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Best Cheap Gaming PC under $500 in 2021

We take a look at the best gaming PC you can build or buy for under $500.
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500 dollar gaming pc

Our $500 AMD Custom Gaming PC Build

Building your first PC can be a confusing and daunting task for many people. This budget build guide aims to take as much pain out of the process as possible, as well delivering a great-value PC build for only $500. From start to finish we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about tools, components, and software to get your first PC build up and running as quickly as possible.

$500 might not seem like much for a gaming machine, at least not if you know how expensive they can get, but these days you’d probably be shocked how much bang you get for your buck. While you won’t be giving a next-gen console a run for their money quite yet, there’s plenty of room here for upgrading in the future. That said, let’s dive into this amazing build.

Note to reader: due to COVID-19, an increase in demand, and a lack of silicon we have had to significantly adapt our best gaming PC recommendations based on what retailers can currently provide the end-user. We are working hard to keep these build recommendations up to date and based on the latest and greatest products, as well as ensuring our recommendations are in stock.

Build Overview

Budget

We managed to extract the best possible performance we could on our $500 budget and that did mean making a few concessions here and there. The main one being that the case isn’t flashy or high-end, but the Zalman Z3 case is a solid piece of work that’ll almost certainly see you through a few upgrades.

While the Radeon RX 560 is getting a little long in the tooth by today’s standards, it’s a great budget option and enables you to play a surprising amount of modern games at 1080p with 60 fps. Just don’t expect to be getting those frame counts when running VR or 1440p+ resolutions.

Performance

Almost anything you need to do at 1080p can be achieved handily with this build, from gaming to video editing. With one of the best budget GPUs inside and a powerful Ryzen Quad Core processor for rendering, there’s not much that this machine won’t be able to do. Just try to remember that this is a budget build, so you might want to bring a snack if you plan on rendering a feature film.

How We Choose

The team at SPCR has been tinkering with computers longer than any of us care to admit. All of our choices when it comes to our builds are designed to make them user-friendly and as cheap as possible without compromising performance. Everything we do here is done with care, and we make sure to research every build we put together, to ensure you’re getting the best possible options.

How We Test

Each PC build we publish is put together from scratch and tested rigorously to make sure you’re getting the best value possible.

Once they’re put together, our builds are tested in real conditions, right in our own office. From day-to-day work tasks to sneaky gaming breaks, we make sure to put our builds through their paces, while ensuring those component temperatures stay firmly in the green.

We even ensure that it’s possible to overclock our builds since we know how many people are fans of it. Just make sure it’s something you need and understand before trying it out yourself.

Our Recommended Custom Build Details

Looking for your best possible PC for only $500? Well, you’ve found it. Now let’s take a look at this gaming PC.

500 dollar gaming pc

Our $500 AMD Custom Gaming PC Build

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CPU

AMD Ryzen 3 3100

The AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is one of the best budget CPUs on the market, and with newer CPUs coming thick and fast, you’re only going to get a better deal as time goes by.

The 3100 comes with 4 cores, 8 threads, and a base clock speed of 3.6GHz. You can squeeze that up to 3.9GHz with some boosting, and that’s more than enough to handle a decent chunk of the most popular games out there. Gaming isn’t the only thing this CPU can do however, with it’s multi-threaded nature lending itself just as well to multi-tasking for those long personal projects or working from home.

Motherboard

ASRock B450M

While not exactly a premium option, the ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0 is a really solid motherboard for a budget PC build like this. The key feature we’re looking out for here is future upgrade potential, and this board has plenty of that. You don’t have to worry about the board too much anyway since it hasn’t got all that much to do with gaming performance. As long as it has that PCIe 3.0 slot for your GPU then you’re golden.

RAM

Patriot Viper Steel Series DDR4 8GB (2 x 8GB) 3200MHz

The Patriot Viper Steel kit is a budget-friendly RAM kit that gives you a slight edge in clock speed over most other starter kits. It’s also plenty of RAM for whatever you’d like to through at it, and Patriots reputation for both performance and reliability speaks for itself.

