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Best gaming PC deals: Get a high-end rig from $650 today

If you’ve been thinking about building a PC at all lately, you’ve probably discovered that supply chain log-jams and lingering semiconductor shortages have left the well of GPU deals rather dry (or at least somewhat shallow). But the good news is, you don’t need to buy the parts piecemeal and put them together yourself just to score a cost-effective machine that can run the latest AAA games and handle heavy workloads. Available chips are still mostly going to brand-name computer makers right now, but if building your own desktop is too much of a pain at the moment, there are still some great gaming PC deals out there — and you’ve just found them. We’ve combed the web to bring you this curated list of the best cheap gaming desktops on tap this week.

Today’s best gaming PC deals

  • HP Pavilion Radeon RX 5500 Gaming PC — $550, was $700
  • HP Victus 15L GeForce GTX 1660 Super Gaming PC — $650, was $800
  • Asus ROG Strix GL10 GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming PC — $699, was $899
  • Lenovo Legion 5i GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming PC — $1,060 with codes LEGIONINTEL20 + SURPRISESAVINGS, was $1,400
  • Alienware Aurora GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming PC — $1,176, was $1,850

HP Pavilion Radeon RX 5500 Gaming PC — $550, was $700

The HP Pavilion gaming desktop with a mouse and keyboard.

Why Buy:

  • Excellent value for a sub-$1,000 gaming PC
  • Great for 1080p gaming
  • Attractive tower with LED accents
  • Includes Windows 11

If your needs are modest and you still want a dedicated graphics card, perhaps for tasks like video editing along with gaming, this gaming desktop is a cost-effective and very attractive option. This tower features a Radeon RX 5500 graphics card, which, while one of AMD’s entry-level 5000-series graphics cards, is nonetheless one of the best discrete GPUs on the market right now for the money.

That dedicated graphics card works with an AMD Ryzen 3 CPU and 8GB of DDR4 RAM to deliver sufficient performance for work and less resource-heavy games like Fornite and Minecraft, although newer releases like Halo Infinite aren’t out of the question. For storage, you’ve got a snappy 256GB solid-state drive, which is a decent amount of space for some games and other digital goodies. Its great-looking case design features green LED accents and allows you to upgrade some components in the future, as well, such as RAM or the GPU.

While it’s far from the beefiest tower on our list, this gaming desktop still has very respectable specs and plenty of graphical juice to handle gaming. Its GPU isn’t quite as muscular as the GeForce RTX 30 series, but this one will get the job done while also making for a good budget workstation for things like video editing and graphic design. You even get a wired mouse and keyboard right out of the box. If you want some more graphical horsepower, you can substitute the GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU on the pre-checkout page for only $40. That’s an upgrade worth considering.

HP Victus 15L GeForce GTX 1660 Super Gaming PC — $650, was $800

The HP Victus 15L gaming PC on a desk.

Why Buy:

  • Great value
  • Stylish case
  • Includes keyboard and mouse
  • Ideal starter gaming system

Keeping things simple, but ideal for a gamer on a budget who still wants to embrace PC gaming, is the HP Victus 15L gaming desktop. While it won’t be quite up to scratch for the likes of Elden Ring or Cyberpunk 2077 played at max settings, it’s more than good enough for less demanding games and titles like Fortnite or Final Fantasy XIV. Tucked away inside its stylish casing, which offers a distinct white aesthetic with some sweet LED accents, are suitably effective hardware specs.

These include an AMD Ryzen 5 5600G processor along with 8GB of dual-channel RAM. In an ideal world, you’d want 16GB of memory from a gaming PC, but 8GB will do just fine if you don’t mind tempering your expectations (and you can always upgrade RAM cheaply and easily). Alongside that is the core element of any gaming system — the graphics card. This system has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU with 6GB of VRAM. It’s on the more basic side, but it’s far better than integrated graphics and is capable of running games at decent detail levels depending on what you’re playing. You also get 256GB of solid-state storage, giving you enough room to install some of your favorite games.

