I’m not going to get into the age-old debate of “building a computer yourself” vs. “buying one pre-built,” as the best option ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, it’s worth noting that buying a pre-built gaming PC comes with certain benefits. For starters, buying a pre-built machine saves you an immense amount of time. You’ll also have your entire PC covered under a single warranty, and you won’t have to worry about dealing with multiple companies/brands if something fails.
For this guide, we’re focusing purely on companies that will build gaming PCs for you at budget-friendly to mid-range prices (think $1,000-$2,000 retail price). Since all the major gaming PC companies allow you to fully personalize a system, you can truly make your machine what you want.
Before we get into our top picks, note that for testing various PC systems, we used an ASUS ROG Strix XG27UQ, a 144Hz 4K monitor that supports G-SYNC. The XG27UQ manages to offer both HDR400 support as well as DCI-P3 90%, providing both excellent gaming performance, as well as high-caliber image quality. Check out our guide on the best gaming monitors for more information.
What to Look for in a Gaming PC
For entry-level gaming, it’s all about being creative with choices and knowing what you want. We think 1440p is the sweet spot for gaming, and these days it’s days to build a fantastic 1440p gaming machine.
The most important part of an entry-level PC is going to be its graphics card. Pick a system that has at least an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU or AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT graphics card. However, If you plan to dabble with 4K gaming, an RTX graphics card will go further than AMD’s. As more games roll out with NVIDIA DLSS 2.0 support, all RTX cards will allow 4K gameplay above 60 FPS through clever use of NVIDIA’s AI processing.
Right now systems configured with AMD’s lineup of Ryzen CPUs are kicking serious butt. AMD is simply outperforming similarly equipped and priced Intel systems, and by a wide margin. Notice that almost all of the recommended systems below came configured with a Ryzen CPU.
For memory, 16GB of RAM is the minimum—don’t settle for any system that’s configured with less. You’ll want enough RAM for both your game and Windows running in the background, and with the latest games, 8GB just won’t cut it. All of our picks come with 16GB of RAM.
Finally, make sure you’re getting an NVMe SSD as your primary form of storage; the larger the hard drive, the better.
Recommended Gaming PCs — Entry-Level/Mid-Range
CyberPowerPC Gamer Master Gaming Desktop
- Best for: Budget-friendly bang for your buck
- Retail Price: $949.99
- Best Recent Sale Price: $650 (via Best Buy)
If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, very little – if anything – comes close to CyberPower’s Gamer Master Gaming Desktop. Featuring AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600 and paired with a Radeon RX 5600 XT, the Gamer Master offers a well-rounded 6-core CPU based on AMD’s extremely capable Zen 2 architecture humming along at 3.6GHz. This CPU is no slouch when it comes to gaming.
CyberPower’s choice of a Radeon RX 5600 XT graphics card aims this system squarely at the 1440p gaming market. And if you’re still gaming at 1080p, this system will have plenty of juice left over. Turning things up to 4K sees the Gamer Master performance step back a bit, but when you pair it with an adaptive-refresh rate gaming monitor, dips below 60FPS should be smoothed out.
Configured to be well rounded, the Gaming Master comes with 16GB of RAM, a 500GB NVMe SSD and a 1TB hard drive. And selling for $949, CyberPower PC’s Gaming Master is an excellent and affordable machine.
MAINGEAR VYBE Stage 3
- Best for: 4K-ready budget option
- Retail Price: $1,399
MAINGEAR is no stranger to high-end gaming systems, many of which sell for a face-melting $4000 or more. But recently, the company has managed to trickle down its long-time building finesse to prices more affordable by mortals. Enter, the VYBE gaming system, which offers a quality build for an exceptional value.
Packed with a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 3600X and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, the VYBE puts on gloves and punches well above its weight. The 3600X CPU runs at a base clock that’s 200MHz faster than the 3600, clocking in at 3.8GHz and boosting up to 4.4GHz. This means better performance in games. But the real performance dealer will be in the form of the GeForce RTX 2060.
While both the CyberPower and MAINGEAR systems target 1440p gaming, the VYBE is actually capable at 4K with NVIDIA’s DLSS 2.0 technology enabled. In fact, DLSS lets any RTX GPU play with excellent frame rates at 4K. We tested this on Death Stranding, with all options turned to highest and DLSS enabled. Frame rates never dipped below 60 FPS.
Priced at $1,400, the MAINGEAR VYBE stays comfortably below mid-range prices, while providing high-end performance. While reviewers such as the ones at PCMag had minor gripes with the noise produced by the rig’s fans, it’s a small concession for an otherwise well-rounded device.
NZXT BLD H1 Mini PC
- Best for:Mid-range small form-factor gaming PC
- Retail Price: $1,999
While full-tower gaming desktops offer lots of room for extras, sometimes you just need the right essentials in a compact system – and if it can do it while looking good, even better.
Enter the NZXT BLD H1 Mini, a compact, full-powered, full-featured gaming desktop that looks similar to Microsoft’s next generation Xbox Series X. Packed with liquid cooling and an Intel Core i9-9900K, NZXT’s choice of CPUs reduces the cost, but still offers a relatively high-end pick.
Our configuration came with NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 Super, which brings in plenty of power density for such a small system. Those wanting more power can actually equip up to a 2080 Ti.
We like the H1 Mini for its combination of compact design and powerful components, as well as its ability to remain somewhat user serviceable. Space is tight inside, but the system does leave some flexibility for upgrades down the line. For an extremely compact and svelte-looking mid-range gaming battle station, the NZXT BLD H1 Mini is in its own class.
