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The best $500 PC gaming build

Building a budget gaming PC can be just as much fun as building a high-powered monster. If you’re careful with the components you buy, it can be surprisingly powerful, too. In this guide, we’ll break down what you need to build the best $500 gaming PC that can play just about anything at 1080p if you’re happy to tweak the settings a little.

You’ll need to build the PC yourself, too, as pre-built systems can cost hundreds of dollars more for the expertise and quality checking of the system builders. Don’t be intimidated, though. Building your own PC is easier than you might think, and we have a great guide to walk you through the process.

If you have a higher budget and want to focus more on 4K gaming or high-refresh rate gaming, we have great guides for that, too.

What this build can do

PC build-out guide
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

We’ll detail each individual component below, but for an overview of the build and what it will be capable of, here’s a general rundown of what we’re working with.

Note: All the components below are purchasable from Amazon and were found on the site as part of our research. It’s always worth checking each part’s price before you commit to buying, as they do change regularly. Unfortunately, they also quickly sell out — especially when we’ve published a guide recommending them.

  Product Price
Processor AMD Ryzen 5 2600 $149
Motherboard Gigabyte B450M DS3H $72
RAM 8GB Patriot Viper Performance 3,200MHz $32
Graphics card MSI Armor OC RX 570 8GB $179
Storage Kingston A400 240GB SSD $27
Case CoolerMaster Q300L $45
Power supply EVGA BA 500 watt 80+ Bronze $50

Since this is a budget build, most of the components we’ve gone with are budget offerings. The budget market is a strange limbo right now, with Nvidia and AMD pushing new graphics cards, and AMD and Intel revving up for a new generation of CPUs. Our final price came out to $554 using prices in late 2020. Prices fluctuate, however, so it’s always best to check prices on Amazon or Newegg.

But with everything put together, we can happily say you’ll be able to play e-sports games like Fortnite, Dota 2, CS:GO, or League of Legends at well above 60 frames per second. If you’re more interested in older AAA games, like GTA V, you can play those at 1080p, too, but you’ll need to lower some settings to get the most from this build.

The only real difference between budget gaming and the most expensive gaming rigs are that you’ll need to adjust in-game settings to what you want instead of sticking everything at ultra. Your gaming experience will be just as fun, but the games just won’t run quite as fast or as pretty.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600

AMD’s Ryzen processors lit a fire under Intel when they debuted in 2017, and they’ve been on a tear ever since. The Ryzen 5 2600 is a couple generations old at this point, replaced by the Ryzen 5 3600 in late 2019. However, the 2600 is still a capable chip. With six cores and 12 threads, as well as a boost clock of 3.9GHz, the 2600 shouldn’t have a problem in most titles. It comes with AMD’s Wraith cooler, too, which is a surprisingly capable unit compared to other bundled CPU coolers. Still, you should upgrade to an aftermarket CPU cooler or AIO cooler when you get the chance.

Timing is a concern with the 2600, however. Its replacement, the 3600, has since been supplanted again by Ryzen 5000 chips. We don’t have any processors in the same price bracket as the 2600 right now, but that should change soon. Once AMD restocks Ryzen 5 5000 chips — an inevitability sometime next year, we’d assume — the 3600 should drop in price. However, right now, it’s $100 more expensive and doesn’t come with a cooler, so the 2600 remains our recommendation. If you have an extra $50 to spare, you could upgrade to the Ryzen 7 2700X, which comes with two more cores, four more threads, and a higher clock speed.

Motherboard: Gigabyte B450M DS3H

Gigabyte B450M board

There aren’t many good budget B450M motherboards, so unless you’re really scrimping a few dollars here and there, the Gigabyte B450M DS3H is a great board to go for. It only has a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, but there’s little point in multiple graphics cards anyway. It also has a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for expansion cards, and a PCIE 2.0 1x slot as well. It supports memory speeds up to 3,600MHz — leaving some room for overclocking with our chosen kit. It also has an M.2 storage slot if you want to opt for that kind of storage in the future.

