PC gaming is known for many things: unparalleled customizability, the potential for absolutely stunning visuals, and access to the most colossal library of games are among the most appealing, although there’s also the notoriously high price tag that comes along with all of this.
But what if we said you could get initiated into the world of PC gaming for only $300.
Let us dive right into the best cheap $300 PC build at the moment.
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The Best Cheap $300 Gaming PC Build For 2020
Updated: November 28, 2020
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So, what exactly can you expect from such an affordable PC build?
Well, there are two things to highlight: upgradeability and console-like performance (and by this, we mean the Xbox One and the PS4).
Sure, it won’t perform that much better than these consoles, and it definitely won’t perform better than the insane new-gen consoles, but we’ve made sure to include some enticing pieces of hardware that will help increase the longevity of this build with some sweet upgrade paths down the line.
This isn’t to say that this is a half-finished build. It works perfectly fine on its own with just the $300 invested into it, but the option to upgrade is there for you nonetheless. Although, if, for whatever reason, you have no intention of upgrading this build at all, then you may very well be better off getting a console.
So how does it perform?
Full disclosure: this build relies on the integrated Vega 8 graphics, courtesy of the Ryzen 3 3200G CPU.
As such, it’s actually better suited for esports than it is for AAA titles, and you’ll actually get slightly worse framerates in AAA titles on this PC than you would on a console. We know that this may put off some of you, but we feel that our reasoning is solid, and we’d very much appreciate it if you considered this.
Who knows, we may just change your mind.
The PC Build
Now that we’ve presented an overview of the build and what you can expect from it, let’s dive deeper into each component, starting with the brain of the build.
The CPU (APU actually) is the heart of this entire build, and there’s absolutely no other model that ties everything together quite like the Ryzen 3 3200G.
For starters, this is an excellent CPU in its own right. Though this particular model relies on the Zen+ instead of the Zen2 architecture, the 3200G is still a decent upgrade from its second-gen counterpart.
With 4 cores, 4 threads, and a 3.6 GHz base clock speed going all the way up to 4.0 GHz at maximum boost, 3200G delivers an admirable level of performance.
Add to this the fact that this is an APU with Vega 8 integrated graphics no less, and it becomes clear why no CPU Intel currently has to offer can beat it at this price point.
Cooler: Wraith Stealth Cooler
In case you’ve had any misgivings about using the stock Wraith Stealth Cooler that comes with the Ryzen 3 3200G, let us reassure you, it’s more than capable of keeping up with the pace. In fact, you won’t need a better 3rd party cooler even if you plan on doing some light overclocking.
While you will be happy to know that, as all Ryzen chips, the 3200G can be overclocked, we don’t recommend doing this, but not because of the cooler!
We’ll talk more about this when we discuss the case we’ve picked up for this build, but the main culprit is the airflow.
You generally want to have several criteria met before you overclock your CPU, and the situation with this build isn’t optimal.
This isn’t to say that it couldn’t be done to great effect, but we wouldn’t recommend it, especially seeing as this is not a high-end gaming rig, and for the kind of settings you’ll be running games on, the factory clock speed is more than good enough.
GPU: Vega 8
The Vega 8 performs only marginally worse than, say, the RX 550 or the GT 1030 GPUs (which are the best GPUs you could fit into this budget).
Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?
Overall, you should expect at least a stable 30 FPS at 1080p in most games. In modern AAA titles, you may have to fiddle with the graphics settings quite a bit to get there (for example, dropping the resolution to 720p in Assassin’s Creed: Origins), but in eSports titles, you should expect the full 60 FPS experience.
We know that this isn’t a promise that would get many gamers salivating over it, but here’s the thing:
The aforementioned dedicated GPUs would allow you to play Assassin’s Creed: Origins at 30 FPS in 1080p instead of 720p. This isn’t a large performance leap by any stretch of the imagination, especially given that you would most likely also have to get a worse CPU and maybe cut the RAM down to 4 GB to make this happen.
So instead of including both a sub-par GPU and a sub-par CPU, this build offers an excellent CPU with integrated graphics that don’t lag too far behind these $80-$90 dedicated solutions.
And the Vega 8 graphics don’t just give you respectable graphics for an entry-level PC build. They offer upgradeability as well because you can just strap on a dedicated graphics card later, and everything will work just fine without having to replace any of the existing hardware in the process.
Our advice is to stick to the Vega 8 graphics until you can upgrade to at least a GTX 1050Ti or an RX 560 graphics card.
So for the price of less than $100, you’re getting a great CPU in its own right, integrated graphics that rival those of dedicated entry-level graphics cards, and a great cooler to boot.
Normally, we like to provide you with some alternatives in these builds, but in this case, the Ryzen 3 3200G is just the optimal CPU bar none.
Now, one thing you ought to know about integrated graphics cards is that they don’t come with their own VRAM. Instead, they leech off of your system RAM. This is why you absolutely should not reduce the RAM if you’re looking to cut costs.
