New to PC gaming? No problem. With a little practice you’ll develop faster reflexes and better muscle memory so you can exercise expert control over your keyboard inputs and mouse movements. What’s actually more difficult about PC gaming is building a good gaming computer.
The main difference between console gaming and PC gaming is that consoles come with the most advanced gaming hardware available for that system. PC games, on the other hand, are played on computers, which come in a wide variety of hardware configurations. Some computers may be able to tackle the most demanding PC games on the market. Others might only be able to tackle games that have less intensive graphics requirements. Most computers fall somewhere in the middle.
At HP®, we produce the best high-powered gaming computers for advanced gamers, but we also build fantastic gaming PCs for the entry-level gamer.
If you want to get right to the 3 best entry-level gaming PCs from HP®, scroll down to see our picks. But before you do, you may want to read our quick guide to what you should look for in a gaming rig and some ideas for customization.
What makes a good entry-level gaming PC?
If you want to build or buy the most powerful gaming computer possible, then you’ll probably shell out a couple of thousand dollars on the best possible hardware. While it’s obviously convenient to have a gaming rig with superpowered hardware, here’s why it may NOT be the best option for entry-level PC gamers:
Expense: You’ll be paying loads of money for computer hardware that you might not need
Advanced features: The best gaming rigs have advanced features like overclocking and network prioritization - great for advanced gamers, but more difficult for entry-level gamers to employ
Not your style: You don’t want to pay a ton of money on an expensive gaming desktop only to discover you’d rather play on a laptop, and vice-versa
Maintenance: Advanced hardware, like liquid-cooling GPUs, require routine maintenance in order for them to keep working properly; entry-level gamers might not know how to safely open a gaming rig and work on components
Versatility: You’ll probably want to use your computer for other things besides gaming, so you might not want to buy a computer that’s great for gaming but nothing else - this mostly applies to your computer display and storage components
The best entry-level gaming PCs have these characteristics:
Scalability: Your first gaming PC should be relatively easy to upgrade with new hardware, which you’ll start to do once you figure out what components you need to play your favorite games
Advanced feature guidance: Ideally, your first gaming PC should have a command center that assists you in testing and toying with advanced features like overclocking
Processor synergy: Not all CPUs and GPUs are “friendly” with one another. Even an entry-level gaming PC should have processors that work fluidly together
Quad-core processing: Your first gaming PC doesn’t need to have the most powerful processors on the market, but it should, at the very least, have quad-core processors. That should enable you to play most games on medium graphics settings
What specs should I look for in a gaming PC?
In a gaming computer, what exactly do all the hardware components do? You should know a little bit about each computer component so you’ll have a better idea of what you need to play your favorite games with solid performance.
Central processing unit
The central processing unit (CPU) is basically the brain of your computer. The CPU runs computer programs - including PC games - by reading the program’s instructions. It also performs calculations and delegates processing tasks to other pieces of hardware.
A lot of gamers think that it’s more important to have a good graphics card than a good CPU, but CPUs and GPUs are equally important. Everything in your game - the menus, the HUD, the music, player inputs, AI, graphics, etc. - goes through your CPU before anything else. Having a good graphics card won’t help you very much if your CPU can’t quickly transfer the visual instructions.
In a CPU, the main component used to process data is called a core. The more cores that a CPU has, the faster it can process data. CPUs with hyperthreading have cores that are able to process multiple streams of data at once, which makes them even faster.
You might hear advanced gamers frequently use the term overclocking. Overclocking is when a CPU is allowed to process data faster than what it was originally programmed to. You can use overclocking to run more intensive games at faster speeds, but be aware that overclocking runs the risk of overheating your hardware if you do it for too long, so proceed with caution.
Note: overclocking may run the risk of nullifying your manufacturer’s hardware warranties, too.
The graphics processing unit (GPU or “graphics card”) is tasked with processing all the visuals for your PC games. Once it has processed the visuals, it sends them to your computer monitor to be displayed. If you want to play games on the highest possible graphics settings, you’ll need a GPU that has multiple cores and hyperthreading.
There are two types of graphics; integrated graphics and dedicated graphics cards. Integrated graphics is when your CPU handles both CPU and GPU processing tasks. Dedicated graphics is when there’s a separate graphics card that’s used exclusively for visual processing. Dedicated graphics cards are much better for gaming than integrated processors.
Your computer uses random access memory (RAM) to store temporary data that’s being used to complete processing tasks. The more RAM your computer has, the more processing tasks it’ll be able to tackle at once - which means faster processing and better performance. 8GB RAM should be plenty for gaming, although you might want to opt for 16GB RAM if you’re playing intensive games at high settings.
A good display is important whether you’re gaming on a laptop or tower desktop. Without a good gaming display, the hard work of your graphic card will be for naught. If you want a truly immersive gaming experience, get a display that’s got a 1920 x 1080 resolution or higher. Resolution refers to how many pixels make up the display - the more pixels it has, the better images it’ll be able to produce.
The more storage space you have on your computer, the more games you’ll be able to install. It’s important to have a lot of storage space in your gaming computer because you may encounter performance slowdowns when you’ve used up most of your storage space.
