When it comes to gaming, the desktop PC is still the king. Even if today’s gaming laptops come packing the latest and greatest mobile GPUs that are built to rival their desktop counterparts, all the portability in the world can’t compare to the comfort of sitting at a proper desktop battle station with a comfortable gaming keyboard, ergonomic gaming mouse, and full-sized display (or multiple displays if you’re serious). That’s not even mentioning the future-proofing and ease of upgrades that a desktop tower gives you.
You can always build your own PC, and while that’s a worthy endeavor, it won’t really save you that much money. Time is coin, after all, so why not shop for a good pre-built gaming computer instead? There are plenty out there, and with holiday sales going on right now, there are tons of cheap gaming PC deals for you to sink your teeth into. To help narrow things down, we’ve already poked through them all to bring you this curated roundup of the five best gaming PCs you can get right now for less than a grand.
Today’s Best Cheap Gaming PC Deals
- — $450, was $550
- — $599,?was $699
- — $750, was $900
- — $870, was $1,100
- — $900, was $1,200
— $450, was $550
Years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find any sort of gaming-capable rig for less than $600 owing to the cost of discrete graphics cards. AMD crafted a unique solution to that problem in its APUs, or accelerated processing units, which are basically CPUs that pack built-in graphics processing capabilities. This Pavilion desktop PC from HP features an AMD Ryzen 3 CPU with Radeon Vega 8 graphics that allows for some light gaming. Don’t expect to run the latest AAA games at high settings, but it’ll get the job done for those with modest needs.
Along with the Ryzen APU, this desktop PC comes with a boosted 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 128GB solid-state system drive, and a nice big 1TB hard drive — and like most of our other picks, it comes with a wired mouse and keyboard. This cheap gaming PC can be yours for just $450 after a $100 price cut.
— $599,?was $699
Moving more than halfway towards the $1,000 budget limit brings us to the Nvidia GTX 16-series Super and Ti graphics cards, which is in the upper range of mid-level GPUs that you should be looking for if you’re paying more than $500. This HP Pavilion gaming desktop checks all the boxes: An AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a beefy GTX 1650 Super GPU (with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM) are capable of handling 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second, so if 30 fps isn’t cutting it for you in 2020, this PC is a worthy upgrade over most other cheap gaming PCs.
A 256GB SSD gives you some fast storage for installing games (and quickly loading them) as well. It’s also got a nice-looking geometric case with LED accents that add some style to your setup without being too loud or gaudy. This gaming PC rig comes in at $599 (including a wired mouse and keyboard), fitting well within our budget.
— $750, was $900
Dell may be known for its all-business work computers, but it makes some surprisingly solid gaming PCs and you’ll see its name a lot when shopping around for gaming systems. This new Dell G5 gaming tower runs on an Intel Core i5-10400F CPU paired with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card which are very impressive for a cheap gaming PC at this price point. For memory, you’ve got 8GB of RAM (which can be upgraded if need be) along with a nice big 1TB 7,200rpm HDD for storage.
This desktop tower rings in at just $750 after a $150 discount, and it’s one of the best pre-built gaming PC deals with a dedicated GPU that you’ll find for around this price at the moment. And, like most of our other picks, it also comes bundled with a mouse and keyboard.
— $870, was $1,100
For a lesser-known brand, ABS has some very nice gaming desktops for budget-conscious shoppers, and its Master gaming PC tower offers a lot of bang for the buck: It’s got a six-core Ryzen 5 CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and most impressively, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU which is arguably the best “entry-level” high-end graphics card on the market right now (and that boosted 16GB of memory means you won’t have to upgrade the RAM too soon).
You’ve also got a nice beefy 512GB solid-state system drive. A basic wired gaming mouse and keyboard are included as well, although you might consider upgrading to a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse to get the best experience out of a desktop at this price point. This gaming PC deal rings in at $870 after a $230 savings, hitting our budget limit nicely below the mark.
