If you want to game, do it on a PC, not a laptop. While laptops have definitely come a long ways over the last few years, currently, gaming on a laptop will eat-up a lot of power and produces a ton of heat, so these mobile systems have to cut back on certain areas of performance in order to meet these needs. And many models of desktops can put even the best game console to shame because they’re able to run even the most demanding game at 1080p.
In this guide we will go through some of the best gaming PCs and see their strong and weak sides, as well as show you a brief comparison between our favorite models for this year!
Top Gaming PCs Comparison Chart
Our Best-Ranked Gaming PC Models
CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Xtreme VR
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The CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme has some serious fire power and can deliver ultimate performance at an incredible price. It comes with all the latest bells and whistles from the tech world in the face of its core i7-8700 processor, 16GB of high-speed RAM, and the GTX 1060 graphics card. On top of all that, you get a LED case which looks great, a free windows, lifetime support, and a gaming mouse and keyboard combo. You are also getting a 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home pre-installed and ready to run on your PC! To learn more about this particular model and all of its features, head over to our full review of it.
iBUYPOWER Trace 9220 Gaming PC
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A worthy second place goes to the iBuyPower Trace 9220 gaming PC. Not because it is by any means weaker than the CyberPowerPC but because it is expensive enough to be out of most people’s budget reach. Still, if you consider what is actually inside you might be surprised how good of a deal you are getting with this model, especially when it is discounted. There is a core i7-8700K processor on the inside which is the big brother of the regular i7-8700. It can easily be overclocked and doesn’t suffer as much from thermal throttling. To help him out with the performance there is an RTX 2070 graphics card which is an absolute monster and will run all your favorite AAA games at Ultra graphics and 60+ fps. Again, you are getting a keyboard and a mouse as a gift, as well as a windows 10 Home Edition. Read our full review for more details!
SkyTech ArchAngel Gaming Computer
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As a far cheaper alternative, the SkyTech ArchAngel definitely has a few downsides more to it. Where the first two PCs had 16 GBs of RAM this one has 8GB. The video card is also weaker, at least on paper. In our opinion, and in many different tests, the GTX 1050 Titan Series present here totally outperforms the regular GTX 1060. Also, there won’t be any SSD to boot up your system or games here. Apart from less RAM and no SSD there are no other major changes but this computer still comes at half of the cost of our first two competitors. What this means is that this might very well be one of the best price-to-value ratios on the gaming market right now. If you want to learn more about the ArchAngel, click the button below to go to our full review of it!
Dell Inspiron 5680 Gaming PC
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The Dell Inspiron offers a slightly different approach to gaming computers. It has a more traditional design that flies under the radar in terms of flashiness. Still, on the inside are some of the most powerful components a gaming computer can have today. That is because this machine isn’t meant solely for gaming, but for multitasking and programs such as AutoCad, Office Suite, Sony Vegas, Final Cut, Cubase, and others. It is a working powerhouse and can easily handle anything you want it to. It doesn’t come with additional accessories such as a keyboard or a mouse but is still priced relatively well compared to its competition. If you are looking for a premium quality at a bargain price, this is the way to go.
CybertronPC Assault A46 Desktop
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The Assault A46 by CybertronPC offers a fast processor and a good quality graphics card that allows you to play more demanding games. Because it’s a more affordable model it’s currently one of CybertronPC’s best-selling models. The manufacturer has a reputation for producing desktops that feature impressive components that are perfect for gaming, but this company also has a reputation for products that may not even work upon arrival. This issue seems to revolve around problems during assembly or possibly delivery. The conflicting consumer reviews will either lean heavily on the excellent performance this model offers or the fact that the product has to be returned because it failed to start-up. For many consumers this possible issue didn’t stop them from buying and taking a chance. One of the best models of gaming PCs for the consumer on a tight budget, when functioning properly, the Assault really does offer a better gaming experience than you’d expect from a PC in this price range. The graphics are clear, bright and vivid and lags or freezes are rare. Depending on the games you play you may need to adjust the settings in order to prevent any issues during play.
CybertronPC Borg-Q Gaming Desktop
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For a budget gaming PC this configuration is ideal. The Cybertron PC packs some serious punch with its 8GBs of RAM, AMD 760G chipset, and the Nvidia GeForce GT710 graphics card. It is suitable for most modern games and can easily run them at normal video settings. This particular model comes with a keyboard and mouse which are a great addition to an already good product. The 1 year warranty, windows 10 home, and the interior lighting are just small touches that add on top of this bargain. If you want to read more about the PC itself, head over to our full review about it!
