Are you looking for a cheap gaming PC that can easily handle your favorite games? Below, you’ll find six different affordable gaming computers that will serve you well through the end of 2018 and into 2019 (and beyond).
In this day and age of incredible graphics and extremely demanding video games, you, as a PC gamer, must have a capable gaming computer if you want to play your favorite games in the way they were designed to be played. And, although some console gamers might tell you that PC gaming is too expensive to get into, the reality is that even if you are working with a tight budget, you can build (or buy) a budget PC that can deliver excellent performance at 1080P resolution in most games.
And, if you’re willing to spend between $700-$800 you can even get a VR-ready gaming PC that is capable of utilizing an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset.
In this guide, I’ve given you six different budget PC builds (that are current as of November 2018) that you can use as is, or that you can use as a base to put together your own part list. This will allow you to skip the fine details and get straight to building your new powerful system. These aren’t the best gaming PCs you can build, but for the price their performance is incredible and for the most part, the majority of them will offer a better gaming experience than consoles will.
In the end, you’ll have a plan of action, as well as a number of different components to choose between, and you’ll be well on your way to building a cheap gaming computer desktop that is capable of delivering excellent levels of performance. You’ll also find links to comparable affordable pre-built desktops. So, if you don’t want to build your own PC, you can check out the types of desktops you can get for a similar price.
In this section, I’ve taken six different price points ($300, $400, $500, $600, $700, & $800) and I’ve put together affordable gaming PC builds for each budget. These builds can either be used as is, or they can serve as a base that you can customize to your liking.
Each build has a link next to each component that says “SEE PRICE »” and if you click on it it will lead you to that component’s listing on Amazon where you can purchase it. And, if you are looking for a pre-built gaming desktop, there is also a link that says “PRE-BUILT »” that will take you to similarly-priced pre-built systems.
$800 Gaming PC
$700 Gaming PC
$600 Gaming PC
$500 Gaming PC
$400 Gaming PC
$300 Gaming PC
*I update these builds about once per week and if the total price is over the price range I have set ($30 threshold) then it’s likely that one (or more) of the components included in the build saw a price increase since I had last updated the build. No worries, though! If you browse for similar components you will likely find something comparable performance-wise that will be more affordable and will bring the price down.
**There is speculation that the new tariffs placed on imported products from China will have an impact on the prices of computer components. We haven’t seen a significant increase as of yet, but make note that it is possible that prices could fluctuate more than normal over the coming weeks.
***Due to recent data breaches at Newegg and NCIX, we recommend purchasing your parts from Amazon if possible.
What if I told you that for ~$800 you could build a computer that could serve as a solid 1080P or 1440P gaming machine? Or, that could support the Oculus Rift?
That’s what this $800 gaming PC brings to the table. With an RX 580 8GB GPU, this budget PC build is capable of playing most games on a 1440P 60Hz monitor at medium-to-higher settings with acceptable frame rates. And, if you want to jump into the world of Virtual-Reality gaming, this build meets the requirements to run an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive as well.
And, of course, if you just want to play on a 1080P monitor, this budget system will easily be able to handle that as benchmarks for the RX 580 8GB show that it can handle 1080P gaming incredibly well. In fact, pairing this build with a cheap 144Hz gaming monitor with FreeSync would make for a great gaming PC for PUBG or Fortnite, or any other highly-competitive game.
The build also includes a 240GB SSD, which will offer superior read/write speeds over traditional mechanical hard drives. It’s not a huge amount of storage, but we’ve also included a 1TB mechanical backup hard drive. So, you should have more than enough storage with this setup.
Ultimately, while this build doesn’t have a new NVIDIA RTX (ray tracing) GPU in it, it will still offer incredible performance at the price it comes in at.
A lot of people love to brag about their $3,000 water-cooled systems and the ridiculous frame rates they get while playing their favorite games. If you have the money to go all out on a high-end gaming rig, then, by all means, do so. (I personally love seeing how far a system can be pushed!)
However, if you’re looking to get a new cheap PC that is capable of giving you a really high-end gaming experience, you could easily achieve that with $700 of quality computer components.
With an Intel Core i3-8100 and an RX 580 8GB, this is a budget PC that is, believe it or not, capable of functioning as an entry-level 4K gaming PC. It will even meet the required specifications for running the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive—so virtual reality is also doable with this setup.
