Getting into PC gaming can be a little intimidating, but by following our guide for the best gaming PC under $500, you’re going to find it’s much easier than it looks on the outset. Plus, with this budget build, you’ll be able to enjoy all your favorite AAA games without breaking the bank.
This build is guaranteed to let you play PUBG on 1080p resolution with at least an average of 60FPS at medium to high in-game settings. Fortnite will run even better. Other popular titles like CS:GO, Overwatch, GTA V, and most AAA games, should also run well on this build.
This is also where you start getting into 1440p gaming and VR gaming, as long as you don’t mind compromising no a few things.
What else sets it apart? Well, let’s look:
High Performance. The graphical performance of this build is easily on par with that of the PS4 Pro (if not better) and easily trumps the original PS4. The CPU is also a significant step up from the power of the PS4 Pro’s (which is roughly equivalent to an Athlon X4 860K).
Upgradeability. Speaking of the CPU, it shouldn’t bottleneck you much if you decide to upgrade your graphics card. You can upgrade both your CPU and GPU to much more powerful counterparts in the future, should you ever be looking to have more performance.
Simplicity. We went with a builder-friendly case for this build. You won’t even need to buy any extra fans-- the case already includes 3 fans on its own, which is more than enough for excellent airflow in any PC build!
How We Choose the Parts and Components
Here at WePC, we know the ins and outs of building computers, research, performance, and prices. Oh and don’t forget compatibility. Because of our desire to bring you the best value, we check our guides for viable upgrades every month (although there isn’t always a better deal to be had).
For every new PC hardware release, we do benchmark research while also checking out what our fellow professionals in the industry have to say. Tech Deals and Linus Tech Tips are among the names we trust most when it comes to in-depth product review and comparison.
The Best Budget $500 Gaming PC Update:
Intel Core i3-8100 Quad-Core Processor
The i3-8100 provides great gaming and all-around performance at a fair price. It also avoids bottlenecking the strong GPU in this build.
Zotac GTX 1050 Ti Mini
The 1050 Ti is easily the best card for gaming at 1080p, but won’t be very useful at higher resolutions or in VR.
Patriot Signature Line 8GB DDR4-2400
With a full 8GB of RAM, multitasking and gaming shouldn’t be any problem whatsoever for this powerful PC build.
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
Unless you’re already a PC gamer with a large library 1TB of storage should be a great starting point.
EVGA BR 450W 80+ Bronze-Certified PSU
An unfortunately non-modular PSU, but with great bronze certification and the peace of mind that comes with buying EVGA.
Gigabyte H310M Micro ATX Motherboard
A solid motherboard that shouldn’t give you any issues. No overclocking in this price range, though.
Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L
An astonishingly cool (aesthetically and literally) budget case that dominates other value options in the same price range.
Estimated $534.38 at Amazon
(Price are accurate as of October 19, 2018. Click the button to see the latest prices)
If you want a good custom 500 dollar gaming pc, you’re in the right place. Now, let’s hop into the belly of this beast.
The Intel Core i3-8100 will offer great performance in general usage and most games at 1080p, but it will start showing its limitations when you want to render or stream something. Despite this, it’s still one of the best budget CPUs you can get right now, and it trounces AMD’s options in this price range, especially in terms of gaming performance.
However, this CPU caps out at right around the level of the RX 580. Keep this in mind when upgrading your build, or else you will run into bottlenecking.
While most of the things said above still apply, an interesting change came just before we decided to release this build to the public, and we were able to replace our originally-intended i3 7100 with an i3-8100. This has resulted in not only a performance boost, but the addition of two more cores!
That’s right: a quad core i3. Nuts, right? This should actually slightly boost the i3’s gaming performance, as well in rendering, but we still would strongly recommend against using this CPU for livestreaming purposes.
The GTX 1050 Ti is the top budget GPU in the ~$100 range right now, providing 1080p 60fps in most modern games on medium settings. It will easily max out older games on high to max, but beware that the 1050 Ti isn’t quite ready for VR gaming or higher resolutions.
Its performance is far above that of the PS4, and around that of the PS4 Pro. For the best graphical performance you can get in this range, look no further. PNY’s version of the 1050 Ti is smaller than most, but doesn’t lose out on any performance and will fit well into a smaller build, if you opt for one.
This particular 1050 Ti is also a Mini edition- it shouldn’t hurt your performance by any significant margin, and it should actually make it easier to work around in our smaller Micro ATX case.
This Patriot Signature Line RAM kit offers 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which should be all that you need for most gaming and multitasking scenarios. It’s a pretty solid value for the price range and the slight bump in clock speed does make it better than a lot of entry-level DDR4 RAM kits you’ll find out there.
Since it’s manufactured by Patriot, you can also trust this RAM kit to be quite reliable in the long run.
Starter storage. 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, or even get an SSD to use a priority/boot drive for your favorite titles.
