Are you working with a tight budget, but still need something that will work for 1080P gaming? This affordable $400 gaming PC build 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.
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 so that you can easily upgrade it in the future.
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.
Part List for $400 PC Build
|CPU||Intel Core i3-12100F|
|GPU||XFX RX 580|
|RAM||Patriot Viper 8GB|
|CASE||Thermaltake Versa H18|
Grand Total: $370-$430
*Component prices fluctuate daily. Click ‘Price on Amazon’ to see the most-up-to-date price.
**Price includes the parts that make up the tower only. You’ll need an operating system and Windows costs ~$125 for an activation key. However, you can still install Windows for free and it will work indefinitely without activating it with no problems—there will just be a watermark at the bottom left of your desktop asking you to activate it.
Next Option: $500 Gaming PC Build »
$400 PC Build Overview
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 i3-12100F processor and a dedicated RX 580 graphics cards.
And, while you could go with an AMD Ryzen 5 3400G APU for this build, we felt going with an i3-12100F and RX 580 would offer you a better and quicker upgrade path in the future, as well as provide more performance now.
While the RX 580 in this build is well over five years old, it is still a very capable 1080P graphics card. With 8GB of VRAM, the 580 has held up very well over the years. It can still run any game out there, and will max out non-demanding titles with no problem.
For more demanding titles, you’ll need to turn the settings down a bit. But, that is to be expected for an entry-level gaming PC.
As for the other components in this build, this system also comes with 8GB of Patriot Viper’s 3200MHz DDR4 memory, a budget-friendly ADATA 240GB SSD, and an MSI 550W 80-PLUS GOLD-rated power supply.
The 55W power supply is perfect for this build, because it will allow you to upgrade to a mid-range GPU down the road. Options like an RTX 3060, RX 6650 XT, or RX 7600 will work as upgrade options.
And, finally, we chose the Thermaltake Versa H18 for this build’s case. It’s a very affordable micro-ATX chassis that offers good airflow and plenty of room. It also sports a tempered glass side panel and full-length PSU shroud, which are two features that will improve the aesthetics of your system..
*NOTE: If you’re not up for building your own computer, click the “Shop Pre-Builts” button in the section above to see a similarly priced pre-built gaming computer.
12100F + RX 580 Benchmark
Ultimately, in our opinion, the parts above are what will help you build the best gaming PC for 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 powerful 1080P gaming machine.
1. How Do I Build This PC?
You will need to assemble all of the individual components you have purchased into a working PC. Fortunately, this process is not difficult! And, it’s a lot of fun. If you’ve never built a PC before, use our Step-by-Step PC building guide to walk you through the process.
2. How Will This Build Perform?
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, you can watch the benchmark video above, or check out the bullet point list below:
- This build will be able to run games like Rocket League, League of Legends, Minecraft, Roblox, etc. on higher settings at ~100+ frames per second
- This build will be able to run more demanding AAA titles on lower settings at ~60+ frames per second
For just under $400, that’s 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 CPU/GPU combination will be able to handle them with ease.
3. How You Can Cut the Price Further
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 (like the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L) that cost just under $40 that will hold this system fine.
- You could opt for a cheaper power supply and save ~$20. If you drop to too low-end of a power supply, though, it will hurt your ability to upgrade the system in the future. And, you need to make sure you don’t choose a cheap knock-off unit, as it could cause harm to your system.
- You could save a small amount of money if you opted for an HDD over an SSD. But, we’d strongly recommend that you stuck with an SSD.
- Check out our $300 build for a cheaper (but less powerful) option.
And, that’s really about it.
You could always shop for used components to cut down on costs. And, at this low of a budget it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to consider going the used route.
Typically we recommend that you choose new components for your system, as they will come with a warranty to protect your purchase. However, with such a low budget, it is tough build a brand new system that will offer an ideal in-game experience. There’s obviously more risk in purchasing used components, but you can build a more powerful system for the same price if you’re willing to take the risk.
However, if you want a brand new system, those list of options above would probably be the best way to get the price down a little bit more.
4. Why Does Windows Cost So Much?
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 along with this build, that’s going to set you back an extra $125—which, for some of you, will put this build out of reach.
However, there are a few ways around paying $125 for Windows 11:
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 $125.
Second, you could buy a Windows 11 key from a third party marketplace for ~$30. I’ve had good success purchasing Windows keys from Kinguin.net or G2A.com 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 11 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 $125, 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.
5. How to Upgrade This Build
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 out those games. 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:
- NVIDIA RTX 2060
- AMD RX 6600
- NVIDIA RTX 3060
- Intel Arc A750
- AMD RX 6600 XT
- AMD RX 6650 XT
- AMD RX 7600
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 one of the options listed above, because for 1080P gaming, those will allow you to max out any game with ease.
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 an NVIDIA card, 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.
For an AMD graphics card upgrade (RX 7600 or 6650 XT, etc.), you’ll want to opt for a FreeSync monitor.
The second and third upgrades I’d make would be to add another 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.
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 Patriot Viper II 3200MHz.)
The fourth upgrade I’d make would be to upgrade this system’s processor.
Since the Intel Core i3-12100F is a decent processor, 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:
- Intel Core i5-12400
- Intel Core i7-12700
I think your best option for an upgrade here is the Intel Core i7-12700. The i5-12400 won’t provide that significant of an upgrade over the i3-12100F, whereas the i7-12700 will give you a more noticeable performance increase (both in gaming and CPU-intensive tasks.)
Conclusion: $400 Will Get You A Nice Entry-Level PC for 1080P Gaming
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, Call of Duty, Valorant, 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.
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