This $700 gaming PC also comes with the nice-looking Thermaltake Versa H15 micro-ATX case. This isn’t the greatest case in the world, but for under $40, you get a solid case with decent airflow, plenty of room, and nice aesthetics, too.
Ultimately, this budget build will offer ideal performance in 1080p gaming, or on a 1080P 144Hz, monitor, and decent performance in 1440P gaming, and it is one of the best cheap computers for gaming you can build for $700 in October 2018. Here’s the part list:
If you didn’t think you could get a solid gaming PC for under ~$600, you might want to think again
In fact, for right around $600, you can throw together a solid gaming desktop that will max out any game on the market on a 1080p monitor as well as a system that will even be able to handle most games on a 1440p 60Hz monitor (although, you wouldn’t be able to play more demanding games on some of the best 1440P 144Hz monitors with this setup) as well.
And, with an Intel Core i3-8100 and an RX 580 GB, this $600 gaming computer build is actually capable of running an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive!
If you’re not into building your own system, though, you can check similarly-priced pre-built gaming computers by following the “SHOP PRE-BUILTS” link below.
Overall, though, this system is a really good gaming computer for the money and it will easily last you through the end of the year, as well as into 2019 and beyond.
For those of you looking to spend a little bit more money, you can come away with a truly powerful gaming computer at a very affordable price. At $500 this next cheap computer build will present you with unbelievable performance.
These parts are literally capable of producing an experience on par with some of the big custom PC builder’s $1,000+ pre-built gaming computers.
Overall, it’s a good starter gaming PC for anyone looking to get into PC gaming or anyone who is looking for an affordable PC in general and it will offer a gaming experience that exceeds any popular console (PS4, PS4 Pro, and XBox One.)
If you were looking to buy a decent system from the big computer assemblers, you would expect to pay at least $700. However, you don’t need to spend $700 in order to get a gaming computer that will deliver a good experience.
In fact, for right around $400, you can build a system that will allow you to play games like Rocket League, League of Legends, Dota 2, and Fortnite on higher settings on a 1920×1080 monitor.
And, by building it yourself, you can avoid having to deal with the low-quality power supplies and motherboards that the big computer companies like to throw in their builds, or getting stuck with a cheap gaming laptop.
In any case, the PC build listed below is based on my research on the best parts available for a $400 gaming computer. The build includes the following parts:
For gamers or students who are headed back to school who are working with an extremely tight budget, it is possible to throw together a gaming computer under $300. The downside of putting together such a low-end system is that you’ll be stuck with integrated graphics.
However, the upside of this build is that with just an upgrade to the CPU and an upgrade to the video card (which may also require an upgrade to the power supply) you will have a very solid cheap gaming PC.
So, if you are severely strapped for cash now, but you want something that will let you play your favorite games on low-to-medium settings and will also let you upgrade to a high-end system later on down the road, then this is probably one of the best cheap PCs for gaming you can build for the price.
If you’re on the fence of whether or not you should build your own gaming computer, buy a pre-built PC, get a gaming laptop, or go with a console (like a PS4, PS4 Pro, or XBox One), we’ve put together a list of answers to some questions you likely have.
1. Why Should I Build My Own PC for Gaming?
There are many reasons why you should build your own PC. The main reason, of course, is to save money.
By choosing to build your own PC, rather than purchasing a pre-built computer, you can save a ton of money. This is mainly because pre-built computer companies typically mark up the price of their systems significantly.
Another reason why you should build your own PC is that you can get a much more balanced system. A lot of times you’ll see pre-built PC systems with 16GB of RAM (which is overkill for a lot of purposes) and then pair it with a weak video card. If you build your computer yourself, you can ensure that you aren’t wasting money on certain components when that money could be better allocated to more important components (like your video card.)
And, finally, building your own computer is just a really good skill to have in this day and age, where everything depends on technology. It’s not a difficult task by any means, but it is rewarding nonetheless, and, in the grand scheme of things, not many people have ever built their own system.
2. Who Can Build a PC?
Anyone who knows how to read or even how to watch a video and how to use a screwdriver can build their own PC. (Although, if you’ve seen the PC building video recently released from ‘The Verge’ that is an example of how NOT to build a PC. Check out our guide on the common PC building mistakes that first-time builders make in order to get an idea of what NOT to do.) I should also add, too, that you do need some patience when building your own computer. As I mentioned above, building a budget gaming PC is not rocket science and is not too difficult of a task.