EVGA is responsible for great graphics cards and great power supplies, even at the budget price range. Thanks to that, we’re confident recommending this EVGA BR 450W PSU to our readers, though since it isn’t modular it will be a little bit more difficult to build around. In any case, don’t go any cheaper than this- a bad PSU translates to a bricked PC or a house fire.
This is a budget build, so we couldn’t afford to spend extra for features like overclocking. Honestly, it wouldn’t really make any sense anyway- it’d just be a waste of money for features you can’t access yet. If you want an OC-capable build today, go with one of our high-end machines.
For this machine at this price range, however, the Gigabyte H310M A is pretty much perfect. It may be an entry-level motherboard, but this is still ultimately an entry-level PC, and you don’t yet have the budget to get the components to justify something more expensive. Motherboards also don’t really affect gaming performance at all, so even when you do upgrade you’ll be just fine.
The MasterBox Q300L may not look like a budget case, but it is one. It’s just…a really, really good one, with a ton of included fans in the box, a sub-$40 price tag, great airflow, a clean aesthetic…honestly, we’re remiss to find any actual problems with this case in this price range. For that reason, we’re happy to recommend it here.
Why is This The Best Cheap $500 Gaming PC Today?
If you’re into playing AAA games or competitive shooters, then this is the best budget gaming PC you can get your hands on for the price of $500.
The 8GB RAM allows you to comfortably play just about any game (8GB is still the threshold for gaming) while also letting you do some multitasking on the sides.
Both the CPU and the GPU of this cheap gaming PC build are enough to deliver 1080p gaming with an average of 60FPS for most titles. (You may have to play around with the settings some for newer AAA games to maintain that frame rate).
What games can this PC run?
In this section, we’re going to tell you how this game should be able to run your favorite games.
- Fortnite - Fornite should run great at high-to-max settings in 1080p60.
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds - PUBG should run at medium-high settings in 1080p60.
- Monster Hunter: World - MHW should run at medium-high settings in 1080p60.
- League of Legends - League will do just fine at max settings in 1080p60.
- Dota 2 - See above.
- Overwatch - Overwatch should do well at high-to-max settings at 1080p60.
- Rainbow Six: Siege - Siege should perform at medium-to-high settings in 1080p60.
- Warframe - Warframe is pretty light, so max settings @ 1080p60 should be easy to achieve with this build.
- Grand Theft Auto V - GTA V is pretty intensive, so expect medium-to-high settings at 1080p60 and lower framerates if you decide to max it out.
- Team Fortress 2 - TF2 should generally perform fine at 1080p and 1440p, but due to the weaker CPU in this build it won’t have the most stable performance without a performance config.
Similar Prebuilt Gaming PC Under 500 dollars
Ideally, you’d build a cheap gaming PC yourself, since you can save yourself money this way (or get a better value for your budget). However, some people aren’t comfortable even trying to build their own gaming PC.
If that’s the case for you, then don’t worry. Here are some options for you:
Upgrade Path for This Build
Our best budget gaming PC in the 500 dollar price range is already a potent machine on its own, but what if you could make it harder, better, faster, stronger?
Rhetorical question. This is PC gaming. Of course, you can do that.
NOTE: These will raise the price of the build!
This ADATA SSD is the cheapest one I’m willing to recommend, but offers great storage capacity and performance in its price range. By investing in an SSD, you can store your OS and a few of your favorite games inside it for rapid-fire load and boot times.
An SSD is one of the best upgrades you can make for your machine, since it’ll offer the largest quality of life improvement. If you choose an SSD, be sure to buy it and mount it first during your OS installation, so you can make the most of your performance!
For graphical punch on par with the PS4 Pro, bump up your GPU to a GeForce GTX 1060. The 1060 is more than enough to thrash games at 1080p High/Max, and is a worthy upgrade for your build.
If you’d like even more graphical power, I’d recommend taking a look at the GTX 1070 and the $800 Gaming PC. However, note that such a massive leap in performance will come with a similarly massive leap in price.
If you want to invest in better cooling for your build, buy these fans. They’re $25 a pop and should help your system run much cooler than it would otherwise.
OS Options and Recommended Peripherals
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.
While your computer is a very powerful machine, it’s unfortunately capable of very little without an operating system. Operating systems, such as Windows or Android, are used by devices to provide a standard environment for applications and user interactions. So, make sure you buy a Windows 10 license.
If you want to do PC gaming, Windows is your best option. If you’ve purchased a retail Windows license for one of your previous PCs, you should be able to transfer that license to your new build.
But, if you haven’t, you’ll either need to buy Windows 10 or deal with Ubuntu/Linux Mint for some time.
We highly recommend installing your OSes via USB, both for faster install speeds and to save on physical media shipping/the cost of an optical drive. We’ll dive into that more later in the article.
Mouse and Keyboard
When most people mention peripherals, these are what come to mind. Your mouse and your keyboard are your primary forms of input and interaction with your PC, and if you don’t have some already, here’s a few that we recommend!
