There’s a rumor floating around that PC gaming is expensive but rest assured, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, when done right, PC gaming can be far cheaper than console gaming, especially when you consider ongoing costs like subscriptions.
A console may look cheap from the outset, but don’t be fooled, this is by design.
Consoles aren’t meant to make a profit on the initial sale, they’re meant to make a profit by charging you extortionate subscription costs over the long term, not to mention the highly marked-up prices that you’ll pay to buy games through their proprietary store.
So, is PC gaming expensive then?
Well, yes and no. It doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be and in this article, we’re going to show you how.
6 Top Tips on How to Save Money on PC Gaming (It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive)
For our full money-saving cost analysis for each individual part, keep scrolling down.
1. Consider buying refurbished or used parts
We know it’s more exciting sometimes to get new and shiny parts but you can really miss out on a bargain if you’re not considering used or refurbished parts for your gaming PC.
Places like eBay, Reddit, and Facebook can be great places to find excellent deals on used graphics cards, processors, motherboards, and heck, even the kitchen sink if needs be.
Jokes aside, it’s very easy to net yourself hundreds of dollars (insert other currency here) in discounts simply by going second-hand.
As long as you do some due diligence such as checking seller reviews and feedback, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with your parts.
It’s also worth considering the fact that most hardware pieces include very long manufacturer warranties that may still be valid even on used goods.
This should give you some peace of mind that you don’t always need to buy at the full retail price to get a secure, safe deal.
2. Determine your needs
It’s very easy to get excited and shoot for the highest-performing graphics card, but this is neither practical nor cheap, especially if you aren’t going to be using the extent of its power.
In most cases, we suggest trying to determine or understand your needs; think about the games you want to play and what kind of requirements they’ll demand.
For example, if you’re only playing simply-designed games like Hearthstone or Fortnite, then you may not need the full power of a high-end RTX card such as a 3080.
The same can be said for other parts like the processor as most games aren’t capable of using multithreading and thus, getting the highest core count in the world isn’t going to make a lick of difference.
When it comes to buying PC parts, we think it’s important to be pragmatic mainly because it could be the difference between spending hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars.
3. LAN Gaming
Rather than buying your own gaming PC, it can sometimes be worth considering getting a subscription or membership at a local LAN center.
This probably isn’t feasible in the western world due to operating costs, however, for folks who are further afield then sometimes it can make much more sense.
Basically, instead of paying a large chunk of money upfront, you can get access to some of the best gaming machines on the planet simply by playing at a LAN center instead.
This means you’ll be paying piecemeal prices compared to the full cost of a PC outright and in most cases, is easier to justify for the long term.
If you’re not sure where to start with this then we suggest doing a quick Google search for LAN centers in your area — they’ll most likely have a website that you can explore to get a rough idea of the fees involved and whether it would be cost-effective or not.
4. Subscription Gaming
Subscription gaming services such as Google Stadia are a cost-effective way to play PC games without having to front up the costs for expensive hardware.
As a niche, it hasn’t taken off yet and that’s probably because there are still some teething issues such as addressing the problem of people still not having access to good connections around the world.
Essentially, you’ll connect to a PC/server and will be able to load up any of the games that you own under your subscription; in essence, the image you see on screen is streamed footage of your own gameplay.
The main drawback is of course the added latency, and for competitive games, we still think it isn’t very feasible.
With that said, if you prefer to play offline or single-player games then Stadia is a great solution and the latency becomes a non-issue.
It also means you can play any game on the highest settings in 4K as Google machines run on all the top hardware.
If you intend to use Stadia then you’ll need a basic machine with a screen and interface such as a controller or keyboard — you can also Chromecast to a TV if you want to play it from your couch.
5. Negotiate with local retailers
This method is a little old-school but we know for a fact that local retailers would appreciate your business more than the average internet mega-giant (see Amazon) and will often bend over backward to cater to your budget.
If you’re not able to source the parts you want for the right price then it can be worth visiting a local PC retailer in person to hash out a deal.
Even if they can’t get the price exactly where you want it, they may be able to throw in some extras as a bonus.
Going back to our first point, local retailers are also more likely to stock refurbished parts or have used goods they may be willing to part with.
It’s much easier to get an idea in your mind of what you want in person than it is trying to decide over the internet.
Plus, speaking with an expert in-store might help frame your needs better and could help you save money on parts that you don’t necessarily need.
6. Consider buying off-brand parts
In the age of our interconnected world, it’s much easier to source reliable off-brand parts from all around the world rather than having to go down the route of buying expensive mainstream goods.
