On the fence on whether or not to get a console or a new cheap gaming PC? This solid $500 gaming PC will have you playing any game on medium settings and most esports titles on max settings.
One of the common myths about PC gaming is that it is too expensive to get into. Yes, a high-end gaming PC will cost you a bit more upfront than a console. However, you can do more with a PC than you can with a console. And, the reality is that a gaming PC doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In this guide, we’re going to present you with a solid-performing $500 gaming PC build and go over what it is capable of.
The affordable gaming PC build listed below is perfect for gamers who are working with a tight budget, but who want to be able to play their favorite games on at least medium settings on a 1080p monitor.
For starters, you’re typically going to get the best bang for your buck if you build your own computer rather than buying one pre-built.
And, fortunately, building a PC really isn’t that difficult to do.
However, if you don’t feel up for building your own computer, I’ve also linked to a similarly-priced pre-built gaming PC for ~$500. It won’t quite have the same performance, but if you absolutely do not want to build your own system, it will serve well as an entry-level gaming PC.
This combination will allow you to play most games on higher settings on a 1080P monitor. For non-demanding popular titles like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, League of Legends, Valorant, Rocket League, or older games like Skyrim, etc. this PC will run then on medium-or-higher settings with a high framerate.
It will also work for running more-demanding titles as well, but you may have to lower the settings a bit to achieve a consistent playable framerate.
It’s the perfect cheap gaming PC for gamers who don’t have a ton of money to spend, but who want a solid entry-level machine that will allow them to play their favorite games.
This $500 PC build also comes with a 600W 80 PLUS Gold-rated power supply, which will allow you to upgrade to a mid-tier (or higher) GPU in the future with no problems.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to get into PC gaming without dropping thousands of dollars on a new machine, the part list below will get the job done for you…
Part List for $500 PC Build
|CPU||Intel Core i3-12100F|
|GPU||PowerColor RX 6500 XT|
|RAM||Patriot Viper 8GB|
|SSD||Kingston A400 480GB|
|CASE||Thermaltake Versa H18|
|ODD||Install O.S. from USB|
Grand Total: $470-$530
*Component prices fluctuate daily. Click here to check current pricing.
**You’ll need an operating system. Windows costs ~$100. However, you can still install Windows for free and it will work indefinitely without activating it—there will just be a watermark at the bottom left of your desktop asking you to activate it.
12100F + RX 6500 XT Benchmark
*Note: Due to changing prices and components going out of stock, we update the part list in this guide on a regular basis to reflect the current trends. However, it is much easier to update the components to match current trends than it is to rebuild the system every time a component goes out of stock. So, since the video below is a bit older, the current list of parts posted above is quite different than the $500 gaming PC build that we posted a video on a few months ago. The video will still give you a good idea on what the building process looks like as well as how the $500 list of components will perform.
Here are some common questions that people ask before they purchase this build…
AMD’s Ryzen APUs are a popular processor option for many budget gamers. Their integrated graphics are good enough to run most games on at least lower settings. However, while AMD’s new APUs are solid alternatives to a budget GPU/CPU combo, at the $500 price point, an Intel Core i3-12100F paired with an RX 6500 XT will be more powerful than AMD’s most powerful APU.
I’ve put together a more thorough write-up on the battle of APUs vs CPUs and that should help clear up when the new APUs make sense over a traditional CPU/GPU combo. As of right now, we use the Ryzen 3200G in our $300 PC build. We’ve also used the older 2400G in our $400 gaming PC in the past, too, but that’s another budget-range where it makes more sense to go with a CPU and dedicated graphics card.
It’s a tough decision in choosing the Intel Core i3-12100f over the Ryzen 3 3100. Both are solid performers for their price and both offer excellent CPU upgrade paths.
What it really all comes down to at the moment is total price involved and the performance each will deliver. Currently, the Intel Core i3-12100F is a bit cheaper and will offer more performance.
If the Ryzen 3 3100 were to drop in price significantly, it might be worth consider. But as both CPUs currently cost the same, we’ve chosen the more powerful i3-12100F.
In the past, we’ve been able to fit a much more powerful GPU into the $500 build. However, with higher GPU prices, the RX 6500 XT is currently the only video card option that makes sense.
You could forego a dedicated graphics card altogether and opt for one of AMD’s newer APUs (namely, the Ryzen 5 5400G). The cost would be similar and, while you might not get as much overall GPU performance right now, you would be setup well to upgrade in the future, because all you would need to do is add a higher-end graphics card.
We opted for the i3-12100F/RX 6500 XT combo, though, as it will offer more performance now.
Even when cryptocurrency miners aren’t driving up graphics card prices and memory doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy, individual PC hardware prices fluctuate on a daily basis.
So, if I update this guide one day and the total price is under $500, it’s possible that the next day—or even within just a couple of hours—the price could be higher (or lower.)
If you see the prices on this guide go over $500 and you can’t afford to go over that budget, you’ll need to alter the build a bit in order to keep the price down.
