Building a high-end gaming rig can easily cost a few thousand dollars, and pre-built models are often on the high-end of the pricing spectrum due to the convenience factor. But there are plenty of cheap gaming PCs out there that can play modern games at decent settings and still hit smooth frame rates.
To help make your foray into PC gaming simpler, we’ve sifted through the numerous manufacturers and hardware setups to find the best cheap gaming PCs you can buy right now. Our picks range from around $500 to just under $1500. $1500 might sound expensive, but considering you can easily spend two or three times that on a top-tier gaming rig–and in some cases on the graphics card alone–this range is about as low as you can go if you want solid gameplay performance.
The PCs we selected aren’t built for 4K gaming, and some are slim on internal storage and RAM. That will limit how many games you can install and how fast they load, and make streaming and content creation more challenging–especially if you’re playing and recording gameplay at the same time. Most low-end PCs can’t handle VR well, either.
Still, going for a budget-level gaming rig is a viable option for first-time PC buyers and people on a strict budget. These PCs will perform best at 1080p gameplay, and a few can handle games at 1440p resolution at decent frame rates. You can even upgrade the specs on some of these models if you have the cash to spare. Just note that none of the computers on our list come with a monitor and only a few include a mouse and keyboard, so make sure you factor those extra costs into your budget, too.
(Note that availability for these PCs can vary due to the ongoing chip shortage, among other factors.)
The Best For (Almost) $500 – HP Pavilion TG01-2170m
Starts at $550
HP’s Pavilion TG01-2170m is a stellar entry-level gaming PC. Its basic all-AMD hardware configuration costs about as much as the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, and includes a Ryzen 3 5300G CPU and RX 5500 4GB GPU, plus 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. You can notch up to an Nvidia GTX 1660 Super for an extra $90, or upgrade to the next levels of CPU or RAM for $100 if you want more power, but the standard kit can play games like Fortnite or Apex Legends with smooth gameplay on a 1080p monitor.
The only potential drawback is the TGo1-2170m’s rather unremarkable case, which is the same matte black tower HP uses for all its current Pavilion gaming desktops. There are a few small RBG lights on the front panel, but that’s the case’s only standout element. Some folks will appreciate the unassuming look, but look elsewhere if you’re after something flashy. Luckily, the case is large and many of the components can be easily upgraded in the future.
Best For Limited Desk Space – Omen 25L GT12-1340m
Starts at $980
The Omen 25L is a great option for those with smaller desk surfaces, measuring just 6.50 inches wide, 17.05 inches tall, and 15.53 inches long.
We recommend the $979 all-AMD configuration if you’re aiming for under $1000. It starts with a respectable AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and 4GB Radeon RX 5500 GPU. This particular model can also be boosted with up to a Ryzen 9 5900X and 8GB Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti if you want to splurge (or prefer Nvidia GPUs). There are other component options of varying power between those price points, plus other models with 10th gen (starting at $799) or 11th gen (starting at $1350) Intel i5 chips if that suits your preference (or budget).
That said, the baseline specs are plenty if you’re fine playing newer games on lower settings at 1080p–though we suggest spending a bit more to upgrade beyond the standard 8GB RAM or 256GB SSD if you can. Each model has several options for expanded RAM and SSD sizes, and you can also add a wired mouse and keyboard for just $14.
Best Full-Size Gaming PC Under $1000 – Acer Predator Orion 3000 PO3-630G-UW9
Starts at $820
Acer’s Predator Orion 3000 features an 11th-gen 6-core Intel CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Super. While the GTX 1660 is a budget GPU that lacks the features of Nvidia’s RTX line like ray tracing and Nvidia broadcast support, it’s strong enough for solid 1080p gaming. The 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD are lean, but that’s not out of the ordinary for cheaper pre-builts. Besides, RAM and storage are the most easily upgradable PC components, and you can always opt for one of the more expensive configurations if it’s not enough.
Like other pre-built desktops, the Acer Predator Orion 3000 does not ship with a monitor, so you’ll need to buy one to complete your setup. The package includes a keyboard and mouse–they’re nothing special, but that at least saves you a few bucks. The unique case also looks appropriately “gamer” thanks to its angular shape and customizable RGB lighting elements.
The Best for Just Over $1000 – Skytech Gaming Blaze II
Like the other pre-builts listed here, Skyech Gaming’s Blaze II comes in multiple configurations, but the model featuring Intel’s i5 10400F processor and the Nvidia GTX 1660 GPU offers great entry-level specs, a slick case, and the possibility for upgrades in the future for $1,089.
To be fair, this model’s CPU and GPU aren’t much different than the hardware on the less expensive models we’ve covered, but the 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM make this a more powerful machine overall. It can deliver slightly higher-quality in-game visuals and handle other memory-intensive processes better than its less expensive competitors. Those specs make this a solid option for aspiring content creators in particular, since video editing and even streaming will be smoother thanks to the higher memory.
The PC also looks great, too. The case features a tempered glass side panel that shows off the components inside lit by the rear exhaust fan’s RGB ring light. Two additional RGB ring lights adorn the front of the case, and all three are fully customizable. There’s plenty of room inside the case, too, and the included 600-watt power supply will be able to power beefier components you may upgrade to in the future, such as a stronger GPU.
The Best For Hardcore DIYers – NZXT Starter Pro BLD Kit
At just one hundred bucks shy of $1,500, it might seem odd to call the NZXT’s Starter Pro BLD Kit a “cheap” gaming PC, but it’s a comparatively powerful rig that will lift you into the next tier of gaming performance without having to really break the bank.
The only catch is you need to build it yourself.
Don’t worry, though: NZXT’s BLD Kits include everything you need, including well-written instructions, walkthrough videos, a tool set, and all the necessary hardware. The only things that don’t come in the box are a monitor, keyboard, and mouse (plus any other peripherals you need), which tip this into the prohibitively expensive category if you don’t already have those components handy. Nonetheless, this is a great choice for anyone curious about building their own PCs but not sure where to begin.
Once assembled, the Starter Pro BLD Kit includes an Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti graphics card, Intel i5-11400F CPU, 1TB SSD, and 16GB RAM–specs powerful enough for high frame rates at 1080p or 1440p resolutions, plus enhanced visual features like ray tracing. This is also another PC with a big case–complete with see-through glass side panel–and a powerful PSU, so it’s also more future-proof than other entry-level units.
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