Are you working with a tight budget, but you still want to jump into 1080P gaming? The affordable $400 gaming PC build in this guide will get the job done for you.
If you’re in the market for a new gaming computer and you’re working with a tight budget, one way to get more performance out of the money you have to spend is to build your computer yourself. In fact, in this guide, we’ll show you what parts to get in order to build a solid gaming PC for under $400.
This $400 gaming computer is perfect as an entry-level system and it will handle pretty much any game on an affordable 1080P monitor, including games like The Division 2, Apex Legends, and Fortnite. No, it’s not the best gaming computer in the world. But, if you are currently using a system that can’t even run your favorite games, this build will at least allow you to start playing those games. And, it will give you a nice foundation that can be upgraded in the future into a mid-range gaming PC that can max out anything you throw at it.
So, if you’re ready to see what the best gaming PC build under $400 looks like, keep reading!
If you want to check out more affordable build templates at various prices ranges, check out more builds on our Affordable Gaming PC Builds guide.
This system is a little different than our $300 gaming computer build because instead of going with an AMD Ryzen APU, we instead opted for a quad-core Intel Core i3-8100 and a dedicated RX 550 2GB graphics cards.
And, while you could go with an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G APU for this build (and, we have gone that route in past iterations of this build), with the price drop on the RX 550, we felt that you’d get better performance out of the i3-8100/RX 550 combo. You can read more about why we did end up choosing the 8100 over the Ryzen 5 2400G (and G4560) further down in this post—and, it is possible that, for you, one of those other processor options will work better.
This system also comes with 8GB of DDR4 2400MHz memory, a budget-friendly 320GB hard drive, and a 450W power supply that can easily accommodate an upgrade to a mid-range graphics card in the future. And, finally, we chose the Thermaltake Versa H15 for this build’s case. It’s a very affordable micro-ATX chassis that has decent airflow and will easily fit all of these components, as well as give you room for upgrades in the future.
*NOTE: If you’re not up for building your own computer, click the “Shop Pre-Builts” button to see a similarly priced pre-built gaming computer.
|CPU||Intel Core i3-8100|
|GPU||Sapphire RX 550 2GB|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance 8GB|
|HDD||WD Blue 320GB|
|CASE||Thermaltake Versa H15|
|ODD||Install O.S. from USB drive|
Grand Total: $370-$430
*Component prices fluctuate daily. Click here for current pricing.
**Price includes the components that make up the tower only. Windows 10 is included in the list, but will cost extra—and you will definitely need an operating system one way or another.
Ultimately, in our opinion, the parts above are what will help you build the best gaming PC under $400 (make sure you check for fluctuating prices, though.) However, there are other routes you can go with this build. So, below we’ll discuss what some of those other routes are, as well as what kind of performance you can expect out of this $400 gaming PC, and the types of upgrades you can make to it to turn it into a mid-range 1080P-killing gaming machine.
I touched on this a bit in the build over section above, but I wanted to circle back to it so that I can explain why I chose the i3-8100 over the Ryzen 5 2400G and Pentium G4560. I also wanted to highlight the differences between the different processor options, too, because it may be that you’d prefer to go with one of the other choices.
For starters, the Ryzen 5 2400G is an APU, whereas the i3-8100 and Pentium G4560 are CPUs. APU is just AMD’s term for a processor that has integrated graphics built onto the processor. (You can read more about the differences between APUs and CPUs by clicking the link.)
So, whereas with the i3-8100 and G4560 you will need to pair them with a dedicated graphics card, with the Ryzen 5 2400G, you won’t need to add a dedicated graphics card in order to get decent in-game performance. However, with the low prices of the i3-8100 and the RX 550 2GB graphics card, that combination will outperform the Ryzen 5 2400G in both CPU and GPU power.
The Case for the i3-8100 Over the Ryzen 5 2400G
The Intel Core i3-8100 is a quad-core processor that offers more than enough processor power for 1080P gaming. And, it is cheap enough to where you can pair it with an AMD Radeon RX 550 2GB graphics card in a ~$400 gaming PC build.
And, the combination of the i3-8100 and the RX 550 will provide better performance than a Ryzen 5 2400G APU can on its own. So, while the Ryzen 5 2400G is a decent option and both offer good upgrade paths, we feel that right now, the i3-8100 and RX 550 combination is going to give you the best bang for your buck in terms of the performance you get now and the upgrade options you’ll have in the future.
