The Best Budget $500 Gaming PC in 2021 – Affordable & Cheap Gaming PC

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Build Overview

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First-time custom PC builders can find the entire process a little intimidating, it’s OK though, we’ve all lived through those head-scratching days. That’s why we’ve created this easy-to-follow guide to the best budget gaming PC under $500. It will ensure you have all the tools you need to create the perfect gaming rig for your needs. Furthermore, with this budget build, you’ll be able to enjoy all your favorite AAA games without breaking the bank. Whether you choose Intel or AMD, both have the capacity to achieve an immersive gaming experience across a number of platforms and game styles.

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 domination, you can now get a PC for under $500 that can pretty much hold its own against any of the top console contenders. With that, let’s take a closer look at what makes this build, what we can expect in terms of performance, and what compromises were made along the way to stick to that strict price budget.

Budget

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. Let’s start with the hard drive. Unlike our $400 build, the $500 only comes with 240GB of SSD storage. Even though this is a sizeable chunk smaller, it was still worth reducing in order to accommodate the RX 570 GPU. This is where the main performance difference between the $400 and the $500 builds comes from.

The case was another area of compromise. We had to go for the Thermaltake Versa H22 over something a little more aesthetically pleasing. Even though we compromised on looks, we still wanted to use a case that was user-friendly and easy for first-time builders to use. The Thermaltake ticked all the right boxes in this department.

Performance

From a performance standpoint, both AMD and Intel builds are pretty closely matched here. As a collective, we’d expect them both to be able to handle 1080p/60FPS gaming across the most popular AAA game titles. We can thank the quality of modern-day CPUs and the powerful GPU for these build characteristics. Furthermore, both showcase excellent multi-tasking and workload tasks such as video editing and image rendering. The AMD build is better equipped for these kinds of tasks, but both can perform them to acceptable levels. You wouldn’t want to go too hard on the rendering though.

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 budget and performance in mind. We work tirelessly to ensure our builds are up to date, 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 PC’s 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 PC’s 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 benchmarking tests to see how well our builds perform, all while keeping an eye on the temperature of the components themselves.

We tested our AMD builds against their Intel counterparts and found that these CPU’s performed better across the board, and for a lower price. This is why we only recommend an AMD version.

We know how much some of our readers enjoy overclocking their PC’s, 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.

NOTE: Due to the ongoing effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, some retailers are experiencing stock issues. WePC constantly updates our pages to reflect current availability, so if the PC or part you want shows as out of stock, check back later or check out these alternatives.

Our Recommended Custom Build Details

If you want a good cheap $500 dollar gaming PC, you’re in the right place. Now, let’s hop into the belly of this beast.

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Coolermaster Masterbox Q300L case

Our $500 Custom Gaming PC Build

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Our best custom-built gaming PC for under $500 is one of the best for the budget-focused gamer. While the components in this build are considered entry-level, they still provide excellent levels of performance for the price, with a dedicated GPU included here too.

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AMD’s Ryzen 3 3100 is a solid budget CPU. Thanks to the introduction of their Ryzen 5000-series CPUs, you can now get even better value for your money. I know, god bless the processor war.

This processor comes to shelves boasting 4 cores and 8 threads clocked at a base speed of 3.6GHz and can be boosted to 3.9GHz, more than enough to handle the most popular AAA game titles out there.  It has been custom designed for gamers and has decent single-core performance, perfect for games. The multi-threaded nature of this CPU also makes it a stand-out performer at this price point when it comes to multi-tasking, giving you a better experience with heavy workload tasks on a budget. All-in-all, a fantastic CPU at an affordable price tag.

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For a custom build at this price range, the ASRock B450M PRO4 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 budget 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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The Patriot Viper Steel 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. As many will likely know, Patriot has a proven track record of providing RAM with fantastic performance and reliability.

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The RX 560 might not be the best card on the market, but it’s still considered one of the top budget GPU in this price range – coming equipped with all the punching power of its master, the RX 570. This GPU can easily provide 1080p 60fps in most modern games on max settings following our benchmark stress tests and will easily max out older games as well. One thing worth mentioning, however, is how the RX 570 isn’t quite ready for VR gaming or higher resolutions. It can handle some lesser intensive VR titles but doesn’t provide you with that immersive experience you would want. Certainly forgivable for a budget card under $200 though. Its performance is far above that of the PS4, and around that of the PS4 Pro. If you’re looking for the best graphical performance you can get for around $150 then look no further. The XFX RADEON RX 560 offers superb aesthetics, excellent performance power, and an efficient cooling solution to boot.

