Last edited: August 30, 2017
At some point, especially if you are a beginner to the computer-building hobby, you may have asked: “How much do gaming computers cost?” Well, it is a valid question. The answer is that you can build a gaming desktop with only $200 or so, but to build a decent one that will play games you want to play, you would have to pony up around $450 to $500. That is a reasonable price to pay, so we scoured the Internet for good computers that have decent hardware. These have to be able to play some recent games. Unfortunately, at a $500 gaming computer budget, we cannot realistically expect these to be future-proof. But they should be able to play most games from a few years ago at good enough frame-rates and decent resolutions.
We’ve also included our top picks for gaming computers under $600 and $700, if you wanted to invest a little more while keeping in the budget-oriented zone. For more mid-range gaming PCs, we’ve come up with a guide for $1000 gaming desktops.
The list below contains desktops that fits this criteria while also costing right around that budget. Note: all prices of the computers listed are accurate as of the last updated date of this article.
Top pick: Lenovo X315
The Lenovo 315 is our top pick for the best gaming PC under $500. The value is all there. It comes with an AMD A8-7600 quad-core processor that, while dated, can still offer solid performance to pair with the graphics card.
The AMD Radeon R9 360 card it comes with is also the best-in-class for this list, and we’ve scoured a lot of gaming desktops at this price point.
It also comes with 8 GB of DDR3 memory, which is good enough even with a larger budget. The storage space is great for gaming as well, with 1 TB of hard drive space (7200 rpm). It also comes with a very small 8 GB solid state drive. Even if you cannot store games in the SSD, it is large enough to install your operating system on. If you end up doing so, the whole OS becomes faster, from file processing to basic browsing.
Thankfully, the Lenovo X315 even comes with a copy of Windows 10 for you to install to the solid state drive.
Lenovo X315 Game Benchmarks
As is tradition, our benchmarks for these gaming computers consist of mainly PC games. This is for a few reasons. First, there are already plenty of benchmarks for the hardware using actual benchmarking tools, and thus repeating those numbers here may be redundant. Second, many people do not understand the numbers for the benchmarking tools. And lastly, we select these computers based on their abilities to play PC games. Thus, it only makes sense to use relatable benchmarks like video game frames.
For the X315, its Radeon R9 360 card is an OEM-only version of the R7 360. So if you couldn’t find information on the card, that’s why. It is also pretty comparable to the GTX 750Ti. Both cards are from the last generation, but they both can still play games from that era smoothly.
Battlefield 4 on the Lenovo X315 (release date: Oct 29, 2013)
Battlefield 4 released in late 2013, corresponding with the launch of the current generation of gaming consoles. Even though Battlefield 1 is out and looks much more photorealistic, BF4 is still a good-looking game, especially on the PC. Here are some of our benchmarks at different resolutions.
1366 x 768p:
High preset: 84.1 fps
1920 x 1080p:
High preset: 40.1 fps
The Lenovo X315 can easily knock out most games at 720p resolution. Battlefield 4 is a relatively recent game and the X315 was able to run it smoothly on high settings.
We pushed the desktop to 1080p resolution on high settings. In both multiplayer and single player, Battlefield 4 had framerates of around 40. On the ultra preset, gameplay suffered and dropped to around 25.3 fps average.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor on the Lenovo X315 (released Sep 30, 2014)
Shadow of Mordor came out in September of 2014. It is Monolith Production’s best-looking game so far; that is until the new Middle-Earth game releases later this year of course.
We ran the game at 1080p and even tried 1440p to see how far we could stretch the performance of our $500 gaming PC. The results are listed below:
1920 x 1080p:
Ultra preset: 49.8 fps
2560 x 1440p:
Ultra preset: 31.8 fps
At 1080p, nothing was surprising about this desktop being able to play Shadow of Mordor. However, we were completely able to play the game at that resolution on the highest preset available. It still knocked out an approximate average of 50 frames a second. The lowest frame during our gameplay was 36, which is a good indication that the Lenovo X315 shouldn’t dip at this resolution.
At 1440p, we were impressed. Our first gameplay test was at the High preset, and it managed around 38 fps on average. However, bumping it even further to Ultra on 1440p, the desktop pumped out an average of about 32 frames a second. The minimum frame during gameplay was 27.
Why it’s our pick for best gaming PC under $500:
The Lenovo X315 makes our top pick for its superior hardware and ability to play PC games at a high level. The AMD A8-7600 and AMD Radeon R9 360 (OEM-only model of the R7 360) is a nice combination for 1080p gaming. Games from a few years ago ran well, and many 2017-released games were able to play at above 30 fps too.
You also get a nice 1TB hard drive for your games, and a very small solid state drive (8GB) to install the included Windows 10 OS on. Overall, a very good bundle for $500.
