If you’re looking for the best 400 dollar PC build, look no further. Our build, which we’ve dubbed The Quad Damage (after the Quake powerup), is the best entry-level gaming PC build there is right now.
Let’s jump into why.
Our Requirements For The $400 Gaming PC
When making this build, we had a few hard requirements to set before doing anything else.
High Performance. The GTX 1050 included in this build performs on par with the PS4, if not above it in most games (due to console-centric optimization/bad PC ports). It may even approach the performance of the PS4 Pro. It’s important for us that you get the same performance that you would get for the same price on consoles...with PC’s added benefits.
If you’re able to go just $30 over budget, you can grab the 1050 Ti instead...and be on par with the PS4 Pro, if not better in well-optimized titles.
Room To Upgrade. By opting for an up-to-date CPU architecture, you have plenty of room to upgrade in the future. You’re on the AM4 socket, so you’ll be able to upgrade to any high-end Ryzen processors you like, including the alleged Ryzen 2 architecture on the horizon!
Quality Components On A Budget. We’ve ensured that every component of this build is safe and of good enough quality to safely house your build. We’ve really only had to compromise on the case, but, even then, it includes dual fans to support good airflow through your rig.
IMPORTANT: Because of the GPU shortage these days, to build your own PC with a relatively lower budget is impossible to achieve. This makes purchasing prebuilt gaming PCs a smart investment to make instead. You can check a list of pre-built gaming PCs in this link. This should give you the best options to choose from at the moment.
Components of The Quad Damage Update:
EVGA GTX 1050 2GB
An awesome Nvidia budget graphics card that kills the PS4 and scowls up at the PS4 Pro
MSI A320M PRO-VHL Motherboard
A great entry-level Ryzen board from MSI that’ll give you all you need to get started.
Estimated $418.39 at Amazon
(Price are accurate as of March 27, 2018)
Now, let’s see what makes our Quad Damage so potent.
First and foremost, the Ryzen 3 1200 is a powerful budget CPU that’ll be more than enough for your common desktop usage. It shouldn’t hold back your GPU, either. This range used to be occupied by the Intel Pentium and i3 lines, but Ryzen’s rise has decimated those CPUs and crowned a new king in the budget CPU kingdom.
Compared to the PS4 Pro’s CPU, which most assume to be roughly at the level of the Athlon X4 860K, it boasts a staggering 50% performance boost! Games that are well-optimized for PC should perform about the same, or slightly better, on your PC versus the consoles. Ryzen 3’s great single-core performance and outstanding multi-core performance makes it a stela in this price range.
EVGA is a pretty great GPU manufacturer, and easily our top pick for best Nvidia graphics card manufacturer. Despite the GPU shortage we’ve still managed to find a decent console killer GPU here in the under $400 price range. The 1050 will offer far superior performance to the PS4, and may even start coming close to PS4 Pro levels of performance at the same price.
If you’re able to afford a little more, you can upgrade to a 1050 Ti, which will allow you to surpass the PS4 Pro. You aren’t saving too much for gaming performance versus a console here, but on PC you will save hundreds over time in games, thanks to Steam sales and the suck.
While 4GB of memory may struggle with multitasking while gaming, it’s more than good enough to serve one of those purposes at a time. 4GB RAM is plenty for multitasking while you aren’t playing games.
Well, that really shouldn’t be a problem while playing games if you shut down any background programs that would conflict with it.
This is one of the compromises we had to make for this price range, but this is a gaming-oriented build above all.
Crucial makes good RAM, too, and you can always buy and install another stick if you need more multitasking capabilities.
We hate recommending drives below 2TB, but…price range.
The 1TB HDD in this build comes from Hitachi, a fairly reliable drive manufacturer- if there ever was one. You should be able to hold a large number of the latest AAA games (which have massive file sizes), and will have a staggering amount of room for older games and indie titles. Movies, music and a bunch of programs will fit fine on here, too.
To save on money and stay in our budget, we opted for a non-modular power supply in this build. While this does come with some tradeoffs in ease of use, we’ve made sure to stick with a reputable manufacturer so your PC isn’t at risk.
Never buy a cheap power supply from an untrusted manufacturer: doing so can cost you a lot more in the long run since bad PSUs are a fire hazard. A bad PSU can fry your computer or set your house on fire if you aren’t careful, so always go for quality!
In this case, EVGA is a great hardware manufacturer, so we don’t have any issues recommending this power supply.
If you’d like an easier build process, go ahead and scroll on down to grab our semi-modular PSU upgrade option.
The MSI A320M PRO-VHL is a favorite among enthusiasts for a high-quality budget motherboard for Ryzen processors. It packs pretty much everything you need to get started with Ryzen. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to overclock your Ryzen 1200 with this motherboard, but that’s the trade-off for staying within the budget range. If you want overclocking, grab this motherboard instead!
This is where we had to compromise a bit: Rosewill isn’t a hugely well-known case manufacturer, but what they have here is still solid enough for our best gaming desktop for $400. It even includes two fans for better cooling than you’d get from your typical budget build!
While we didn’t have money in our budget for a badder, sturdier case, this one seems to work well enough for its price. It’s a Micro ATX Mini Tower that comes with the added bonus of an included intake fan, too, which saves you the trouble of having to buy extra fans for decent airflow.
Upgrading The Quad Damage
While the Quad Damage is already plenty powerful, here are a few upgrades you can opt for if you want an extra edge.
NOTE: These will raise the price of the build!
One of the best upgrades you can get to improve user experience is the ADATA Ultimate SU800. It is our entry-level SSD recommendation due to its great storage capacity and performance.
The SU800 will be more than enough to store your OS, programs and your favorite games. All of these will have blazing-fast loading times, thanks to the SU800, too!
