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Best budget gaming PC 2021: top gaming desktops for less

Best budget gaming PC
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Don’t knock the best budget gaming PCs until you try them. Yes, top-of-the-line hardware is best when you’re playing the best PC games. However, you don’t need pricey graphics cards and processors – and therefore, the most expensive gaming PCs – to have a fun and immersive gaming experience. Sometimes, the most economical option is more than good enough, especially if you’re on a budget.

The best budget gaming PCs should get you through even the most demanding games. You might not be able to game at the highest settings or at the highest resolution, let alone play with ray tracing on. However, a modest machine should be able to see you through 1080p and 1440p gaming. Something like the Dell D5, for example, will deliver great 1080p gaming while costing you less than $1,000/£1,000, which gives you money to splash out on a seriously impressive gaming monitor.

When looking for a gaming PC, consider one with capable yet affordably-priced components from the AMD Navi, Ryzen 3nd Generation, and Intel Comet Lake. These are the best budget gaming PCs 2021 has to offer.

Save even more money with the best free PC games. To round out your gaming rig, invest in the best gaming mouse and the best gaming keyboard you can afford.

Acer Predator Orion 3000

(Image credit: Acer)

1. Acer Predator Orion 3000

Affordable gaming at its best

Specifications
CPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660
Graphics: 10th-gen Inte Core i5
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Cool gamer aesthetic+Great cooling solution
Reasons to avoid
-Higher configurations are pricey

Although the Acer Predator Orion 3000’s higher configurations are out of most budget gamers’ price range, its base configuration is very much accessible, sitting at under $1,000. There’s still very much to love here, however, that GTX 1660 graphics card is still an excellent 1080p gaming contender even in the RTX 3000 world. Its RGB lighting and cooling solution only add to its value.

HP Omen 25L

(Image credit: HP)

2. Omen 25L

For AMD fans

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500, 7 3700X or 9 3900
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5500 – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super
RAM: 16GB – 32B DDR4
Storage: 256GB SSD – 1TB + 2TB + 2TB
Reasons to buy
+Pretty cheap+Toolless access+Great cooling
Reasons to avoid
-Unimaginative design

The Omen 25L’s rectangular black metal design isn’t going to turn heads anytime soon. That’s at least offset by its glass panel, but only barely. However, if you’re not too concerned about looks, this is among the best budget gaming PCs to hit the shelves in 2021 that won’t make a sizable dent in your bank account. With AMD configurations on hand, it’s perfect for AMD-leaning gamers. But, those that are loyal to Nvidia’s RTX line can partake as well, as you can configure it to have up to an RTX 2070 Super GPU. Still, it’s the price we can’t get over here – kitted out, the Omen 25L costs as much as many of the premium gaming PCs in their mid-range configuration. Only, this one’s got more memory and a lot more storage capacity.

MSI Trident 3 9th

(Image credit: MSI)

3. MSI Trident 3 9th

A great performer

Specifications
CPU: up to 9th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super
RAM: up to 16GB
Storage: up to 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Lots of power+Compact
Reasons to avoid
-Come with bloated software

If looking good matters to you as much as power, then you might love the MSI Trident 3 9th, especially if you’re partial to a gaming-leaning aesthetic. It’s not all looks either. This small gaming PC touts plenty of power under the hood for less than its rivals, with 9th-generation Intel Core processors and the best Nvidia RTX and GTX graphics. It’s even cheaper than many of the gaming PCs on this list, with its Intel Core i7 + RTX 2060 Super +16GB RAM configuration setting you back much less than a HP Omen 25L with equivalent specs. If you’re trying to maximize your limited space and budget, this is the best budget gaming PC for you.

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

(Image credit: HP)

4. HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

Great for work and play

Specifications
CPU: up to AMD Ryzen 7
Graphics: up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Super
RAM: up to 16GB
Storage: up to 1TB HDD + 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Productivity-friendly aesthetic
Reasons to avoid
-Specs aren’t future-proof

Trimming that gamer aesthetic look to the barest minimum, the HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop fits just at home in any office as it does in someone’s game room. So, if you’re looking for a machine on which you can both play and work, this is just the ticket – giving you even more savings. It isn’t going to be a kitted out machine, although if you shell out a little more for the higher configurations, you can score one with an RTX 3060. However, its lower configurations should be capable enough to see you through 1080p gaming.

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

(Image credit: Dell)

5. Dell G5

Budget PC gaming at its best

Specifications
CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core i3-9100 – i9 9900K
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 – RTX 2070
RAM: 8GB – 64GB
Storage: 1TBSSD – 1TB SSD + 2TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+VR-ready configurations
Reasons to avoid
-Base models won’t get you through the most demanding games

A unique chassis coupled with a price to beat, Dell’s latest in its G series gaming PCs is a solid contender as among the best budget gaming PCs out there. The Dell G5 boasts 9th-generation Intel chips as well as Nvidia’s most powerful gaming GTX and RTX graphics cards, starting with an i3 processor and the GTX 1650 to handle many powerful games without burning a whole in your pocket. Of course, if you’ve got more case to spare, its VR ready configurations are also on hand, though even those are absolutely affordable.

Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

(Image credit: Intel)

6. Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

Small, but dangerous

Specifications
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM: 8GB – 64B DDR4
Storage: 128GB SSD – 2TB + 2TB
Reasons to buy
+Affordable at its low configurations+Highly upgradeable+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Can get pretty pricey at the highest configurations

Intel’s NUC has come a long way from its humble beginnings. For example, while the previous Hades Canyon didn’t come with a RAM or storage, the newer Ghost Canyon has both. In fact, not only does it have more offerings now in terms of specs, but it’s also highly configurable so you can personalize it to your liking before hitting that buy button. With 9th-generation Intel Core chips, up to 64GB of memory and up to 4TB dual storage, we’re all for it. The only catch is that it's pricier now as well. The lower configurations are still quite affordable, however, and among the best budget gaming PCs for the budget-conscious. 

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of magazines and websites, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.