A gaming PC can be a big investment, but it’s also arguably the most important piece of your gaming setup, which is why many serious gamers choose to build theirs themselves. While that’s the best way to hone your PC to your individual needs, it can prove complicated, time consuming, and sometimes more expensive. That’s where a pre-built gaming PC comes in.
Check out highlights below of each of these five budget gaming PCs, then scroll deeper for buying advice and more in-depth reviews.
Things to Consider
Pre-built PCs are not only faster to set up, but they have the advantage of being covered by manufacturer’s support and a warranty, which means if something breaks down, you won’t be left to figure it out yourself. And buying pre-built doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to alter it at all—most models have the advantage of customization and the ability to upgrade yourself. This means that you will be able to play right away, but you also have the option to personalize your PC as you figure out what exactly you might need. Just be careful; if you do decide to crack the PC open and make your own changes, certain warranties could be voided. Double check the fine print beforehand.
Cheap gaming PCs around $1,000 and up to $2,000 may not be considered top-of-the-line, but that doesn’t mean they won’t suit your needs just fine. These models are focused on delivering the best bang for your buck in terms of reliability and performance. And if you do decide you need an upgrade, they’ll gladly comply.
Features to Look For
Here are some key components that you will want to pay attention to. These will affect the speed, power, and storage of your gaming PC—all integral to your gaming experience.
CPU: The computer’s central processing unit, which makes the computer programing run. PCs at this price typically have Intel Core i5, i7, i9 or Ryzden 7 CPUs. These should all work fine, but the i9 and Ryzden 7 will be the most powerful. Should you wish to upgrade in the future, this is an easy switch; simply remove your current CPU and plug in the new one.
Storage: Most PCs will have about 512GB to 2TB. One TB can hold around 25 to 30 games, but if this isn’t enough, you can use an external hard drive to increase your storage.
RAM: Gaming PCs should have no less than 8GB of RAM—random access memory, which the computer uses to keep data on hand for quick use with applications you’re currently using. But at least 16GB is recommended. If you don’t have enough, you will have issues with performance in your game.
GPU: The Graphics Processing Unit is what makes sure your graphics run smoothly and clearly on your screen. The Nvidia RTX 2080 is common in most lower-cost gaming PCs, but it should work well for the average gamer and monitor (with a 16:9 aspect ratio), though you may have some tearing or lagging issues with ultra-wide screens (such as 21:9 aspect ratio).
How We Selected and Rated Them
We researched 10 expert sources such as Digital Trends, PC Gamer, and Tom’s Guide, as well as 1,800 consumer reviews to select the top five budget gaming PCs of the year. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of customers who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Walmart, and manufacturers’ websites.
—GREAT SPECS FOR THE PRICE—
CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme
Total Exert Score: 80/100 | Consumer Score: 93% gave it 4 stars or more
Get the most out of your dollar
CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB | RAM: 8GB of DDR4 | Storage: 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD 7200RPM
Not everyone can drop $2,000 on a gaming PC, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a high-quality machine. The Gamer Xtreme offers some powerful features like Intel Core i5-8400, Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. The only real downside is the storage, which only comes with 120 GB SSD. But it’s an easy and affordable upgrade if you find yourself needing more. While the Gamer Xtreme doesn’t have any super fancy lighting, it still looks nice with its glass panels and red LEDs.
HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop
Total Exert Score: 86/100 | Consumer Score: 91% gave it 4 stars or more
Great for beginners or anyone wanting a deal on capability
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Series | GPU: AMD RX 580 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD 7200RPM
While this PC comes in under $700, it can compete easily with models costing $800 and up, which makes it a great pick for beginners or those trying to save a few bucks. The real shining stars are the CPU and GPU, which are spec’ed high enough to allow the system to perform well without costing a fortune. “AMD’s Ryzen 5 series offers incredible performance on a budget,” wrote the reviewers at PC Gamer. “Combine it with the RX 580 and you have yourself a winning combination that can handle just about any modern game you throw at it.” This makes up for the somewhat uninspired exterior, though the real downside is the lack of an SSD. It does, however, have plentiful USB and USB-C ports that makes it easy to attach your own external hard drive.
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit
Total Exert Score: 75/100 | Consumer Score: 84% gave it 4 stars or more
A monster of a processor in a small package
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i9 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 64B DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD 2TB + 2TB
Whether you’re trying to save space or want a solid gaming PC that doesn’t exactly scream ‘gamer,’ the NUC 9 checks all the boxes. Though you can easily fit it in your lunchbox, don’t be fooled—this little guy comes packed with a 9th generation i9-9980HK and can handle 4K resolution without breaking a sweat. And while this particular model is a bit high in price, it’s top of the line. And should you feel like you want to add a bit more pizazz to this one, know that it’s easily upgradeable.
Total Exert Score: 82/100 | Consumer Score: 87% gave it 4 stars or more
Reasonable price with some top-of-the-line components
CPU: Ryzen 7 3700 | GPU: RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB HDD, 240GB SSD
If you’re willing to spend a little over $1,000, this PC won’t disappoint. Embracing the flashier side of gaming design, it features a multicolor lit interior with easy access via the glass panel. While it doesn’t have a whole lot of storage (only a 240GB SSD), that can be remedied by the addition of a hard drive should you need it. But the graphics are solid, and the Ryzen 7 makes game play smooth and speedy. As a bonus, there’s a full system warranty, as well as a one-year parts warranty and, for the less-mechanically inclined, free lifetime tech support.
Alienware Aurora r10
Total Exert Score: 82/100 | Consumer Score: 80% gave it 4 stars or more
Sleek style and smooth gaming
CPU: Ryzen 5 3500 | GPU: RTX 2060 6GB | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2) | Storage: 2TB
For anyone after a bit more style, the Aurora r10 certainly delivers. But its sleek and space-esque design isn’t the only defining feature: Once you start playing, the technology speaks for itself. The Ryzen 5 CPU and RTX 2060 GPU are worth the few extra hundred dollars, as they perform leaps and bounds above other entry-level PCs. While the r10 is outfitted with everything to give you a decent gaming experience, the real reason to buy it is its versatility. It’s compatible with AMD Ryzen 5, 7, and 9 and 9th Gen Intel Core i5, i7, and i9. Plus, it can hold multiple graphics cards that can handle the most intricate VR games without a problem. If the specs alone haven’t convinced you, both PC Gamer and Tom’s Guide ranked it among the best overall budget gaming PCs.
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