Best gaming PC under $500
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Building a gaming PC for under $500 is actually quite challenging as you need to squeeze every last dollar out of your budget to cobble together an acceptable level of performance. First-time custom PC builders can find the entire process a little intimidating, it’s OK though, we’ve created this easy-to-follow guide to the best gaming PC under $500. It will ensure you have all the components you need to create the perfect entry-level gaming rig for your needs. Furthermore, with this affordable build, you’ll still be able to enjoy a wide selection of games.
In the modern age of computing and technology, many will be surprised at what a $500 budget can get you. Long gone are the days of console only options and APUs, you can now get a PC for under $500 featuring a dedicated GPU. While a lot of components that make up this computer are considered entry-level and from previous generations, we still think they hold up today, however you should limit your expectations at this price point.
You can also check out our budget gaming PC page for recommendations from various price ranges.
What you get for your $500
As you can imagine, putting together the best custom PC build for under $500 was no easy task. Many compromises were made along the way to be able to extract the maximum level of performance out of this build. It is entirely possible to craft a gaming PC with a dedicated GPU at this price point. The performance difference between the $400 and the $500 builds is considerable as you move away from integrated graphics. Around the $500 mark it is also now viable for a large M2 SSDs and 16GB of RAM.
The case was another area of compromise. These are affordable components here but even though the case may not be one of the best, we still wanted to use one that was user-friendly for first-time builders without sacrificing on airflow.
You can expect this $500 build to handle 1080p/60FPS gaming across a few AAA titles with high settings. This GPU will also handle a lot of popular esports games with ease too, giving you a wide variety of entry-level options. High FPS is obtainable in esports titles with lowered settings, so overall this budget $500 PC is quite versatile. We have bolstered performance with the included 16GB of RAM, a solid amount for gaming, and an SSD storage device. You can expect snappy boot times for Windows and your games, along with some future-proofing from the RAM.
AMD vs Intel
The $500 gaming PC build takes advantage of more affordable, previous-gen components. You may have to compromise on graphical settings for some games to be playable but esports titles performed well in our tests at 1080p.
Intel’s i3 processors make affordable systems very easy to spec out. While some of the older generation AMD Ryzen 5’s may still be quite appealing, we feel the CPU in this build offers better price to performance.
How we choose
Here at WePC, we have years of experience building computers and giving advice to friends, families, and our readers. All of our build recommendations have been carefully researched, utilize similar builds we have completed ourselves in the office or for personal use, and most importantly are built with value and performance in mind. We work tirelessly to ensure our builds are up-to-date, and efficient and offer high performance to the lucky reader who is going to build it.
We don’t just use our own knowledge and experience, we also keep up to date with the latest tech in our industry and use various benchmarks to allow us to quickly compare multiple components. We also check our builds daily, to ensure everything is still in stock and the price still offers you the best bang for the buck. We are here to support you.
How we test
We build each of our selected PCs from scratch to make sure all the parts we recommend work well together, fit into the selected case, and provide the best performance possible for the price range.
Once built, the PCs are used in the office for everyday work as well as a range of games from light to heavy-duty. While we test, we also run benchmarks to see how well our builds perform, all while keeping an eye on the temperature of the components themselves.
We know how much some of our readers enjoy overclocking their PCs, so we made sure to test that out too. So, you can feel safe knowing that these machines can be pushed beyond their basic capabilities. But, please make sure you know how to overclock before trying to over-task your builds.
Prebuilt PC vs building your own
A pre-built PC has several advantages over building your own PC. These include:
- Convenience: With a pre-built PC, all the components are already selected and assembled for you, so you don’t have to spend time researching and sourcing parts.
- Warranty: Pre-built PCs often come with a warranty that covers the entire system, so you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re protected in case something goes wrong.
- Quality assurance: Pre-built PCs are typically built and tested by professionals, so there is a lower risk of component compatibility issues or other problems that can arise when building your own PC.
- Support: Many pre-built PC manufacturers offer technical support, which can be helpful if you run into any issues with your system.
