Getting into PC gaming can be a little intimidating, but by following our guide for the best 500 dollar PC build, you’re going to find it’s much easier than it looks on the outset. Plus, with this budget build, you’ll be able to enjoy all your favorite AAA games without breaking the bank.
Our Requirements For The $500 Gaming PC
But first, let’s talk about the requirements we set out when making this build. This build is optimized to be the best within its price range at the time of writing, and also to be as beginner-friendly as possible.
High Performance. The graphical performance of this build is slightly below that of the PS4 Pro, but it wipes the floor with the face of the original PS4. The CPU is also a significant step up from the power of the PS4 Pro’s (which is roughly equivalent to an Athlon X4 860K) and it shouldn’t bottleneck you much if you decide to upgrade your graphics card.
Upgradeability. The beauty of the PC platform is the ability to upgrade- because of this, we’re on AMD’s latest motherboard architecture. You can upgrade both your CPU and GPU to much more powerful counterparts in the future, should you ever be looking to have more performance.
Simplicity. We went with a builder-friendly case for this build. While you probably should buy an extra fan or two for optimal cooling, you shouldn’t have a problem starting out with what we’ve given you.
Components of The Half-Grand Grandmaster Update:
PNY GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
PNY’s slick 1050 Ti gives competing graphics cards a run for their money, and looks mighty fine doing it.
EVGA 500W BQ 80+ Bronze Certified, Semi-Modular Power Supply
A great power supply from EVGA that keeps this gaming PC’s heart beating.
MSI ProSeries A320 Motherboard
A great, high-quality entry-level Ryzen motherboard for the budget-conscious enthusiast.
Thermaltake Versa H15
Thermaltake’s Versa case provides the perfect body for the Half-Grand Grandmaster.
Estimated $560.97 at Amazon
(Price are accurate as of January 3, 2018)
Now, let’s hop into the belly of this beast.
The Ryzen 3 1200 CPU is one of the top cheap CPUs you can get right now, and it effectively decimates Intel’s options in the same price range. With this processor, you’ll be able to enjoy your games without any CPU bottlenecks for mid-range GPUs up to the GTX 1060. Past that, you may want to upgrade to a higher-end Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 or Intel i5 processor.
The Ryzen 3 1200 also bundles a Wraith Stealth Cooler, which should give you some pretty good cooling performance- much better than you’d get from an Intel stock cooler. All-in-all, the Ryzen 3 line is a great recommendation for budget builds, and has earned our highest reservations.
The GTX 1050 Ti is the top budget GPU in the $100 range right now, providing 1080p 60fps in most modern games on medium settings. It will easily max out older games on high to max, but beware that the 1050 Ti isn’t quite ready for VR gaming or higher resolutions.
Its performance is far above that of the PS4, and around that of the PS4 Pro. For the best graphical performance you can get in this range, look no further. PNY’s version of the 1050 Ti is smaller than most, but doesn’t lose out on any performance and will fit well into a smaller build, if you opt for one.
8GB of RAM will offer you more than enough RAM for gaming scenarios, with some great multitasking capabilities on the side. Even if you’re using a RAM hog, like Chrome- within reason. Patriot also makes some pretty great memory, so you shouldn’t have to worry about these RAM sticks throwing out some errors out of the blue after a few months of usage.
Hitachi makes some pretty great hard drives, and their 1TB HDD is the best you can find in its price range right now. Other hard drives in this price range either have much lower storage capacity or have much lower RPM, which translates to much worse speeds in file transfers and loading times.
This EVGA 500W PSU is a solidly built power supply from a reputable manufacturer that offers all the power you need for this build. In fact, it offers quite a lot more with this build’s estimated wattage (a mere 211W), so you have plenty of room to move up in the future. Additionally, it’s a semi-modular power supply, which will make your building experience much more easy than it would be otherwise.
The MSI ProSeries A320 Motherboard is an entry-level motherboard with great build quality and support for the AM4 CPU socket, including the Ryzen processors. It’s a great all-around motherboard, but it does come with a downside: a lack of overclocking functionality. If you’d like to overclock your Ryzen processor to squeeze better performance out of it, you’ll need to spend a bit extra in order to snag a motherboard that can do it, like this one.
The Thermaltake Versa H15 is an aesthetically-tight, airflow and builder-friendly Micro ATX Mid Tower case from our friends over at Thermaltake. Thermaltake isn’t the most prominent of case manufacturers, but they’re still fairly good and will provide generally well-built cases to house your precious hardware. This case is perfect for the Half-Grand Grandmaster for that reason
Our Half-Grand Grandmaster is a potent machine on its own, but what if you could make it harder, better, faster, stronger?
Rhetorical question. This is PC gaming. Of course, you can do that.
NOTE: These will raise the price of the build!
This ADATA SSD is the cheapest one I’m willing to recommend, but offers great storage capacity and performance in its price range. By investing in an SSD, you can store your OS and a few of your favorite games inside it for rapid-fire load and boot times.
An SSD is one of the best upgrades you can make for your machine, since it’ll offer the largest quality of life improvement. If you choose an SSD, be sure to buy it and mount it first during your OS installation, so you can make the most of your performance!
For graphical punch on par with the PS4 Pro, bump up your GPU to a GeForce GTX 1060. The 1060 is more than enough to thrash games at 1080p High/Max, and is a worthy upgrade for your build.
If you’d like even more graphical power, I’d recommend taking a look at the GTX 1070 and the $800 Gaming PC. However, note that such a massive leap in performance will come with a similarly massive leap in price.
OS Options and Recommended Peripherals
Ideally, you’d already have some or all of these things before buying the best gaming computer under $500. Unfortunately, we don’t always live in an ideal world, so we’ve provided this section just in case you need it.
