So, how exactly should you tailor your expectations for this affordable gaming rig?
Well, a rig such as this one could have been called a console killer just a few months ago. While it can’t be called the same now that the Xbox Series X and the PS5 are out, this is still a system that surpasses any last-gen console capabilities.
You will be able to play most AAA games in 60FPS if you desire so, and even if this means not playing at the highest settings, you’ll still be able to enjoy better graphics than you would on a PS4 or Xbox One X.
To deliver the best performance imaginable at this price, we had to forgo some upgrade options. However, there are still clear upgrade paths that this build facilitates, all of which will be discussed as we go through each individual piece of hardware.
So without any further ado, we present to you the parts that currently make this the best affordable $500 gaming PC.
Table of ContentsShow
The Best $500 Gaming PC Build For 2021
Updated: February 19, 2021
Click on the product images to view the product on Amazon, where you can see more images in high resolution and check the current price.
So, how exactly should you tailor your expectations for this affordable gaming rig?
The thing we’d like to emphasize the most here is that this PC is a tried and true console-killer. $500 is more expensive than your average console, but you’re definitely getting the performance boost to justify this price.
We won’t use teraflops to gauge the power of this rig since the advent of new architectures is soundly making this unit irrelevant. Still, for all intents and purposes, this PC does everything a console can, only better.
You will be able to play most AAA games in 60FPS if you desire so, and even if this means not playing in the highest settings, you’ll still be able to enjoy better graphics than you would on, say, a PS5.
If, on the other hand, you wish to immerse yourself in a more cinematic experience and play with a 30FPS cap, you’ll bear witness to levels of eye-candy that console folk can only dream of.
To deliver the best performance imaginable at this price, we had to forgo some upgradability concerns. However, there are still clear upgrade paths that this build facilitates, all of which will be discussed as we go through each individual piece of hardware.
So without any further ado, we present to you the parts that make this the best affordable $500 gaming PC ever.
The PC Build
Now that you’ve seen an overview of the build, let’s get started with the individual PC components and what you can expect from them.
Here is the best cheap $500 gaming PC for 2021.
When the remainder of AMD’s 3rd gen processors was launched it practically seemed like AMD was trying to compete with itself. The price-performance ratio was that good, and it still is.
Namely, these ‘low-end’ processors perform better in games than most of the 2nd gen and even some of the 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs for a much more affordable price.
The AMD Ryzen R3 3100, in particular, has 4 cores, 8 threads, a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz, and a max boost clock speed of 3.9 GHz, and it can compete toe-to-toe with the R5 2600X! This might sound confusing, but hear us out.
While the R5 2600X has more cores, more threads, and a higher boost clock speed, and it does indeed perform slightly better with professional software, when it comes to gaming, they are practically identical. This is thanks to the fully-implemented Zen 2 technology in the R3 3100 compared to the Zen+ in the R5 2600X.
For $60-80 less, that’s mighty impressive! And that’s $60-80 that can go a long way in improving other components such as the GPU, for example.
The R3 3100 is definitely not the best processor ever made, but the value you get from it is immense, and we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include it in this build.
Keep in mind that the GPU a $500 budget allowed for is an older one, and may bottleneck this CPU. But this only means that if you end up upgrading the graphics card in the future, you’ll know that this processor will be able to handle it.
Cooler: Wraith Stealth
Every CPU needs a good cooler, and luckily for us, most of AMD’s CPUs come with a stock cooler free of charge!
The R2 3100 is accompanied by the Wraith Stealth cooler. This might not be anything to write home about, but it’s still perfectly capable of keeping up with this CPU at stock settings.
Keep in mind, however, that if you intend to do any overclocking, an aftermarket cooler is a must, but even that won’t set you back by much unless you are going for something high-end and glowing.
As we’ve already mentioned, the thing that makes this $500 exponentially better than any $400 system is the fact that it can afford a graphics card instead of relying on integrated graphics. And what a godsend the ASUS Radeon RX 570 Strix Gaming OC is!
This GPU can get the most out of 1080p gaming, and it costs only $170. Just a few years ago, this would have been unimaginable. Still, as things stand, there are effectively no graphics cards that offer a middle ground between integrated graphics and full 1080p mastery.
At the very least, they’re not worth buying.
The RX 570 comes with 8GB of VRAM, which is just the right amount for maxing out this resolution. You’ll be able to run most older games at high settings at 1080p and still hit that 60FPS sweet spot.
Keep in mind that this won’t be the case with the more modern AAA titles, but with a little clever optimization, you’ll be able to enjoy a perfectly reasonable gaming experience even in those games.