GPU

XFX Radeon RX 560

There are certain cards on the market these days that are more powerful than the RX 560, but you’ll struggle to find better power on a budget. Most modern games will run at a smooth 60fps at 1080p, and anything older than that will run without a hitch.

While you can get some of the earlier VR titles to run pretty well of this card, you should probably be aware that you won’t be pulling of anything on the level of Half-Life: Alyx. It’s easy to ignore that sort of drawback considering just how cheap this thing is, and you’ll struggle to find a card that can handle high-end VR for under $200.

SSD

Samsung 870 EVO 500GB SSD

While 500GB probably isn’t going to be big enough for your entire Steam library, it’s more than enough for your operating system and a selection of your favourite titles. Samsung’s 870 EVO offers great boot times, so you’ll be booting straight into your OS with very little waiting to speak of. At some point, you’ll probably want to think about upgrading to a 1 or 2TB SSD, or if you’ve looking for a cheaper option consider a regular HDD for alternative storage.

PC Case

Zalman Z3 Mid Tower PC Case

If you want a great-looking case without breaking the bank, a better case than the Zalman Z3. The case offers a decent amount of airflow to keep all of your components from melting, and is nice and simple to set up and use. Plus, you get a 120mm case fan as standard. You can probably find better and more flashy PC cases out there, but not for this kind of price

PSU

Thermaltake Smart 500W 80+ White Certified PSU

Thermaltake’s Smart 500W PSU is a great fit for this build, as it leaves you with plenty of room for more powerful components down the line. Not to mention it’s ultra-quiet, so no loud rumbling if you’re trying to game late at night.

Things to Consider

Budget

Before deciding on this build, you need to be realistic about your expectations. There’s no way that a $500 PC is going to be running at 4k resolution or rendering a Lord-of-the-rings-length movie in a timely manner.

Our testing shows that this budget build can handle a huge variety of tasks with a great level of performance for the money you’re putting into it. Most games will run at 60FPS 1080p, but you should be aware that anything too intensive might see that rate drop closer to 30.

Upgrading and Future-Proofing

One of the most critical things to think about when getting a new PC build is the potential for upgrading. Both the motherboard and the PSU allow you a decent amount of room for improvement when it comes to better components. While you shouldn’t expect to be running the latest high-end threadripper anytime soon, the AM4 socket means you can run the latest 5000 series CPUs without a problem.

Overclocking

While overclocking is almost a right of passage for PC gamers, it’s important to consider whether it’s right, possible, or even necessary for a specific build. After all, components have to be geared towards overclocking, and pushing a build too far can have some damaging consequences.

While this budget build allows for some light overclocking, most of the components we’ve chosen are well-optimized. What we’re saying is that you’re not going to be able to squeeze too much extra out of this.

Easy of Building

If it’s your first time building a PC, you need to make sure that you’re not going out of your depth. The Zalman Z3 case makes things pretty easy thanks to the good use of internal space, and with decent space for cable management, you won’t have an ugly spider web of cables peeking at you through the panel. 

Just make sure you get your hands on the right tools, and of course, the anti-static wristband is always advisable. You don’t want your first experience with PC-building to include fried components or an electric shock for that matter. 

Non-Gaming Performance

Remember when you’re considering this build that you’re getting more than a fancy, giant games console. This budget build has a great set of specs for high-performance multi-tasking, meaning that no matter what you find yourself doing on your computer, you should find the experience smooth and easy.

If you’re into editing video or producing 3D graphics, however, you might find the performance starts to take a slight dive. It’s still completely doable for small videos, but if you plan on rendering any movie-length video you might want to move towards a more powerful processor.

Aesthetics

Considering the cost involved, this $500 budget gaming PC is pretty darn great-looking. The grilled front and extra-detailing make the build a little more interesting than a standard black box, but there’s nothing overtly bright or flashy going on either.

