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Best budget gaming PC 2021: top gaming desktops for less

Included in this guide:

Best Budget Gaming PC
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best budget gaming PCs are not only significantly cheaper than more expensive builds out there, they're more than capable of getting great gaming performance for the vast majority of the best PC games out there, even if they might not be able to crank every setting all the way up to 11.

Some even come with some of the best cheap processors and best budget graphics cards, which saves a ton of money while still giving you a solid amount of performance for both everyday computing needs as well as serious PC gaming.

And with the best processors and best graphics cards currently being almost impossible to get your hands on right now thanks to a host of ongoing issues, getting the best budget gaming PC now could be a great choice that can let you upgrade later when better components become more available on the market.

That upgradability definitely gives a budget gaming PC a step up above even the best all-in-one computers that you can't build upon once the components start to age and the system's performance starts to become obsolete in the future.

Most importantly, most users – and even most PC gamers – don't actually need the absolute best gaming PC money can buy to enjoy PC gaming, since even the latest AAA games on PC will have a host of performance settings that can dial things back to what your PC might be capable of. 

And sure, something like Cyberpunk 2077 isn't going to look as good as possible on even the best budget gaming PC, but honestly, it probably doesn't have to for you to enjoy the game. What's more, some of the best Steam games aren't as resource-intensive as they were in the past, so you can still enjoy the latest titles along with everyone else, as well as all the best cheap PC games out there from indie studios.

We definitely understand that you'll want to make the right choice when making your purchase though, since getting a gaming PC for cheap is only a smart decision if that PC is actually good enough to use. Buying a crappy system that can't run anything isn't a good purchase no matter how much money you save. Don't worry though, we're here to help you find the best budget gaming PC for your needs and budget so you don't have to stress about whether you're buying a lemon. 

Our Top Picks for Best Budget Gaming PC of 2021

Best Budget Gaming PCs of 2021

Acer Predator Orion 3000 against a white background

(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 against a white background

(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 against a white background

(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 against a white background

(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 against a white background

(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 against a white background

(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. 

How to Buy the Best Budget Gaming PC

Is it cheaper to build or buy PC?

It is always going to be more expensive to build a budget gaming PC than it will be to buy one, since manufacturers will get OEM pricing on components, which will really make a difference on the lower end of the price scale. 

But pre-built PCs are often built with the careful mix of components to maximize performance at that price point. This often means that if you want to upgrade one component, you might need to upgrade other components along with it, which can make upgrading the PC a more expensive proposition down the road.

Is a $500 gaming PC worth it?

It depends on what you mean by "worth it." What you want to play and at what kind of performance and quality settings is going to make a major difference on whether a $500 gaming PC is up to the task.

If your primary goal is to play modern AAA titles at 1080p at reasonable settings at a reasonable frames per second (averaging 30 or more fps), then a $500 gaming PC can probably give you that and possibly a bit more, depending on the game.

If you want to play something at 4K with 60 fps, then no, you're probably better off buying a PS5 or Xbox Series X|S, assuming you can find one at MSRP.

Today's Best Budget Gaming PC Deals