Cheap "Gaming" PC..?


We’re all friends here, right?

I have lost.

My (14yo) son wants to buy a “gaming PC” to play games with his friends. Can’t really begrudge him, I guess… it was part of my own urge to own a computer back in the early 90’s - to play games. And the reason I upgraded from that first Mac Classic - to play better games! :slight_smile:

My problem is, I have no idea where to start. I know that on his budget (he’s got it in his head that $400 - $500 should get him started) he’s going to have to go second hand… (We looked today in JB, and his budget barely gets him a monitor… the 2 tower PCs they had were $700 - $900)… and looking over on eBay, I see he should be able to pick up a reasonable size HD-monitor for around $100. I realise he’ll probably want higher resolution, and we may need to investigate that based on the games he wants to play… but that should be a starting point based on $$.

When it comes to the box itself… what’s reasonable?? Again on eBay… $500 would buy an box with an i5 processor and Intel HD 530 graphics card and something like 16GB RAM / 512GB SSD. But no idea whether that’s good or not! I am thinking I may need him to talk to his friends and come back with some game titles, and then check their requirements, as a way to gauge what he needs???

He’s only saved about $150 so far… so have 3-6 months to figure things out.

Thanks for any advice.



That’s a pretty small budget for a gaming PC, as you’ve already discovered. An option that you might want to look into is to find out what games he wants to play, and then see if they’re able to be played via GeForce Now or perhaps even Xbox Live Premium (both are game streaming services, GeForce Now lets you play games from Steam, Epic etc - whereas Xbox Live Premium lets you play Xbox games without having an Xbox, oh and it includes a whole bunch of games.)

I suspect at that budget you would be better off looking at a XBox console. The console could be hooked up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Additionally, the XBox Live subscription FaultyTaco mentioned would give him access to a huge range of old and new games with titles being added regularly. Would definitely be the best bang for buck. It also somewhat limits his ability to get into any trouble. The current gen of XBox consoles are also great for emulation using the built in dev mode. So that opens the door to thousands more titles.

If you’re looking for a PC, second hand is your only option. For a monitor, aim for 1080p. For gaming, a higher refresh rate would be more beneficial (e.g. 1080p @ 120hz would be better than 4K @ 60hz).
PC component wise, the biggest cost would be the GPU. Prices are still quite high on those and integrated graphics won’t get him a playable experience on any recent titles.
I can answer any questions you may have about different PC components, so feel free to ask.

Bit of a hard slog there with that budget. Even if you wanted a console (PS5 or Xbox) they are impossible to come by at the moment.
Do you know what games he wants to play?

At a minimum I would be looking for a used Nvidia 1080 GTX, but even that will cost your son his entire budget.
Before work provided me with my own machines I repurposed my 2009 Mac Pro (dual quad core 2.93Ghz) as a Linux/Windows box with a used Nvidia 1080 GTX that I grabbed of OCAU when everyone was upgrading to RTX2000 series cards. This worked quite well at 1080p for some simple gaming in steam.

My thoughts are that $1000 budget is more realistic, but even then it may not provide a satisfactory experience for the games he wants to play.

Good luck.

Thanks @FaultyTaco @DogKnight @leon !

We have an XBox One S… which I gather is at least 1-2 full iterations old now. But it resides in the living room, and he’s wanting something he can use in his bedroom (as much to get away from his little brothers, that can’t play some of the “older” games that he wants to play, as anything), and I know in particular he and his friends are into Steam games.

Can you play Steam on XBox? Just did a google and it seemed the answer was yes? If that’s feasible - could potentially upgrade the living room XBox, and let him have the old one… then he just needs a screen, keyboard/monitor…


I have asked him to check what titles in particular he / they are wanting to play, so we can then get some spec requirements.

Thanks for the advices, especially regarding screen refresh. I told him he would only be getting HD, but I hadn’t thought about refresh. Will keep an eye out for that.

He’s not being too unrealistic about what he’ll be able to afford. His main issue at the moment is that his small laptop that he uses at school isn’t able to even try to run some games.

Hmm… I wonder if my MacPro5,1 - with a better graphics card - may be another alternative. I love the idea of him still having to use a Mac, to play PC games… :slight_smile:

Definitely possible with a better graphics card, but you would want to use bootcamp. You would need to take into account physical space requirements of the GPU and also availability of PCIE power connectors.

Steam on XBox probably isn’t a viable option. What articles are referring to is a service called GeForce now. It allows you to essentially rent/subscribe to a PC provided by nVidia. On that PC, you can run steam, purchase games, and play them. But this is game streaming, and it happens through the consoles web browser (MS Edge on the XBox consoles). Technically this approach can be done on most computers as well, including Macs.
Unfortunately streaming a game does introduce latency, especially with the average Australian internet connection. And even in the best case scenario is not ideal for any games where quick reactions are required.
And to clarify, my previous comments about using a XBox were in relation to the current ‘Series’ consoles. I am not sure about capabilities of the XBox One models.

The benefit of going a PC is that at least he will be able to save up and upgrade it over time. Will be the start of an expensive hobby most of us know well.
For that budget, you’ll be looking at something around a 4th - 8th gen i5 or i7 or maybe first gen AMD Ryzen. GPU wise, maybe a GTX970, GTX 1060, RX570. 16gb of RAM hopefully. Will probably come with a mechanical HDD. If it does though, a SATA SSD will be a nice cheap upgrade. A system like this would allow him to get into gaming albeit probably with lower graphical settings depending on the game. A 1080p display will make it easier to run games compared to a higher resolution monitor as there are less pixels that require processing.

We all need to start somewhere and he will probably just be wrapped to have a computer to call his own.

When I upgraded my 5.1 Mac Pro I had trouble installing Windows for some reason. I tried following numerous guides but I gave up in the end. It could certainly be an option though if you can find someone on here who knows how to do it.

I run Windows 10 on my 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pros. I have also recently converted by 5,1 to a Ubuntu 20 LTS machine. I did install Steam into Linux but would occasionally run into issues running some games that I could never sort out. Not sure what the problem was.

Ubuntu on the Mac Pro was a little bit of a pain to get set up with the GTX 1080 as there aren’t boot screens. I’m trying to remember what I did exactly, but I think I used a GTX680 with a Mac Pro ROM to give me boot screens and set up Ubuntu. Once it was all running and I had Nvidia drivers installed I think I shut down the machine, swapped in the GTX 1080 and rebooted. Linux was the only HDD in the machine and it would therefore boot by default.

To power the GTX I had a dual 6 pin to single 8 pin power cable. Has been running rock solid for years and Power supply doesn’t seem too stressed out.