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How to build a budget gaming PC build for under $500

This gaming PC rig costs less than most smartphones. Here's what we put inside

A CPU cooler installed on a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Who says a gaming PC has to be expensive? You can get a lot of gaming PC for under $500 if you spend it carefully. That’s where we come in. This guide will round up the best gaming hardware deals available today to give you a great starting point for your own budget gaming PC build for under $500.

If you have a little more to spend, check out our guides on the best gaming PCs of 2024, and also the best gaming PC deals right now.

The build and what it can do

We’ll go into more detail about the hardware we’ve chosen below, but this is a quick summary of what we’ve picked if you want to just dive in and buy them right now.

Note: All of the products listed below are purchasable from Amazon and were found on the site during our research for this article. It’s worth making sure that prices are accurate before buying as they do change regularly. Unfortunately, they also quickly sell out — especially when we recommend them. If you don’t see an item in the module below or the price looks off, just click through the link on the individual component listings below.

In this guide, we’re also focusing entirely on the PC itself, so you’ll need to budget for a monitor, mouse, and keyboard if you don’t have them already.

Model Price
CPU Intel Core i3-12100F $85
Motherboard MSI Pro H610M-G $80
Graphics card PowerColor RX 6600 $190
Memory Teamgroup T-Force Vulcan 16GB 3200MHz $35
PSU Corsair CX550 $60
Storage PNY CS1030 500GB $38
Case Coolermaster Q300L $40
  Total cost: $528

OK, so it’s slightly over budget. This was the best collection of hardware we could find, though. If you can shave a few dollars off, excellent. Go for it. Otherwise, just save up for a tiny bit longer and go for this gear. It makes a great gaming PC.

We’ve opted for a 12th-generation Intel CPU, which comes with its own cooler to help cut down on costs. The motherboard, although a significant part of our budget is entry-level but still has the features we need to take full advantage of our other components for gaming. It’s also mATX, which means we can fit it into a smaller, cheaper case.

The graphics card is the most powerful we could cram in our budget. If you want more performance and can afford to invest more, a faster GPU will always give you better frame rates and higher detail settings. The memory is 16GB of fast DDR4. You can go for more if you wish, and it won’t be much more expensive, but outside of specific games that need it, it won’t make a huge difference to your gaming performance.

The PSU is affordable, but high-quality enough to ensure that it won’t fail, and even if it did, it wouldn’t take the rest of your PC with it. The storage is affordable but still based on NVMe technology, so it is far faster than traditional SATA SSDs but at a low price and footprint. The case is dated and doesn’t have great airflow, but it’s cheap and can fit all the components we need. It has a single fan installed as standard, so you might want to add another later to improve its cooling. If you can find something better for similar money, do let us know.

Overall this system should have all the power it needs to play all the most popular esports games at high frame rates at 1080p or 1440p, and even a few modern AAA games at lower detail settings, too.

Once you’ve bought your components, if you need some help putting it all together, follow along with our step-by-step guide and we’ll walk you through the whole process.

CPU: Intel Core i3-12100F

Intel Core i3-12100F processor box.
Intel

Intel’s Core i3-12100F packs only four performance cores and no efficiency cores, but it still supports hyperthreading so it can support up to eight simultaneous threads, giving it all the power it needs to play modern games, and multitask like much more expensive CPUs. It hits high clock speeds for gaming, and remains one of the best entry-level CPUs for gaming and just about anything else, too.

There’s lots of scope for upgrading this CPU in the future, as well, as you have support for the entire range of 12th-, 13th-, and 14th-generation processors to choose from without necessarily needing a motherboard or memory upgrade.

This is an F-class CPU, so doesn’t have onboard graphics. That means it requires a dedicated graphics card to even run your PC. Fortunately, that’s well within our $500 budget.

Motherboard: MSI Pro H610M-G

MSI H610M motherbaord and box.
MSI

The MSI Pro M610M-G is an entry-level motherboard that punches above its weight on features. It supports Intel’s 12th-, 13th-, and 14th-generation LGA 1700 processors, PCIexpress 4, with an “armored” x6 PCIe slot, and a clean and understated design. It has post LEDs to help troubleshoot any problems, and support for both NVMe M.2 and up to four additional SATA SSDs.

It doesn’t have USB-C or built-in Wi-Fi, so you may want to use add-in cards to improve its functionality, but for $80, it’s a simple, straightforward motherboard that will get the job done for our $500 gaming build.

Graphics card: PowerColor RX 6600 Fighter

PowerColor RX 6600.
PowerColor

Getting any kind of graphics card in a $500 gaming PC build is a tricky proposition, but we can do it. The AMD RX 6600 is a great entry-level graphics card that will help this PC play just about anything. It easily outpaces onboard graphics of even the most capable CPUs, and it’s modern enough to support the latest gaming features, like FidelityFX Super Resolution, and ray tracing. Sure, if you want to actually use ray tracing you’d need to turn down just about every other setting, but for the more casual ray traced games, the option is there.

Memory: Teamgroup T-Force Vulcan Z

Teamgroup T-Force Vulcan Z.
TeamGroup

Memory is so cheap in 2024, you’d normally get as much as you can afford. But in this budget build we’re looking to cut costs, so 16GB of fast DDR4 memory is plenty. This PC can’t actually fit more than two sticks due to the design of the motherboard, so if you want more, make sure you buy a 32GB kit with two 16GB sticks. It’s an easy upgrade down the line too.

Storage: PNY CS1030 500GB SSD

PNY M2 SSD.
PNY

With SSD prices as low as they are, we had to try to cram a cheap NVMe SSD into this build, and we managed to do so by sticking to a relatively small size. This SSD offers fast, PCIe 3 speeds of up to 2,000 MBps read, and 1,1000 MBps write. Far faster than any SATA SSD or older hard drive at an affordable price, it has enough space to fit a modest gaming library, but you might want to add a SATA SSD for more games in the future.

Power Supply: Corsair CX550

Corsair CX550.
Corsair

If might be tempting to save by buying a really cheap PSU, but you shouldn’t. The cheapest PSUs have cheap components and run the risk of frying your more expensive components if it blows for some reason. With a quality power supply from a company like Corsair, you can rest assured you’re getting quality. Even then, though, don’t go for the cheapest. Go for something like the CX550. It’s a no-frills PSU, but it’s been thoroughly vetted by PC builders and gamers around the world as an affordable but reliable model.

Case: Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L

Coolermaster Masterbox Q300L.
Cooler Master

We’ve been recommending this case for years, and though we’d love to suggest something newer, better, or fancier, it just doesn’t make sense to spend any more on a budget this tight. There are much nicer cases that cost $60, $70, or more, but we’d rather you put that money into a better CPU, more storage, or a faster graphics card. While a fancy case is nice, for most gamers, it’s just where they store their PC parts. As long as it has enough airflow to not cause overheating and can fit in all our components, that’s good enough for us. At a price like this? That’s hard to beat.

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