Best gaming PC under $600: SkyTech Archangel
If you want to go one step up, with a budget of $600 for a gaming computer, purchase the SkyTech Archangel. The most affordable option is the GTX 750Ti version, which retails at $599.
The FX-6300 it comes with is one of AMD’s most consistent FX processors for gaming. It wasn’t released recently, but it is still very stable and capable of pairing with mid-range graphics cards like the GTX 760, GTX 960, or R9 270. Fortunately, you get a GTX 750Ti video card, released in early 2014, to play games on.
SkyTech Archangel game benchmarks
We gave the Archangel some games to play on to analyze its performance. The 750Ti was released in 2014, so most games from around those years should be fine for 1080p gaming.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor on the SkyTech Archangel
1920 x 1080p:
High preset: 41.2 fps
Shadow of Mordor is a fairly demanding game. At 1080p, the Archangel 750Ti version was able to run it well at high settings. We tried an “ultra” HD mod to further enhance the game, but the average frame-rates were around 27.5. Still, for a $500 PC high settings on Shadow of Mordor is fantastic.
Dota 2 on the SkyTech Archangel
1920 x 1080p:
Medium preset: 118.5 fps
Ultra preset, 100% render quality: 101.1 fps
For those pretty new to PC gaming, Dota 2 is not a game that requires a lot of graphical power. We decided to include this benchmark to demonstrate that affordable computers like this one should be able to run them well. As you’ll read below, there are many products marketed as “gaming PCs” that aren’t able to play games as well as they should. We created a small gaming desktop buying guide at the end of this article for things to watch out for.
1366 x 768p:
Ultra preset: 97.6 fps
1920 x 1080p:
Ultra preset: 51 fps
Tomb Raider is another beautiful game, with detailed environments and textures. The various in-game physics (Lara’s hair, rain, wind, etc.) are complex enough to warrant a game benchmark for this PC. We found that at both 1366 x 768p and 1920 x 1080p, SkyTech’s desktop was able to play on Ultra with ease.
Why it’s our pick for best gaming PC under $600:
The $600 desktop budget gives us a little more flexibility for options to consider. The SkyTech Archangel wins among all computers at this price range because of the GTX 750Ti card it comes with.
It was able to play games released from 2013 onwards at high graphical settings and 1080p resolutions. Expect most games you come across to perform the same.
Best gaming PC under $700: CybertronPC Rhodium 950 X8
Stretch your budget a little bit, and you could squeeze out more power. The Rhodium 950 X8 has the AMD FX-8300 3.3 Ghz octa-core processor installed, which has become one of our favorite affordable processors for gaming of all time. For the graphics card, you get the GTX 1050, which has 2 GB of GDDR5 memory. To finish off the specs, it also comes with 16 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1 TB hard drive, and plenty of expansion bays around the tower. The power supply unit is 500 watts.
The GTX 1050 is my choice for the best budget graphics card right now. It is highly affordable and very efficient, using the same Pascal architecture as the 1060, 1070, and 1080.
CybertronPC Rhodium 950 X8 game benchmarks
The 1050 is a card most suitable for playing competitive first-person shooters such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive or Overwatch. At 1080p on high settings, the desktop plays at averages of 248.9 fps and 110.7 fps, respectively.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor on the Rhodium 950 X8
Again, most PCs at this budget range will succeed playing competitive games online
. It can still play older blockbuster games like Shadow of Mordor. Check our benchmarks:
1920 x 1080p:
Medium preset: 82.9 fps
High preset: 50.5 fps
If you’re looking to play above 60 frames a second, the medium preset should suffice for you. It still looks beautiful, despite some settings being disabled. The game plays smoothly at high settings as well, though we wouldn’t push it to 1440p just yet.
For reference, one of our custom builds (with AMD FX-8320 + Rx 460) is comparable to this pre-built desktop. It scored around 74 fps at 1920 x 1080p medium settings.
Battlefield 1 on the Rhodium 950 X8 (released Oct 21, 2016)
Battlefield is a game we commonly measure our PCs against. It has pretty textures even in multiplayer, and there are a lot of things going on at one time. The Rhodium 950 X8 was able to play the game just fine, though we would advise using medium settings rather than high settings. The game still looks crisp at 1080p, only with a few graphical settings turned down.
1920 x 1080p:
Medium preset: 69.4 fps
High preset: 55.5 fps
60 frames per second is what a lot of people prefer when it comes to multiplayer games. On high settings, the game is still very playable. However, the processor and graphics card truthfully were close to max usage. With medium settings on the same resolution, temperatures and usage rates were much lower while still rendering beautiful graphical quality.
Why it’s our pick for best gaming PC under $700:
At the $700 budget range, the market is filled with quality computers. There are fewer PCs that try to “get” newer gamers (see below) with ignorant marketing. These desktops are actually built to play games at 720p and 1080p.