So if you’re looking to build a $500 gaming PC that can handle games in 1080p at decent graphics, there truly is no better alternative at this price point.
And the ASUS Radeon RX 570 Strix Gaming OC embodies the best this GPU has to offer. It doesn’t have any fancy features except minimal RGB lighting, but in terms of practical features, it is stacked.
This sturdy graphics card features a large heat sink, dual fans with curved blades for improved airflow, and 0db tech that stops the fans from spinning when the temperature is under 55 degrees Celsius which ensures noise-free performance under lighter loads.
Another interesting feature is the Gaming Booster function which lets you turn off unnecessary processes such as Windows visual effects and services, and allows for memory defragmentation on the go with only one click. In dire situations, this will give your gaming that small boost it needed.
As for the actual in-game FPS, you should have no trouble reaching the desired 60 FPS in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 4, Hitman 2, and Apex Legends for example, but since this card was released quite a while ago expect to play many newer AAA games at either lower settings or lower FPS.
We know that falling this short of the ideal mark, which would be 60FPS at the highest settings, sounds a bit disappointing, but remember that this is still only one tier of performance beyond integrated graphics.
Of course, this ‘ideal mark’ is still easily achievable with a slightly expanded budget. A Radeon RX 580 graphics card should have no trouble maxing out 1080p. However, we wanted to meet the budget strictly, so the ASUS Strix Gaming OC version of the 8GB RX 570 remains the best option for now.
Keep in mind, however, that the holidays are coming up, so the prices might jump up, but if you manage to find it on a discount, you’re golden.
Attempting to game with fewer than 8GB of RAM is an uphill battle that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
However, even 8GB can prove a bit stifling, despite the fact that most games require between 6 and 8GB of RAM for optimal performance. The thing is, every program running in the background wants to get a piece of that sweet RAM pie, including the operating system, so games never really get to have access to the full 8GB.
They will still very much be playable, although you will want to get into the habit of turning off all programs you’re not actively using. This is why many builders place acquiring 16GB of RAM as one of the top priorities, which is why we have to cater to two types of audiences from this point onward.
Our RAM of choice for this build is Corsair Vengeance LPX. And even though we couldn’t make room in the budget for 16GB of RAM, we’ve made sure that these 8GB are well-stacked, with a 3000MHz clock.
Now, as for the recommended RAM configuration, that’s where you need to do a little deliberation:
If you want to pay $500 and be done with the PC, then you should get two 4GB RAM sticks. This will allow for a dual-channel memory configuration, which can end up mattering a lot in certain games as it can slightly increase the FPS.
However, if you can see yourself upgrading this build over time, then you may want to buy a single 8GB stick now and another one down the line to pair it up with.
You could technically double down on 4GB sticks, with a grand total of four to get you up to 16GB of RAM; however, this is far from ideal.
This means you will be locked into dual-channel memory even with four sticks of RAM, but you will be spending more power because of the two additional physical units. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it is a situation best avoided if possible.
As for the motherboard, we decided to go with the Gigabyte B450M DS3H.
This micro ATX motherboard is just the pick for a PC at this budget. For starters, the micro ATX form factor strikes the best balance between affordability and performance. And even though the DS3H is among the lower-priced offerings with this chipset, it still has all the features you need for a quality budget build.
This motherboard supports RAM clock speeds up to 3200MHz, and Ryzen 3000 out of the box, so you can rest assured that you’ll get some decent mileage out of this motherboard. It does, however, have only one fan header, so you might need to get a splitter cable at some point if you want to max-out the case fan-wise, but for starters, one will be enough.
There are newer motherboards out there, and there are flashier motherboards out there, but if you want the most cost-effective solution that will fit a $500 PC like a glove, then the Gigabyte B450 DS3H is a decent choice.
With that said, B450 motherboards are pretty old at this point, and if you plan on upgrading soon (particularly the CPU) it would pay off to spend more on a B550 motherboard now, instead of having to buy both a CPU and a motherboard later.
However, this is an option that will cost you at least $50 more and we recommend it only to those who already know they will be upgrading to newer generation Ryzen processors in the future.
In this day and age, SSDs have become so affordable that picking an HDD, even as a budget solution, just won’t cut it. With that in mind, we give you the ADATA SU635with 480 GB of storage space.
Yes, we are aware that most people nowadays shoot for at least 1TB, but for a $500 budget PC, it’s either a 500 GB SSD or a 1TB HDD right now.
Having said that, we firmly believe that sacrificing that additional 500 GB that most people just like to know they have, but never really use for the supreme speeds of solid-state drives is definitely worth it.
