Build the Best Gaming PC Under 500 Dollars (Oct 2018)

The Best Gaming PC Under 500 Dollars

This article is a little different from my usual reviews of PC cases. I had a coworker come up to me the other day and ask about building his son a PC. The guys at work know I collect retro computers and have built my own PCs for years.

I'm basically just an all-around computer nut.

Anyway, he asks if he could get a decent gaming computer for less than $500. At first, he was thinking about shopping for a pre-built solution. That is a common thought with people unfamiliar with building their own computers.

Can You Build a Decent Gaming Computer for Less Than 500 Dollars?

People unfamiliar with working on computers shy away from DIY PCs. They think it might be too hard, there might be compatibility issues, how will they know they are maximizing their dollars spent on the best parts money can buy, etc.

These are all legitimate concerns, but with just 30 minutes of research, if you know where to look, you can get started on building your own quality gaming rig. I definitely think you get better value overall if you make your own PC versus buying a low-budget mass market model. Plus, the time he spends with his son making a computer is invaluable.

I looked up a few things online and came up with the list below which for the games his son is wanting to play (Fortnite and PUBG) this setup will be more than enough.

The Parts List

As we all know, component prices fluctuate daily as some retailers have specials or price cuts. Also, the cryptocurrency market seems to have slowed recently, so prices on decent graphics cards are better than a few months ago.

This rig came in at around $530 as of the time I wrote this. I will try and keep this article up to date as new parts come out and older parts come down in price.

Let's see what I came up with for the best under 500 dollar gaming pc.

Budget Build Gaming Desktop

Intel Core i-3
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CPU

Intel Core i3-8100

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Zotac GeForce 1050 ti Graphics Card
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GPU

Zotac GeForce 1050 ti

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Gigabyte H310M Motherboard
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Motherboard

Gigabyte H310M S2P

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Thermaltake Versa H22 PC case
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Case

Thermaltake Versa H22

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G.Skill Aegis DDR4 8GB RAM 

RAM

G.Skill Aegis DDR4 8GB

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Western Digital Hard Drive
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Hard Drive

WD 7200RPM 1TB

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EVGA power supply
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Power Supply

EVGA 500W 80+

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CPU

Intel Core i3-8100 CPU
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The CPU is what we normally build the rest of the computer around. I looked for a quad-core Intel chip that was newer and fast enough but was still on the lower tiers. I came up with the Core i3-8100 (Amazon link). It has four cores and runs at 3.6 GHz.

It will run games created in the last couple of years fine and with the quad cores, it will be decent at multitasking. This is around 25% of the total build price.

CPU Cooler

We aren't going to be overclocking here so the stock fan that comes with the CPU will be sufficient.

Video Card

GeForce 1050 ti Graphics Card
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I went with a GeForce 1050 ti, 4GB model (Amazon link). Zotac makes a small form factor card that doesn't require a separate power line from your power supply. So it is a snap to install. Also, there is no SLI support but with a budget build that's not going to happen anyway.

This card supports 1080P and has benchmarked better than an RX 560. I don't see any problems getting 60FPS on the two games he wants to play here.

This part will set you back around 30% of your total build amount.

Motherboard

Gigabyte Motherboard
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Here we just needed a mobo that supports our 8100. I went with the Gigabyte H310M S2P (Amazon link).

Nothing fancy here, but this motherboard does has some features that will allow you to upgrade later on if you want to.

It features 2 DDR4 RAM slots, an M.2 connector, if you ever want to use that in the future (for super fast onboard SSDs), 4 6GB SATA ports, and two USB 3.1 ports, one on-board and one in the rear.

It is a micro-ATX board so there isn't room for a lot of PCI expansion but for now, it will support the graphics card just fine.

Case

Thermaltake Versa H22 Computer Case
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This might be one area where I "splurged" and went over the usual price point for an item. But running a PC case website, you should know I can't stand low budget cases with offset connectors and sharp metal sticking out everywhere.

I also went with a case that is larger than what is needed. The Thermaltake Versa H22 (Amazon link) is a mid-tower case that can support an ATX board. This will dwarf our tiny micro-ATX card.

But your computer case is one item that will outlast all the other components inside. When the son goes off to college and decides to spend his student loan money on new computer parts, this case will be able to hold them all.