- Price: Pre-built PCs can often be purchased at a lower cost than building your own PC with similar specs, as the manufacturers have economies of scale when buying the components.
- Up-to-date technology: Pre-built systems are often based on the latest technology, so you’ll have a computer that is up-to-date and will last longer.
Best prebuilt gaming PC under $500
STGAubron Gaming PC (RTX 2060)
Intel Quad Core i5-4590
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
So, you’ve got this far and you’re now thinking, all this PC building malarky seems like a big ask, would it not be easier to buy a prebuilt gaming PC? And the simple answer is yes, probably.
The issue with a prebuilt, as many will already know, is you pay a premium for the luxury of not having to assemble the parts yourself. So, ideally, you’d want to build an affordable gaming PC yourself and save money in the process (or get better value for your hard-earned cash).
However, some people aren’t comfortable even trying to build their own gaming PC, and for those folks, here are our best prebuilt options for under $500.
Best gaming PC under $500 component details
If you want a good gaming PC for under $500, you’re in the right place. Now, let’s hop into the belly of this beast.
Our $500 custom gaming PC build
Our cheap custom-built gaming PC for under $500 is one of the best for those looking for a more affordable gaming experience. While the components in this build are considered entry-level, they still provide excellent levels of performance for the price.
Intel Core i3-12100F
Intel’s latest 12th gen series are here, giving PC builders a solid entry-level option with the Core I3-12100F.
This processor comes to shelves boasting 4 cores and 8 threads clocked at a base speed of 3.3GHz and can be boosted to 4.3GHz. the 12100F has decent single-core performance, making it ideal for an entry-level gaming PC. The multi-threaded nature of this CPU also makes it better equipped for when it comes to computing tasks.
MSI PRO H610M-G
For a custom build at this price range, the MSI Pro H610M-G motherboard is pretty much perfect. It might not be a premium motherboard but it still offers a bunch of features and is ready for upgrades when the time comes. Furthermore, you don’t yet have the funds to get the components to justify something more expensive at this price range anyway. Motherboards also don’t really affect gaming performance at all, so it fits into this build nicely.
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TEAMGROUP T-Force Vulcan Z DDR4 16GB Kit (2x8GB) 3200MHz
The Teamgroup kit offers 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which should be more than enough for most gaming and multitasking scenarios. It displays solid value for money and the slight bump in clock speed naturally makes it better than a lot of entry-level DDR4 RAM kits you’ll find out there.
XFX Speedster SWFT 210 RX 6600
Core Clock Speed
2491MHz Boost, 1626MHz Base
241mm x 131mm x 41mm
We can just about squeeze in a dedicated GPU for under $500, with the AMD RX 6600. This GPU is considered an entry-level model but it will net you some decent results when playing in 1080p, no matter the settings. While you should limit your expectations when playing AAA games, this card thrives when playing esports titles.
WD Blue SN570 500GB
As with most builds at this end of the price category, compromises have to be made to ensure the performance power is up to scratch. With our $500 custom build, the storage capacity has taken a slight hit. We had to opt for the WD Blue SN570 500GB SSD that offers rapid load/boot times. This size will be enough for your operating system and a couple of your favorite modern titles, however, you may want to expand on this in the near future.
Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L
The Cooler Master Q300L PC Case is a brilliant example of affordability. Is this going to win any awards? Probably not, however, it comes to shelves offering reasonable out-of-the-box airflow and a user-friendly design. It’s a pretty rock solid case that should last you for the foreseeable future too with one 120mm case fan pre-installed. It may not be one of our best PC cases, but it certainly offers everything you’d need for this build at an affordable price tag. You may want to buy an additional fan for the rear of the case to support with airflow but it isn’t crucial until you upgrade your GPU.
Thermaltake Toughpower GX2 80+ Gold 600W
Unfortunately, we were unable to equip our $500 build with a modular PSU, however, they simply are not needed for the majority of system builders. This Thermaltake Toughpower GX2 600W PSU will power this machine efficiently for years to come. 600W is more than required but that gives you a nice amount of headroom for quieter operation and future upgrades.