You can get fans, RAM, hard disks, and cases all made by off-brand manufacturers.
This can often end up saving you hundreds of dollars on a new PC compared to if you’d bought mainstream branded parts.
In fact, most parts are manufactured in the same factories as mainstream brands meaning you’re often paying for the name alone rather than the performance.
This is also the same for things like monitors; off-brand monitors may also offer the same OLED/4K technology as the latest, cutting edge ones, however, they cost hundreds of dollars less in most cases.
The best place to source off-brand goods is often through services like eBay, especially since they’ll offer buyer protection in case anything goes wrong.
How Much Should a Gaming PC Cost? Full Component Cost Saving Tips
There’s no set figure in terms of cost when it comes to buying a gaming PC as prices are constantly changing and purely depend on what specifications you want.
With that said, it’s safe to say that you can reliably spend under a thousand dollars for a fairly powerful machine — you don’t need to break the bank to have a great PC gaming experience.
Let’s take a look at some of our cost-saving tips for each individual component.
A PC case needn’t be expensive, especially if you know what you’re going to be housing inside of it.
That’s because most mid to high-end gaming systems can now be fit inside some of the smallest case formats such as Mini-ITX and Micro ATX.
Naturally, smaller cases command less of a premium because there’s less material used and thus, we recommend shooting for a smaller build if you can get away with it.
Plus, smaller cases look neater and take up less space meaning you’ll have more room left over for other peripherals or accessories for your desk.
Also, going back to our sixth money-saving tip, try to buy off-brand cases where possible as they can sometimes be up to half the price of a mainstream branded case.
Lastly, you should also find out the measurements of your graphics card as this will often be the component that causes size issues depending on the case you buy.
A good power supply is critical for the smooth running of your new gaming PC, however, you don’t need to buy the most expensive one on the market.
Typically, you’ll find non-modular, semi-modular, and fully modular power supplies to support the running of your gaming system.
Both non-modular and semi-modular are usually cheaper than a fully modular power supply.
This is because they offer less customization and connectivity options compared to a fully modular power supply, though, will often be enough for most gamers as they’ll still provide the essential connections.
The only time we recommend spending more money on a fully modular power supply is if you intend to install lots of non-essential extras such as RGB lighting and fan controllers.
Another point worth making is that you’ll also find energy efficiency certifications on your power supply — the difference between bronze and gold efficiency (and others) likely won’t make a big difference for a single user.
For this reason, anything bronze efficiency or above should be fine; you needn’t spend more money for a higher efficiency certification as it’ll simply be a waste.
Motherboard prices can vary wildly and that’s because they’re often sold with a variety of features that may or may not be useful to you.
In most cases, unless you’re overclocking your processor or RAM then you’ll probably want something fairly basic.
It’s also worth considering the format that your motherboard is sold in.
For example, if you have a mini-ITX case then you’ll want a mini-ITX motherboard.
If you have a micro ATX case then you’ll usually want the micro ATX motherboard, etc.
Smaller motherboards can often fit larger cases but we recommend avoiding this if you’re unsure about the specifications.
Lastly, you’ll need to pick a motherboard with the right socket type that matches your processor.
Most motherboards support AM4 (latest AMD Ryzen processors) or LGA (Intel) type sockets.
Depending on when you’re reading this, socket types may change depending on advancing technology so make sure to double-check.
Both socket types are competitively priced so you shouldn’t find many variations between the two, however, Ryzen processors are typically cheaper, and thus, getting a Ryzen setup can often save you money.
When it comes to RAM, there are plenty of options that can help you save money.
For example, RAM without a heatsink will typically set you back half the price of a set of modules that come with one installed.
Heatsinks on RAM aren’t essential either, especially if you have adequate cooling inside your case.
For most people, heatsinks provide an aesthetic benefit rather than any significant performance differences.
Another thing that you should avoid paying a premium for is higher clock speeds on RAM modules.
8GB of 2133MHz RAM will perform about as quickly as a set of 8GB clocked at 3200MHz or above.
In fact, Linus Tech Tips did a really great in-depth video about why clock speed timings don’t matter as much as you may imagine:
For gaming, you’ll only need an entry-level set of DDR4 sticks with about 8-16GB of RAM for optimal performance — everything else is purely ego-driven and will cost you more money.
There’s no getting around the astronomical costs of graphics cards these days; they’re de facto the most expensive part of a gaming system that you’ll have to buy and can often set you back hundreds of dollars.