For Advanced Users: ($100)
If you want to invest in a great gaming mouse, the Logitech G502 comes highly recommended. It retails anywhere from $50-70 most of the time, but its solid customization and build quality provide all you need out of a pro-level gaming mouse.
The Redragon K551 is an entry-level mechanical gaming keyboard. If you’re serious about writing or gaming, a mechanical keyboard is a necessity. A nice mechanical keyboard at the $40 price range used to be considered a unicorn. Fortunately for us, this myth has become a reality.
No one wants to be in a situation where they’ve invested in a great gaming PC and discover they have no way to actually play the video games they paid for. If you don’t have an old monitor or HDTV sitting around, here’s our monitor recommendations.
If these are still too expensive for you, we recommend taking a look on eBay for some cheaper monitors or downgrading to one of our cheaper builds. There’s no point in investing in high-end gaming hardware if you can’t afford a monitor that’ll benefit from it.
Another important part of your gaming experience is your audio! A lot of work goes into soundtracks and sound design in video games and if you want to enjoy that side of things, you’ll need good enough sound hardware to do it.
Here’s a few recommendations to start you off!
Some great speakers to start out with are the Logitech Z130 Speakers. At just $20, 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 Z130 set will be perfectly fine for getting you started listening to music and playing your games.
A good gaming headset to start with is the Corsair Raptor HS40. With great build quality, directional audio and a built-in mic, you’ll be ready to comm with your teammates in games and have good spatial awareness.
Spy decloaking behind you in TF2? Someone ulting in Overwatch? With a good headset like this, you’re sure to hear these important audio cues and be able to react in time.
Last but not least, let’s talk about actually getting online. You have two options: Wi-Fi or Wired.
Wi-Fi is more convenient, but isn’t recommended for competitive gaming scenarios due to unreliable network conditions. But to have the option available, invest in the TP-Link Archer T4U.
It supports all the latest Wi-Fi technologies at a good price.
Wired (Ethernet Cable)
With Wired, you’ll want to invest in an ethernet cable. A high-quality 25 foot ethernet cable off Amazon will only run you $8, and for your trouble with wires, you’ll enjoy much more stable network performance in your games.
Hey, you stuck around even after we tempted you with the convenience of pre-built PCs! Good for you. Well, don’t think your perseverance won’t be rewarded.
We know that there are a lot of common mistakes that rookies make when PC building-- it’s just part of the learning process-- but that’s why we wrote a guide to nip that in the bud. For you to successfully build your $500 gaming PC, you need the right guide to do it correctly.
Before you even get there, though, we know you’ll have a lot of questions. And, well, we’ve already answered a lot of commonly asked PC building questions. (If these were your exact questions, then yes. We read your mind. If not, carry on.)
Invest In Anti-static Equipment
Alright, time to get serious about Static Shock (+20 internet nostalgia points if you remember this cartoon).
If you electric discharge while assembling your rig, you could ruin your components! While this is a rare occurrence that can be avoided with the right grounding practices, you can save yourself a lot of stress by just investing in some cheap equipment.
An anti-static mat or an anti-static wristband will help you avoid tragically frying your electronics while assembling them. If you only buy one, we recommend the wristband. It may cost a little extra, but that is worth the peace of mind while building your gaming PC.
Be sure to check out our how to correctly use an anti-static wristband guide if this is your first time using it.
Watch Building Guides
This Tek Syndicate video guide will walk you through every step of the PC building process. This is our favorite guide on the topic thanks to its brevity, but it might be a little fast for you, so don’t be afraid to look for some other guides (and leave them in the comments; maybe you’ll find our new favorite).
If you supplement it by paying close attention to the instruction manuals included with your new components, then everything should go right.
You’ll find that most of the difficulty involved in PC building is being careful and being patient. In other words, it’s pretty much the same skillset involved in making great Lego creations. Good luck with the standoff screws, though. Those suck.
If you’re still overwhelmed by the entire process, then you might find our comprehensive guide How to Build a Gaming PC guide useful. This guide covers everything from planning a budget to long-term computer maintenance.
Install OS Via USB
We’ve already recommended which OS you should use, but now let’s talk about installation. Don’t spend extra on having a disc shipped to you or buying a disc drive when you can just install your operating system via USB.
And we’re done!
Once you order your parts and put them together, you’ll have the best gaming desktop for 500 dollars. While you may not have the biggest muscle on the market, you can always upgrade later on thanks to the flexibility of the PC platform.
While a console gamer may save more up front by buying a console, you’ll save much more by utilizing Steam, GOG, and Humble Indie Bundle sales to get the best games cheap. Oh, and don’t forget the wonderful, free modding community which extends the life of your games significantly.
Welcome to the world of PC gaming. Enjoy the best budget $500 gaming PC!
Tell us what you think of the build! Are there improvements you want to add/recommend? Comment down below and we’ll debate!