Although it will look nearly empty inside, having a large case for a newbie builder is pretty helpful. It can cover up a lot of your cabling mistakes.

RAM

G Skill Aegis 8GB RAM stick

Since our motherboard supports DDR4, I picked the G.Skill Aegis 8GB DDR4-2133 memory.

It's fairly cheap, it's RAM and is supported by the system. I wouldn't worry too much about this one.

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD
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To save some money to be able to afford the CPU/video card this is another place I had to cut. I went with the old standard, Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD (Amazon link).

I chose the 1TB, 7200 RPM model. Nothing fancy here.

Power Supply

EVGA 500 Watt Power Supply
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Although this build will only clock in around 225 watts, I went with a larger setup. I chose the EVGA 500 watt 80+ power supply (Amazon link).

This is another component that usually lasts longer than other components. That is to say, if you don't end up with a lemon in the first place. I've ordered bricks before, but in my experience, if they make it past a month you are usually golden. Now capacitors will go bad eventually, but that is going to be 15 years or more.

The 500 watts will have enough power to see him through a couple of upgrades.

Caveats

You may have noticed this is not a complete build as we are missing a few items. There is no keyboard, mouse, speakers, or an Operating System.

Keyboards, speakers, and mice are commodities these days, and most people have spares lying around the house. If you want a sleek competitive gaming mouse you aren't going to get one in an under 500 dollar build.

Operating System

Windows 10 Retail Packaging
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For operating systems, you can go two routes, buying a Windows 10 license (Amazon link) or installing Linux via your USB. If you want to play games, you are most likely going to have to shell out for Windows.

It is unfortunate, but a lot of the most popular games still do not support Linux. There are some ways around it. Namely using Wine, but there always seems to be a catch, like the anti-cheating system doesn't work with it or something.

Monitor

Acer S220HQL Monitor
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Another piece of equipment missing in this build is a monitor. If you don't have an older monitor or spare HDMI TV laying around, there are some lower end 1080 monitors that start around $90.

I would look at eBay first to see if I could find a good used one for $30-50.

Failing that, start with the Acer S220HQL (Amazon link). It is 1920x1080 and the diagonal screen measurement is 21.5".

Don't expect to get dazzling, high-quality colors out of this display, however. It is an entry-level monitor and its features are in line with its price.

Upgrades

If you have a little more than $500 to spend I can see a few things that would improve this build immensely. Namely, the hard drive and RAM.

Upgrade the RAM8GB is cutting it close to the bare minimum these days. With browsers and games becoming memory-intensive. And the fact that most people have 12 Chrome tabs open at any time, means we need as much memory as we can get.

The H310M S2P motherboard supports up to 32GB but I think we can get major improvements in this build by adding another 8GB stick bringing the total up to 16GB.

Switch to SSD

Samsung SSD Drive
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For anyone looking to upgrade their computer, this is the best choice they can make. An SSD will speed up your system big time.

I remember before I got an SSD, Windows would take like 2 minutes to boot up. Now it's around 15 seconds.

A brand I highly recommend is Samsung. You can pick up an 860 Evo 500GB SSD drive (Amazon link) for less than a hundred bucks. If you still need 1TB or more for videos or pictures you can install the cheaper WD blue drive as a second drive. The H22 case will still have loads of room to spare.

Still More Upgrades?

Intel Core i3-8350K CPU
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If you still want to improve this build after upgrading the hard drive and adding RAM, I think I would next look at the CPU. I think the 8100 is fast enough for what this build is trying to do, however, it never hurts to look around.

Moving up to an Intel Core i3-8350K (Amazon link) will give you an almost 20% improvement in speed and 2 more cores. The newer chip would set you back about $39 more dollars currently. That's a 20% improvement for 30% increase in the chip price.

Final Thoughts on Our Budget PC

Comparing this home-built system to lower end out of the box solutions, I think we have a winner. The large case will allow you to upgrade this machine as time goes on, but right now it will handle today's mid-tier games with ease.

I highly suggest building your own computer if you haven't yet. There are tons of how-to videos on YouTube if you ever get stuck.

You can send me a message if you have a build question or just need some help with putting your PC together.

Let me know what you think about the build in the comments below!