Note: This page will be updated regularly to best reflect the latest pricing and latest gaming hardware. Last Updated: Januray 3rd 2018.
Building a budget gaming PC couldn’t be any easier than it is in 2018. Over the past 12 months we have had various new technology come out which has both pushed prices of some slightly older hardware down as well as some new CPUs being released – Ryzen specifically! With a budget of $500 you will have to keep your expectations in order. Now, games like CSGO, League of legends and even Overwatch should perform great on a $500 budget. AAA games though will run fine on lower settings, usually a combination of low, medium and high settings should be achievable with a $500 budget.
My advice would be to always look to build a system that is easily upgraded over a few years without having to rebuild. Easier said than done these days but I have been able to achieve it with the below build.
The $500 Gaming PC Build
The pricing can be fairly volatile with gaming pc hardware, with things like RAM pricing being high at the moment as well as graphics cards still being a little inflated due to lack of stock. With that in mind I have built out two $500 gaming pc’s below, one should come in within the $500 range, and it may even be a gaming PC under $500 when RAM and GPU prices come down to normal levels. While the other might be a little higher based on pricing when you are looking to buy, likely a little over $600 on a more expensive day.
With all of that in mind, I would still recommend the second build on this page as it will give you easier and cheaper upgrades for the next 3 to 4 years using AMD Ryzen.
Build One: $500 Gaming PC
- Processor: Intel – Pentium G4560
- Motherboard: MSI B250M Gaming Pro
- Memory: Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4 *
- Graphics Card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB *
- Storage: Seagate 1TB **
- Case: Thermaltake Versa H21
- Power Supply: EVGA 500W 80+
* These items can be swapped for the cheapest equivalent.
** This can be reduced to a 500GB assuming it is at least 7200RPM
Build Two: $500+ Gaming PC
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 1200
- Motherboard: MSI ProSeries PRO-VDH B350
- Memory: Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4
- Graphics Card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB
- Storage: Seagate 1TB
- Case: Thermaltake Versa H21
- Power Supply: EVGA 500W 80+
Should You Buy Pre-Owned Gaming Hardware
This is a very common question we get. Usually I would advise against buying a CPU or GPU second hand as you never know how it was used (or abused) previously. That being said, if you can get a good deal on a used GTX 970 or some sort of better CPU then go for it if your willing to take a small risk. I have bought pre-owned gaming hardware before and I have been stung a couple of times. I once built a complete gaming PC under $500 from pre-owned hardware, or it would have been under $500 if the motherboard wasn’t faulty (I had to pay return shipping!) and the GTX 560 Ti I bought had lasted longer than two months. These are the risks you take and at the time it was just a minor problem just to get myself up and running with my first self-built gaming PC. I have actually slowly upgraded parts of the hardware with brand new parts to the point where I have been able to built up to a i7 7700k, GTX 1080 and 500Gb SSD.
Why Have I Chosen These Parts
In this part of our $500 gaming PC guide I will take time to explain all of the parts in each build so you have a full explanation on why I have chosen them, and importantly so you know if it is easy to upgrade or swap out right now.
Intel – Pentium G4560 – This is known as the Best budget CPU for gaming as it is the cheapest CPU on the market which will help get first time gamers onto the ladder. Making it the perfect place to start for our $500 gaming PC. The processor is a 2 core, 4 thread CPU which for 2018 is as entry level as it gets for gaming. The clock speed is decent at 3.5GHz.
Can the Pentium G4560 be upgraded? Yes over time you can save some more and upgrade towards something like a i5 7500 which will be a significant jump in performance. If you wanted to upgrade after Kaby Lake you would be forced to upgrade your motherboard too, meaning upgrading might be more expensive in the future.
If though you have a little extra wiggle room right now then I would suggest jumping into the Ryzen camp – Build two. The AMD Ryzen 3 1200 is a comparable CPU to the Intel Pentium G4560 but it brings 4 Cores and 4 Threads to table. The Ryzen 1200 is the better CPU and will perform better than the G4560 in most cases but it is more expensive. With that in mind for your extra money you get two cores and a cheaper upgrade path for the next 3 to 4 years with AMD announcing there plans until 2020.
Can the Ryzen 1200 be upgraded? Yes. Right now you could upgrade to the Ryzen 1600 which is the best gaming CPU for the money. If you want to wait you can also upgrade to Ryzen+ or Ryzen 2 when it is released without having to worry about RAM or Motherboards.
What Would I Choose? I like a deal so I would choose the Ryzen 1200 in order to guarantee a reliable upgrade path to 2020 making it the best $500 gaming PC that I could build. If though you are looking for the cheapest possible CPU for your $500 budget then Pentium G4560 wins hand down.
Overall you can pick any motherboards for both builds, you just need to ensure if your going for the Pentium G4560 then you need a LGA1151 B250 Motherboard or a Z270 Motherboard. Whereas if your looking at Build 2 and the Ryzen CPU suits your budget you will again have to ensure your Motherboard is AM4 socket with a B350 or X370 chipset, this means it will support all Ryzen CPUs until at least 2020 based on the upgrade path.
I have picked the cheapest motherboards at the time of writing. I would advise going with the choices above or investing a little more if you really need specific features, but on $500 budget you will be limited. Something you can look at though is making sure you get a motherboard that can support faster RAM, possibly up to 3200MHz simply so you have an upgrade path for that too, if needed.
2017 is infamous with PC builders for two reasons, one being the increase in GPU prices due to crypto-currencies and the other being the increase in DDR4 RAM. Again this is something I picked based on prices. You should not be gaming on less than 8GB and ideally have RAM that is clocked at 2400MHz.
You can simply just search for DDR4, 8GB and 2400Mhz then pick the cheapest option if you REALLY needed to cut the costs – just read the reviews and try not to by an off-brand item.
Simply put a GTX 1050 Ti is as good as you will get on a $500 gaming PC budget. Again, I have picked a decent model and a relatively cheap price but you can again swap out for a similar GTX 1050 Ti if you find one for cheaper than the one I have listed.
Can You Upgrade a GTX 1050 Ti? Again, a common question and YES you can. You can upgrade to a GTX 1060, 1070, 1080 or even a 1080 Ti if you really had the cash. Generally speaking you should expect to upgrade your graphics card more than your CPU.
There is one goal with a hard drive on a budget, as much space as possible. The drive I have picked for both builds is cheap, has lots of storage at 1TB and is fast enough for what were spending. I actually have one for my own build!
The single biggest upgrade you can make to this $500 gaming PC is by moving from a normal Hard drive to a SSD. It will cost more, likely two to three times more but the performance upgrade is on another level, it is honestly the biggest upgrade you can make to a budget build. Having your operating system and your most used applications and games on an SSD will increase your PC’s performance massively. Literally night and day performance. If you would like to take a look at pricing then have a look at our best gaming SSD guide for more information on which drives are worth the money.