If you’ve been pricing out PC parts online recently, you’ve probably noticed that the ongoing semiconductor shortage has sent GPU prices through the roof. That’s a big problem if you’re planning to build a PC and looking to save some cash, but there’s another way. The best plan right now is to buy a pre-built desktop, which gives you many of the advantages of building (such as future-proofing and easy upgrades), and honestly, this is the only way you’re likely to find any good GPU deals in this market. To make things even easier, we’ve already smoked out the six best cheap gaming PC deals available this week.
Our working price limit here is $1,000 (although most are much cheaper than that), but we’ve also included one higher-end pick for the enthusiasts out there who are willing to stretch their budget a bit. If you just need a solid gaming PC and aren’t married to a desktop, though, then consider checking out these gaming laptop deals as well.
- Acer Aspire TC Radeon Vega 8 Desktop PC — $439
- Kepler Systems Genesis GTX 750 Gaming PC — $540
- HP Pavilion GTX 1650 Super Gaming PC — $702
- Ipason Radeon RX 560 Gaming PC — $730
- HP Envy GTX 1660 Super Gaming PC — $850, was $950
- Alienware Aurora R12 RTX 3060 Gaming PC — $1,100, was $1,470
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 cheap desktop PC from Acer 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 full 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB solid-state system drive — and like most of our other picks, it includes a wired mouse and keyboard. This cheap work and (light) gaming PC can be yours for just $439.
AMD’s CPU-integrated Radeon Vega graphics are a fine entry point for basic gaming, but if your needs are modest and you still want a dedicated graphics card (perhaps for tasks like video editing along with light gaming), this Kepler Systems Genesis gaming desktop is a cost-effective and very attractive option. This tower features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 graphics card, which, while a very basic GPU with 2GB VRAM, is one of the cheapest discrete GPUs on the market right now. That card works with a Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM to deliver sufficient performance for work and for less resource-heavy games like Fornite and Minecraft.
For storage, you’ve got a 500GB SSD, which is a nice amount of space for your games and other digital goodies. Its mod-friendly case design allows you to upgrade components in the future, as well. You can grab this high-value light gaming PC for a cheap $540 right now.
HP may not be as well-known for gaming as brands like Alienware or MSI, but it makes some surprisingly solid PCs and you’ll see its name frequently when shopping around for gaming systems. This Pavilion desktop tower runs on an Intel Core i3 CPU paired with a GeForce GTX 1650 Super graphics card, which are very capable specs for a cheap gaming PC in this price bracket. For memory, you’ve got 8GB of RAM (which can be upgraded even further if need be) along with a 256GB solid-state drive for storage.
This desktop tower rings in at just $702, 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.
Moving past the halfway point towards our $1,000 budget limit brings us to mid-level GPUs, which are the ones that you should be looking for if you’re paying more than $600. This Ipason desktop checks all the boxes: A Ryzen 5 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a Radeon RX 560 4GB GPU are capable of handling 1080p at 60 frames per second for many games, so if 30 fps isn’t cutting it for you in 2021, this PC is a worthy upgrade over many other cheap gaming PCs.
A 480GB SSD gives you high-speed storage for installing your games and loading things quickly. It’s also got a nice-looking case that adds some modern style to your setup without being too loud or gaudy. This gaming PC rig comes in at $730, fitting nicely within our budget.
The HP brand has some nice desktops for folks on a budget, and this Envy gaming PC offers a lot of bang for the buck. While not the beefiest tower on our list (see our last pick for that one), it’s still got a very respectable 11th-gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU with 6GB VRAM for some added graphical juice. That isn’t quite as muscular as the RTX series video cards, but it’s more than enough to get the job done for 1080p gaming while also making this the perfect workstation for things like video editing and graphic design.
You’ve also got a nice fast 256GB solid-state drive paired with a 1TB HDD for storage. This gaming PC deal rings in at $850, hitting our budget limit right below the mark.
And now for our special “who cares about a budget?” pick: Dell builds some fantastic gaming computers under its Alienware brand, and the Aurora 12 gaming desktop doesn’t disappoint if you want a serious GPU upgrade over our previous selections. It packs a Core i5-11400F CPU and a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, which is a great processor/graphics card combo for 1440p or even 4K gaming in 2021, along with a boosted 16GB of RAM. It comes with a generous 1TB of high-speed 7,200rpm storage as well.
The PC tower’s LED-accented case also looks striking on any desk and comes with included case fans to keep things running cool. At $1,100, this is a great enthusiast-tier gaming PC with some nice future-proofing — meaning you won’t have to upgrade it any time soon. At this price, though, you may want to consider upgrading to a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse to get the most out of that hardware.
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 2021. 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 in recent years, 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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