$500 Budget Gaming PC - The Perfect Balance (Cheap)

Updated May 15, 2018 by Headshot Jacob Tuwiner

This is the best gaming PC build under 500 dollars for your money in 2018. All of the parts have been hand picked with the best price to performance in mind.

NOTE: Prices may vary

Component Name Price Image
CPU Ryzen 3 1200 $110
MOBO ASRock - AB350M HDV $65
RAM Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4-2400 MHz $84
HDD WD Caviar Blue 1TB 7200rpm $50
GPU Gigabyte - GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB $150
PSU EVGA 400 W $30
CASE NZXT S340 $65
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$500 Prebuilt Gaming PC: HP 8300

The HP 8300 is the best prebuilt gaming PC under 500 dollars (after one easy modification). Keep reading to find out how to optimize this desktop for gaming!

This PC is incredibly cheap, and after installing a GPU, you’ll be able to run games in 1080p with respectable framerates. That’s pretty good for a $500 prebuilt PC!

You can find the HP 8300 on Amazon for around $360, and it includes the following specs:

CPU Intel Core i5-3470
RAM 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz
HDD 1TB 7200RPM
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Ideally, you’d be able to buy a prebuilt gaming PC with a Ryzen CPU, DDR4 RAM and an excellent GPU.

The reality is, you can’t. Many of the ‘best prebuilt gaming PCs under 500 dollars’ posts online feature desktops with powerful processors and high-speed RAM, but they don’t even include a dedicated graphics card! Without a decent GPU, you won’t be able to run any games with respectable framerates.

Rather than featuring a $500 desktop with an expensive CPU and RAM, I chose an older prebuilt desktop that can be optimized for gaming. In the long run, you’ll have far better performance.

If you merely buy the HP 8300, you won’t be able to game. However, since it’s only $360, you can add a GPU to the build. Once you’ve added a GPU, you’ll have a desktop with an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB mass storage drive, and a dedicated GPU.

I’d recommend the GTX 1050 Ti for those of you who only have a $500 budget. However, if you’re able to spend a bit of extra money, the GTX 1060 3GB is ideal.

The PC already ships with a GPU, but it’s an old and outdated GT 730. I’m sure you’re looking for an entirely prebuilt PC, and doing things my way doesn’t exactly fit the bill. Trust me when I say, this is the best way to maximize performance per dollar. Besides, swapping a GPU is the easiest part of building a PC. Simply open up the side panel with a screw driver, unscrew and remove the GPU, and then pop the new one into place. Lastly, connect the power cable, and that’s it. Seriously, it’s that easy.

This video teaches you exactly how to do it.

Pros:

  • This PC is extremely cost effective
  • Windows 10 Included

Cons:

  • Lacking an SSD, but at this budget it’s perfectly understandable. In addition, it’s easy to install one on your own!
  • Not entirely prebuilt (you have to install the GPU)

$500 Custom Build Overview & Features

For $500, you can expect to play the newest titles at 60+ FPS with medium-ultra settings. This is thanks to our CPU/GPU combo, an excellent choice for this budget. The Ryzen 3 1200 is among the best CPUs in its class. For less than $115, you’re getting a processor with four true cores. It’s an outstanding price/performance ratio. Having four cores will really help with gaming performance and beyond, proving itself as a good CPU for editing, rendering, recording, and more.

In addition, the GPU of choice is impeccable, as the GTX 1050 Ti is one of the best GPUs in its price range. You can find this GPU for $200 or less, and if you’re on a budget, a GPU of this caliber for less than $200 is an absolute steal.

This PC can run games like PUBG, Fallout 4, GTA V, Battlefield 1, Rainbow Six: Siege, and many other titles with great framerates. You may not be able to achieve ultra settings in every title, as some are more demanding than others. However, everything will be playable.

Competitive eSports titles like CS:GO, DOTA and League of Legends will achieve 100+ FPS with ease.

$500 Custom Build Guide

If you want to build your own gaming PC, rather than buying a prebuilt PC, here is the build guide for you:

The Case

NZXT S340 (White)

NZXT is well known for their superb case designs. The NZXT - S340 in White is no exception. Sleek, refined, spacious, and sturdy; the NZXT is the perfect case for this build.

A good case must be:

  • Eye catching
  • Aerodynamic (if you will)
  • The right size
  • Spacious
  • Compatible for you

How will this case benefit you?