The Case for the i3-8100 Over the Intel Pentium G4560
Another option you have for this $400 PC build is between the i3-8100 and the older Intel Pentium G4560. Because the G4560 is incredibly inexpensive (comes in at less than ~$70), it would help free up room in your budget to fit an RX 560 or GTX 1050 inside of this build. (And, if you can stretch your budget a little bit, you could potentially fit a GTX 1050 Ti in there instead.)
In terms of performance between the two processors, the Intel Core i3-8100 will offer way more CPU power than the G4560. However, a G4560 paired with an RX 560 or GTX 1050 will outperform the i3-8100/RX 550 combo in most games for a similar price.
So, then why choose the Intel Core i3-8100 over the G4560 and an RX 560 or GTX 1050?
Well, mainly because the i3-8100 is going to offer the better upgrade path. We’re going to dive into the best upgrade path for this build in the section below, but essentially, the goal will be to add a high-end graphics card to this build later down the road so that it can max out games on a 1080P monitor or even a higher resolution monitor (or, even better yet, a 144Hz 1080P monitor or a 1440P 144Hz monitor).
If you chose a G4560 and an RX 560 or GTX 1050, you would get more in-game performance now, but it wouldn’t be enough for you to easily play any game on a 1080P monitor at max settings. You would still need to upgrade the RX 560 or GTX 1050 at some point down the road.
So, you’d waste more money on the RX 560 or GTX 1050 when you went to upgrade to a better graphics card than you would have if you only purchased the RX 550. (Of course, in both scenarios, you could try and recuperate some of the cost of your initial graphics card by trying to sell it on Craigslist or eBay.)
Also, as the G4560 is an entry-level processor, it will need to be upgraded at some point, too. The problem is that because it is an older generation Intel processor, you won’t be able to upgrade it to a newer generation Coffee Lake CPU.
So, ultimately, while I do think that the Pentium G4560 and an RX 560 or GTX 1050 would offer you more performance right now, I think that if you’re looking at the long-term picture, sacrificing a little bit of GPU performance now for a better processor right now and a better upgrade path in the future makes the Intel Core i3-8100 seem like the better option.
In terms of how this $400 gaming PC will hold up against today’s top games, you can expect to be able to run less-demanding games on a 1080P monitor on higher settings, and more demanding games on a 1080P monitor at lower settings. But, for an example of what kind of a framerate you can expect to get out of some of today’s more popular games, check out the bullet point list below:
- This build will be able to run games like Rocket League, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, etc. on higher settings at ~50-60+ frames per second
- This build will be able to run AAA titles like Middle Earth: Shadow of War, GTA V, The Witcher 3 on lower settings at ~30+ frames per second
For just under $400, that’s really pretty darn good performance. You’ll be able to play any game on a 1080P monitor. Yes, on more demanding games you’ll have to turn the settings down, but at least you’ll get to play them. And, for popular eSports/competitive titles that aren’t very demanding, the 2400G will be able to handle them with ease.
While this build is pretty barebones as is, you could potentially cut the cost down a bit more. Here are a couple of ways you can save even more money on this system in order to lower the price:
- You could choose a cheaper case and save ~$10. There are cases out there that cost just over $20 that will hold this system fine.
- You could start with just 4GB of RAM and save ~$30. This wouldn’t be horrible, but if it were me, I’d definitely try and fit 8GB into the build.
And, that’s really about it. You could always shop for used components as well and try to cut down on costs that way. However, if you want a brand new system, those two options would probably be the best way to get the price down a little bit more.
One way or another, you’re going to need an operating system to get this build up and running. If you buy a copy of Windows 10 along with this build, that’s going to set you back an extra $100—which, for some of you, will put this build out of reach.
However, there are a few ways around paying $100 for Windows 10:
First, you could install a free Linux-based operating system. You won’t be able to play certain games that aren’t compatible with Linux, but you will save $100.
Second, you could buy a Windows 10 key from a third party marketplace for ~$30. I’ve had good success purchasing Windows keys from Kinguin.net in the past, but there is definitely some risk involved in purchasing a Windows license from a third party source.