— $900, was $1,200
HP builds many well-priced gaming computers for a brand that’s mostly known for its work-focused PCs, and the Omen 30L desktop doesn’t disappoint if you want a RAM and CPU upgrade over our previous pick. It packs an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU and an Radeon RX 5700 XT GPU with 8GB VRAM, which is easily one of the best processor/graphics card combos for 1080p (or even 1440p) gaming at 60fps in 2020. It comes with 256GB of high-speed solid-state storage as well.
The PC tower’s LED-accented case looks nice on any desk without appearing too garish, and it’s customizable and upgradeable like most desktop towers. At $1,00- ($200 off), this is a very solid enthusiast-tier gaming PC with some nice future-proofing (although you’ll definitely want to consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM at some point).
How To Choose A Cheap Gaming PC
As with any big purchase, make sure you know exactly what you want when buying a gaming computer. It’s not a bad idea to write down a checklist. It’s also important when looking specifically at cheap gaming PCs (i.e. those coming in at less than $1,000) to have realistic expectations — you’re not going to get multi-monitor 4K gaming at this price point. That said, it’s easy to achieve great results with 1080p/60fps gaming at high settings even for modern releases, and even for 1440p gaming when you move towards the upper end of our $1,000 price limit.
If playing at 1080p/60fps on one or two monitors is good enough, then you won’t have a hard time finding a good cheap gaming PC to meet your needs. If your demands are a bit higher, though, then expect to have to shop around a bit for the right deal. Also, be sure to bring yourself up to speed with the latest hardware — don’t just jump on the first attractive deal you find that meets your budget only to end up with a last-gen GPU that will feel long in the tooth in 2020. Know what you want and what to expect from a cheap gaming PC that’s within your set budget and you won’t be disappointed, and for a more detailed breakdown of the sort of hardware you should look for, read on.
What Makes A Good Cheap Gaming PC?
The short answer is that a good price-to-performance ratio is what makes a cheap gaming PC “good,” and the good news here is that desktop computers already provide this sort of value by their very nature — it’s simply easier to fit all that beefy hardware into a desktop tower, whereas the scaled-down components of laptops (not to mention their built-in displays and keyboards) make those mobile PCs more expensive. That said, it’s still important to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck if you’re buying a pre-assembled desktop computer, as some are built better than others.
The three main hardware components that drive performance are the CPU, GPU (or graphics card), and RAM. Our recommendations: For your CPU, stick with a 9th, 10th, or 11th-gen Intel Core or one of the newer AMD Ryzen (sometimes called “Zen”) processors. For RAM, a minimum of 8GB is recommended for all but the cheapest gaming PCs, and 16GB is even better — but remember you can almost always add more RAM and this is one of the easiest (if not the easiest) components to. GPUs are arguably the heart of a gaming computer; modern models include AMD’s Radeon 500, 5000, and 6000 series as well as Nvidia’s GTX 16-series and RTX 20- and 30-series GPUs.
Nvidia replaced their older 10-series GPUs last year, but there are still cheap gaming PCs floating around with these cards. Our advice: Avoid them unless your needs are modest and you can snag one for a seriously good deal. Even the entry-level 16-series Nvidia cards are faster and are ideal for 1080p gaming. For 1440p gaming, you’ll be better served with one of the 20-series cards such as the GTX 2060 or 2070. If anything bottlenecks your gaming PC’s performance, it will be an underpowered GPU, so this is the one component you don’t want to skimp on. One final thing to consider is upgradeability: If you plan to keep your chosen PC tower for a while, look at what sort of case and motherboard it’s using to determine if you can easily add and swap parts in the future. Some desktop PCs from brands like HP use proprietary components which will limit what parts you can add and can be costly to replace.
Are Cheap Gaming PCs Good For Work?
It’s safe to say that running modern video games at good settings is generally a much more demanding job than most work tasks you’d normally need a computer for, so any gaming computer — even a cheap gaming PC — will be as well-suited for work and study as it is for play. The faster processors and high-speed RAM will make short work of simple tasks like web browsing, word processing, making spreadsheets, and so on, and the discrete GPU is also nice to have for graphical tasks such as video rendering. Another advantage of a desktop PC, particularly one with a graphics card, is the option to create a multi-monitor setup that can increase your productivity (and even a single monitor will still give you more screen real estate than a laptop display).
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