4 GB of RAM isn’t enough for gaming as it is, and that’s without a portion of these resources going towards the graphics. You also don’t want to save the extra couple of bucks by opting for RAM slower than the standard 2400MHz, and going dual-channel is also highly advised as it will significantly improve the performance of an APU.
With all this in mind, the RAM we’ve opted for in this build is the Patriot Viper 4 Blackout with two sticks of 4 GB, bringing the total to 8 GB of dual-channel 3000MHz.
While this is a completely respectable amount of memory, for now, we still highly recommend closing all unnecessary background programs while gaming, for increased performance, as well as upgrading to 16 GB at some point later on, especially if you plan on sticking to an APU.
Alternatively, if you plan on upgrading soon, you may decide to get one 8GB stick now and for another $30 get one more 8GB stick in a few months for a total of 16GB.
Full disclosure, you shouldn’t expect much out of the motherboard.
We didn’t have enough room in the budget to think about cool LED lights, or extra functionality, or anything but quality and the most basic future-proofing.
Nevertheless, the Gigabyte B450M DS3H has everything you’ll need at the moment. Best of all, the motherboard is now also compatible with 3rd-gen Ryzen processors right out of the box, but make sure the box has a sticker saying it’s Ryzen 3000 ready, if possible, and that you’re not getting some of the older models.
When it comes to upgradeability, we’ve made sure to pick a motherboard with 4 RAM slots so you can easily increase your memory in the future without having to replace the sticks you already own completely.
The DS3H is unlocked, comes with two fan headers, and supports multiple displays in case that’s something that interests you.
All in all, it’s a very basic motherboard, but if you take care of it, it will serve you well and last you a long time.
In order to stay as close to the $300 budget as possible, we decided to go with an HDD.
This PC is meant to be functional and affordable, which is why we went for a 500GB HDD. It will give you enough storage to start with, without having to buy more right away.
Like we’ve said before, we did our best to keep this build as close to the $300 mark as possible, but if you’re willing to stretch your budget a little, you’ll be happy to know that for only $20 more you can get the ADATA SU635 with 480 GB of super-fast storage that will knock you off your feet if you’ve never experienced the lightning speed of SSDs before.
However, you should know that there are differences in SSD speeds as well, and while this one is by no means the fastest out there, it is definitely miles better than a regular HDD.
The Thermaltake Smart 500W is a really solid power supply. It’s not too expensive, but it offers a great level of performance that’s further supported by the 5-year warranty it comes with.
Furthermore, its 500W capacity will be plenty to power the entire rig even if you upgrade it with a dedicated GPU of the GTX 1650 caliber.
It’s a non-modular PSU, but it features heavy-duty protection, it is 80 plus certified, and the 120mm sleeve bearing fan is both quiet and powerful, which is definitely a plus.
This may not be the most expensive build, but all the hardware pieces here were handpicked because of their quality and upgradeability, and it’s worth buying this PSU to ensure that the whole gaming rig won’t get fried the first chance it gets.
The case is the most unappreciated component in most PC builds. Oftentimes inexperienced PC builders will just pick something cheap and (hopefully) has enough room for everything, without any consideration for airflow.
Long story short, you aren’t doing yourself any favors by buying a $30 case, not unless you also intend to use it as an oven.
It’s not even that there aren’t any decent, serviceable cases around this price range, but the few of such in existence are expertly hidden in a vast junkyard. This video should give you the gist of what we mean.
So, what we’ve done here is we’ve picked out one reasonably priced model that we can actually say good things about.
The MasterBox Q300L isn’t the best case we’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely a step above the junk it shares a price range with.
It has decent airflow that can support some light overclocking (although we’d advise first mounting an additional front fan), 2 USB 3.0 ports, and dedicated space for cable management (which you’ll be needing, especially given that the PSU is non-modular). We’d prefer it if it were a bit bigger, but you can’t have everything.
The case comes with one 120 mm fan in the back, and spaces for four more fans (2 x 120 mm on top, and 2 x 120/140 mm in the front), removable dust filters on top, front, and bottom for easy cleaning, and an acrylic side panel.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t buy a cheaper case that’s even better than this one.
How does one accomplish such a feat?
This applies to the case more so than to any other piece of hardware, especially in a budget build like this, where you won’t be gunning for RGB lighting. There’s never a shortage of good computer cases on great discounts on Amazon, and we whole-heartedly advise seeking out such a solution.
The Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L was, among other things, our way of making sure the price of this build doesn’t fluctuate too much. It’s a perfectly fine case, you won’t be disappointed by it, but you can find something better with a little effort if you put your mind to it.
Unfortunately, you’ll need more than just the essential pieces of hardware to game on a PC, so we also have to cover the matter of peripherals.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll only cover the essentials, plus the controller, which may as well be considered an essential PC gaming peripheral nowadays.
Also, the situation here is strikingly similar to what we’ve described in the computer case section:
- There’s a lot of junk among budget peripherals.
- You should always be able to find decent items on good discounts.
- We won’t feature models currently on discounts in this article so that you at least have access to a single quality budget solution.