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As with most budget builds, 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 500GB Samsung 870 EVO SSD that offers rapid load/boot times. Furthermore, as a first-time gamer, 500GB is going to be enough for your operating system and primary games so I wouldn’t worry too much. All being said, you will need to upgrade your capacity at some stage. Luckily you can pick up an HDD for around $50 which should serve you well as a backup library.

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The Zalman Z3 PC Case is a brilliant example of quality on a budget. It comes to shelves offering great airflow, a clean and user-friendly design, and a bunch of build-friendly features as well. It’s a pretty rock solid case that should last you for the foreseeable future too with a 120mm rear 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.

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Unfortunately, we were unable to equip our $500 build with a modular PSU, however, the EVGA BA 500W PSU we’ve equipped this build with will power this machine like a dream and will provide great efficiency for years to come.

Things To Consider

Budget

One of the most important areas to consider before any PC purchase is the budget. By that, we mean will you be able to build a PC that meets your performance requirements with that budget. 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 be able to handle AAA 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.

Upgradability and Future-proofing

Another major player in a custom PC build is how easy 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.

Both builds have CPUs that should serve you well for the next couple of years straight off the bat. However, the motherboards have 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.

Overclocking

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 towards overclocking. Just ask our friendly video guy that pushed an entry-level motherboard too far recently.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, 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 the Thermaltake Versa H22 as it offers nice build quality and it 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.

Non-Gaming Performance

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. Maybe the 9600K for example.

Aesthetics

Finally, we have the aesthetics of the build. Aesthetics are usually one of the first things to be sacrificed in a budget build as stylish designs usually come with a premium price tag. Unfortunately, this build comes with a budget 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 with its user-friendly design.

Build A Gaming PC By Price

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Related Prebuilt Gaming PC Guides

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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:

Alienware
Corsair
CyberPowerPC
SkyTech
iBUYPOWER
Thermaltake
MSI
Scan 3XS
Overclockers UK

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.

What Games Can This PC Run?

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

CSGO
135

1080p

Low settings

The Witcher 3

Benchmark The Witcher 3
70

1080p

High settings

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Benchmark Rainbow Six Siege
80

1080p

High settings

Fortnite

Benchmark Fortnite
140

1080p

High settings

Total War: Warhammer II

Benchmark Total War Warhammer II
50

1080p

High settings

GTA V

Benchmark GTA V
70

1080p

High settings

Prebuilt Gaming PC Under 500 dollars

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 ready-made 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 a cheap gaming PC yourself and save money in the process (or get better value for your budget). 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 the $500 budget.

If that’s the case for you, then don’t worry. Here are some options for you:

1st
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This post recommends the best gaming PC you can build for under $500. If you’re willing to spend a little extra on a pre-built machine, we recommend the iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Computer Desktop Element Mini 9300. It’s powered by one of AMD’s 3rd-gen CPUs – the Ryzen 3 3100, an RX 550 GPU, 8GB of RAM, Wi-fi, and a 240GB SSD storage solution.

Upgrade Path for Custom Build

Our best budget 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 budget 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!

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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.

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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.

Operating System & 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.

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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 for 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.

Building Tips

So, finally, you’ve arrived at the section in this article which hosts a whole bunch of helpful building tips if you’re a beginner builder.

We know there’s a lot of common mistakes that rookies make when PC building (it’s just part of the learning process) and 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 and efficiently.

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 here.

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.

To install Windows 10 over USB, download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool onto a 4GB+ USB stick. For Linux distributions, use UNetbootin or Rufus instead.

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.

How To Build A PC

Never built a PC before? Let us guide you through everything you need to build your first PC, even if you’re a complete beginner!

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it, our comprehensive guide to the best custom gaming PC for under $500. If you’re looking for a PC that’s geared up towards 1080p gaming and gives an immersive experience then look no further, this PC does it all. Even though some compromises were made along the way, we think you’ll be more than happy with the performance power of this console killer.

Why not leave us a comment letting us know what you think of this build, or, better yet, jump on over to our community page and start a thread of your own!

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The Team That Worked On This Build

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