This case is forged from steel; furthermore, it features a grommet-less cable management bar that keeps the cables tidy. It is two inches smaller than other mid-towers, and easy for new builders to use.

With a large side panel window, you’ll be able to see your parts in action.

For more information on cases, check out our guide on the smallest ATX cases!

Specs:

  • Type - ATX Mid Tower
  • Color - White
  • Internal 3.5” Bays - 3
  • Internal 2.5” Bays - 2
  • Motherboard Compatibility - ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
  • Maximum Video Card Length - 13.15”
  • Front Panel USB 3.0 Ports - Yes

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The Processor

Ryzen 3 1200

The new Ryzen 3 lineup from AMD is easily the BEST line of budget gaming CPUs on the market today.

Ryzen 3 is the final piece of the puzzel. It only comes in at $110, and blows Intel out of the water.

The processor chosen for this build is the Ryzen 3 1200.

Specs:

  • Data Width: 64-bit
  • Socket Type: AM4
  • Operating Frequency: 3.1 GHz
  • Max Turbo Frequency: 3.4 GHz
  • Cores: 4
  • Lithography: 14 nm
  • TDP: 65 Watts
  • Includes CPU Cooler: Yes
  • Simultaneous Multithreading: No
  • Integrated Graphics: No

Intel saw Ryzen coming a mile away. They gave Pentium CPUs hyperthreading in order to compete with Ryzen 3 CPUs.

However, Ryzen 3 CPUs are not just multithreaded like Intel Pentium CPUs. They are full on quad-core CPUs.

It only has half the cache of the Ryzen 5 and 7, but it still has all of the same features.

In nearly every area that doesn’t involve multithreaded performance, Linus Tech Tips, both Ryzen 3 chips outperform their Intel competitors.

Ryzen 3 makes a lot of sense.

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The Motherboard

ASRock AB350M-HDV

The ASRock - AB350M-HDV Micro ATX AM4 motherboard was chosen for this build.

For the price of just $60, you are getting a great deal. Not only is it sturdy and reliable, it supports 2400 MHz ram.

What’s the bottom line here?

Not only are you getting a superb motherboard, you’re getting it for less than $70.

Specs:

  • Socket - AM4
  • Chipset - AMD B350
  • Memory - DDR4 2133/2400/2666/2933/3000
  • Memory Channel - Dual
  • DIMM Slots - 2x288-pin DIMM
  • Max Memory (GB) - 32

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The Ram

Ram

Believe it or not, the speed of your ram can actually impact the performance of your processor.

That’s why this build features a Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 8GB kit (2x4GB) of DDR4 2400 MHz ram. Dual channel 2400 MHz ram will help with the performance of the processor.

Though some games recommend 16GB of ram, it really has a minimal effect on frame rate. 8GB is perfect for this bugdget.

Specs:

  • Type - 288 pin DIMM
  • Speed - DDR4-2400 MHz
  • Size - 8GB (2x4GB)

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The Hard Drive

Caviar Blue 1TB Hard Drive

The name WD Caviar Blue carries many attributes with it:

  • Mass Storage
  • Reliability
  • Simplicity
  • Speed

These are just a few of the many benefits of owning a WD Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5” 7200RPM internal hard drive.

Not only is this hard drive fast, it is reliable, and cost effective.

Specs:

  • Capacity - 1TB
  • Interface - SATA 6 Gb/s
  • Cache - 64MB
  • RPM - 7200

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The Graphics Card

EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

The Graphics card is responsible for just about all of the 3D rendering that takes place when your PC plays a video game.

That being said, choosing the right graphics card for your build is important.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB ACX 2.0 is the graphics card of choice. Currently with the extreme markup of AMD graphics cards, nVidia is the best choice in terms of price to performance.

On this budget, the 1050 ti is all around the best choice for a few reasons:

Not only is this card rocking 4GB of DDR5 dedicated memory, it has a core clock of 1.29 GHz.

What’s so good about this?

  • Higher resolution in game
  • Higher frames per second
  • Higher graphical settings
  • Multiple monitor capability

Specs:

  • Chipset - GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • Memory Size - 4GB
  • Memory Type - GDDR5
  • Base Frequency - 1.29 GHz
  • Boost Frequency - 1.39 GHz
  • TDP - 75 Watts
  • Length - 5.71”

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The Power Supply

EVGA 400W PSU

The reliability of your power supply is important. Furthermore, it is crucial to use a power supply with the proper wattage.

