The best budget gaming PC 2022: top cheap gaming desktops

Image of an Acer gaming desktop on green background
(Image credit: Future / Acer)
EDITOR'S NOTE: December 2022

According to a report by Adobe (opens in new tab), electronics prices started plummeting around this time last year, and we expect much of the same this year. Many of the best gaming PCs from Acer, HP, Lenovo, and other major manufacturers are going to be more affordable than ever, especially their budget offerings like some of those on this list. So, if you're in the market for a cheap gaming PC, this is going to be a great time of year to pick one up.

John Loeffler, Computing Editor

The best budget gaming PC is a terrific choice if you're limited on funds and doesn't need something that runs games at the highest resolution and speediest refresh rates. A gaming PC doesn't have to pack in the most powerful hardware on Earth to give you decent gaming performance, if you can keep your expectations in line somewhat.

In fact, while the something like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti certainly can't compete with something like the RTX 3090 Ti in terms of raw performance, it doesn't have to for many gamers. In most cases, 1440p graphics cards like it can provide you some seriously impressive gaming performance for an extremely accessible price point. 

This is exactly the kind of hardware you'll find in the best budget gaming PCs. Even better, the best budget gaming PC can leave you enough room to get some great peripherals to go along with your new gaming rig, like the best gaming keyboard or the best gaming chair for your budget.

With so many options to choose from, we've done a lot of the hard work for you. Our experts have also reviewed many of the best budget gaming PCs out there from major manufacturers like HP and Lenovo to identify and bring the best PCs for gaming under $1,000. We've also tested all the best cheap graphics cards and the best cheap processors that usually go into a budget gaming PC, so we know quality when we see it. 

You can get some incredible gaming for less than you think. Our top picks of the best budget gaming PCs should help you make the right choice for your needs and budget.

The best budget gaming PC 2022

Acer Predator Orion 3000

(Image credit: Acer)
The very best budget gaming PC


CPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660
Graphics: 11th-gen Intel Core i5
Storage: 512GB SSD

Reasons to buy

Cool gamer aesthetic
Great cooling solution
Solid selection of different models

Reasons to avoid

Higher configurations are pricey

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.

HP Omen 25L against a white background

(Image credit: HP)

2. HP Omen 25L

The best budget gaming PC for AMD fans


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 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.

MSI Trident 3 9th against a white background

(Image credit: MSI)
The best compact gaming PC


CPU: up to 10th-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

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 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.

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop against a white background

(Image credit: HP)

4. HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop

The best for both work and play


CPU: up to AMD Ryzen 7
Graphics: up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
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 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.

Intel Ghost Canyon NUC against a white background

(Image credit: Intel)

6. Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

Small, but dangerous


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. 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.

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.

How we test budget gaming PCs

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about 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.

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John Loeffler
Computing Editor

John (He/Him) is the US Computing Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn

Currently playing: The Last Stand: Aftermath, Cartel Tycoon

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