How to buy a budget gaming PC

black woman playing game on desktop gaming pc
(Image credit: Shutterstock / DC Studio)

Shopping around for a gaming PC on its own can be difficult, considering the wide variety of brands, types, and sizes to educate yourself on and choose from.

What makes things even more difficult is that recent years have seen a dramatic increase in PC prices, especially in the gaming PC sector. Depending on the specs involved, you can see an MSRP well into the thousands for the best gaming PCs with the best graphics card and best processor configurations. Finding one with budget pricing that also has great performance is an even more complicated task. 

But getting the best budget gaming PC isn't a pipe dream, and you can nab yourself an excellent deal if you know where to look. Not only that, if you know what to look for you can get an excellent quality one that can run the best PC games out there, and most of them at high settings to boot.

For those reasons, we have this handy guide that will teach you how to buy a budget gaming PC, no matter what you're looking for.

Steps for how to buy a budget gaming PC

  1. Figure out what your needs are
  2. Create a budget you can stick to
  3. Wait for sales and deals

Tools and Requirements

  • Various retailer sites like Amazon or Best Buy
  • A budget
  • List of specs you need that match your budet

Step by step guide for buying a budget gaming PC

1. Figure out what you're looking for in a gaming PC

The first step in purchasing a gaming PC, especially a budget one, is figuring out what you're looking for to begin with. If you only play low to mid-range PC games that don't require high-end specs, then focus on PCs with older specs rather than the latest ones. 

But if you need a PC that can run high-end AAA games on high settings, then you'll need to pay close attention to what specs can achieve this without breaking the bank.

2. Figure out the right specs for your budget gaming PC

The next step is figuring out the right specs for the kind of budget gaming PC you need. The following are the minimum specs for a gaming PC:

1. Minimum - Intel Core i5-12600K / AMD Ryzen 5 5600X processors

2. Minimum - Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 / AMD RX 6500 graphics cards

3. Minimum - 8GB of RAM

4. Minimum - 256GB SSD / 1TB HDD of storage

And the following are the recommended specs:

1. Recommended - Intel Core i5 13600K / AMD Ryzen 5 7600X processors

2. Recommended - Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 / AMD RX 6600 XT graphics cards

3. Recommended - 16GB of RAM

4. Recommended - 512GB SSD of storage

Minimum specs are for low to mid-range PC games that aren't graphically demanding. Think of games like Hades, Minecraft, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Meanwhile, high-end titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Baldur's Gate 3, and Street Fighter 6 require more demanding specs that can handle advanced graphics and more sophisticated game engines. Budget gaming PCs can play these games, buy you're going to have to dial back the graphics settings to medium at least and play at 1080p resolution in most cases. 

So, you'll need to temper the level of specs that will go into your PC to keep pricing from escalating. I would suggest sticking with the recommended specs at best, since that more than covers any high-end PC game.

3. Figuring out your budget

Your maximum budget is a vital part of shopping around for a budget gaming PC. You need to set the highest amount that you can spend, then tailor both your needs and the specs required to actualize them, and then shop for PCs that are under that budget first.

If you're not sure what your budget should be, a good amount to spend on a budget gaming PC is around $1,000 or under. For that amount, you can get a machine with the minimum specs previously outlined that can handle most games, even more demanding games at lower settings.

If you want a machine that can handle more demanding games at higher settings, then you'll need to invest in a gaming rig that's around $1,200 with the recommended specs.

Sadly, anything higher like the RTX 4000-series or Radeon RX 7000-series graphics cards will noticeably raise the cost of your gaming rig, putting it well out of the affordable pricing range.

4. Take advantage of deals and special holiday sales

One of the best ways to lower the cost of a gaming PC is to wait for retailer deals like Amazon Prime Day or special holiday sales like Black Friday PC deals or Cyber Monday. These events can significantly lower the cost of gaming PCs, including both those already at budget prices and rigs that were otherwise more expensive.

If you're in the market for a gaming PC with superior specs that fall short of your maximum budget, then consider waiting for retailer deals and holiday events to ensure the best possible price.

However, be careful when taking advantage of sales and deals. Sometimes retailers will use this opportunity to sell terrible PCs with missing or extremely old components. Use the minimum specs guideline above to know what you need and how old you should go.

5. Consider building your own rig from scratch

If you have experience with PC building or know someone who does, it could be worth building your own gaming PC. Traditionally, PCs built yourself were much cheaper and much more future-proofed than pre-built PCs. That changed for several years thanks to the cryptocurrency craze that ballooned prices of graphics cards and even processors.

But now those same prices have dipped again, making it a worthwhile consideration. There are plenty of guides on how to build a budget gaming PC and how to build a cheap gaming PC with solid specs. And just like with pre-built PCs, waiting for special events to purchase components is an excellent way to save even more money on parts.

And since you're building your own PC, you can avoid features that bloat the cost of one including unnecessary RGB lighting and fancy cases. Stick with the simple and you can save tons.

Final thoughts

Regardless of the specs, stick to the best monitor with a 1080p resolution you can swing, or at most the best 1440p monitor, if you can get a good deal. You don't need anything higher as it will just bloat the cost. If you stick to that, you can find the best cheap gaming monitor deals that include the best gaming monitor for your needs.

The good thing about getting a budget gaming PC is that the highest cost is the initial money you spend to buy the entire unit. After that, you simply need to upgrade whichever component is failing or out of date, which is significantly cheaper especially when you wait for deals and sales to cut down the prices even more.

Finally, if you can afford to, consider spending a little more to future-proof your machine. Doing so can save you tons of money in the long run.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.