Why?

If you fail to do either of these two things, one or both of the following will happen:

A) Your power supply will short out your PC

B) Your power supply will fail completely

This build is rated at 211 watts. That being said, the EVGA 400W ATX power supply is the choice for this build.

It has more than enough power, and combined with its $30 price tag, it is an absolute steal.

Specs:

  • Type - ATX
  • Wattage - 400 Watts
  • Fans - 1
  • Modular - No
  • Efficiency - 80+
  • PCI-Express 6+2-Pin Connectors - 1
  • PCI-Express 6-Pin Connectsors - 1

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More Gaming PC Builds

Price Name Image Components Build Guide
$400 Extreme Budget Gamer
  • Intel Pentium G4560
  • MSI GTX 1050 2GB
  • Crucial 8GB DDR4-2133
  • WD RE3 500GB
View
$500 Perfect Balance
  • Ryzen 3 1200
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
  • Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4-2400 MHz
  • WD Caviar Blue 1TB
View
$600 Stealth Gamer
  • AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • ASUS GTX 1060
  • G. Skill Ripjaws V 8GB 2400 MHz
  • WD Caviar Blue 1TB
View
$700 Phoenix
  • AMD Ryzen 5 1400
  • ASUS GTX 1060 6GB
  • G. Skill Ripjaws V 8GB 2400 MHz
  • WD Caviar Blue 1TB
View
$800 Monster
  • AMD Ryzen 5 1400
  • GeForce GTX 1070 8GB Mini
  • G. Skill Ripjaws V 8GB 2400 MHz
  • WD Caviar Blue 1TB
View
Prebuilt Prebuilt PCs
  • Intel i7-7700K
  • GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • 16GB DDR4 2400 MHz
  • 1TB 7200RPM + 256GB SSD
View Prebuilt PCs

*prices fluctuate daily. All budgets are within a $50 threshold. Some components may have been adjusted to fit the budget.

Intel i3 vs. Ryzen 3

Up until recently, it was obvious that AMD’s Ryzen 3 line held the title of “The King of Budget Gaming CPUs”. Before Ryzen 3 was released, your only real options were the skylake i3 CPUs, or the Pentium G4560. Both choices didn’t sport four cores; only dual cores with hyperthreading.

At the time they were great, as the four threads did a great job. Of course, once AMD launched a quad core CPU for a lower price, it was game over. AMD’s Ryzen line outperformed Intel’s closest offerings in just about every category except for single-threaded performance.

As we all expected, Intel fought back. They released their Coffe Lake CPUs, the 8th generation of the Intel i3 line. They’re priced similarly to the Ryzen 3 line, and they have four true cores as well. In fact, they show similar if not better performance in most categories.

Unfortunately, the lowest-priced motherboards available for this chip at this time are all over $100. This makes it hard to consider them a “budget gaming CPU”.

Until cheaper motherboards are released for the new line of Intel CPUs, Ryzen 3 will remain our budget CPU of choice.

The GPU: This Will Make or Break Your Gaming PC

The GPU is singlehandedly the most important part of your gaming PC build. From a gaming standpoint, the GPU does all of the hardwork. Don’t get me wrong, you need every other component too, as a PC isn’t a PC without each one.

However, you can definitely afford to spend less on the other parts and focus on the GPU. This is how most prebuilt gaming PC companies make their money. They’ll sell you a PC with mediocre parts and a crappy GPU, all inside of a good looking case. They trick people who don’t know what to look for into spending their money.

Custom vs. Prebuilt Gaming PCs

Most prebuilt gaming PCs come with a powerful CPU, like an Intel i7. They have lots of RAM and a huge hard drive. Unfortunately, the manufacturers don’t tell you the truth.

What truth?

Those things don’t matter. They put crappy components in a nice case and market it as a “gaming PC”.

Well, we have news for you. These overpriced and underpowered prebuilt “gaming PCs” don’t deserve the title. Video games aren’t really processed by the CPU. In fact, they’re processed by the GPU. The GPU is responsible for just about all of the 3D rendering and graphical processing. Hence the name “Graphics Processing Unit”.

