The world economy may be experiencing inflation, but the price of key PC components is actually quite low and in many cases falling. There GPU prices are falling rapidly While SSDs, RAM (at least DDR4 RAM), and PSUs remain cheap, there has never been a better time to build a cheap gaming PC than now. With today’s prices, you can configure a solid, 1080p-capable gaming PC for less than $500 that includes both discrete graphics and a 12th Gen Intel CPU. We’re also able to configure a very powerful gaming PC for under $400 with integrated AMD graphics.
Below we show you How to build a gaming PC for under $500 or even under $400 with parts available today at major US dealers. Please note that the prices we list were current at the time of writing but may have increased or decreased slightly by the time you are reading this. Because these lists are primarily based on pricing, we have not tested all of the parts listed, nor have we tested them all together. The cost of an operating system is not included, but can be purchased Windows 10 or 11 free or cheap. And if you’re willing to spend a lot more than $500, please check our list of the best pc builds for more meaningful recommendations.
Gaming PC under $500 with discrete graphics
Our under $500 gaming PC is built around two key components: an Intel Core i3-12100F CPU and a AMD Radeon RX6400-powered graphics card (ours is from XFX, but any RX 6400 should work similarly). While the other parts offer good value for money, you can easily swap out a similarly populated PSU, SSD, RAM kit, or H610M motherboard and get the same performance.
With 4 powerful cores, 4.3GHz boost speed and affordable price, Intel’s Core i3-12100 is the best best cheap CPU right now and the Core i3-12100F is a variant that comes without integrated graphics (which we won’t need). Written our Intel Core i3-12100 reviewwe put the Intel processor through a series of benchmarks and found that its single-threaded performance – the type that matters most for gaming – was better than processors that cost twice as much, including the Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel’s latest-generation Core i5-11600K. The Core i3-12100F also comes with a CPU cooler, so you don’t have to spend more money there.
We’re going with her Radeon RX6400because it’s the cheapest current-gen GPU on the market, not because it’s one of the best graphics cards. In our testing, the RX 6400 averaged a very playable 56 fps when we evaluated it in 8 popular games at 1080p resolution and medium settings. It’s not lightning fast, but good enough to play AAA titles smoothly.
We went with the RX 6400 so we could configure a gaming PC for under $500, but if you can only add another $20 to your budget, the much faster Radeon RX 6500 XT is only $179 US dollars and is 30 percent faster and much faster buy better. Both GPUs have a 2.8GHz boost clock and 4GB of VRAM, but the 6500 XT has 1024 GPU cores versus the 6400’s 768, and its VRAM operates at 18Gbps instead of 16Gbps.
To support our 12th Gen Intel CPU, we need an inexpensive motherboard with an LGA 1700 socket. The cheapest chipset with this socket is Intel’s H610, and we found it cheap in the MSI PRO H610M-G at $89. This is a basic board with just two RAM slots and a single M.2, PCIe Gen 3 slot for storage. We saw a board that was $10 cheaper, but I didn’t have the M.2 slot we needed for our SSD choices.
Our favorite storage drive is the TeamGroup MP33 with 512 GB capacity. we checks the TeamGroup MP33 in 2020 and found that it offers really good bang for the buck and is more affordable today than it was then. This NVMe SSD has rated sequential read and write speeds of 1700 and 1400 Mb/s, respectively, about three times what you’ll get from a SATA SSD.
To hit our $500 price tag, we had to stick with a modest 8GB of RAM in the form of a Crucial 2x4GB DDR4-3200 kit. Any inexpensive kit with DDR4-3200 RAM would fit here. However, if you only have another $15-$20 to spend, you can get 16GB of RAM as we spot TeamGruop’s T-Force Zeus DDR4-3200 RAM in a 2 x 8GB kit for just $48 to have. Considering the motherboard only has two RAM slots, consider spending a little more now rather than upgrading later.
Our case is the Rosewill FBM-X2 (opens in new tab) That was $44 at Newegg at the time of writing. Admittedly, this is a very cheap case as it doesn’t have a window to view your components. However, it offers enough space for four 120mm fans or two 120mm fans and a 240mm radiator. Its sleek, gunmetal-gray color looks solid, at least, and you’ll have to make some sacrifices to build a gaming PC for under $500.
The final piece of our under $500 gaming PC is a 430W Thermaltake PSU. Any 400-500W power adapter from a reputable brand will do the job here. The Thermaltake Smart 430W is 80+ certified, but not Bronze or Gold, meaning there are some efficiency considerations.
If you can stretch your budget just a little, dad, somewhere between $20 and $80, we recommend swapping out RAM, GPU, and storage for slightly better bits. Our first priority is going from 8GB RAM to 16GB, as the motherboard only has two DIMM slots, so you’ll have to throw away your current RAM if you decide to upgrade later. Upgrading to TeamGroup’s $48 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit costs less than $20 more and makes all aspects of your computing life easier, from web surfing to document editing and gaming.
Adding another $20 to step up from the RX 6400 to a Radeon RX 6500 XT is another no-brainer. You gain around 30 percent more performance with minimal effort.
The lowest priority upgrade, while still good, is the move from a 512GB SSD to a 1TB capacity, which in the case of the TeamGroup MP33 costs just $30 more. You can certainly get by with a 512GB SSD, but if you plan on installing more than three or four AAA games, you’ll likely need the extra storage space.
Gaming PC under $400
If you want to build a gaming PC for under $400, you can’t afford a graphics card. For this reason you need a relatively cheap CPU with excellent integrated graphics, in our case the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G. The $160, 65-watt CPU has 6 cores, 12 threads and a maximum boost clock of 4.4 GHz. It also comes with a cooler in the box so you don’t have to spend money on one.
In our multi-threaded application tests, the Ryzen 5 5600G beat many competitors, including the quad-core Core i3-12100 that we use in our sub-$500 gaming PC.
More importantly, the Ryzen 5 5600G’s integrated RX 7 Vega GPU is good enough to play games well at 720p and passable at 1080p. In our 720p gaming test suite, the 5600G averaged 75.4 fps, which is more than playable. When we cranked the resolution up to 1080p, the average fps dropped to a still respectable 43.5 fps. However, many games allow you to dial down a few more settings to increase the frame rate.
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Our motherboard for our under $400 gaming PC is the ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0. It’s important to note that since the B450 chipset predates Ryzen 5000-series CPUs, not all B450 motherboards are out-of-the-box with the 5600G. All will support these CPUs after a BIOS update, but unless you have an older Ryzen CPU lying around, you likely won’t have a chance to boot up and perform this update. However, the B450M-HDV R4.0 (make sure it’s R4.0) promises compatibility at first boot.
ASRock’s board only has two DIMM slots, so remember that if you go with the 8GB of RAM we need to stay under $400, you can’t upgrade without swapping out the memory. Aside from this limitation, however, the B450M-HDV R4.0 has other basic features, including support for M.2 PCIe Gen3 SSDs.
Our chassis, RAM, storage and power supply are the same as our under $500 gaming PC. That means we’re running with just 8GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, a modest 512GB SSD, and a 430W power supply. The Rosewill FBM-X2 is a less than ideal case. So if you see another case on sale for less than $60, it might be worth considering.
As with the sub-$500 gaming PC build, the sub-$400 configuration is significantly better if you shell out another $20 to upgrade to a 16GB kit (2 x 8GB), or, less important for performance and more important for game storage space, upgrade an additional $30 to a 1TB SSD.