However, there are moments that can arise during the building process that can be frustrating. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of guides out there that can help walk you through the building process to minimize the chances of you running into these kinds of problems.
Ultimately, most builders won’t face too many issues during their first build and even the most tech-challenged individuals could probably get through their own PC build if they are patient enough.
3. What Do You Need to Build A PC?
To build a PC you need a specific set of components, an operating system, and a screwdriver. If you look scroll down in this guide, you’ll see that I’ve put together a number of pre-made part lists that you can either use as is, or as a base for the system, you want to build.
However, if you want to have an exact idea of what components you will need in order to build a computer, the list below will take you through each one:
What Parts Are Needed to Build A PC for Gaming?
While you can put in all sorts of different components into your computer, there is a core set of parts you will need in order to build a PC. They are:
CPU: The CPU is the brain of your computer. It handles all of the processes, calculations, and tasks of your computer. More than any other component, it will determine the speed of your computer. However, if you’re building a gaming computer, your CPU will take a backseat to your video card in terms of which component is the most responsible for performance. But either way, you need a solid CPU if you want to build a solid computer.
CPU Cooler/Fan: The CPU fan or cooler dissipates heat from your CPU to help keep it cool. Every CPU comes with a stock fan (unless otherwise noted), but you can always buy a bigger and better air cooler from a third-party manufacturer as well. Liquid cooling is also an option for building a PC, but if you’re working with a tight budget, you’ll want to stick with an air cooler.
Motherboard: The motherboard operates as the main “hub” of the PC. It’s where all of your components connect to so that they can communicate with each other.
Video Card: A video card is similar to a CPU, but its main job is to handle all graphics-related processes. You don’t necessarily need to buy a video card if you just want to build a standard PC. A lot of processors have video processing capabilities built directly into them. However, if you want to game on your PC, the integrated graphics that come on most CPUs aren’t good enough for serious gamers. If that’s the case for you, you need a dedicated graphics card.
Memory: Memory, or RAM, serves as the location where your CPU can carry out tasks. For most purposes, you’ll never need more than 8GB of RAM (at least, at the time of writing this.) However, if you’re doing a lot of CPU-intensive work, video editing, graphic design, etc. you may be able to utilize more than 8GB.
Storage: There are two prominent types of storage: traditional mechanical hard drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). Both offer you a place to store all of your files, documents, and games. HDDs offer much more storage space for the price, but SSDs are much faster and can offer a significant performance increase (outside of gaming, as a solid-state drive won’t have a big impact on your in-game experience other than loading times.) Many PC builders pair an SSD with an HDD in their builds so that they can get the best of both worlds.
Case/Chassis: A case is simply the container that you place all of your components inside of. Not all cases are created equal. Some are smaller and have less space, while others are huge and allow for all sorts of crazy configurations. And, not all components will fit inside of all cases. So, it’s important to check and see if the components you are going to purchase are compatible with the case you want to choose before you buy all of your parts.
Power Supply: A power supply, or PSU, is the component that delivers electricity to your system. It takes the power from a wall socket in your home and converts it to power your PC can use and then delivers it to your system. Not all PSUs are created equally and it’s important that you don’t choose a cheap unit that could give you problems down the road. You also need to make sure that the power supply you choose is big enough to power all of the other components that will go into your build. You can do that with a calculator like Extreme Outervision.
Optical Drive: An optical drive is either a CD/DVD drive or a Bluray drive. Honestly, optical drives are slowly becoming obsolete as games and software are primarily downloaded online. You can even install your operating system through a USB drive nowadays. Still, though, a traditional optical drive is only about $20 so if you have a big budget it doesn’t hurt to throw one in if you still have some games or software on a disc.
Operating System: Obviously an operating system isn’t a physical component. However, you need an OS if you want to game. Ultimately, there are two viable OS options: Windows and Linux. Of the two Windows is the best option as it can accommodate any PC game. However, it will cost you an additional ~$90. Linux is free but doesn’t support as many games as Windows. Still, though, if you only care about playing certain Linux-friendly games and you don’t mind being limited to only Linux-friendly games, it might be worth considering.
What Cables Are Needed to Build A PC?
There are a ton of cables that are needed to build a computer. Fortunately, though, you don’t really have to worry about them because A) they are all clearly marked on where they go and B) all of the cables you need come with the components you will buy.
In the worst case scenario, you might be short a couple of SATA cables. So, if you want to order a few extra just in case you can do so. (They’re only a couple bucks each.) Other than that, all of the cables you need will come with your motherboard, case, and power supply.
