Cheap off the shelf gaming computer?

I don’t want to buy anything extra or install any hardware. I don’t need a computer that plays the latest high end game. Just a decent PC that will play mostly mid level games. A computer that will play Portal and Half Life 2 are probably about the level I’m looking for.

Any ordinary entry-level name-brand desktop will play any game on the market today. I bought the cheapest Dell in the shop two years ago, and I’ve yet to encounter a game that won’t run on it.

Once you add a GPU. The on-chip graphics aren’t up to playing modern games at current resolutions. You also need to make sure that the computer has a PSU capable of supplying enough power. The GPU that gives the best bang for the buck is ever-changing but is currently the AMD Radeon HD 7950 at £175. Down a big step is the Geforce 650 Ti at £125. AMD are introducing a new range and are rebranding shortly so prices may drop. Your monitor will be a standard 23" or 24" 1080p display and cost ~£100.

Your checklist should include: Intel i3 CPU or better, 4 or 8 GB RAM, Radeon HD 7950, 450W or better PSU, 64-bit Windows 7 or 8, 23" or 24" display.

For a cheap upgrade later on, make sure your PC will support SLI and Crossfire which will enable you to add a second GPU (and a third in the case of the 7950).

My computer came with a GeForce GT 530 1GB, and it plays games just fine, even at high resolutions.

Of course, my standards may be lower than yours. As far as I’m concerned, so long as the game (a) works and (b) doesn’t look like shit, I’m happy.

That’s still an add-on card: about £40 for the GT 630.

I have come to express my amusement at the persistence of the myth that one must have the latest, greatest, most expensive hardware to run common games. It’s kind of like telling someone who is asking what kind of car will be reliable and get them to work every day that nothing less than a Porche or Jaguar will do the job.

Portal and Half-Life 2 will probably run fine on any computer with a core i3 or better. (Not that the CPU is key, but rather, that the integrated graphics or manufacturer-installed cheap add-on that typically comes with a core i3 or better would generally be fine for those games.)

There’s a website that lets you input system specs and find out how well it will run various games, but for some reason the google searches that come immediately to my mind aren’t working.

All desktops - and most laptops - I’ve seen in stores come with “entry-level” graphics cards like the GT 530.

Since it comes with the computer, I don’t consider it an add-on.

Hey, someone has to buy those $1,500 unobtainium-clad HDMI cables.

Moved Cafe Society --> the Game Room.

The common place inclusion of APU’s also means that desktop PC’s without a discreet GPU can run games better than current gen consoles at 720p.

That would be your cheapest build, OP. Going for a nice AMD APU. You should be able to play 99% of games out there now at 720p or 1080 with reduced graphic details.

As long as the mobo also has an available PCIe slot, you can always easily upgrade to a more powerful GPU once you find newer games having issue s running on your APU.

The new batch of AMD APU’s are coming out and

It looks like they’ll allow laptops/cheap desktops to get close to the performance of “next gen” consoles.

Pretty cool stuff.

I bought the best I could afford around 2000. I’m still using it today. That is why I try and get the highest end stuff that is available if I can afford it. Although I can’t actually run stuff that has been new the last few years, there is still plenty I can run. Still, I am hoping to get something sometime in the next few months.

Are you thinking of Can You Run It? from System Requirements Lab? I keep it bookmarked from necessity.

It is still a separate graphics card instead of a chip on the mother board. This distinction is very important when it comes to games, and you risk giving people bad advice by not making it. (On board video usually stink.)

The distinction is no longer clear, with the advent of APUs.

No, the distinction is still clear, the existence of APUs only mean that on board graphics is no longer automatically crap, a separate graphics card is still separate even if it is already installed in the computer when you buy it.

Right, but most off-the-shelf entry-level desktop computers come with separate graphic cards. They’re basically standard-issue.

Mogle, in one post you said on-board video usually stinks, and in this post you said on=board graphics is no longer automatically crap. These two statements aren’t strictly contradictory, but they are in tension, and what I’m getting at by saying “the distinction is no longer clear” is that it is no longer clear–as it once was–that just because you’re getting onboard graphics you’re getting something that is “crap” or that “stinks.” In other words, the distinction in quality between on-board and not-on-board is no longer clear.


**I think you’ll find that to get specific/useful advice, you’ll have to at least give a price range that you’re willing to spend. Either way, though, you might be surprised by my general recommendation to head on over to

They have some pretty decent off-the-shelf gaming setups at decent prices and even a “Build Your Own” where you select the components and they pre-assemble/configure it all for you. The biggest difficulty you’re likely to have is finding one with a case that doesn’t look like it was designed by extremely tacky aliens.

I don’t know about the other brands, but if you stick to the iBuyPower brand, I can definitely recommend them. I was buying PCs direct from them before they even started selling through Walmart, and I’ve found their quality to be quite good buying from either source. Which leads me to my next point - before you buy anything through Walmart, head on over to the iBuyPower website and see if they have any sales or deals that are better than what’s at Walmart. The one thing to keep in mind is that S&H is free at Walmart with the in-store pickup, and some select items even offer free shipping to your door through “home free” shipping. So, just consider that in your decision on which one is ultimately cheaper.

No real disagreement on that point, , but my original objection was to the notion that graphics cards stopped being add-on cards just because they were already installed on the computer at the time of purchase.
I will also admit that my view on on-board graphics may be a bit outdated.

You could say the same thing about the DVD drive - or the RAM.

I think the question is simply whether a computer has a graphics card or not. And to answer the OP, a new computer with a modern graphics card - even a cheap one - is good enough for just about any game.