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Ctrl+Alt+Del: It’s a great time to be a budget PC gamer

OPINION: If you and your mates are gamers, you’ve probably had endless conversations on Xbox vs PlayStation, console vs PC and the like. And I’m sure someone has said, “Yeah but PC is too expensive”. Well, the budget PC gaming scene is looking better than ever.

I’m not saying there has been a massive explosion of performance and value necessarily, but there is now an abundance of choice. In the last week, there have been three different announcements that look promising for budget PC gaming to varying degrees.

The big one was the reveal of the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 range. Before Trusted Reviews can make its judgement, we’ll have to get our hands on the GPUs and put them through their paces but, for now, it’s great that more graphics cards in the sub-$500 category have arrived.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Ti
Image Credit (Nvidia)

I’ve compared the specs of the new RTX 4060 Ti and RTX 4060 cards if you want a more detailed look at the numbers. But, the skinny is that these cards are set to boost what was achievable on their massively popular 1080p gaming predecessors for a similar price. The extent to which the performance boost justifies the price increase will bear out in our testing, with a drop-down from 12GB VRAM on the RTX 3060 to 8GB VRAM on the RTX 4060 requiring closer inspection. Nevertheless, boosted performance at less daunting prices is always welcome, and we were impressed by the previous RTX 3060 Ti in our review.

And that brings us to the broader picture, as Nvidia wasn’t the only chip manufacturer with an announcement this week. Intel excitedly revealed its “Balanced Builds”, highlighting combinations of its Intel Core processors and Intel ARC graphics chips. The team-ups start at just $499 (∼£400) and $899/£899 for full builds featuring the combos. In the UK, PCSpecialist is offering builds featuring these components, while the component bundles are set to come to eBuyer soon. For the US, you can get these in-store at Micro Center and online across various sites, including NZXT.

That’s 1440p and 1080p PC gaming from both Intel and Nvidia at prices below $1000/£1000. Whether you’re looking to buy a custom build or make your own, it’s clear that the big component manufacturers are keen to appeal to the masses more than ever before.

This is the case if you look outside the normal realm of budget PC gaming as well as further into the future too. The introduction of PC gaming handhelds is great for those with exciting game libraries who are happy to move to an on-the-go experience, and aren’t looking to fork out bigger bucks for a fully-fledged system, with the Steam Deck starting at $399/£349 and the Asus ROG Ally at $599 (~£599, no confirmed UK pricing just yet).

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Looking even further ahead, Nvidia is making moves in the Arm world too, a realm in which PC gaming is yet to gain traction. However, with manufacturers keen to take advantage of the lower power and longer battery life architecture, a future where Arm-powered machines are more compatible with games seems inevitable.

Enter Nvidia’s new partnership with the mobile chip manufacturer MediaTek (via DigiTimes), with the aim of adding Nvidia GPUs to MediaTek’s chipsets. The reported collaboration is still early days and it’s unclear exactly what machines these chips will power, whether it’ll involve mobile phones as well as laptops, but Windows on Arm looks set to be a key target. This remains speculation at this point, but it’s a starting point for bringing budget gaming to another range of devices.

All of this combined adds up to a rosy picture for PC gaming lovers who aren’t looking for the RTX 4090 graphics cards of the world. Instead, the broad choice available for PC gamers is being opened up to those who enjoy a hearty combination of performance and value.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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