As long as your CPU is fast enough to keep up with the GPU, you’re in good shape. This means you can save some money and buy a cheaper CPU. With the money you saved, spend it on a more powerful GPU. Your powerful GPU will handle all of the 3D rendering in game, resulting in great FPS.

However, this doesn’t mean you can buy the cheapest CPU on the market. If your CPU is too underpowered, it’ll hold back the GPU. This is called bottlenecking.

Anyway, back to the parts of a prebuilt gaming PC. Remember how I told you the GPU does all of the heavy lifting? Well, if you bought a prebuilt desktop with an Intel i7 and a GTX 750, you’re out of luck.

Instead, buy this gaming PC. It’s under 500 dollars, and it has a great CPU/GPU combination. You’ll be gaming with high framerates and graphical settings.

Our Thoughts on a $500 Gaming PC

When most console peasants hear someone say they’re a PC gamer, most automatically think they don’t have enough money to become a PC gamer. Unfortunately, most people think it takes $1,000 or more to be a PC gamer. This is simply not true.

In fact, this build proves that you can game in 1080p with just $500. If you know where to allocate your funds, you’re good to go. This is the best gaming pc build under $500, and here’s why:

We decided to save money on the CPU, and allocate those funds towards the GPU. This way, your faster GPU will do the heavy lifting, and all your CPU has to do is keep up. The Ryzen 3 1200 is the CPU of choice for the build. It’s a great budget CPU, the first in its pricepoint to have 4 true cores. We chose the GTX 1050 Ti as our GPU for this build. It’s probably the best GPU for those on a budget. Its price/performance ratio is outstanding.

Anyway, we feel that $500 is the perfect budget for those looking for a gaming PC that won’t break the bank. If you spend less than that, your parts will be sub-par and you might as well spend the extra money. However, anything over $500, and you’re probably spending a bit too much, especially if you’re on a lower budget.

Important Parts of a Gaming PC

A computer is composed of many different components, some of which have a greater impact on gaming performance than others. Believe it or not, the speed of your hard drive doesn’t really have an impact on framerate.

With that being said, here are the important parts of a gaming PC:

The GPU

The most important part of any gaming PC is easily the GPU. It is responsible for all of 3D rendering in-game, which has a significant impact on performance.

No matter your budget, if you’re building a gaming PC it is important to buy the best GPU that you can afford. However, there must be a delicate balance between your GPU and CPU in order to achieve maximum performance.

The CPU

Your processor (CPU) is another important component – it’s the brains of the operation.

Although most well optimized games primarily rely on the power of your GPU, all information must be processed through the CPU. If you buy a GTX 1080 (a top of the line GPPU) and an Intel Pentium G4560 (one of the cheapest CPUs on the market), the processing power of the G4560 will hold back (bottleneck) the GPU.

Try to find a GPU and CPU that won’t bottleneck one another – the secret to building a gaming PC is getting the best GPU that you can, and then buying a CPU that is good enough to keep up without bottlenecking.

What About RAM?

In all honesty, RAM is not that important. Although some newer titles are starting to recommend 12GB and even 16GB for optimal performance, 8GB is still sufficient.

Although, having more than 8GB is optimal if you want to have a two-monitor setup. Web browsers, especially Google Chrome, use a whole lot of RAM. I have 8GB of RAM and it works just fine – however, sometimes I have to close a few tabs if I have too many open in order to achieve my desired framerate.

The speed of your RAM, however, does impact performance. RAM speed actually has a significant impact on CPU performance, at least with the Ryzen 3 1200. That’s why this build recommends DDR4-2400, and you can overclock your RAM as well.

What’s The Bottom Line?

You don’t need 64GB of RAM for gaming, nor do you need an expensive Intel i7 processor.

Instead, an Intel i5 or Ryzen 5 is sufficient for a high-end build, while an Intel i3 or Ryzen 3 is sufficient for a low-end build.

Find the best GPU that you can afford, and couple it with a CPU that won’t bottleneck it. Throw them in a case with a motherboard, hard drive, and power supply, and voila, you have yourself a gaming PC!

We also have $400, $600, $700 and $800 build guides. Check them out!

Lastly, you’ll need the best gaming mouse to accompany your new gaming PC. If you’re left handed, finding a good mouse can be tricky. Check out our guide on the best left handed gaming mice!