What Tools Are Needed to Build A PC?
The only tool you really need in order to build a computer is a screwdriver. And, really, you’ll only need the screwdriver to screw the motherboard into its standoffs and to secure your power supply. (And, in some cases, to take off/put on the side panel.)
Zip ties are also good to have, as well, to help you secure excess wires out of sight. And, of course, if you want to get really fancy, there are a few other tools that can make building a cheap gaming PC a little easier.
It’s also a good idea to have a laptop, computer, smartphone, or tablet that is connected to the internet on hand. Often times new builders get hung up on a common issue during the building process, that, because they have never built a computer before, isn’t something they know how to solve.
Fortunately, though, there are a lot of forums out there where these types of issues get posted and solved every day. So, having access to the internet during your build could be the difference between a smooth build process, and a problem-laden build process.
4. Where Do You Get PC Parts for Your Gaming PC?
There are many places to get PC parts, including:
- Amazon.com (Online)
- Newegg.com (Online)
- BHPhotoVideo.com (Online)
- Microcenter (In-store or Online)
- BestBuy (In-store or Online)
For me, personally, I stick to Amazon.com simply because I already have a Prime membership and so I can get most items within a couple of days. And, let me tell you when you hit the submit button on your order, the last thing you’re going to want to do is to sit around for a week waiting to build your PC. Also, Amazon typically has the lowest prices, and if not, they aren’t too far off of the nearest prices from competitors. And, in the instances where they don’t have the lowest price, I’m willing to pay a little more to guarantee that I get my parts (and, thus, my system) quickly.
However, there is some sense in using the other stores mentioned above. If you are fortunate enough to live near a Microcenter, they often have insanely good deals that you won’t find online. And, another option is to mix and match where you get your parts from. This makes sense if you want to maximize your budget to its fullest as you can buy different components at different stores depending on where they are the cheapest.
5. How Do You Build A PC?
It would take its own post entirely to walk you through how to build your own cheap gaming PC. Fortunately, you can check out our step-by-step computer building guide to walk you through the process. Also, you can check out the following computer-building tutorial video if you are more of a visual person:
6. Should You Build A Gaming PC or Get a Laptop?
If your main goal is to get the most performance possible for the least amount of money spent, you need to build your own computer. However, a desktop computer isn’t an ideal option for many gamers. Some gamers need a more portable option, whether they are in college, or they don’t have space for a desktop, or they’re always gaming at their buddies house and don’t want to lug around a mini-ITX LAN system. If that’s the case for you, then you should definitely look into a laptop. Just know that you are going to spend quite a bit more and you likely won’t get anywhere near the performance of a fairly affordable desktop PC (unless you are willing to spend a few grand.)
Ultimately, while performance is always the best metric to determine what kind of system you should get, the best PC for gaming for you will come down to your own specific needs. So, if you need mobility, go with a laptop. If you don’t, then build a good gaming desktop. Check out our Laptop vs. Desktop post to give you a better idea of which option is best for you.
7. Should You Build A Gaming PC or Get a Console?
No… just no. Do not get a console. Are you kidding me? I’m offended… Joking aside, there are two sides to this question as well. Yes, I am a diehard PC fan. But one of my favorite video games happens to be Madden. And, unfortunately, Madden isn’t available on PC. So, I also have an XBox One. (Yes, that’s right, I have a console…)
So, before you go out and build a new gaming computer, you need to make sure that you understand that certain games aren’t available on PC. But, at the same time, what you lose on a console, you gain on a PC. There are also plenty of games that are exclusive to PC, like, for instance, League of Legends (also one of my favorite games.)
And, overall, the in-game experience on a PC is better than it is on a console. That’s simply because on the PC you can play with better visuals, more detailed graphics, and smoother gameplay. And, of course, on average, PC games tend to be cheaper (Steam) and there are a lot more of them.
So, while a console will cost you less upfront (unless you go with a really cheap PC), if you buy a lot of games, in the long run, a PC will win out. Ultimately, though, if you’re like me, you just get both and enjoy the best of both worlds. Problem solved.
If you are considering building your own PC now or are getting ready to do so over the upcoming Holiday season (with the awesome deals that can be found during Black Friday and Cyber Monday), or if you have any other questions related to getting a gaming computer, please post your questions in the comment section below so that we can help you out!
Need help with your part list? Leave your questions below!