Building a gaming PC is easy. It's figuring out how much you can afford to spend on it that's the problem.
A gaming PC could easily cost you more than $5,000, with top-tier graphics cards selling for more than $1,000 these days, and that's especially given the current stock shortages that are the result of multiple issues all happening at once (chip shortages, crypto mining, etc). But, at the same time, a decent gaming PC doesn't necessarily need to cost you the proverbial arm and leg.
As a matter of fact, you can build a gaming PC for $500 in 2021.
Sure, a $500 gaming PC is nowhere near enough to let you max out AAA titles. However, if you're frugal and smart enough with your purchases, you should be able to score deals and find components that will help get you the most gaming performance out of your hard-earned money.
Word of Advice
The price and availability of components tend to change every day. Although we made sure that all the products we recommended are available as of the time of writing, it is still subject to change. This is why, apart from recommending a specific product, we gave ballpark prices to give you an idea of what to expect when shopping for a particular component.
We've also excluded special offers and deals, as well as the PC case and the price of the Windows 10 operating system.
$500 Gaming PC Components
Processor - AMD Ryzen 3 3200g ($99)
The Ryzen 3 3200g is the most cost-effective CPU and GPU solution available today. It beats Intel's most recent offerings that come with Intel Iris Plus graphics in terms of both performance and price. It also doesn't lag as far behind as its bigger brother, the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G, despite costing a whole lot less at only $99.
More importantly, the Ryzen 3 3200g also comes with a decent cooler and while we don't recommend overclocking it, especially at this price point, that's something that you can do down the line.
All in all, it's an excellent package at a very wallet-friendly price that's readily available in most stores.
Motherboard - ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0 ($79)
If we're being honest, you don't necessarily have to buy this specific motherboard. However, if you do manage to get your hands on one, then you're pretty much set until you upgrade to a set-up that costs significantly more.
The ASRock B450M-HDV R.40 has a listed price of $79.99, supports Ryzen 5000 processors, has two DDR4 DIMM slots with four USB 3.1 ports.
These specs won't wow anybody but it's solid and the motherboard's build quality is commendable, to say the least.
RAM - 2 x 8GB DDR4 RAM ($90)
RAM bottlenecks are fairly common in gaming PCs even in those that can't even come close to maxing out games. Plus, they're cheap enough these days to stack two 8GB modules in one build and be future proof for the next couple of years.
Try to get the most reasonably cheap 2 x 8GB DDR4 RAM kit that you can find and by that, we mean only get those from trusted manufacturers like G.SKILL, Kingston, and Corsair, among others.
Storage - HP S700 Pro 512GB ($69)
Technically, you could plug in an M.2 SSD drive here since the motherboard does support it. However, given the expected budget constraints and the common temperature issues with such SSDs in builds with suboptimal airflow, we'd recommend that you go with something more conventional like the HP S700 Pro 512GB Sata SSD.
Sure, you could argue that a 2TB HDD would be a better fit here and you'd be partially right. After all, more storage is always good, right? But, here's the thing, a $500 gaming PC won't be fast, but an SSD will, at the very least, make it boot faster and load textures in certain games much more quickly than if you'd gone with an HDD.
At $69 for a 512GB SATA SSD, it's hard to go wrong with the HP S700 Pro.
Power Supply - Cooler Master MasterWatt 550W ($79)
In general, you should never cheap out on power supplies. The more you spend on it, the better your chances of minimizing the risk of your entire system suffering just because your power supply went bad all of a sudden.
Of course, that doesn't mean that you should spend more than what you need - you just have to know what you're looking for.
For example, the bare minimum requirements of a good power supply is at least a five-year warranty with 80 Plus Bronze certification and made by a trusted name.
Cooler Master's MasterWatt series checks both and it comes with semi-modular cables and a clean design that can help make your gaming PC look a lot more expensive than it is - if you're up for some cable management. Plus, at 550W, you'd be able to power a GTX 1660Ti or an AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT at most, although your problem by then will be bottlenecking issues.
What More Do I Need for a Gaming PC?
Judging from the figures we've given you above, you'll have spent around $416 already, give or take. This leaves you around $80 to work with to go and get yourself a decent gaming case. Then, once you have that, you can start preparing and saving up for your next upgrade.
We recommend getting yourself a decent CPU cooler to keep the temperatures of the Ryzen 3 3200G low and a graphics card like an Nvidia GTX 1050 ti or an AMD RX 570.
Either of the two should work fine. Just try not to settle for anything less. Otherwise, you won't feel that much of a difference in performance between the Radeon Vega 8 built-in graphics of the Ryzen 3 3200G and whatever it is that you end up buying.
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