The CybertronPC Rhodium is an excellent choice as an entry-level gaming PC. Its budget-oriented graphics card is part of the new GTX 10 series. The FX-8300 is a better CPU than other $700 desktops have. The Rhodium even has 16 GB of RAM (DDR3), which is more than enough for bigger games that require it.
Cheap gaming PCs: What not to buy
There is a lot of misinformation floating around the web on affordable pre-built desktops. While there are hidden gems like the ones we’ve actually tested and recommended above, there are many more that we would scoff at.
These desktops are marketed as “gaming computers” that also fit your budget. Yes, they have graphics cards in them but those are not powerful at all. Most even look like gaming PCs because of the towers the hardware is enclosed in.
Below I’ve quickly listed a few of these “budget gaming desktops”, not to single them out, but to help our buyers find what to and what not to look for.
We love CybertronPC. They have many models of pre-made computers that actually provide decent gaming power for the money. However, the Electrum QS-A4 is a borderline scam of a desktop. Check the specs:
- AMD A4-7300, 3.8 Ghz dual-core processor
- AMD Radeon HD 8470D video card
- 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- 1 TB hard drive
- 400 watt power supply
For the novice PC hobbyist, those specs may look nice. There are a lot of good-looking numbers and names there. A 1 TB hard drive is also plenty of space for games. Unfortunately, the Electrum QS-A4 is a very bad desktop for gaming.
The HD 8470D, first of all, is an integrated graphics card. It is usually found paired with some of AMD’s A6 processor series. However, you don’t even get an A6 CPU in this computer. You get an A4.
The card stinks it up when it comes to actual gaming performance, too. Saints Row IV, for instance, only managed an average of 25.3 fps during our playthrough. The game came out in 2013. The same $500 gaming computers we’ve listed above were able to power through most 2013-released games. SR4 is also not a graphic-intensive game, compared to other games that came out in 2013. On top of everything, that 25 frames per second average was while playing the game at 720p resolution on the lowest graphical setting.
Skytech Gaming is another reputable pre-built PC manufacturer. Their Shadow desktop isn’t as bad as many others in the market, but it still demonstrates that you could get plenty more value out of your $500. I’ve listed the specs here:
- AMD FX-4300, 3.8 Ghz quad-core processor
- AMD Radeon R7 250, 2 GB GDDR3 video card
- 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- 1 TB hard drive
- 430 watt power supply
At first glance, nothing seems wrong with the Skytech Shadow. It at least has a quad-core CPU, a separate graphics card, and ample power in the PSU. However, after taking a look at benchmarks, we find that it isn’t very capable of 1080p gaming. It can run many games at 1024 x 768p, but at this budget why settle for that resolution if you can find a cheap gaming computer capable of 1080p?
We were unable to test the Skytech Shadow ourselves, unlike the rest of the computers listed here. But numerous benchmarks online show it can play games like Bioshock Infinite (2013), Battlefield 4 (2013), or even Crysis 3 (2013) well at medium settings on 1366 x 768 resolution. However, once you try anything on 1080p, the frame rates dip below 30 frames a second, which is unacceptable in today’s market.
Again, for computers like this, why play at a lower resolution when you could simply purchase a better desktop at the same price and play on 1920 x 1080p?
Good gaming computers under: $500, $600, and $700
So how much do gaming computers cost? If you simply want to get your foot wet with computer gaming, a $500 pre-built one will suffice. At this range, you should be able to play games at least on 720p. Again, if the one you are looking at cannot do this, it isn’t a good gaming computer. This is why we recommend the Lenovo X315. It cost us less than $500 and was able to play most games at 1080p.
If you have an extra $100 to spend, a $600 gaming computer gives you more options and less fluff in the market. Our pick, the SkyTech Archangel, could run games from only a couple years back at 1080p on high settings.
To round off the affordable gaming PC ranges is our $700 budget. This is the last stop where we would consider the desktop to be budget-friendly. At $800 and above, you are then looking at mid-range gaming computers. Our top pick at $700 was the Rhodium by CybertronPC. It featured a relatively recent release in the GTX 1050, as well as a capable processor in the FX-8300.
The best thing about these picks is that they are upgradable. Without a doubt, over the next several years the PC components installed in them will diminish in performance. Fortunately, these are computers assembled by the best desktop builders. This means you can open up the case, remove a part, and install a newer piece with ease. This is in contrast to “gaming PC consoles” like the Alienware Alpha or Steam Machines. A lot of those console-types are closed to part upgrades.
If you have any hardware or gaming computer-related questions or comments, be sure to drop a line below or email. Many people have come to me for advice and ended up building or buying pre-built computers that they or their children loved. I am readily available to answer your questions and concerns.
Until next time.