CORSAIR VENGEANCE a4100
- Best for: Mid-Range Gaming PC for creators
- Retail Price: $1,999.99
For aspiring streamers and creators, CORSAIR’s VENGEANCE a4100 has the goods to play all the latest games while simultaneously streaming and producing content.
CORSAIR configured the VENGEANCE a4100 with a beefy Ryzen 7 3700X and an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super. The Ryzen 7 3700X is an 8-core CPU with plenty of oomph for critical content creation business. Clocking at 3.6GHz, the VENGEANCE a4100 can boost its CPU up to 4.4GHz for demanding moments.
What sets the VENGEANCE a4100 apart is the inclusion of Elgato’s 4K60 Pro encoder card. Capable of capturing full 4K footage in HDR10, the 4K60 Pro can make sure you’re producing the best possible gaming footage from, say, a PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X. The best part of having an encoder card is the fact that you won’t be taxing your CPU or GPU. Capturing and encoding is all done on the Elgato card, leaving your system free to crunch through anything intensive.
CORSAIR also offers a full line of Stream Decks, allowing you to quickly access critical functions for streaming or other features in Photoshop’s tools with ease. Users can set each individual button on a Stream Deck to perform various tasks, such as launching a webpage, opening your stream or Tweeting your followers.
At $1,999, the VENGEANCE a4100 is at the higher end of the mid-range class, but it’s got plenty of goods for a budding YouTube or Twitch star.
Xidax X-2 and X-6
- Best for: Lifetime warranty coverage
- Retail Price for the X-2: $1,069
- Retail Price for the X-6: $1,993
Xidax’s warranty for its line of gaming computers is unique in that it’s a full lifetime warranty, rather than just two or four years. The company offers repairs, replacement or store credit of a busted item should something happen. The only caveat is you pay a little more upfront for the peace-of-mind. Think of it as a one-time cost for perpetual insurance.
Priced at $1,069 with a lifetime warranty, it’s a balance of specs and guarantees.
Xidax shipped us an X-2 entry level system that comes with a Ryzen 5 3400G CPU and a GTX 1660 Super. The specs are good for a 1080p gaming machine, and those who have a G-SYNC screen will have no issues even at 1440p. Without a G-SYNC screen though, you’ll have to limit yourself to 1080p. Configurable at the time of purchase, we would have liked to see the inclusion of at least a 500GB SSD, but a 1TB HDD is included. Personally, I would swap out the 1TB HDD for an NVMe 500GB drive and buy an HDD later on.
The X-6 system scratches nearly at the top of the price range for mid-range PCs, but again, you get that exclusive lifetime warranty for every single part inside your PC. Coming in at $1,993, Xidax is packing a beefier AMD Ryzen 7 3700X with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Super.
The X-6 is a good 1440p gaming machine with 4K support (via DLSS 2.0) that won’t disappoint. Plus, you get that warranty coverage for as long as you keep the machine. If Xidax can bump up the spec sheet by including an RTX 2070 Super, it’d be even more excellent
These PCs fit snugly into the “mid-range” category, and in many ways are comparable to the MAINGEAR VYBE Stage 3. However, if you’re interested in getting a specific GPU/CPU, these are both fantastic alternatives.
CyberPowerPC Gamer Supreme
- Best for:Mid-range AMD gaming PC
- Retail Price: $1,349.99
CyberPower does it again with excellent price/performance balance. The Gamer Supreme features an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X eight-core CPU clocking in at 3.6Ghz, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super. It’s hard to beat this system, especially at a very affordable $1,349.
This CyberPower machine is also quite balanced, squarely aimed at 1440p and 4K gaming. That’s right, 4K gaming can now be had for less than $1500. Thanks to NVIDIA DLSS and the RTX 2070 Super, you’ll have no problems chomping enemies at a sharp 3840 x 2160. Of course, you’ll just need to make sure you have a 4K-capable display.
Pairing an AMD Ryzen CPU with NVIDIA graphics is the norm right now, thanks to AMD’s excellent Zen 2 architecture. But you’ll also get all-in-one liquid cooling, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB NVMe SSD and a 1TB HDD.
iBuypower Z490 Gaming Evo
- Best for: Mid-Range Intel Gaming PC
- Retail Price: $1,199
For longtime fans of Intel CPUs, iBuypower’s Gaming Evo system is the best bang for the buck if you’re sticking with the blue team. Configured with an Intel Core i5-10600K, the Gaming Evo sports Intel’s latest 10th gen. CPU, which means better performance and efficiency all around — for gaming, of course.
Right now, there’s an aggressive CPU war between AMD and Intel. Intel still rules for gaming at the very high end, but only by small margins. For everything else, AMD’s got Intel licked clean. If you’re only focused on gaming and nothing else though, Intel’s single threaded performance still kicks butt.
iBuypower equips its Gaming Evo with an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super, giving the system a near high-end gaming experience. In fact, the Gaming Evo easily plays games at 4K, and plows through 1440p gaming. Customers using any RTX series cards should be taking advantage of DLSS for the best possible experience.
At $1,199, the Gaming Evo comes with half the storage capacity of CyberPower’s Gamer Supreme offering, but it also comes with a lower price.
Once you’re ready to buy, be sure to set a Deal Alert to make sure you don’t miss a discount or sale on your favorite gaming PC.
Here’s one more PC deal from our Frontpage:
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