While your computer is a very powerful machine, it’s unfortunately capable of very little without an operating system. Operating systems, such as Windows or Android, are used by devices to provide a standard environment for applications and user interactions.
If you want to do PC gaming, Windows is your best option. If you’ve purchased a retail Windows license for one of your previous PCs, you should be able to transfer that license to your new build.
But, if you haven’t, you’ll either need to buy Windows 10 or deal with Ubuntu/Linux Mint for some time.
We highly recommend installing your OSes via USB, both for faster install speeds and to save on physical media shipping/the cost of an optical drive. We’ll dive into that more later in the article.
When most people mention peripherals, these are what come to mind. Your mouse and your keyboard are your primary forms of input and interaction with your PC, and if you don’t have some already, here’s a few that we recommend!
For Starters: ($15)
If you’re just starting out, go with the Logitech MK120 Kit. It includes a cheap mouse and keyboard for a low price.
Despite the price, this Kit is ubiquitous across school and office environments for respectable build quality. These will last quite a while under extended use, while costing you very little in the process.
For Advanced Users: ($100)
If you want to invest in a great gaming mouse, the Logitech G502 comes highly recommended. It retails anywhere from $50-70 most of the time, but its solid customization and build quality provide all you need out of a pro-level gaming mouse.
The Redragon K551 is an entry-level mechanical gaming keyboard. If you’re serious about writing or gaming, a mechanical keyboard is a necessity, and this one offers all the benefits of mechanical without breaking the bank.
A nice mechanical keyboard at the $40 price range used to be considered a unicorn. Fortunately for us, this myth has come true.
No one wants to be in a situation where they’ve invested in a great gaming PC and discover they have no way to actually play the video games they paid for. If you don’t have an old monitor or HDTV sitting around, here’s our monitor recommendations.
If these are still too expensive for you, we recommend taking a look on eBay for some cheaper monitors or downgrading to one of our cheaper builds. There’s no point in investing in high-end gaming hardware if you can’t afford a monitor that’ll benefit from it.
For Starters: ($100)
The lowest range we start with here is at $100, for an entry-level 1080p monitor with low, gaming-optimized response time. In this range, our recommendation starts with the Asus VH238H monitor.
For Advanced Users: ($180+)
Of course, maybe you want to spend a little more to get a truly gaming-optimized experience. This being the case, we recommend investing in a 144hz monitor!
A 144hz monitor boasts a higher “refresh rate”, which essentially allows you to see higher framerates. Seeing higher framerates results in better reaction time and a smoother gaming experience- making 144hz monitors highly recommended for your gaming experience.
Another important part of your gaming experience is your audio! A lot of work goes into soundtracks and sound design in video games and if you want to enjoy that side of things, you’ll need good enough sound hardware to do it.
Here’s a few recommendations to start you off!
Some great speakers to start out with are the Logitech Z130 Speakers. At just $20, these provide a high-quality audio experience without breaking the bank.
While you’ll still need to buy better speakers for things like surround-sound and a subwoofer, the Z130 set will be perfectly fine for getting you started listening to music and playing your games.
A good gaming headset to start with is the Corsair Raptor HS40. With great build quality, directional audio and a built-in mic, you’ll be ready to comm with your teammates in games and have good spatial awareness.
Spy decloaking behind you in TF2? Someone ulting in Overwatch? With a good headset like this one, you’re sure to hear these important audio cues and be able to react in time.
Last but not least, let’s talk about actually getting online. You have two options: Wi-Fi or Wired.
Wi-Fi is more convenient, but isn’t recommended for competitive gaming scenarios due to unreliable network conditions. But to have the option available, invest in the TP-Link Archer T4U.
It supports all the latest Wi-Fi technologies at a good price.
Before you build your PC, here are some tips in case you’re a first-timer. No need to run in blindly here.
Invest In Antistatic Equipment
This one is quite important: if you let off electric discharge while assembling your rig, you could ruin your components! While a rare occurrence that can be avoided with the right grounding practices, you can save yourself a lot of stress by just investing in some cheap equipment to make sure your stuff is safe.
An anti-static mat or an anti-static wristband will help you avoid tragically frying your electronics while assembling them. If you only buy one, we recommend the wristband.
It may cost a little extra, but that is worth the peace of mind while building your gaming PC.
Watch Building Guides
The embedded Tek Syndicate video will walk you through every step in the process of building your own PC. This is our favorite guide on the topic.
And if you supplement it by paying close attention to your instruction manuals, nothing should go wrong during the building process.
You’ll find that most of the difficulty involved in PC building is being careful and being patient. In other words, it’s pretty much the same skillset involved in making great Lego creations: just take your time and follow the instructions, and you won’t have any problems.
Good luck with the standoff screws, though. Those suck.
Install OS Via USB
We’ve already recommended our OSes, but now let’s talk about installing them. Don’t spend extra on having a disc shipped to you or buying a disc drive when you can just install your operating system via USB.
To install Windows 10 over USB, download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Using this, alongside a 4GB+ USB stick, will create a Windows USB stick that you can utilize for easy installs.
For Linux distributions, use UNetbootin or Rufus instead.
And we’re done!
Once you order your parts and put them together, you’ll have the best gaming desktop for 500 dollars. While you may not have the biggest muscle on the market, you can always upgrade later on- thanks to the flexibility of the PC platform and you get to enjoy its various benefits.
What a console gamer may save by buying a console, you’ll save so much more by utilizing Steam sales to get the best games cheap, free mods that extend the life of your games significantly, and even PC-exclusive productivity features and applications.
Welcome to the world of PC gaming. Enjoy the Half-Grand Grandmaster!