How to Build a Gaming PC for Under $500 With GPU

The global economy may be experiencing inflation, but the price of key PC components is actually quite low and, in many cases, going lower. Because GPU prices are dropping rapidly while SSDs, RAM (at least DDR4 RAM) and power supplies remain inexpensive, there has rarely been a better time to build a low-cost gaming PC than right now. With today’s prices,you can configure a solid, 1080p-capable gaming PC for under $500 that includes both discrete graphics and a 12th-gen Intel CPU. We’re also able to configure a very-capable gaming PC for under $400 using AMD integrated graphics.

Below, we’ll show you how to build a gaming PC for under $500, or even under $400 using parts available from major U.S. retailers today. Please note that the prices we list were current when we wrote this, but may go up or down slightly by the time you read this. Because these lists are based primarily on pricing, we have not tested every specific part listed, nor have we tested them all together. The cost of an operating system is not included, but you can get Windows 10 or 11 for free or cheap. And, if you are willing to spend much more than $500, please check our list of the best PC builds for more powerful recommendations.

Gaming PC Under $500 With Discrete Graphics

Our under $500 gaming PC is built around two key components: an Intel Core i3-12100F CPU and an AMD Radeon RX 6400-powered graphics card (ours is from XFX but any RX 6400 should perform similarly). While the other parts are good values for the money, you can easily substitute a similarly specked PSU, SSD, RAM kit or H610M motherboard and get the same performance.

With 4 performance cores, a 4.3-GHz boost speed and a budget price, Intel’s Core i3-12100 is the best cheap CPU right now and the Core i3-12100F is a variant that comes without integrated graphics (which we won’t need). In writing our Intel Core i3-12100 review, we put Intel’s processor through a bevy of benchmarks and found that its single-threaded performance – the type which matters most for gaming – was better than processors which cost twice as much, including the Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel’s last-gen Core i5-11600K. The Core i3-12100F also comes with a CPU cooler in the box, so you don’t need to spend more money there. 

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We’re going with the Radeon RX 6400, because it’s the cheapest current-gen GPU on the market, not because it’s one of the best graphics cards. In our tests, the RX 6400 averaged a very-playable 56 fps when we benchmarked it in 8 popular games at 1080p resolution with medium settings. That’s not blazing fast, but it’s good enough to play AAA titles without stutter.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We chose the RX 6400 so we could configure a gaming PC for under $500, but if you can stretch your budget just another $20, the much-faster Radeon RX 6500 XT is available for as little as $179 and is 30 percent faster and a much better buy. Both GPUs have a boost clock of 2.8 GHz and 4GB of VRAM, but the 6500 XT has 1024 GPU cores to the 6400’s 768, and its VRAM operates at 18 Gbps instead of 16 Gbps.

To support our 12th-gen Intel CPU, we need an inexpensive motherboard with an LGA 1700 socket. The lowest-end chipset with that socket is Intel’s H610 and we found it cheaply in the $89 MSI PRO H610M-G. This is a basic board with just two RAM slots and a single M.2, PCIe Gen 3 slot for storage. We saw a board that was $10 cheaper but iy didn’t have the M.2 slot we needed for our choice of SSD.

Our storage drive of choice is the TeamGroup MP33 at 512GB capacity. We reviewed the TeamGroup MP33 back in 2020 and found that it offers really good performance for the money, and it’s more affordable now than it was back then. This NVMe SSD boasts rated sequential read and write speeds of 1,700 and 1,400 MBps respectively, about triple what you get from a SATA SSD.

To hit our $500 price, we had to stick with a modest 8GB of RAM, in the form of a 2x4GB DDR4-3200 kit from Crucial. Any low-cost kit of DDR4-3200 RAM would fit the bill here. However, if you can splurge just another $15 to $20, you can get 16GB of RAM as we spotted TeamGruop’s T-Force Zeus DDR4-3200 RAM in a 2 x 8GB kit for just $48. Considering that the motherboard only has two RAM slots, you’d be wise to spend a little extra now rather than upgrading later.

Our case is the Rosewill FBM-X2 (opens in new tab) which was $44 at Newegg at the time we wrote this. Admittedly, this is a very low-end case as it has no window for viewing your components. However, it does have enough room for four 120mm fans  or two 120mm fans and a 240mm radiator. Its slick, gunmetal gray color is, at least, solid-looking and you have to make some sacrifices to build a gaming PC for under $500.

The final piece of our under $500 gaming PC is a 430W power supply from Thermaltake. Any 400 to 500W power supply from a reputable brand will get the job done here. The Thermaltake Smart 430W is 80+ certified, though not Bronze or Gold, which means it has some degree of efficiency considerations.

If you can stretch your budget just a little bit father, up anywhere from $20 to $80, we recommend swapping out the RAM, GPU and storage for slightly better parts. Our first priority is going from 8GB of RAM up to 16GB, because the motherboard only has two DIMM slots so you’d have to throw away your current RAM if you wish to upgrade later on. Moving up to TeamGroup’s $48, 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit costs less than $20 more and will make all aspects of your computing life easier, from surfing the web to document editing and gaming.

Adding another $20 to move up to a Radeon RX 6500 XT from the RX 6400 is another no-brainer. You gain about 30 percent more performance for a very minimal outlay. 

The lowest priority upgrade, though still a good one, is moving from a 512GB SSD to a 1TB capacity, which in the case of the TeamGroup MP33, is just $30 more. You can certainly get by with a 512GB SSD, but if you plan to install more than three or four AAA games, you’ll likely need the extra storage.

Gaming PC Under $400

If you want to build a gaming PC for under $400, there is no way that you can afford a graphics card. That’s why you need a relatively-cheap CPU with excellent integrated graphics, in our case the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G. The $160, 65-watt CPU has 6 cores, 12 threads and a maximum boost clock of 4.4 GHz. It also comes with a cooler in the box so you don’t need to spend money on one. 

In our multi-threaded application tests, the Ryzen 5 5600G beat the pants off of many competitors including the quad-core, Core i3-12100 we use in our under $500 gaming PC.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

More importantly, the Ryzen 5 5600G’s integrated RX 7 Vega GPU is good enough to play games well at 720p and passably at 1080p. On our 720p gaming test suite, the 5600G averaged 75.4 fps, which is more than playable. When we bumped the resolution up to 1080p, the average fps dropped to a still-respectable 43.5 fps. But on many games, you’ll be able to dial down some more settings to get the frame rate higher.

Our motherboard for our under $400 gaming PC is the ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0. It’s important to note that, as the B450 chipset is older than Ryzen 5000 series CPUs, not all B450 motherboards will work the 5600G out of the box. All will support these CPUs after a BIOS update but, if you don’t have an older Ryzen CPU lying around, you’ll likely have no way to boot up and perform that update. However, the B450M-HDV R4.0 (make sure it’s R4.0) promises compatibility at first boot.

ASRock’s board has only two DIMM slots, so keep in mind that, if you go with the 8GB of RAM we need to stay under $400, you won’t be able to upgrade without replacing the memory. However, aside from that limitation, the B450M-HDV R4.0 has other basic features, including support for M.2 PCIe Gen3 SSDs.

Our case, RAM, storage and power supply are the same as on our under $500 gaming PC. That means we’re going with just 8GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, a modest 512GB SSD and a 430W power supply. The Rosewill FBM-X2 is a less-than-ideal case so, if you see another case on sale for less than $60, it would be well-worth considering.

As with the under $500 gaming PC build, the sub-$400 configuration will be significantly better if you spend another $20 to upgrade to a 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit or, less important for performance and more for game storage space, an extra $30 to move up to a 1TB SSD.

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