It’s only three months since I answered the question Sylvia read – What’s the best gaming PC for under £1,000? – but some readers are looking for cheaper options in the run-up to Christmas.
To answer the simplest question first, yes, I would still go for the HP Omen 880-100na
at its current price of £899, though I’d also add £49 for three years
of pickup and return service. This is the cheapest model HP sells direct
and a bargain compared to the 880-148na at £1,300.
The HP Omen 880-100na has a solid specification: a 6-core Intel Core
i5-8400 with 8GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, a
128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. To save money, you’d have to lower one
or more specifications, meaning performance would take a hit.
To get the price under £500, you might have to drop down to a Core
i3-8100 processor, downgrade the graphics card, and give up the SSD.
Just don’t reduce the memory to 4GB.
The rising Ryzen
One compromise hasn’t been available until fairly recently: AMD Ryzen
“Raven Ridge” processors that include Radeon Vega graphics. These
enable AMD to claim that you don’t need a separate graphics card. With
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 cards retailing at about £200, that makes a significant difference to the price of a budget gaming PC.
This doesn’t mean a Ryzen/Vega chip will perform as well as GeForce
1060. It does mean that you will be able to play decent games on a
budget while you save up for a good graphics card, if you find you need
one. That’s the great thing about desktop PCs: you can add more memory,
bigger drives and faster graphics cards for many years after you have
The choice generally comes down to a Ryzen 3 2200G with Vega 8
graphics or the more expensive Ryzen 5 2400G with Vega 11 graphics.
While both are quad-core processors, the Ryzen 5 supports twice as many
threads, so should have better performance. However, side-by-side comparisons on YouTube suggest there’s not a massive difference, and for budget PC gaming, the Ryzen 3 2200G looks unbeatable value for money.
The opportunity to sell cheap Ryzen/Vega games PCs was immediately
clear to small British PC manufacturers, and there may be dozens of
models available. UK suppliers include Chillblast, Cyberpower, Falcon,
Fierce, Gladiator, Mesh, Novatech, Overclockers, PC Specialist, Punch
Technology, Scan, Stormforce, Utopia and Zoostorm. I haven’t checked all
their websites, but I expect most of them offer at least a couple of
models. The problem is that I have no way of knowing which is best, or
even if there is a best.
All these companies are assembling the same types of PC from similar
parts, and they often build them to order, so you can vary the
specifications to suit your own preferences. It would take a long time
to research all the options and compare possible builds on PC Partpicker, which is what a real PC gamer would do. The best motherboards really do cost more.
One point to watch out for is that not all the headline prices
include an operating system. “Windows 10 Compatible” may well mean it’s
not provided. I assume they can’t get the same volume discounts as
Lenovo, Dell and HP, which sell tens of millions of PCs every year.
The Chillblast Fusion Imp would do the job for £499.99. It has a Ryzen 3 2200G with 8GB of memory and a 1TB Seagate FireCuda – a sort of hybrid hard drive that includes a small SSD.
Fierce PC’s version, the Ironwing Savage,
has the same spec for £439.95, so you can add a 240GB SSD for £29.95,
making the final price £469.90. (Remember to make the SSD the boot
The alternative from Scan – by Royal Appointment – already includes a 240GB SSD for £499.98, and comes in a more sober case.
You ought to be able to buy the same sort of PC from a well-known
retailer, and I assume more will be available in the future. A current
example is the Stormforce Onyx Ryzen 3 2200G, which costs £469.99 at Argos. This has 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive, but no SSD.
Argos also has the same machine with a Ryzen 5 2400G for £519.99.
Web-based retailer ebuyer.com has a few offerings. Its Cyberpower Gaming Paladin has the usual Ryzen 3 spec for £399.99 and there’s a Ryzen 5 version for £449.98. It also has a Ryzen 3-based PC Specialist Vanquish Lazeron with a 2TB hard drive for £449.99. None of these three has an SSD, but you could add one and still be under budget.
Bear in mind that I have not seen or tested any of these machines.
Your final purchasing decision should be based on your own research.
The list of games consoles is mercifully short, and the final choice
isn’t particularly important, unless your kids require some specific
games or want to play with friends online. While some games can be
played online across different brands of consoles, many can’t, so it’s
often best to just match the brand used by your children’s friends.
For most of this century, it’s been a two-horse race between Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation, notwithstanding some oddball entries from Nintendo including the recent Switch, which is proving popular.
If money is no object, the best hardware is the Xbox One X (£449.99),
followed by the cheaper PS4 Pro (£349), but you’d need a 4K TV set to
get the best out of either. For most buyers, the best buys are the Xbox
One S (£249.99) and the PS4 Slim (£259). All four have 8GB of memory and
custom 8-core AMD processors, though the graphics and storage vary
somewhat. They can all run apps for streaming, including BBC iPlayer, something the Nintendo Switch cannot.
These are suggested prices but there are plenty of cheap bundles with various games.
One thing that divides the two ranges is access to exclusive games.
The Xbox offers long-running franchises such as Halo, Gears of War and
Forza Motorsport, plus this year’s Sea of Thieves. The PlayStation has
God of War, Gran Turismo, The Last Guardian, Street Fighter 5 and this
year’s classic, Spider-Man. You can tell Sony has been edging it on
exclusives because this year Microsoft bought another seven games studios.
One difference is that Xbox “exclusives” often appear on PCs as well.
This means (a) you should buy an Xbox because you can play some of the
same games on your PC, or (b) you should buy a PlayStation because it has games you can’t play on a PC.
If the main criterion is that your kids “want to play new-ish games”,
that points towards the PS4. The volumes are about the same but the
PlayStation exclusives swing it all other things being equal.
However, bear in mind that we are approaching the end of the current console cycle and we can expect an Xbox
Two and a PS5 – or whatever they might be called – in 2020. My guess is
that both of them will be AMD-based and compatible with today’s games,
but at this point, a second-hand console might be the most
1 Can I Get A Gaming PC For £500, And Which Games Console Is Best? Photos