The reasons are varied but it’s thought that cryptocurrency mining operations have driven the costs of graphic cards up as the supply often doesn’t meet the demand.
For this reason, it’s extremely important to pick the most efficient card based on your graphical needs.
Basically, don’t buy the most expensive top-of-the-line card if you can get away with either an entry-level or mid-range offering.
Most popular games have extremely minimal requirements meaning unless you want to play the most cutting-edge game releases, you should be fine with a cheaper graphics card.
The two main manufacturers include AMD and Nvidia of which both companies have competitively priced cards, however, don’t forget to check for second-hand bargains on places like eBay as you can often find heavily discounted goods.
Processors, much like graphics cards, are released with varying performance specifications to meet your needs depending on the types of tasks you’ll be performing.
For gaming, a high clock speed is often the most important factor that will dictate real-world performance, however, many more modern games are now starting to take advantage of multithreading meaning having a dual-core or quad-core processor can be advantageous too.
Typically, Intel processors have higher clock speeds but AMD Ryzen usually offers a better cost-to-performance ratio.
AMD has also made strides where technological supremacy is concerned in relation to their manufacturing processes meaning you can often get a more efficient chip that is good for lower energy costs.
Overall, the differences are slim but we recommend Ryzen over Intel in the current market until they can catch up with more efficient manufacturing processes.
We also recommend avoiding X (Ryzen) or K (Intel) variations of processors not unless you intend to overclock them as they’ll have a marked-up cost for this feature.
Storage is one component option that you might want to overshoot on a little bit to future-proof your capacity for any future game releases.
There’s nothing worse than having to get inside your case again to install a new hard disk just for the sake of adding a little extra storage capacity.
However, you should exercise pragmatism and go for hard disk models that will suit your needs and fit your budget.
To do this, you need to understand what type of hard disk you want.
The three main types are mechanical hard disks (moving parts), solid-state drives (no moving parts), and direct-to-motherboard storage such as PCIe SSD (also no moving parts).
Typically, the best cost-to-performance hard disks are normal SSD drives as they’re relatively fast and have been around long enough for reduced pricing.
PCIe SSD drives are powerful but they’re extremely cost-prohibitive meaning only people who need them should buy them i.e. music producers or video editors.
In terms of branding, you can find an assortment of offerings from various manufacturers and companies — typically we suggest going for the cheapest SSD (varies by memory size) but one that offers a good warranty too in case of defects.
Cooling is one of the most misunderstood areas when it comes to building a good gaming PC that will work effectively.
You really don’t need an all-in-one water-cooled system to have a machine that runs at an efficient temperature, yet you see so many people using them.
Honestly, in most cases, this is purely for aesthetic reasons rather than needing all that cooling power.
Typically, you can get away with the stock CPU cooler and a few case fans to keep everything running smoothly.
We only suggest opting for all-in-one (AIO) coolers or using more than a few fans if you’re going to be doing processor intense work such as video rendering, software rendering, or playing the latest, cutting-edge games on.
If you’re not doing any of those things then we really suggest avoiding spending too much money on extreme amounts of cooling as it’ll likely be a waste.
Picking the right monitor display can help you save hundreds of dollars, especially since higher resolutions will need extra graphical power which can end up costing an arm and a leg.
For gaming, 1080p HD is more than adequate for providing a crystal-clear viewing experience and will also match up very nicely with entry-level and mid-tier graphics cards.
As you start increasing monitor resolutions up to 4K and beyond, you’ll start to notice that even the most basic graphic games will lag or suffer frame rate drops if you’re not using the right hardware to support it.
Because of the prohibitive costs of graphics cards and the fact that 4K monitors can cost hundreds of dollars, we recommend going for a nice 1080p monitor instead combined with an entry-level to mid-tier GPU.
The difference in price can often exceed $1000 between these two setup recommendations and the results often aren’t that dramatic.
If you’re on the fence then go for the 1080p setup with the lower GPU and spend the rest on having a good time with your friends or buying some more games with.
Peripherals needn’t cost you the earth.
A simple ergonomic keyboard and a gaming mouse with a couple of hotkeys will perform about as well as even the most expensive variations.
Mechanical keyboards are also nice to have but often unnecessary and are usually marked up because of the novelty rather than the benefit they can bring.
Audio is a little different as the experiences can vary quite vastly and sound is an important factor in how immersed you feel in-game.
For this reason, the only peripheral we recommend spending a little more on is the headset as you’ll want something that performs clearly and with enough tone to provide an accurate soundscape.
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