What won’t benefit from an SSD are media files, like music and video. We’d recommend using your HDD as a “dumb” storage device for media if you opt to buy both of these.
ut, if you decide to buy only the SSD, know that you’ll be operating with a tiny amount of disk space.
The GTX 1060 is a big step up from the 1050 Ti, offering a massive 69% performance boost. With this powerhouse, you’ll be exceeding the PS4 Pro by a pretty good margin, and will also start knocking on the door to VR capabilities!
You won’t have a problem playing games at 1080p60 with this card.
Buying this GPU will add a decent $50 to the cost of the build. Iif you don’t upgrade the CPU alongside it, you may find it bottlenecking in some titles.
The Corsair CXM 450W offers an extra 50W of power and an 80+ Bronze Certification over the PSU in this build, which is pretty good. But that’s not why we’re recommending it. The real reason why is simple: less headaches.
Non-Modular power supplies can be a bit of a mess of cabling, especially for first-time builders. Opting for a Semi-Modular PSU means the only cord you can’t detach is the motherboard power cord (and why would you?), with all the others only needing to be routed as necessary.
If you want an easier building process, we highly recommend spending extra for the Semi-Modular PSU over the Non-Modular one. It will go over budget a bit, but it will also save you a few headaches.
OS Options and Recommended Peripherals
Like other build guides you can find online, we don’t include the price of the OS and peripherals in the build. This is for a lot of reasons, but typically users will have at least some of these things before jumping in.
In case you’re missing some or all of these things, we’ve provided a list of easy recommendations below.
The Quad Damage can’t do its fragging without an operating system. If you don’t have a pre-existing retail Windows installation to carry over from an old PC to this one, here’s our recommendations.
If you want maximum performance and compatibility, buy a Windows 10 license. This is an expensive route, but it will ensure that you get the most out of your rig.
If you can’t afford Windows right now, you can also opt for a Linux distribution. If you go that route, Ubuntu Linux and Linux Mint are our highest-recommended for usability and support. Do note, however, that they will be harder to use and not all games will be compatible with them.
Mouse and Keyboard
Need some basic input devices? No worries.
For Starters: ($15)
The Logitech MK120 Kit is a great place to start if you just need a no-frills mouse/keyboard setup. It’s cheap, solidly-built and popular in school and office scenarios for that reason.
It won’t, however, provide you with the benefits of gaming-tailored input hardware, like the following:
For Advanced Users: ($100)
The Logitech G502 is one of the best gaming mice picks around, and runs a cool $60 on most days. If you’re a dedicated FPS gamer who wants a competitive edge, the G502 is a fine, sturdily-built option for your needs.
Meanwhile, Redragon K551 serves as an excellent budget mechanical keyboard solution. The idea of budget mechanical keyboards used to be absolutely alien, especially from a lesser-known manufacturer, but Redragon has really knocked this one out of the park.
If you spend a lot of time typing or just want the best possible input experience for WASDs/MMOs/MOBAS, buy a mechanical keyboard. You’ll never want to go back.
No point in buying the $400 gaming PC if you can’t enjoy the pretty graphics, right?
For Starters: ($100)
The Asus VH238H should serve this build perfectly if you don’t have anything laying around. Its 1080p resolution is more than enough for the 1050 Ti you’re packing, and with a 2ms response time on top of that, you should be in business for solid gaming.
The screen comes in at 23 inches and is pretty solidly built. If you’re willing to drop settings for maximum competitive performance, though, you may also want to consider…
For Advanced Users: ($180+)
These 144hz monitors. 144hz monitors are amazing for gaming, but can only be utilized when you’re pushing framerates well above 60 FPS, ideally around the 144 range. This is easier with older games and eSports-oriented titles, like Dota or CS:GO.
Good audio design is integral to an immersive gaming experience, and you aren’t going to get that with built-in monitor speakers or cheap earbuds. Here are some great budget audio options if you need them.
The Logitech Z130 Speakers are one great place to start. Entry-level speakers at about $20, these won’t offer you anything in the way of surround sound or subwoofing, but they will allow you to enjoy quality audio at a fair price.
The TP-Link Archer T4U is a great, convenient Wi-Fi solution at a fair price. If you must use wireless with the Quad Damage, you can use this.
For the most stable gaming experience, though, go with wired.
Invest In Antistatic Equipment
Use an anti-static wristband to save you from the potential of static discharge. Static discharge can ruin your components before you’ve even put them together, and you wouldn’t want the Quad Damage to die before it's even turned on!
If you are unsure how to properly use an antistatic wrist strap, check our How to Use An Antistatic Wrist Strap guide here.
To save some extra stress and make your workplace computer-friendly, you can also buy an anti-static mat.
Watch Building Guides
By using Tek Syndicate’s in-depth build video and the instruction manuals that come with your components, you should be more than equipped for a smooth build process.
Building will always take longer for a first timer. However,with the right guidance, it should go pretty smoothly.
If you need further instructions, our detailed step-by-step guide of how to build a PC should help you out. We have detailed steps from deciding your budget to steps on how to maintain your computer for long-term usage.
Install OS Via USB
Don’t shell extra for an optical drive you’re only going to use once. Grab a 4GB USB stick and install your OS like a real enthusiast!
To do this on Windows, simply plug it into your PC and install Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. The program will walk you through the rest of the (easy) process, and, in no time, you’ll have a portable Windows installer!
For Linux distributions, use UNetbootin or Rufus instead. Same instructions apply.
Quad Damage is complete! You have a budget gaming PC that can butt heads with the PS4 Pro while still enjoying all the benefits the PC platform has to offer. This includes lower game prices and endless upgradeability.
Give yourself a pat on the back and your PC a loving caress. It’s time for you to get out and start fragging.