You may not need one of these in your first gaming PC, but it’s a nice feature to have if you want to try to learn the advanced features that more experienced gamers often use. A command center will allow you to adjust all the advanced hardware settings so you can optimize your gaming performance. It’s a great tool to play with and learn how all the features work. HP OMEN computers come with the HP OMEN Command Center. Additionally, some NVIDIA® graphics cards come with advanced GPU controls included.
Before you buy…
It would be unfortunate to buy a new gaming computer only to discover that’s it doesn’t have strong-enough hardware to play the new game you’ve been anticipating for weeks. So before you purchase your gaming computer, be sure to think carefully about what types of games you prefer to play.
Do you play games that have lots of visual detail? Or do you play games that only need a minimal amount of processing power? Your answers to these questions will help you determine what hardware you need in your entry-level PC.
Don’t forget these gaming rig essentials
There are other important devices that affect your gaming experience besides the hardware that’s inside your computer. The following gaming accessories will make your games more immersive and help you game with more responsive inputs:
Gaming mouse: If you’re looking for a good gaming mouse, be sure to get a mouse with a low DPI between 800 and 1600 (less “dots per image” on the sensor means less chance of surface-reading errors)
Gaming keyboard: Gaming keyboards are tremendously helpful to new PC gamers who are trying to familiarize themselves with using keyboard controls. They’re built to be very responsive and they allow you to use key lights to zone certain areas of the keyboard. Click here to read our HP Tech Takes article to learn more about mechanical keyboards
Gaming headset: If you play online, you’ll like having a gaming headset with a built-in microphone so you can chat with your online teammates
Best entry-level gaming PCs
Without further ado, let’s pick the 3 best entry-level gaming computers.
This is a solid gaming computer that’s offered at a great price. The processors are good enough to run plenty of games on medium settings. If you want to play on higher settings, you could eventually:
Upgrade the i5 processor to an Intel Core i7 processor
Upgrade the GeForce GTX 1060 to a GeForce GTX 1600 series
However, the base processors are still equipped with multiple cores and hyperthreading, so they’ll do a fine job as long as you’re not trying to reach peak performance right away. The Intel Core processor, in particular, has 6 cores and features Turbo Boost technology which automatically and safely overclocks your GPU, a great feature for entry-level gamers.
Also, this is a really stylish tower desktop with its green accents and futuristic polygons. And since you’ll be saving lots of money on this gaming PC, you can spend more money on a high-quality monitor and gaming accessories.
The HP OMEN Obelisk desktop PC is a few steps above the HP Gaming Pavilion, but it’s only a bit more expensive. Here are the base specs:
AMD Ryzen™ 5 2500X processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 6GB graphics card
1TB HDD storage
HP OMEN Command Center
The processor is good but if you want to overclock it, it’s not quite as beginner-friendly as the Intel Core, so you’ll have to do it manually. Maybe you’ll like that responsibility or maybe you won’t. But you will have HP OMEN Command Center available to toy with those advanced features.
The NVIDIA GTX 1660 is a great addition, a really capable GPU that can handle games with a little more visual detail, and the 1TB hard drive is also a major plus. But the best thing about this gaming PC is that it’s customizable on the HP Store. You can easily upgrade up to:
AMD Ryzen 7 2700 processor
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
3TB HDD storage
If you wanted to make the leap to the GeForce RTX graphics cards, you’ll be able to implement real-time ray tracing while you’re gaming. This is an advanced graphics technology that adds more realistic lighting and shadows to your games. Of course, you’ll also have to upgrade your CPU so it doesn’t get bottlenecked transferring all that visual data. But even if you go with the base features, know that you’ll be able to make upgrades on your own if you so desire.
Gaming laptops are awesome because they enable you to game wherever you go. The HP OMEN Laptop 17t is not only a great entry-level gaming laptop, but a great overall gaming laptop. Check out the base specs:
9th Generation Intel Core i5 processor
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB)
256GB SSD storage
HP OMEN Command Center
The 9th Generation processor is the latest and greatest that Intel has to offer, and the GeForce 1650 graphics card is also good quality. Since this is a customizable gaming laptop, when you buy on the HP Store you can upgrade up to:
Those are some fairly advanced components that you might not be ready for just yet. But when you upgrade, you’ll get a perfectly-paired processor and GPU, so we recommend upgrading to at least the next processor levels. You might also want to upgrade your storage to 1TB.
The two things that can’t be upgraded on a gaming laptop are the keyboard and display. But both of them are fantastic on the HP OMEN Laptop 17t. The wide, 17-inch display offers up a 1920 x 1080 resolution with LED backlighting for a consistent, crisp image, and it’s also built with anti-glare technology. The keyboard features color backlighting that you can zone into 4 areas, so you’ll love it if you’re still getting used to the keyboard peripheral.
Now that we’ve revealed the best entry-level gaming PCs, it’s time for you stretch those finger muscles and dive head-first into the exciting world of PC gaming. May you enjoy the versatility and responsiveness of the PC gaming medium.
About the Author: Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.
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