HP Pavilion 500281 Desktop
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The 500281 desktop computer by HP is our top-rated product thanks mainly to its versatility and fast processor and other quality components. It’s designed to handle gaming in addition to everyday tasks and comes with a 1 TB hard drive. This is a lightweight mid-size model that’s able to fit on most desks. It comes with both a mouse and keyboard and Windows 7. It also features a 7-in-1 media card reader that’s built right in. The excellent surround sound quality is due to the DTS sound+ with EQ settings that allow you to customize your listening experience. And with quality surround sound this model will also make a great addition to any home theater system. This PC is considered much faster than most models in this price range. The built-in media card reader and numerous USB ports are big selling points, especially if this is a PC that will be used for a wide variety of tasks, aside from gaming. The only downside for this model is the fact that you may need to adjust the setting when playing a more demanding game, which is an issue that’s common for other PCs in this price range.
Alienware Alpha ASM100-1580 Console
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The Alienware Alpha features an Intel core i3 CPU, 4 GBs of RAM, and a 500 GB hard drive. This is a redesigned model that has a lot more to offer than past consoles produced by this manufacturer. The Alpha is a compact model that features a few USB ports located on the front and back and an HDMI port. It also features a higher resolution than some models in the price range with 1920 x 1080p. This type of resolution means a smoother gaming experience with no freezes or lags. The in-game graphics should be adjusted to the medium setting for the best gaming experience. For some consumers, the Alpha was difficult to setup, however, if you run into any issues contact customer support where you’ll find staff members that are quick to assist you and guide you through this process. Because of the quality of the video card, you’re able to play a wide range of games without the fear of freezing your comp or missing important details. Unfortunately, for reasons that stump even the manufacturer, this model isn’t compatible with Panasonic TVs.
Lenovo IdeaCentre H500 Desktop
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The H500 IdeaCentre Desktop computer by Lenovo features 1 TB of storage and built-in Wi-Fi. This is a computer that can handle basic tasks including email and internet browsing. Because it doesn’t come equipped with an optical drive you won’t be able to burn CDs or DVDs. If you’re an avid gamer and looking for a low-priced desktop that can be converted into a mean gaming machine, you can purchase a graphics card for a much-needed upgrade. However, it won’t be able to handle graphic-intense games because all in all this is a pretty slow running computer. This is the perfect model for consumers looking for a computer that can handle everyday tasks like paying bills online or doing taxes, but it really doesn’t take the lead for a reliable gaming machine. It’s a reasonably priced model that can be upgraded, but even these upgrades will be limited.
CyberpowerPC Gamer Ultra GUA880 Gaming Desktop
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The Gamer Ultra GUA880 by CyberpowerPC features a fast quad-core processor which is perfect for challenging games. It’s also equipped with 8 GB of RAM, which is common for models in this price range. The video card used in this model is a little disappointing for some consumers, especially considering that the GUA880 is marketed as a gaming computer. While a quad-core processor is definitely a must in a gaming computer, so is a powerful video card. Upgrade your video card and you’ll have one powerful gaming desktop. This PC also comes with a gaming mouse and laptop and built-in DVD burner, all of which are big bonuses for consumers. The lighting on this tower is pretty impressive, with bright lights that bleed through the front fan grilles. This model also features onboard 5.1 channel high definition audio. The graphics card is a big disappointment for this desktop. If you normally play simple games then you may not need to upgrade, but if you’re mainly into games that are graphic intense then plan on purchasing an upgrade immediately.
Gaming Desktop Buyer’s Guide
Gaming is so popular these days that it’s now possible to find the best gaming PC for under $500, but finding a solid performing model will take some research on your part. There are many lower priced rigs that simply can’t deliver the type of performance that the manufacturer claims it can. Because of this, it’s important to know more about the essential features to look for and the types of components that can have a major impact on your gaming performance.
Since online gaming’s rise in popularity, you find that there are so many different styles of towers to choose from, that narrowing down your choices can be a little overwhelming.
Choosing the Right Size for Your Gaming Needs
Gaming PCs will come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are super small systems, mid-size towers, and monoliths. Smaller systems are unobtrusive and will fit where the larger systems can’t. They’re a great choice for gamers who are short on space, or for individuals who want to use a PC in a home theater. But purchasing a smaller PC can be limiting when it comes to upgrades. A mid-size tower is a great compromise and the best choice for most beginners. These models are small enough to fit under or on a desk and large enough to feature acceptable cooling and upgradability. But if the style of your PC is important you then keep in mind that most mid-size towers lack a lot of flair and usually appear like an average desktop PC.
Small and Mid-Sized Rigs
Small rigs are not capable of coming anywhere near the performance that mid-sized or full-sized rigs do, but they can be a nice starter option for the beginner gamer. One advantage they do have over the other size options is their ability to fit pretty much anywhere, whether it’s on top of your desk or in a very tight space on the floor next to it. However, choosing a rig of this size can be very limiting in terms of future upgrades and gaming performance in general.
