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The best $500 PC gaming build

PC Gaming doesn't have to be expensive, this $500 build will play anything

PC build-out guide
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

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 a $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

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 $119
Motherboard Gigabyte B450M DS3H $72
RAM 8GB Patriot Viper Performance 3,200MHz $32
Graphics Card Powercolor Red Dragon RX 570 4GB $135
Storage Kingston A400 240GB SSD $27
Case CoolerMaster Q300L $45
Power Supply Corsair CX 550-Watt 80+ Bronze $70

Since this is a budget build, most of the components we’ve gone with are budget offerings. That doesn’t mean they aren’t great for gaming, but it does mean we’ve had to make some sacrifices to stay under $500. The CPU is excellent, despite being a few years old. The graphics card isn’t going to handle 4K resolutions, and storage is limited.

But with everything put together, we can happily say you’ll be able to play esports games like Fortnite, DotA 2, CS:GO, or League of Legends at well above 60 FPS. 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, 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 doesn’t have the higher frequencies and instructions per clock improvements of the new-generation 3600, but it’s still an excellent six-core, 12-thread processor. It lacks onboard graphics, but that’s no problem with our dedicated graphics card. Also, with the bundled cooler you don’t need to worry about that extra cost.

If you have a little more money to spend, you could opt for the Ryzen 5 2600X for a few hundred megahertz more power. Alternatively, overclock this one using the reasonably capable bundled cooler and you’ll get comparable performance for no added cost.

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

It 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 $70 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 this 8GB stick and another in the near future when you’ve saved up for it.

Graphics: PowerColor Red Dragon RX 570 4GB

AMD’s RX 500-series graphics cards might be a couple of years old, but they are still amazingly capable. The RX 570 is arguably the best bang-for-buck card in the world, never mind everything Nvidia has on offer. It delivers amazing performance for dollar, thrashing its way through almost any 1080p game with ease. This version is limited to 4GB which would hold us back if we were aiming for higher resolutions, but it’s not much of a concern here.

E-sports games will be a breeze with this graphics card. Even some prettier games will be possible if you lower the more intensive visual settings like shadows, textures, and anti-aliasing.

As an AMD card, the 570 can also enjoy all of AMD’s features like FreeSync, image sharpening, AMD Radeon Boost, and anti-lag. If you can stretch your budget by another $40 or so, you could get an RX 580 which would give you enough of a graphical bump to play at higher frame rates (great for reducing input lag) or making atmospheric games look that bit prettier.

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 a 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: Corsair CX 550 watt 80+ Bronze

This PSU is more expensive than a number of our components in this system. That might seem silly, but it’s with good reason. A good power supply will keep your PC ticking over for years to come. A bad one will cause all sorts of stability issues, and at worst, it blows and kills several of your other components too. A PSU is one area that we would never recommend going budget.

The Corsair CX 550 is a low-end model but a quality one. You’ll find all the cables you need to get your PC working, and it’s modular, making cable management a bit easier too. If you don’t care about that, you can save a few dollars and get the non-modular version instead.

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