- Also, bundles are your friends.
Note that these peripherals are NOT included in the $300 price tag.
Now we know what you’re thinking: Why should I spend $100 for Windows 10 when my whole rig costs just $300?
Honestly, you don’t have to, but there’s a good case to be made in favor of doing so. PC games, in general, have much better compatibility with Windows than with any of the Linux operating systems.
Not only does gaming on Windows grant you access to the biggest library of games, but games will run better on this build on Windows than they will on Linux.
Windows alone gives you an FPS boost, essentially.
If this is out of the question, of course, then don’t just install any Linux. Not all Linux operating systems are born equal, so if you want one that performs decently in games, we’d suggest opting for SteamOS, Ubuntu Linux, or Game Drift Linux.
Picking out a monitor for this build was smooth sailing. We knew we needed a budget, 1080p monitor. And, unburdened by the quest for the most cost-effective features (or features in general), we instead turned our attention towards quality. And that’s just what you get with the Acer SB220Q bi.
The IPS panel here is ideal even for the performance-oriented since you won’t be reaching any jaw-dropping framerates that would make full use of a TN panel in most games. The monitor has a 4ms response time and even a bit of extra performance value, with a 75Hz refresh rate and AMD’s FreeSync Technology.
We won’t offer any alternatives since it’s actually rather difficult to find an objectively bad monitor. So long as it’s FullHD, any model that you already have or can get cheap should be just fine. The Acer SB220Q bi does, however, offer the best bang for your buck.
As we’ve already said: bundles are your friends.
Their value is consistently high, their prices reasonable. All you have to do is make sure to pick a bundle that features quality products that are appropriate for your needs, and the Redragon S101 bundle is the perfect strike for those looking to game on a budget.
The Redragon LED RGB Keyboard is pretty good for this price. And while the RGB lighting does its best to scream ‘GAMING,’ that’s not why we’ve picked it.
When the novelty wears off, you won’t even notice the RGB lighting, but you’ll always appreciate the ergonomic and splash-proof design. Another plus in our eyes is the 12 handy multimedia keys, as well as the ability to disable the Windows key.
We would’ve liked to see some programmable keys thrown into the mix to make this a truly gaming keyboard, but we can hardly complain about this given the price.
And the keyboard isn’t even the standout product in this bundle. That honor goes to the mouse. And unlike many budget models, this mouse has the actual size and heft to be truly gaming-worthy (not to mention programmable buttons and a 4 level DPI adjustment capping out at 3200).
And if you should happen to like your mouse a little bit lighter or heavier, that’s not a problem at all, because it comes with 8 weights that you can separately fit into the mouse.
Honestly, it’s a mouse that we could easily recommend you buy separately, but this bundle gives it even greater value.
And if you want to take it a step further, there are even versions of this bundle with a mouse pad and headset for only $10 more!
Now all you need are some decent speakers, and you’re ready to game.
Again, we tried to keep things here as simple as possible. If you already have any properly functioning speakers, the Creative A250won’t be much of an upgrade. However, if you need a new set, then this is one you should be perfectly happy with.
They’re not very easy on the eye, that’s for sure, but they sound crisp, and while the bass won’t make your heart thud, it still has some power to it. Everything about it just exudes quality: from the satellite drivers to the large subwoofer. The speakers manage to sound big despite their compact size.
Although, if you’re more of a headphones kind of gamer, then you can extend the mouse and keyboard bundle also to include a mouse pad and a decent headset for the price.
We can see this last bit being a point of contention with regards to both the controller being included in this list in the first place.
No, the controller may not be a mandatory PC gaming peripheral in the sense that you can run games without it. Still, the large majority of games nowadays are designed with the controller in mind, and in some titles, it definitely shows.
So if you don’t intend to use a controller, then, by all means, don’t use a controller. But if you do, then getting the tried and true Xbox One Controller is actually the best thing you can do (and if you already own an Xbox One, then all the better).
Now, this isn’t exactly a sub-$20 controller, but considering what a nightmare most cheap controllers tend to be, you’re better off making this one-time investment than changing three controllers within a year because they all just stop working for no reason.
Full disclosure, our first pick for this build was the GameSir G3w, which is a truly budget solution that actually doesn’t suck. The only problem is that it’s chronically unavailable on all the online stores we searched through. That said, if you don’t want to spend $50 on an Xbox One controller, and manage to find the GameSir G3w, go for it.
You’ve now taken a look at the best gaming PC under $300 right now. The final price may fluctuate a bit, but it shouldn’t exceed the budget by more than $30, seeing as we made sure not to feature heavily discounted hardware.
Now all that’s left is to put all the pieces together.
It may seem like a daunting task, but it’s well worth it, even if you decide to pay a professional to do it. Not that there’s a need to do that. Like installing Windows for the first time, building a PC is only scary until you get down to actually do it.
Just follow a decent guide and we’re sure you’ll do just fine.
So until next time, have fun gaming on the best PC $300 can buy.