Although gaming laptops have come a long way from their early days, none of them can compare to a desktop setup for true in-game immersion. And while you can build a desktop PC yourself, that’s not really going to save you all that much cash — time is money, after all — and good luck finding a reasonably priced GPU in this market. That said, if you need a new gaming battle station and you’re on a budget, worry not. We’ve smoked out the five best cheap gaming PC deals right here. Best of all? These desktop computer deals each ring in at less than $1,000.
If you just need a solid machine for gaming and aren’t married to a desktop, however, then give these gaming laptop deals a look as well.
Today’s Best Cheap Gaming PC Deals
- — $400, was $550
- — $500
- — $550, was $650
- — $630
- — $740, was $840
— $400, 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 cheap 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 full 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 128GB solid-state system drive, and a 1TB storage 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 $400 after a $150 price cut.
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 Alarco gaming desktop is a cost-effective and very attractive option. This tower features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 graphics card, which, while a very basic GPU with 1GB VRAM, is one of the cheapest discrete GPUs on the market right now. That card works with a Core i5 CPU and respectable 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 1TB SSD, which is a nice mount of space to see at this price point. Its standard case design (with remote-controlled RGB lighting) allows you to easily upgrade components like RAM in the future, as well. You can grab this high-value gaming PC for a cheap $500 right now.
— $550, was $650
Moving more than halfway towards the $1,000 budget limit brings us to the Nvidia GTX 16-series 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 ABS Challenger gaming desktop checks all the boxes: An Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a GTX 1650 GPU are capable of handling 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second, so if 30 fps isn’t cutting it for you in 2021, this PC is a worthy upgrade over most other cheap gaming PCs.
A 512GB SSD gives you some 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 $550 (including a mouse and keyboard), fitting well within our budget.
As a purely gaming-centric brand, CyberPowerPC has some very nice desktops for gaming enthusiasts on a budget. If you’re willing to trade some customizability (due to the proprietary case design) for a better GPU than our last pick, then this Gamer Master PC tower offers a lot of bang for the buck: It’s got a second-gen Ryzen 3 CPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and most impressively, an AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU which is one of the best values in mid-range graphics cards on the market — although you may want to consider adding another 8GB of RAM in the future, which is an easy way to get even more juice out of this thing.
You’ve also got a nice fast 240GB solid-state system drive and a 1TB HDD for storage. A basic gaming mouse and keyboard are included as well, although you should think about upgrading to a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse to get the best experience out of a desktop like this. This gaming PC deal rings in at $630, hitting our budget limit well below the mark.
— $740, was $840
HP may be a lesser-known brand compared to others when it comes to gaming, but it makes some surprisingly solid PCs and you’ll see its name frequently when shopping around for gaming systems. This Pavilion gaming tower runs on a Ryzen 5 4600G CPU paired with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, which are very capable specs for a cheap gaming PC at this price point. For memory, you’ve got a full 8GB of RAM (which can be upgraded even further if need be) along with a nice fast 256GB solid-state drive for storage.
This desktop tower rings in at just $740 with a $100 savings, 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.
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 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).
Looking for more great stuff? Find tech discounts and much more on our curated deals page.
Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.