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While a cheap gaming PC won’t compete with big builds that are even just a few hundred dollars more, they’re practical for the price, and an easy, affordable way to get gaming right out of the box. But before you start shopping for the best cheap gaming PCs, it’s best to know what (or what not) to expect with a PC in this range.
“When shopping for a pre-built gaming PC on a budget, it’s important to look for a system with reliable components that form a strong platform for longevity and future upgrades,” says Darren Su, Executive Vice President at iBUYPOWER.
One thing to look out for that’s simple to see right off the bat is lights. Often times, lower quality pre-built PCs come loaded up with flashy RGBs lighting. Sure they’re shiny and illuminate your room in all sorts of cool colors, and there’s nothing wrong with having them in your PC in general, but when it comes down to the actual specs and speed, they can act as a dazzling distraction from what’s really important for performance.
A good fan is also vital to keeping your PC running smoothly and preventing overheating (and sudden shutdowns mid-game). A single fan running at around 1500rpm can dissipate heat while staying pretty silent, or having multiple fans in smaller rpm denominations works too. Along with fans, filters protect against internal dust buildup, and vents help keep the air flowing freely throughout the parts.
For this price range, expect about 8GB of RAM to be pre-installed as the standard, though if you can find 16GB, that’ll make a huge difference in everything you play. If not, upgrading by adding new RAM can be as low as around $30-$50, and increase the speed of your machine exponentially while reducing slowdowns in games.
Cable management keeps things organized and safe inside. It may seem like a minor extra when ordering a PC, but this can be a huge help when it eventually comes time to open it up and fix or upgrade parts. Some cases come with specific tie-points and pathways, a cable management bar, hooks, loops and threads, but they all ultimately serve the same purpose.
As for the drive, 1TB should be plenty for average use. If you think there’s a chance you might add more 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives later though, make sure there’s a spot for it inside. The same goes for additional RAM, a more powerful graphics card, and an another fan (or two, or three…or ten) to keep things extra cool.
(Note: while the prices were accurate at time of this article’s publication, Amazon’s dynamic pricing means prices may have changed since).
1. SkyTech Shadow Gaming Computer PC Desktop
The SkyTech Shadow has a lot going on – especially in its price range.
The Intel Core i5 9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz (4.1 GHz Max) sources the speed necessary to run your favorite games, with the ability to increase the processor frequency when you need a boost, and save energy when you don’t.
The 8GB DDR4 RAM is upgradable, but still runs impressively smooth and fast, delivering up to 110FPS on games like Fortnite, in 1080p. NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5 Graphics Card serves up crisp visuals, and a 500GB SSD provides plenty of storage (at faster speeds than old-school HDDs).
There’s a total of eight USB ports, along with an HDMI and two Display ports, and three RGB fans inside for max airflow that you can see through the tempered glass case.
An RGB keyboard and mouse are also included here. This is a beast of a rig for the setup.
2. iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Trace 4 9310
“iBUYPOWER has been working with Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, and Microsoft for the better part of our 22 years in business,” says company EVP Darren Su. “The Trace 4 9310 provides customers with the best bang for their buck with the Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, but can also be easily upgraded in the future.”
The Trace’s AMD’s Radeon RX 5500XT graphics card brings visuals to vivid life, while their Ryzen 5 3600 3.6GHz (4.2GHz Max Turbo) runs AAA titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends at a smooth and flowing frame rate. Windows 10 comes standard here, as do six total USB ports, HDMI, three DisplayPorts (and a keyboard and mouse), along with Bluetooth capability, 7.1 channel sound, and being VR-ready.
Not only is this a great gaming PC for beginners right out of the box, it’s also an excellent starting point if you’re interested in getting into PC building too. The Trace’s case is big enough to learn about the internal parts and their functions (you can easily see them through the tempered glass), and it’s also easy to start adding and installing your own upgrades to build your ultimate gaming rig.
3. Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 Desktop
Acer has been cranking out some increasingly impressive machines in the past few years, and for light-level gaming, or those taking their first step into the gaming world, this is a winner.
Fueled by a 9th Generation Intel Core i3 9100 Processor (Up to 4. 2GHz with TurboBoost), it comes with 8GB of DDR4 Memory, and a 512GB SSD for storage. It’ll suffice as is, but a few small upgrades can really take this to new heights by adding an extra stick of RAM, or a fan and a better graphics card.
Windows 10 is the OS of choice here, and it’s also got 5.1 surround sound built-in, so if you’ve already got a speaker system, hook it up and get audibly immersed in whatever you’re playing.
4. CHUWI CoreBox X Windows 10 Mini PC
There’s a lot crammed in to this mighty little box, perfect for those who already own a monitor or modern TV to connect.
The CoreBox runs on Windows 10 (and supports Linux), with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD – less than a lot of the others here but still a decent amount for the size. At the CoreBox’s core is the Intel Core i7-6560U processor, reaching up to 3.5GHz with TurboBoost. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fortnite run pretty smoothly, and it can even handle VR games with the proper hardware.
Another key advantage here is the portability, which is usually a pain with a desktop machine. But the CoreBox weighs in at just under two pounds, and still includes a fan, Bluetooth, and upgradable RAM.
5. ALARCO Gaming PC Desktop Computer Intel i5 3
The Alarco comes with 8GB of DDR3 RAM already installed, and Intel Core i5-2400 3.10GHz CPU speed. It’s fast enough to run modern games like Fortnite at 100 FPS on a low setting, and 60 FPS on medium, as well as games like GTA5 at an average of 30 FPS. But older vintage games is where it really shines.
The four fans running at 120rpm come equipped with RGB lighting, and are visible through the tempered glass side panel, while a 1TB hard disk size should be plenty of storage space.