To further make this desktop system a more beginner-friendly option, the PC includes a wired keyboard and mouse to get you started. While you’re likely to upgrade these at some point, at least you have what you need available to you right out of the box. Other features include the ability to connect more than one monitor, wired network connectivity via its built-in Gigabit Ethernet port, and those aforementioned good looks. If you’re just starting out with PC gaming, this is a great way to dip your feet in without spending a fortune. You can upgrade some specs during the checkout process if you like, and can jump up to an RTX 3060 GPU for just $200 more. That’s still a great deal if you’re willing to spend a bit extra.

Asus ROG Strix GL10 GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming PC — $699, was $899

The Asus ROG Strix GL10 gaming desktop with LED accents.

Why Buy:

  • Great LED-accented look
  • Good hardware for playing the latest titles
  • Plenty of storage for your game library
  • Boosted 16GB of RAM

Asus builds some surprisingly fantastic gaming computers for a budget-friendly brand, and this enhanced ROG Strix GL10 gaming desktop doesn’t disappoint if you want a solid GPU upgrade over our first selection — or if you’re just more of an Nvidia fan (hey, so are we). It packs a Ryzen 5 3600X CPU along with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU.

This GPU has 6GB of VRAM, giving it more than enough muscle to play modern games with good settings. Paired with that CPU, this is a high-value graphics card/processor combo for 1080p gaming in 2022. That’s all backed up with 8GB of RAM for smoother multitasking. It comes with 256GB of high-speed solid-state storage as well, which is a good amount of space for installing a few of your favorite games (and you can easily expand the internal storage if needed).

The tower’s case has a nice aesthetic complemented with stylish RGB LED accents to keep things looking nice on your desk. This is a great gaming PC with some nice future-proofing — meaning you won’t have to upgrade it any time soon — and comes with a keyboard and mouse as well. At this price, though, you may want to consider upgrading to a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse to get the most out of such powerful hardware.

Lenovo Legion 5i GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming PC — $1,060 with codes LEGIONINTEL20 + SURPRISESAVINGS, was $1,400

The Lenovo Legion 5i gaming desktop PC on a white background.

Why Buy:

  • Powerful hardware for blasting through the latest games
  • Great gaming aesthetic with glass side panel
  • Upgrade-friendly case for future-proofing
  • Latest 12th-gen Intel Core CPU

Lenovo may not be as well-known for gaming as brands like Alienware or MSI, but the fact is that it makes some surprisingly solid gaming machines and you’ll see its name when shopping around for gaming PC deals. This gaming desktop tower runs on a Core i5-12400 hexa-core CPU paired with a GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card, which is one of the best of Nvidia’s newer 30-series GPUs, and is certainly one of the best you’re going to find for this price at the moment.

This GPU boasts 12GB of VRAM, making it one of the top choices for 1440p and even 4K gaming if you have a monitor for it. For memory, you’ve got a full 16GB of speedy 3,200MHz RAM. These are very capable specs for a gaming PC deal in this price bracket, and pre-installed cooling fans keep everything running smoothly while a glass side panel makes the desktop tower’s LED-accented design look great on your desk.

This high-value desktop tower is one of the best pre-built gaming PC deals with a dedicated GPU that you’ll find for around a grand right now. Just enter codes LEGIONINTEL20 and SURPRISESAVINGS at checkout. And, like most of our other picks, it even comes bundled with a mouse and keyboard.

Alienware Aurora GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming PC — $1,176, was $1,850

The Alienware Aurora R10 gaming desktop on a white background.

Why Buy:

  • Premium Alienware design
  • Unique and stylish aesthetic
  • Advanced cooling for enhanced thermal performance
  • Great CPU/GPU combo for 4K gaming

Moving further past the $1,000 mark brings us to brands such as Alienware, which are the names that you should have your eye on if you’re paying this much — for that kind of scratch, you naturally want something high-end. It doesn’t get much more premium than Alienware where desktop gaming PCs are concerned, and this Aurora system checks all the boxes.

The Aurora case design looks gorgeous as well with its unique curved lines and LED-accented front panel, but that elongated jet engine-like chassis isn’t just for show. Under the hood, this gaming PC takes advantage of the latest in Alienware’s cutting-edge thermal technology which includes four 10mm copper heat pipes with integrated vapor chambers along with a dual-axial fan design with positive pressure relief to remove heat from the case and allow for superior airflow.

