PC gaming is still king, let's be honest. The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S are slowly becoming more available to consumers, but where else do you get the wealth of choice in games, the ability to freely upgrade your hardware, and the currently-raging Steam Summer Sale? Nowhere but on PC, that's where.
Still, even with GPU prices gradually beginning to stabilize, building or buying a good gaming PC can be an expensive process. If you'd prefer not to have to meddle around with cables and screwdrivers, buying a pre-built gaming system from a trusted manufacturer can be the way to go, and there are plenty of great options to choose from that won't break the bank.
With next-generation GPUs from Nvidia and AMD coming later this year (and Intel's long-awaited return to the GPU market), now might not be the best time to buy a high-end graphics card. That's good news for anyone looking to snap up a more affordable pre-built system, though, as GPU manufacturers are eager to clear out stock before the new cards arrive, driving down prices. Check out our favourite budget gaming PCs below!
Christian Guyton, Computing Editor
If you want to game on PC, you don't have to spend a fortune. With more GPUs and CPUs on the market than ever before, it's easy to get yourself a powerful budget gaming PC and be playing the latest PC release (or classics that never made it to console!) in no time at all.
Yes, you can still splurge on an ultra-powerful gaming PC if you've got cash to spare, but if your wallet is feeling a little tighter there are still plenty of lower-specced alternatives that will still be capable of running graphically-demanding titles without sacrificing framerates. As the cost of living skyrockets, anyone contemplating getting into PC gaming - or purchasing an upgrade for a dated gaming rig - will want to consider one of our top budget gaming PCs.
Remember that you don't need to throw out your whole system if you're able to afford a more powerful gaming machine later on, too. With pre-built PCs, you can usually swap out the components for more powerful pieces later on, snagging a good deal on a graphics card or upgrading to the best processor when you're able to afford it. Any gaming PC is an investment, and the potential for upgrades is effectively limitless.
These best budget gaming PCs will be equipped with cheaper processors and budget graphics cards, but those won't hinder its ability to play the best games on PC. They’ll still provide you with an immersive - if a bit less graphically impressive - gaming experience. As an added bonus, saving some money on your PC will give you some moolah left over to spend on vital additions like the best gaming keyboard, a gaming mouse, or a gaming monitor.
You don't want to end up with a cheap gaming PC that doesn't run well (or won't run at all), but we're here to make sure that doesn't happen. Below is our list of the best budget gaming PCs available in 2022, to help you grab a system that works well and gets you into the games you love faster. Check out the price comparison tool to find the best deals available right now!
Best Budget Gaming PCs of 2022
The Acer Predator Orion 3000 comes in a wide range of configurations, the most powerful of which will be out of most budget gamers' price range. However, the base configuration is much more accessible at below $1,000, coming with a GTX 1660 graphics card and Intel Core i5 processor, backed up by 16GB of RAM. This model is no longer available directly from Acer, but can still be picked up from retailers and should provide more than enough graphical oomph for gaming at 1080p, even in a post-RTX 3000 world, without needing to compromise too much in the graphical settings menu.
Despite being a powerful gaming PC with good potential for piecemeal upgrades further down the line, the Predator Orion 3000's chassis isn't oversized like some gaming rigs; it's been thoughtfully designed to fit beside a monitor or beneath a desk, and the vented front and side panels mean that thermal performance is excellent. It's got that much-desired 'gamer aesthetic' too, thanks to RGB lighting and a big, triangular power button that is very satisfying to press.
Read our full Acer Predator Orion 3000 review.
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 2022 that won’t make a sizable dent in your bank account.
With a number of AMD configurations on hand, it’s perfect for gamers who prefer Team Red. 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 HP's offering has more memory and a lot more storage capacity thanks to a multi-drive setup.
If looking good matters to you as much as power, then you might love the MSI Trident 3 10th, especially if you’re partial to a gaming-leaning aesthetic. The angular tower is roughly the same size as a home console, meaning that it won't take up too much room on your desk and could even slot into a TV stand if you'd prefer to use a controller for some couch gaming instead. It comes with an included removable base if you'd rather mount it upright, too.
