CES 2022 has me more excited for budget PC gaming than ever before

A PC gamer looking happy
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

With CES 2022 winding down, we saw a lot of exciting products from new TVs to smart toothbrushes to new computing hardware. 

The latter, in particular, caught my attention since a lot of the best products – or at least most important, in my opinion – weren't necessarily the flashiest or most luxurious. From the new Nvidia RTX 3050 to new gaming laptops with 12th-gen Intel Alder Lake chips, there is a lot here for PC gamers to be excited about, especially if you're on a tighter budget this year.

Although the new RTX 3090 Ti is getting a lot of attention, few of us will ever see this graphics card. It's already all but impossible to find high-end graphics cards, and if you can find them, you're likely being gouged on the price.

And the new Razer Blade laptops and Alienware Concept Nyx definitely received their share of publicity, budget gaming laptops and desktops still got a few major upgrades this year, which makes me more excited than ever for the budget PC gaming scene.

Nvidia's RTX 3050 is a bigger deal than the RTX 3090 Ti

A slide showing the performance of the Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics card

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Yeah, the RTX 3090 Ti is impressive, but who cares? You're never getting your hands on that card. What's more, for the price of that graphics card, you could buy a whole new gaming PC with some decent specs.

But after nearly two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, money is going to be tight for a lot of people, and even the RTX 3060 is probably out of reach for a lot of PC gamers who want to upgrade their rigs.

The RTX 3050, on the other hand, might be hitting as close to a sweet spot as budget gamers can really hope for out of this generation. Starting at $249 (about £190/AU$350), this won't be a cheap graphics card (assuming you can find it), but it might still be something builders can splurge on and not blow a hole in a limited budget.

Even better, pre-built budget gaming PCs with an RTX 3050 will be a good bit cheaper than those with an RTX 3060 or RTX 3060 Ti, which will give more gamers access to the Ampere architecture and everything that brings with it.

Now, this likely won't be glorious ray-traced graphics like you'd get on an RTX 3090 Ti – at least not at an acceptable frame rate – but with some aggressive settings tweaks, it's not out of the question, especially with the real reason the RTX 3050 is literally going to be game-changing: DLSS.

DLSS, or Deep Learning Super Sampling, is an Nvidia technology that is only available on RTX cards, so the last-gen Turing cards and the current Ampere cards. This tech is important because it can significantly boost frame rates by rendering a frame at a much lower resolution and then using machine learning technology to scale that image up to a higher resolution.

While ray tracing on an RTX 3050 won't be particularly powerful, or even worth the performance hit you're going to take, DLSS is easily going to get the latest AAA titles running at 1080p on high-ish settings up to 60 fps. 

For gamers, this will be a massive improvement over the older Nvidia GTX or AMD Radeon RX 500-series cards that most budget-minded people have been using up until now.

Say hello to DDR5

Another huge benefit for budget PC gamers is Intel Alder Lake and its support for DDR5. While DDR5 is still rather expensive off the shelf right now, manufacturers are going to get far better pricing on DDR5 for their prebuilt PCs than builders are going to find.

This means that Intel-based prebuilt gaming PCs from budget mainstays like HP are going to come with DDR5 memory, making them much more powerful than last year's versions, and there likely won't be much of a difference in the price.

Again, it's not likely that a budget HP Omen is going to start pumping out 60 fps of 4K gaming, but that faster DDR5 RAM will absolutely help things run smoother across the board. So even if you're running a PC with a GTX 1650, we're going to see a significant performance boost just from the move to DDR5.

This is also important since most budget gaming PCs typically come with 8GB RAM, which isn't as much as it used to be. Modern AAA titles can chew through 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and while 8GB of DDR5 RAM will still be somewhat restrictive, if you've got a discrete graphics card in the box with a decent (i.e., 4GB) of VRAM, then 8GB of DDR5 RAM will definitely feel like a lot more.

Altogether, the performance bump that prebuilt gaming PCs, which are great for gamers on a budget, are going to get in 2022 is an exciting step in the right direction.

Budget gaming laptops just keep getting better


(Image credit: Canva)

Another major reason why budget PC gaming is going to see a great year ahead is the major advances that we've been seeing in the quality of their hardware.

To get the most out of a gaming laptop, you need a discrete GPU, and with the new RTX 3070 Ti and RTX 3080 Ti mobile GPUs in a lot of mid-range and higher-end laptops, those with an RTX 3070 GPU and lower should see something of a price cut.

While we don't expect last year's Lenovo Legion 5 Pro and Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 to suddenly become "budget" gaming laptops, we still might see them go on sale for budget pricing as the new models come out later this year.

What's more, the RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti gaming laptops are already doing well in the higher end of the budget market, and with refreshes coming this year that feature new Intel Alder Lake mobile chips and LPDDR5 and DDR5 memory, budget laptops are simply going to get a lot better.

And since building your own budget gaming PC at this point is going to be tough given the stock shortages of major components like graphics cards, prebuilt PCs and laptops that offer great performance are still going to be the way to go this year for gaming. 

If you're going to buy a new computer for gaming at this point, you really do get the best of both worlds with laptop. Over the holiday break, I was able to show my brother a good budget gaming laptop in action. He is as much of a gamer as I am, but has stuck to consoles for the past several years since PC gaming is typically outside his budget.

Seeing how Resident Evil 8 performed at 1080p on my cheap gaming laptop was enough to impress my brother, but introducing him to the entire survival genre – something that is almost exclusively PC-based – through magnificent titles like Raft and Valheim finally won him over to give up trying to buy a PS5 and give PC gaming another try.

Thanks to all the new budget-friendly options coming down the road this year, it'll be easier for him and others to jump into the best PC games around without having to take out a loan, which is something gamers everywhere should celebrate.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components 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 Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).