A Ryzen 7 5800 octa-core CPU, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with 12GB of GDDR6 VRAM are more than capable of handling modern games at up to 4K Ultra HD. This PC is a worthy update over older cheap gaming PCs that struggle to run Minecraft (yes, you can rock Elden Ring on this thing) and should last for years. The Alienware Aurora desktop tower pretty much has it all, and with this gaming PC deal, you’re getting it at an exceptional price.

How to choose a cheap gaming PC

As with any big purchase, make sure you know exactly what you want when buying a gaming computer. It’s not a bad idea to write down a checklist. It’s also important when looking specifically at cheap gaming PCs (i.e. those coming in at less than $1,000) to have realistic expectations — you’re not going to get multi-monitor 4K gaming at this price point. That said, it’s easy to achieve great results with 1080p/60 frames per second gaming at high settings even for modern releases, and even for 1440p gaming when you move toward the upper end of our $1,000 price limit.

If playing at 1080p/60 fps on one or two monitors is good enough, then you won’t have a hard time finding a good cheap gaming PC to meet your needs. If your demands are a bit higher, though, then expect to have to shop around a bit for the right deal. Also, be sure to bring yourself up to speed with the latest hardware — don’t just jump on the first attractive deal you find that meets your budget only to end up with a last-gen GPU that will feel long in the tooth here in 2021. Know what you want and what to expect from a cheap gaming PC that’s within your set budget and you won’t be disappointed, and for a more detailed breakdown of the sort of hardware you should look for, read on.

What makes a good cheap gaming PC?

The short answer is that a good price-to-performance ratio is what makes a cheap gaming PC “good,” and the good news here is that desktop computers already provide this sort of value by their very nature — it’s simply easier to fit all that beefy hardware into a desktop tower, whereas the scaled-down components of laptops (not to mention their built-in displays and keyboards) make those mobile PCs more expensive. That said, it’s still important to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck if you’re buying a pre-assembled desktop computer, as some are built better than others.

The three main hardware components that drive performance are the CPU, GPU (or graphics card), and RAM. Our recommendations: For your CPU, stick with an 11th or 12th-gen Intel Core or one of the newer second or third-gen AMD Ryzen (sometimes called “Zen”) processors. For RAM, a minimum of 8GB is recommended for all but the cheapest gaming PCs, and 16GB is even better — but remember you can almost always add more RAM and this is one of the easiest (if not the easiest) components to swap out. GPUs are arguably the heart of a gaming computer; modern models include AMD’s Radeon 500, 5000, and 6000 series as well as Nvidia’s GTX 16-series and RTX 20- and 30-series GPUs.

Nvidia replaced their older 10-series GPUs in recent years, but there are still cheap gaming PCs floating around with these cards. Our advice: Avoid them unless your needs are modest and you can snag one for a seriously good deal. Even the entry-level GTX 16-series Nvidia cards are faster and are ideal for 1080p gaming. For 1440p gaming, you’ll be better served with one of the RTX series cards such as the RTX 3060. If anything bottlenecks your gaming PC’s performance, it will be an underpowered GPU, so this is the one component you don’t want to skimp on. One final thing to consider is upgradeability: If you plan to keep your chosen PC tower for a while, look at what sort of case and motherboard it’s using to determine if you can easily add and swap parts in the future. Some desktop PCs from brands like HP use proprietary components which will limit what parts you can add and can be costly to replace.

Are gaming PCs good for work?

It’s safe to say that running modern video games at good settings is generally a much more demanding job than most work tasks you’d normally need a computer for, so any gaming computer — even a cheap gaming PC — will be as well-suited for work and study as it is for play. The faster processors and high-speed RAM will make short work of simple tasks like web browsing, word processing, making spreadsheets, and so on, and the discrete GPU is also nice to have for graphical tasks such as video rendering. Another advantage of a desktop PC, particularly one with a graphics card, is the option to create a multi-monitor setup that can increase your productivity (and even a single monitor will still give you more screen real estate than a laptop display).

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