Finally, you could just install Windows 10 for free and not activate it. In my opinion, this is probably the best route to go. Essentially, Microsoft allows anyone to install Windows onto their computer without forcing them to activate it. And, for the most part, you can still use Windows normally even when it’s not activated. The only thing you will lose out on is some customization options like setting your desktop’s wallpaper. But, I think in order to save $100, that is not a bad trade-off cost. And, at the very least, you could run the non-activated version of Windows until you can afford to purchase an activation key for it.
While this $400 gaming computer won’t max out today’s top games on a 1080P monitor, it will give you the potential to upgrade it to be a system that can max games out. In my opinion, this system is only one major upgrade away from being able to max out most games on a 1920 x 1080 monitor, and a couple of more upgrades after that away from being a really solid all-around computer.
Here is the upgrade path I would take for this system
The first upgrade that I’d make would be to add a solid mid-range (or higher) graphics card.
The following GPUs would make for a good upgrade:
Fortunately, the power supply in this build will be powerful enough to accommodate any of the graphics cards listed above. If it were me, I’d try to save up for a GTX 1660 Ti or an RTX 2060, because for 1080P gaming, those will allow you to max out any game with ease.
You could also upgrade to a high-end graphics card as well if you also upgrade your power supply, too. But, the 500W power supply included in this build isn’t enough to hold a tier 1 or tier 2 GPU at the moment.
After you upgrade the graphics card, you can also consider upgrading your monitor as well. Depending on what graphics card you upgrade to, you could also opt for a higher refresh rate monitor or a higher resolution monitor. For the GTX 1660 Ti or the RTX 2060, an affordable G-Sync monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate would be worth looking into—especially if you play competitive-driven titles like Rocket League, PUBG, COD, Apex Legends, etc.
The second and third upgrades I’d make would be to add an SSD and another 8GB stick of RAM.
This system doesn’t come with a lot of storage space off the bat. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to add more storage space (moving the operating system is a bit more challenging, though) into a system. And, by adding a ~250GB SSD, and moving your operating system and some of your favorite games onto it, your system and games will load much more quickly and your system will feel a lot faster in general.
Your system’s memory will also be simple to upgrade. Because this build starts out with a single 8GB stick of RAM, it gives you the opportunity to bump up to 16GB of RAM pretty easily. If we opted for a dual-channel 2x4GB kit to start out with, you’d have to completely replace that kit with a 2x8GB kit in order to reach 16GB of RAM. So, with one 8GB stick of RAM already in there, bumping up to 16GB of RAM will be as simple as adding a second stick of memory (just make sure it’s the same stick that you already have, in this case, an 8GB stick of Corsair Vengeance LPX 2400MHz.)
The fourth upgrade I’d make would be to upgrade this system’s processor.
Since the Intel Core i3-8100 is a decent processor as is, you can hold off on upgrading it for a little while. However, once you’ve upgraded the components listed above, you can also look to get a higher-end processor.
The motherboard that comes in this $400 gaming computer will accommodate the following processor upgrades:
I think your best option for an upgrade here is the i5-9400f or the i7-9700K. The Core i5 options won’t offer as significant of a performance jump over the Intel Core i3-8100 as the Intel Core i7-9700K will. Unfortunately, there isn’t cheaper 9th generation locked Intel Core i7 processor available right now, so you’ll have to pay a little more for the unlocked version. Of course, by the time you’re ready to upgrade, there may be a newer lineup of processors, or the locked version might have been released by then.
If you don’t already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to go along with your new system, you will definitely need them. So, if you’re looking for some budget-friendly peripherals to pair with your computer, the options below will suit you well without breaking the bank.
*If you’d prefer a mechanical keyboard, check out our post on the best mechanical keyboards under $50.
|Redragon M711 COBRA||/10|
*For more cheap mouse options, check out our guide on the best budget gaming mice.
If you’re looking for the best gaming PC under $400, you’ll definitely want to consider building your own system rather than buying a pre-built computer. By opting to build the computer yourself, you can avoid the markup cost that comes on pre-built machines, which will allow you to put more money into your system.
In this guide, we’ve given you a solid list of components that will allow you to build an entry-level $400 gaming PC. This build is capable of running pretty much any game (like Fortnite, Apex Legends, The Division 2, etc.) on a 1080P monitor on at least lower settings. And, you’ll be able to play less-demanding games on medium or higher settings, too.