Build Benchmark: What Games Can This PC Run?
Things to consider
At this stage in the article, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not this build suits your needs. We’ve discussed exactly what this build offers in terms of performance, and have gone into more detail on how each of the hardware choices impacts this build. Now, let’s go over the areas which need to be considered before buying this build.
Below, we have listed the most important areas of a prebuild. Let’s waste no further time and get straight into it.
One of the most important areas to consider before any PC purchase is your budget. By that, we mean will you be able to build a PC that meets your performance requirements with the funds you have set aside. Some people think $500 is going to buy you the ultimate gaming computer that smashes VR and 4k gaming at 100FPS. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
That being said, we’ve custom-designed these PCs to handle a variety of game titles in 1080p. FPS will vary as some games are more taxing than others, but for the most part, playable FPS is achievable if you have the settings optimized just right.
$500 Custom Gaming PC vs Prebuilt
Building your own gaming PC is always going to offer more value, however, we understand that not everyone wants to tackle the challenge of a self-built machine. The stock has become a bit of an issue of late too, making it harder than ever before to build your own gaming PC. Well, this is where a $500 prebuilt gaming PC could be worth your while but there are a couple of things to know first.
The first thing to note is that you are probably never going to get a prebuilt gaming PC that offers the same performance at the same price. If you were to spend your $500 on a prebuilt, you are likely to see a lower-end CPU with fewer cores/threads, possibly smaller capacity RAM and storage, and lesser quality PC cases and supplies.
All of this is because prebuilt manufacturers are a business and they make money through prebuilt computers by adding a markup (labor costs). This is fair enough but it can impact the value you get and when it’s at the lower end, every penny counts.
Upgradability and future-proofing
Another major player in a custom PC build is how easily you can upgrade it down the line. As most will already know, technology is moving quicker than ever and games are now increasing in both computational demand and size. For that reason, we’ve built this PC with both upgrades and future-proofing in mind. Building a PC at this price point makes it incredibly tough to future proof the setup. However, the motherboard has been chosen as they can accommodate a number of extra storage drives, more powerful GPUs, better CPUs, and additional RAM if you feel the need to increase.
We all understand what overclocking is, it’s a way of increasing the performance of your build by manually boosting the clock speed, voltage, and timings of your hardware (all at no extra cost might I add). However, what many don’t know is that not all hardware is geared toward overclocking. Just ask our friendly video guy that pushed an entry-level motherboard too far recently.
You need to be careful when overclocking your hardware. Our build is geared towards light overclocking and will respond to manual overclocking if a better CPU cooler is fitted. That being said, both these chips have been pretty well optimized so extracting any real-world performance gains might be a little tricky.
Ease of building
As a first-time builder, you always want to consider how difficult the build might be to put together. We’ve opted for a build-friendly case with decent build quality that helps simplify the build process. Cable management was, to our surprise, fairly easy to tidy up, and pre-installed standoff screws made the entire process move along much quicker.
We used an iFixit PC building toolkit to help with the assembling of this build. It’s also worth mentioning that an anti-static wristband is advised for first-time builders as it completely eradicates any possibility of static damage.
Remember, this build isn’t solely designed for gaming, even though that is its main purpose. We’ve also taken into consideration its ability to handle stressful workstation tasking and multi-tasking processes. Thanks to the impressive CPU and RAM pairing this build should be able to handle tasks such as live streaming and video editing with no problem whatsoever.
Of course, browsing and media tasks don’t phase this build, however, where you will start to see diminishing performance is when rendering large video files. If you plan on doing that sort of thing, I would recommend upgrading the processor to something a little beefier.
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Finally, we have the aesthetics of the build. Aesthetics are usually one of the first things to be sacrificed in an affordable build, as stylish designs usually come with a premium price tag. Unfortunately, this build comes with an entry-level case which, if truth be told, isn’t the most attractive-looking case we’ve ever seen. That being said, where it falls short on aesthetics, it makes up for its user-friendly design.