While I do try to update this guide on a regular basis, if you want to see a version of this build that gets updated more frequently, check out our Affordable PC Build guide that I linked to at the top of this page.
Yes, it’s true…
We didn’t include Windows 11 in the price of this build.
But, we do have a few of reasons for that. You will need an operating system for your new build. And, while your best bet is to just pay ~$90 for a Windows 11 license, there are ways to get around paying that much.
Below, I’ve listed three different ways you can either forego purchasing Windows 11, or get it at a discounted price.
You Could Always Go With Linux!
First, Windows 11 isn’t 100% necessary in order to build a gaming PC. You could, instead, go with a free Linux-based system.
However, the downside of Linux is that it doesn’t support nearly as many games as Windows.
But, if you’re strapped for cash, you could always go the Linux route to start with. And, then when you have some more money, you can purchase a Windows key and switch over.
Windows 11 on the Cheap!
The second reason why we did not include the cost of Windows 11 in the build is that there are ways to get it for less than the full retail price (~$90-$100).
The short answer is that Kinguin and G2A should probably be avoided for Windows keys, but if you don’t mind the somewhat blackhat nature of it all, it is an option that a lot of people choose. (And, if you do purchase a Windows 11 key from Kinguin, make sure you add the Kinguin Buyer’s Protection.)
Also, if you’re a college student or you serve in the military, you can get Windows 11 for 10% off through the Microsoft store.
Windows 11 for Free?!
Finally, it is actually incredibly easy to get Windows 11 for free. In fact, you can go straight to Microsoft’s Windows download page and download the Windows media creation tool to a USB drive, boot from that drive on your new computer, and install Windows with no key necessary.
And, you’ll actually get a working copy of Windows.
The problem is that the free version of Windows won’t be licensed unless you register it with a legit key.
However, a lot of people have reported that you don’t really lose much if you never end up registering your copy of Windows.
And, you could always build your system now, install the free copy of Windows 11, and use that until you can afford to purchase a full license. That would give you an extra $100 to spend on your CPU/GPU combo now, and that could potentially give you a lot more performance to start out.
Along with your new gaming PC, you’ll also need a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse (if you don’t have them already.)
The good news is that there are quite a few budget-friendly 1080P gaming monitors available that will work well with the $500 PC build listed above.
And, the same goes for an affordable gaming keyboard and mouse.
Below is a list of our top picks for budget-friendly monitors, keyboards, and mice.
No, your cheap $500 gaming PC isn’t suited for 4K gaming and it can’t push a 144Hz 1440P monitor. But, to be honest, 1080P gaming is still more than satisfying for the majority of gamers.
And, your $500 budget build is more than capable of handling games at 1080P.
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of affordable 1080P monitors on the market. And, so if you don’t already have a monitor you can use for your setup, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get one.
You can even pair this build with a monitor that has a 144Hz refresh rate and is compatible with AMD’s FreeSync technology. The higher refresh rate and AMD’s variable refresh rate technology will allow for an exceptionally smooth in-game experience.
Taking price into consideration, we’ve listed three solid 1080P monitors below at a few different price points to suit your needs.
|Sceptre C248B|| ||/10|
|ViewSonic VX2276|| ||/10|
|Acer G226HQL|| ||/10|
Your keyboard and mouse are incredibly important to your gaming experience. You cannot game without either. (For some games, you can game with a controller. Check out our guide on the best controllers for PC gaming.)
And, while “gaming” keyboards (and mice) were luxury items for gamers in the past, nowadays there are a lot of budget options out there.
Also Read: What Keyboard Size Should You Get?
In this section, we’ve picked out a few different budget keyboard options.
If you’re looking for a solid keyboard to pair with your new $500 gaming computer, these are worthy options that won’t cost you a ton of money.
|Logitech G213|| ||/10|
|Redragon K552 KUMARA|| ||/10|
|Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS|| ||/10|
The mouse is to the gamer what the sword is to the warrior. If you can’t properly handle your mouse, you likely won’t have success in your favorite games.
That is why it’s important to have a decent-quality mouse.
And, more specifically, one that has a decent range of DPI adjustments and multiple programmable buttons. These will help you fine-tune your mouse so that you can dominate your favorite games.
In the section below, we’ve chosen three different options for budget-oriented gamers who are looking for a decent-quality gaming mouse.
|Logitech G402|| ||/10|
|Logitech G203|| ||/10|
|Redragon M711|| ||/10|
The $500 gaming PC build listed in this guide is capable of playing any game on a 1080p monitor. And, through a few different upgrades, it can transform from a decent entry-level gaming PC, into a high-end beast of a computer.
And, really, that is one of the main advantages of going with a gaming computer over a console. Whereas a console’s hardware can’t be upgraded, a computer can be upgraded and added to as your demands as a gamer grow.
Ultimately, this cheap gaming PC build will serve any budget-oriented gamer well as a starter system that they can grow into.