The Gigabyte B450M DS3H has a good 4-phase VRM which will make overclocking our CPU that bit easier, and has full support for third-gen Ryzen processors with a BIOS update. Perfect if you want to upgrade down the line.

RAM: 8GB Patriot Viper Steel 3,200MHz

Viper Steel DDR4 stick

With memory prices as cheap as they are, we can get a high-speed kit without worrying too much about the price. Our motherboards supports up to 3,600MHz RAM right out of the box so can take full advantage of this kit and give it some headroom for overclocking. We’ve opted for 8GB as that should be enough for the budget gaming we’re aiming for, but you can find 16GB kits for around $60 if you look around.

If you plan to do a lot of multi-tab web browsing or want to try your hand at streaming while you game, 16GB would be a good upgrade to opt for. Alternatively, buy the 8GB Patriot Viper Steel and another in the near future when you’ve saved up for it.

Graphics: MSI Armor OC RX 570 8GB

AMD’s RX 500-series graphics cards might be a few years old, but they are still amazingly capable. The RX 570 is arguably the best bang-for-your-buck card in the world, never mind everything Nvidia has on offer. It delivers amazing performance for the price, thrashing its way through almost any 1080p game with ease. The model we selected comes with 8GB of video memory, which is more than enough for 1080p (it can even reach 1440p in some games). We’d recommend the 4GB model if you want to stay under $500, however. Stock is light for RX 570 cards in general, but even more so for the sub-$150 RX 570 4GB.

As of late 2020, this MSI 8GB model is the best readily available option. Even though it stretches the budget a bit, the extra price is worth it. At around $180, the RX 570 8GB punches well above its weight class. The closest competing option is Nvidia’s 1060 3GB, which not only comes with 5GB less of video memory but is around $80 more expensive, too.

We recommend picking up a RX 570 quick if you’re interested, however. As AMD starts pushing its new RX 6000 cards more, the remaining RX 570 stock will slowly dry up. That should bring other budget options, hopefully. For now, however, budget builders are limited when it comes to GPU options. The RX 570, still, is the best among them.

Storage: Kingston A400 240GB SSD

This Kingston A400 SSD doesn’t give us a ton of storage space — around 200GB after Windows and all of its updates. However, that’s enough for a few games, and with this SSD, your operating system and those games will load fast. 500GB SSDs aren’t much more, or you could opt for a 1TB hard drive instead, though you will notice the speed difference. Alternatively, get the 120GB SSD for cheap and a 1TB hard drive and use AMD’s StoreMI technology to create a fast-enough cache drive.

Case: Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L

The Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L is a case we’ve recommended for high-end builds and budget options, because it’s an amazing chassis for the money. It gives you dust filters, a side window for looking at your components, and some useful front(ish) panel inputs and outputs. It’s under $40 and gives you the kind of features that years ago were restricted to $100+ chassis. You might want to add a fan or two in the future to improve cooling, but at its stock configuration, this mATX case gives you everything you need for a budget gaming PC.

PSU: EVBA BA 500 watt 80+ Bronze

The EVGA BA 500-watt power supply is about as basic as it comes. It’s a non-modular unit that passes the bare minimum efficiency certification — 80+ Bronze. It’s the bare minimum, sure, but the BA 500 watt isn’t the cheapest power supply out there. For how unexciting PSUs are, they’re one of the most important components in your system. A solid one will, hopefully, last you for many upgrades to come.

While 500 watts is enough for this system, we’d recommend picking up a PSU with a little more power if you plan on substantial upgrades in the future. Although we recommend the EVGA BA 500-watt, there are other options. Corsair has a range of inexpensive power supplies, such as the semi-modular CX550M, and Cooler Master offers a few fully modular units for a reasonable price, such as the Cooler Master MWE Gold.

If you plan on picking out your own power supply, make sure to stick to name brands — Corsair, EVGA, and SeaSonic are the top dogs in the PSU space — and make sure the power supply is rated for 80+ Bronze efficiency, at least.

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