It’s not all looks either. This small gaming PC touts plenty of power under the hood for less than its rivals, with 10th-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 an 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.
Trimming that gamer aesthetic look to the barest minimum, the HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop fits just at home in any office environment as it does in someone’s game room thanks to its compact chassis and refined LED lighting along the base. So, if you’re looking for a machine on which you can both play and work, this is just the ticket – taking out two birds with one stone and giving you even more savings.
It isn’t going to be an ultra-kitted-out machine, obviously, although if you shell out a little more for the higher configurations, you can score one with an RTX 3060 that will offer some more graphical oomph for playing the latest games. However, its lower configurations should be capable enough to see you through 1080p gaming, provided you're willing to drop your graphical settings a bit.
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, but the base model ships with an i3 processor and the Nvidia GTX 1650 to handle many of the latest PC games without burning a hole in your pocket.
Of course, if you’ve got a little more cash to spare, its VR-ready configurations are also on hand, though even those are absolutely affordable. The Dell G5 is also one of the only budget gaming PCs on this list to feature a windowed side panel, if you like to show off the internal components of your PC. The straightforward case design makes opening up this gaming rig to upgrade your parts a breeze, too.
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. Bear in mind, though, that many NUCs run on integrated graphics running off the CPU, which won't offer the same level of performance as a dedicated graphics card. Still, iGPUs have come a long way in recent years, and are now a viable way to game at lower settings.
How to choose the best budget gaming PC for you
Finding the best budget gaming PC for you can be a difficult prospect, as there's a huge range of manufacturers with an even huger range of configurations available. We look at all different kinds and compare them to other PCs in their class, considering everything from price to performance to build quality.
Be sure to consider what you personally need when it comes to gaming on a PC. If you're planning on mostly playing 2D indie games or esports games (such as League of Legends and Valorant), you likely won't need a super-powerful machine since these titles are usually well-optimized to run on lower-end hardware. On the other hand, if you want to play graphically-demanding triple-A games, you're going to need to spend a bit more to get the best performance.
Resolution is an important factor here too; is the screen you'll be using a 1080p full HD monitor, or a 4K 120Hz display? If you're gaming at a higher resolution, you'll need a more powerful GPU in order to keep your framerates looking steady without compromising significantly in the graphical settings.
How we test
Here at TechRadar, we believe in rigorously testing every piece of hardware that passes through our hands. If it fails to impress during testing, we'll always let you know; we won't recommend you buy any product that falls short of the performance median for its price range.
Our testing process varies from product to product, but we're always sure to run the most appropriate tests considering the target purpose of whatever we're reviewing. This means we're always sure to run plenty of gaming tests on a gaming laptop, or editing benchmarks for a desktop workstation PC. We also always examine the build quality of a product to see whether it aligns with the attached price tag.
If you want to know more about how we test and rate the computers in this guide, check out our explainer on how we test laptops and desktops to learn more.
Is it hard to find a good budget gaming PC?
Due to a global chip shortage spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors like droughts and power outages, it was hard to find a budget gaming PC for a while. GPU and CPU prices were sky-high for a good portion of 2022 due to things like supply chain issues and scalpers gouging the market. However, the market seems to have finally calmed down enough that a rig like this can actually be considered affordable.
We’ve observed AMD and Nvidia GPU prices continue to decrease - although AMD’s are falling faster - which is good news for everyone. AMD graphics cards are consistently nearing MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) which means it will hopefully be easier to get your hands on affordable gaming PC parts, and therefore cheaper pre-built gaming PCs. We may not be in the clear just yet, but the market change is hopefully indicative of it becoming easier to find the best budget gaming PC at wallet-friendly prices.
Is it cheaper to build or buy PC?
Ultimately, it's 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 that they order in bulk, 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 in order to avoid a performance bottleneck in one part of your system, which can potentially 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. Of course, this limits you to only playing the games available on that platform, and remember that you'll need to pay a regular subscription for online play too.
- Fancy a more portable device? Check out our list of the best gaming laptops 2022