Of course, there’s the classic side window that allows you a good view of the inside of your machine, but it’s not so big that you have to worry if you make a dog’s ear of the cable management either.

Prebuilt Gaming PC Under $500

So if after reading all of that building the PC yourself seems a bit too much like hard work, then you’re in luck. We’ve also got a great option for you if you’re looking for a pre-built PC as well.

The main thing to remember here is that a pre-built PC is always going to deliver worse value for money than a PC you build yourself. After all, you’re basically paying for someone else to build it for you, so either you have to increase your budget, or reduce your expectations slightly. Having said that, we’ve found the best option for those who aren’t ready to get their feet wet in PC-building just yet.

iBUYPOWER Pro Gaming PC (Element Mini 9300)

If you are willing to sink just a little bit more money into your PC, then the iBUYPOWER Pro Gaming Element Mini 9300 will give you almost the same amount of performance as the budget build above, but without having to put it together yourself.

It contains the same Ryzen 3 3100 CPU and a similar RX 550 GPU but loses out somewhat on the storage with only a 240GB SSD to save your OS and games too. You also only get 8GB of RAM which is a little pokey, but at least you get built-in WiFi.

To view this prebuilt gaming PC click here.

Upgrade Path for Custom Build

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

If you’re looking for another great-value CPU with a bit more kick to it then the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 will suit you perfectly. Not only does it offer a solid increase in clock speed over the 3 3100, with a max boosted speed of 4.2Ghz, but it also comes with a spire cooler pre-installed.

With this baby, you’ll get the edge in your game performance, and on top of that, you’ll see your video rendering times plummet as well.

Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM

With an SSD already onboard to handle quicker loading of your OS and your most-played games, it’s a good idea to think about some expanded storage options. While the Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD might not match an SSD for speed, it’ll give you the sheer size you need to store your files without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s a Seagate drive, a company going strong since the 70s so they have to be doing something right when it comes to reliability.

Operating System & Peripherals

Hopefully, you’ve already got, or at least got your eye, on some of the things you’ll actually need to run your PC, but just in case we’ve put together a comprehensive list of extras you’ll need to get the most out of your build.

Windows 10 Home USB

If you want to be able to handle as many different types of software as possible, then you can’t beat Windows 10. Windows has long had a philosophy of ensuring backwards compatibility with older software, and on top of that, it’s also the platform that sees the most game releases each year. USB OS installation is almost always your best bet, as optical drives become rarer and rarer, so it’s handy that Microsoft now sells Windows 10 straight on a drive.

Razer DeathAdder V2

If you plan on spending hours and hours clicking away at your mouse then you’re going to want to get your hands on a mouse that doesn’t make your hand cramp up. Razer’s DeathAdder V2 not only delivers one of the most comfortable ergonomic grips known to mankind, but also comes with Razer’s high-quality optical sensors too.

Redragon K556 RGB Mechanical Keyboard

When things get heated in a game, you need to know that your keyboard is up to the task. Redragon’s K556 RGB keyboard is a great starting point for mechanical keyboards. It’s got blue clicky switches and comes with great RGB options for an amazing price. All that bundles into a very cool-looking keyboard to boot.

ASUS VG278Q Gaming Monitor

If you want a proper gaming monitor with a decent refresh rate and size, for an affordable price then the ASUS VG278Q Gaming Monitor is a solid choice. Without breaking the $300 price point you’re not going to get a better monitor with these specs.

Closing Thoughts

500 dollar gaming pc

Our $500 AMD Custom Gaming PC Build

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Silent PC Review has been providing expert advice and detailed reviews of PCs and peripherals since 2002. Our technical advice has been featured on publications such as: New York Times, O’Reilly, PCMag, Popular Mechanics, Forbes, etc. plus countless trade shows and industry articles. We’re dedicated to providing top-notch advice and reviews for choosing your next PC build.