen for that price, but not the Type Cover. It’s faster and has better hardware.
Lenovo IdeaPad 110 17-inch Laptop
If you want a large 17-inch system, then one of the best options comes from Lenovo. The Lenovo IdeaPad 110 17-inch machine offers a lot of machine at a great $500 price. It has a large screen and full-size keyboard with 1TB hard drive. The hard drive’s not as fast as the other machines above since they all run fast solid state drives instead of spinning drives like this one.
The fast Intel Core i7 processor is the latest generation, which means it’s a future proof machine. Lenovo put 8GB of RAM in the computer, which is more than enough for almost anything you want to do, except playing games. The computer doesn’t make for a great gaming system since it doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card.
Because it’s such a large screen the battery life won’t last as long as the above computers. Expect 3-4 hours of battery life, enough for presenting as you teach or preach or to work away from the desk for a few hours.
Here’s a list of the important specs on this system:
- Intel Core i7 Kaby Lake processor
- 8GB of RAM
- 1TB hard drive
- Built-in DVD drive
- 17.3-inch display with 1600×900 resolution but no touch screen
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 1 Ethernet port, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 HDMI, 1 stereo mic/headphone combo audio jack
- SD-card reader
You can get one direct from Lenovo or head over to Best Buy and find one a little cheaper at $479.99.
BONUS: Revive Your Old Computer
After looking at all the computers above, the best and most frugal option might come from what’s lying around the church office. A lot of people get a new computer and donate that old PC to the church. These often run Windows XP, which is unsafe and no longer supported by Microsoft and a lot of software companies. Instead of letting these old XP systems gather dust, consider putting a new operating system on them and revive that old computer. We know of a few options that make this doable.
Xtra-PC comes on a USB flash drive. Plug it into the USB port on that old computer and start it up.
If your computer supports the following specs, it will run Xtra-PC.
- 700 MHz processor or higher
- USB Port 2.0 or 3.0
- Memory (RAM) RAM 512 MB (minimum), 2 GB (recommended)
- Graphics VGA, DVI, or HDMI Supported
- Bios PC must be able to boot to USB
- Network card (Wi-Fi or Wired)
Almost every computer made since about 2001 will support these specs.
Watch it run on a laptop that doesn’t even have a hard drive in it in the video below.
The flash drive comes in four flavors as follows:
- Xtra-PC Basic ($25) – 8GB drive and great for very simple needs like web browsing and office files.
- Xtra-PC Turbo 16 ($35) – 16GB drive and can even handle watching videos or playing casual games.
- Xtra-PC Turbo 64 ($50) – 64GB drive and gives you a lot more storage for keeping all your files on the drive.
- Xtra-PC Pro ($80) – 128GB drive and great for people who plan to keep a lot of files on their drive.
The Pro option comes with something called FileRez, a utility for finding and backing up old files on that Windows PC that you were afraid you lost when your computer died.
Xtra-PC comes with OpenOffice, a great replacement for Microsoft Office that can even open MS Office files from Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It also has all the tools for Internet, email, instant messaging, watching DVDs, reading Kindle books and organizing your photos.
Like Xtra-PC, Ubuntu Linux can run on a USB drive and bring back to life a dead computer. However, it requires a little more power, so it will only work on a newer system. More computer people know about it, so you might get more help from your favorite guru.
You’ll have to download it and set up your own USB drive to get started. That may take more skill than some people have. It also means you need a working computer.
There’s a Christian Edition of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Christian Edition. It comes preinstalled with some software for believers, like the Linux Bible study tool BibleTime.
Overall, this review should help you make an informed selection of a church or ministry computer without breaking the bank.