Let’s get real – gaming can be a relatively expensive hobby. It doesn’t have to be if you play casually or make very restrained choices, but consoles, new releases, and updated PC rigs come at a price.
But don’t worry, it’s not super hard to score a great deal and keep PC gaming costs down. We’ll outline the budget-friendliest best, which makes great starter systems, secondary rigs to accompany consoles, or just a modest upgrade from an older setup. With any luck, you’ll find your next cheap gaming computer below.
The Difference Between a Cheap PC and a Cheap Gaming PC
A cheap computer under 100 bucks can be easily had if you simply need access to non-mobile internet and some applications. Chromebooks work admirably. The best budget desktops can fulfill a similar need for under $200, which still isn’t bad at all.
But under no circumstances will you walk into any store, or browse any digital storefront, and find a 200 dollar gaming PC. Even a capable gaming PC under $300 would be a major surprise — and won’t adequately play the market’s graphics-and-memory-heavy blockbuster titles. PC gaming on the cheap limits you to less demanding games overall, depending on how much quality you’re willing to sacrifice to get a game running well.
So while regular PCs built for regular consumer needs can get away with cheaper integrated graphics, a little less available memory and power, less cooling, and performance that’s a bit slower…well, those factors are absolutely paramount to any gaming setup.
How Much Does a Gaming PC Cost?
Ultimately, you’ll need to adjust your idea of budget-friendly while looking for cheap gaming computers. Think of it as shopping for an affordable high-end sports car rather than a capable but entry-level compact commuter. For the experience you’re after, you’ll have to move up a price bracket or two.
- A good rule of thumb is that the best cheap desktop, capable of above-average gaming, will just be priced below $1000 (or right above). That’s your threshold for a deal, and there’s a sizable range within that.
- They can drop as low as $500-$600 for less robust systems, and around $700-$800 is an average “cheap” price for a pre-built computer that balances affordability and performance.
- The very best gaming desktops (or laptops) are priced well above $1000 and should be expected to handle whatever you throw at them (high frame rates and resolution, for example), but cannot reasonably be considered cheap anymore.
- If you’re willing to take a slight risk, refurbished Best Buy gaming desktops (locale-dependent) and pre-owned Amazon gaming PCs are an option as well, which can snag you more performance at a reduced price. Just be sure to double-check current prices on whatever you’re eyeing, as the “discount” may be based on the system’s price at launch. There may be comparable deals on an unused version of the PC if it’s no longer new to the market.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Gaming PC?
Now, the targets begin to shift again when building your own cheap gaming setup is an option. Should you be willing to research and hunt through bargains on individual PC parts — a motherboard, the central processing unit, a dedicated graphics card, case, power supply, etc.
- Then it’s possible to create a cheaper desktop optimized for your particular needs or achieve comparably high-end performance for a fraction of the cost.
- A cheap gaming PC under $100 is, admittedly, still pretty impossible. But a viable gaming PC under $200 is doable if you’re frugal and determined, and $200-$400 becomes easily possible when sourcing your own parts. At $500, you could have a legitimate competitor against pre-built machines that go for at least $100 more.
- Another alternative is to purchase a lower-cost gaming PC and upgrade specific components as needed or as funds become available. This piecemeal method might not be cheapest in the long run if you were to replace everything, but adding more memory or a better graphics card can be affordable improvements to an otherwise solid and very budget-friendly rig.
- Just remember, you’ll also need to shell out for a mouse, keyboard, and monitor (monitors don’t come standard with any pre-built PCs either), which will increase your total cost by the end.
6 Best Budget Desktop Computers for Gamers
Realistically, even if you like the sound of that whole build-it-yourself business, it makes sense to see what’s up for grabs in 2020. We don’t have a cheap gaming PC under $200 to offer you, but each of these choices currently retails under $1000.
Priced: $679.99 starting at Dell
Pros: Although this is actually a series of gaming PCs that go up to $1,750, the entry-level rig is priced right while still touting respectable hardware. It’s upgradeable and comes in a compact form factor that isn’t too aggressive — just some notched geometric detailing, blue LEDs, and optional transparent panel. Included is a keyboard and mouse, and VR-ready capabilities.
Cons: This runs on a quad-core Intel i3 processor, which isn’t a huge deal, but may still be a dealbreaker for you considering all the Hexa-core systems available on this list alone. It can be upgraded up to Intel i9, however.
MSI Trident 3
Pros: Extremely compact but also fully upgradeable, plus it’s got slick, subdued style with customizable lighting, and the tower to be placed either horizontally or vertically. This is a capable little machine that fits small spaces and is ready to grow when you are. It’s VR-ready as well.
Cons: This is actually the entry-level machine, with each of its more powerful siblings ticking up in price. That has little bearing on this PC itself, though, which is still a solid price with a strong performance. It does not come with a keyboard.
HP Pavilion Gaming Desktops Core i5 Series
Priced: $650 – $927 at Amazon, $774.99 midrange model
Pros: This line of machines has options for everyone at a variety of price points. It has a more undercover look than other gaming PCs, without RGB lighting or any transparency (list this under cons if that’s a feature you’re looking for!), but does come with a disc drive. This is also a pretty compact system.
Cons: There’s little room for upgrades inside this rig, so make sure you order specs you can live with. It’s also stingy with the HDMI ports, offering only one — purchase adapters to utilize its other ports with HDMI devices.
SkyTech Blaze II
Pros: This PC has some improvements over both the original Blaze and its sibling, the SkyTech Archangel, running quad-cores, and an updated graphics card. It’s a capable machine with RGB lighting and a nice transparent side panel, plus it comes with a keyboard and mouse. There are antennae to boost wi-fi reception if you have any problems and plenty of heat-mitigating features.
Cons: This comes with a 500GB hard drive as opposed to the more and more common 1TB, and it has only one HDMI port available.
CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme VR Gaming i5 Core
Pros: This PC offers 3 choices of graphics card for 3 different price points (we’ve shown the midrange model with a GeForce GTX 1660 — then there is a cheaper model and a more expensive model, both with Radeon cards). It comes with a gaming keyboard and mouse, a beautifully lit case with a transparent window, plus is easily upgradeable and VR-capable.
Cons: At this price point, no one would complain if it came with twice the RAM (8GB only on this model). There may be subpar wi-fi reception according to some reviews (attachable antennae come with the PC if you need the boost).
iBUYPOWER AMD-FX Series
Pros: This very affordable little guy has an almost 4.5-star rating from numerous reviews and is upgrade capable, so you aren’t stuck with the specs you bought it at. It comes standard with a gaming mouse and keyboard, as most (if not all) iBUYPOWER PCs do. With a see-through side and red glow, this desktop has style without being supremely ostentatious.
Cons: It comes with a lackluster budget graphics card — that could definitely use an upgrade.
Are there really any cheap gaming PCs to be had on a budget? We think so. But only if you’re budgeting accordingly because all these suckers will set you back a pretty penny. You don’t have to drop a cool thousand to play some video games though — get the best budget gaming PC instead.
If none of these pre-built machines sparked your interest in the end, check out the links above to get started on your own personal build.