Build a gaming PC by price
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Best prebuilt gaming PC brands
Every recommended prebuilt gaming PC in this article is from a reputable manufacturer. You are probably wondering how we know what the best gaming PC brands are? Well, we have done our research and purchased PCs from these brands.
Most notable brands:
Calculating the PSU wattage
Making sure your PSU provides the correct amount of wattage to your custom build PC is an essential part of the build process. For that reason, we’ve created a handy PSU calculator which will work out exactly what PSU wattage your components require – no matter how many changes you make.
Our best gaming PC in the $500 price range is already a potent machine on its own, but what if by making a few tweaks and pushing your spending amount ever so slightly you could improve the performance considerably.
Rhetorical question. This is PC gaming. Of course, you want to do that.
NOTE: These will raise the price of the build!
The 6 core, 12 thread Ryzen 5 3600 is one of AMD’s third-generation high-end desktop processors, renowned for excellent value multi-core performance. Thanks to the arrival of the recent Ryzen 5000 series, we’ve seen the price of 3rd-gen CPUs plummet. This price reduction brings excellent value to the table, helping us recommend a powerful GPU too.
It comes to the table equipped with an increased clock speed capable of 4.2GHz max boost speed. It comes pre-equipped with a Wraith Spire cooler and is excellent value for money. Overall, this should provide all the gaming performance you need, as well as acceptable streaming and video rendering performance.
When the prices begin to revert back to what they once were, you may be interested in upgrading to a dedicated GPU. We have gone for the Radeon RX 580 as it was a value champion for quite some time, offering great results for the price. This graphics card can play any title in 1080p and deliver results in high settings, giving you everything you need.
The build features some fast SSD storage but you may need some extra HDD space for all your other files. This 2TB BarraCuda will certainly do the trick, giving you plenty of storage to load the majority of your media files and possibly some games on too. If you’re just getting into PC gaming, chances are you don’t have a large enough Steam library to stuff this full of games. By the time you’ve built that library, you should have the money to get another HDD as a storage upgrade.
MSI ARMOR 8GB OC RX 580
Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
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Peripherals & software
Ideally, you’d already have some or all of these things before buying the best gaming computer under $500. Unfortunately, we don’t always live in an ideal world, so we’ve provided this section just in case you need it.
For the best gaming performance and general compatibility, Windows 10 is your best option. If you already have a retail-bought Windows license on another PC, you should be able to transfer over your installation with little-to-no issues.
If you don’t, however, you’re probably going to have to fork out the cost of a brand-new Windows 10 installation. If that is the case we recommend using the Windows 10 USB Flash Drive. It allows you to install Windows directly from a Flash Drive, rather than needing a DVD drive. If you are looking to protect your system you may want to include an antivirus program too.
The Razer Deathadder V2 is insanely good value and for that price, you will be getting one of the best shapes on offer for gaming. This ergonomic mouse has been designed with comfort in mind, it features more than enough DPI for anyone and boasts a seriously good optical sensor. If you would prefer to cut the cord and go wireless then take a look at some of our wireless recommendations here.
MORE: Best Gaming Mice
The ASUS VG278Q is a 144Hz monitor with a very generous 27″ display. It currently features in our best gaming monitors for under $300 article and for good reason. It has everything a gamer would want and comes at an affordable price point, what more could you ask for?
Some great speakers to start out with are the Creative Inspire T12 Speakers. At just under $45, these provide a high-quality audio experience without breaking the bank. While you’ll still need to buy better speakers for things like surround sound and a subwoofer, the T12 set will be perfectly fine for getting you started listening to music and watching your films.
ASUS VG278Q Gaming Monitor
1920 x 1080
Razer DeathAdder V2
Focus+ Optical (PWM 3399)
Size (H x W x D)
(127 x 70 x 44mm)
Windows 10 Home USB
Creative Inspire T12
ASUS PCE-AC56 PCI Wireless Express Adapter
IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
2.4Ghz or 5GHz
Custom PC Building Tips
So, finally, you’ve arrived at the section in