Mid-sized rigs are a great compromise and they tend to work for most gamers. These towers are usually small enough to fit under a desk or a small space on the floor. Unlike small rigs, you can easily upgrade mid-sized models. However, in terms of features, most models of this size are fairly basic.
Full-Size Gaming Rigs
Full-size towers also referred to as monoliths are usually so big that they can’t fit on top of a desk. Some models are so tall that they can’t even fit under a desk. A large tower will cost significantly more than what you’ll pay for a mid-size model, but they’re also super easy to upgrade and are able to handle hardware that doesn’t fit in smaller or even mid-sized models. Some manufacturers will also allow gamers to customize the look of their tower, which is a huge plus for some.
If you have the room and the budget then definitely opt for the large tower. If you’re on a tight budget but still want a PC that can handle challenging games with room for upgrades in the future, then we recommend the mid-size models.
When you purchase a gaming PC, be it a custom job or a pre-made model, the processor should be the first spec you see. The processor is what will determine how a system will perform. Your first choice will be between a quad or core processor. We recommend going with a quad unless you’re on a tight budget. Using a dual processor is fine, but some challenging games will make use of additional cores so a dual core model may be too limiting. Intel is the way to go. AMD is competitive at a few price points, but all AMD processors fail to offer single thread performance. But if you can afford them, an Intel quad-core chip is a better choice for gaming.
Video cards are next in line when it comes to importance. The video card is what’s responsible for providing beautiful, clear graphics. A faster model means an immersive experience and cleaner graphics. When it comes to gaming, stay away from low-end cards. The best cards will be able to handle any game in 1080p with a ton of detail. If you’re searching for a video card you may run into a couple of cards that are very similar but feature a difference in memory. More memory will allow a card to handle more data before it chokes but it doesn’t have a major impact on the card’s overall performance. Look for a video card with at least 1 GB of memory for displays that are below 1080p and 2 GBs of memory for monitor resolution that exceeds 1080p.
Radeon and Nvidia are two of the leading graphics cards on the market these days. Often, they’re what can also hike up the price on an otherwise fairly basic rig. The Nvidia graphics card has an advantage over the Radeon card, but most gamers can agree that for the most part, each one offers a comparable performance. If you’re into popular online games, such as Fortnite, then you’ll want to opt for a rig with one of these options. It will definitely give you an edge in graphically demanding games, allowing you to see more detail than ever before. If you’d like to learn more about challenging online games, click here to read our article on how to get better at Fortnite, or how to win at League of Legends. Both game options feature impressive graphics and require serious gaming skills in order to succeed.
RAM is inexpensive, so adding more to your PC seems like a good idea, but don’t fall for it. Most games these days will easily run on PCs with 8 GBs of RAM. Anything more is just useless. More memory won’t make a game run any faster. Any money that you planned to spend on more RAM should instead go towards a component that actually matters, like the video card.
Solid State Drives and Mechanical Drives
If you’re an avid gamer then you probably already know that a solid-state drive is much faster than a mechanical drive. This means significantly faster load times which is a must when playing a challenging game. While you can still get pretty fast load times with a mechanical drive, if you’re serious about your gaming go for solid-state models, however, keep in mind that they’re pretty pricey.
Extra Features that can Enhance Your Gaming Experience
For many gamers, the type of extra features to look for in a rig and gaming setup is more a matter of personal preference. However, there are some features that can impact gameplay. Some of these extras are surprisingly affordable and definitely worth a closer look. After you have found a PC that utilizes the right processor and video card you can look for a wide range of extras including additional USB ports, Ethernet adapters, sound cards and a lot more. Headsets, gaming chairs, webcams, and mics are also great extras that can change how you game. To learn more, click here to read our article on the best gaming setup.
Which Gaming Rig is Right for Me?
Before you buy, look at all of the specs carefully and consider whether or not a particular PC has all of the components you’re looking for. Purchasing this type of desktop can be a balancing act of sorts. If you go with a flexible model that allows for upgrades and features the right type of processor and RAM but doesn’t come with a great video card you can still purchase it and upgrade that card later down the road. Consider what features are the most important to you and your gaming experience. This includes tower size, upgrade options, speed, and space and graphics quality. If you have a specific game you love and play often, do a little research and find out what other gamers are using for that particular game. This can help you to narrow down your choices while also giving you a clearer picture of the specs you need in order to enjoy your game without lags, freezes or poor graphics. Pricing is often a major factor that will influence what model you buy, but as long as the PC you choose allows you to slowly upgrade components then there’s nothing wrong with buying a model that can be upgraded and improved along the way.
Our site is designed to help you choose the best gaming PC under $500. This can seem like a real challenge to the inexperienced gamer, but believe it or not, there are some great rigs out there in this price range. We hope our articles on how to beat challenging games and what to look for in budget gaming setups can help you to create the perfect gaming environment based on space, gaming skill level, and obviously, a model that won’t break the bank.