Plus, coughing up another $40 for an additional 1TB of HDD in the future if you really need it seems pretty achievable.
However, games these days tend to be rather large, so if you’re the type of person who likes to have all of your games installed whether you play them or not, and want to get the most mileage out of the initial $500 investment, then you can either tough it out with 480GB of storage (albeit SSD), or you can get a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD.
The Western Digital Caviar Blue is a gaming-oriented HDD with 7200RPM that will give you the best gaming experience HDDs can offer.
One of the most common (and most dangerous) mistakes novice builds are tempted to make is skimp on the power supply. It’s understandable – power supplies don’t really influence performance in any way – either a PSU can power the PC or it can’t.
But the thing about poorly-made PSUs is that they can fry your entire system. The difference between a $20 500W PSU and a $50 500W PSU is that the latter does not put your hardware at risk.
The 80+ rating system is a good indicator of quality. The Thermaltake Smart 500W has only the lowest 80+ ranking, but this is still way better than having an unrated power supply.
The rating means that less than 20% of the power drawn from your wall is going to be wasted. All that wasted power has got to go somewhere, and it isn’t going into the PC. Instead, it ends up heating up the power supply.
With even a base 80+ ranked PSU, you know that your power supply adheres to some standard of efficiency.
Another good indicator of quality is the warranty.
You’ll, of course, want to purchase a PSU made by a reputable manufacturer so that you know the warranty isn’t a bunch of baloney. But shady power supplies tend to have a 2-year warranty plastered onto them if that. So the fact that the Thermaltake Smart 500W comes with a 5-year warranty should put your mind at ease.
A bronze or gold-rated PSU would be even better if you can snag one on a discount!
We knew from the get-go that we would need a sub-$50 case if we were to ensure all the hardware was up to snuff.
Now, this may seem like a lot of cash for some of you first-time builders out there, but this is pretty much the minimum price required in order to ensure you get a sturdy, breathable, and manageable case – and even then you should still expect the case to have flaws.
But luckily for us, the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L exceeds expectations given its price tag. For approximately $50, you’re getting a spacious case with both fan and radiator support if, at some point, you choose the water-cooling route.
None of the precious space inside the case is wasted on optical drive bays, and there’s only a single 3.5-inch HDD tray. So you won’t have any trouble fitting in bulky graphics cards, like the RX 570, or even larger future upgrades.
The case also looks gorgeous. There’s nothing about it that screams GAMING, but the clean exterior is a thing of beauty if you prefer inconspicuous cases.
When it comes to airflow, we can’t say it’s perfect, seeing as it comes with only one pre-installed fan, but with one or two additional ones, it can be perfectly reasonable, especially because the case has a mesh front and top.
Our only grievance with the case is that, as we’ve already said, it only comes with a single pre-installed fan on the back.
There’s room for two fans on the front and top of the case, and we highly suggest making use of at least one of the front mounts. Some 120mm fans go for less than $10, making them a rather reasonable investment for what they bring to the table.
If the price of this build has risen by the time you’re reading this, and you want to cut down your expenses a little bit, you can also take a look at the CougarMX330 or the 330-X cases. They are just slightly cheaper, but still, retain the build quality and style (if you can find them).
These were just our favorite budget picks, but if you want to see more options take a look at the link below. We also highly advise you to check out this guide for the best case-mounted fans out there.
Now if you’ve been keeping track of the prices so far then you must’ve noticed that all $500 of the budget are accounted for. The build includes only the hardware and the box.
However, just the hardware and the box are not enough to actually get any mileage out of your PC; certainly not enough to do any gaming, serious or otherwise.
You’ll need peripherals for that!
So we’re going to highlight some of the best and cost-effective picks relative to this build’s budget. If you’ve got some old peripherals lying around, by all means, use those. But once you see what we have to show and why, you may still consider upgrading your gear.
First up, we have to mention the operating system. While it is not a peripheral per se, you won’t get anything done without it.
Now there are some free operating systems out there, but unfortunately for us, games are optimized with Windows in mind. Many games aren’t even compatible with Linux, and a large portion of the ones that are won’t perform as well as they would on Windows. So if you want to get the most out of your hardware, Windows is the only choice.
Picking the monitor for this build was rather easy since, in terms of performance, this PC is made to do one thing and one thing only – strive towards 60FPS in 1080p. And since we had no reason to include higher refresh rates into the calculation, we immediately turned towards monitors with IPS panels.
The greatest benefit of IPS panels is that they allow for gorgeous colors (plus wider viewing angles). And since we’re going for maximum eye-candy, we wanted a large monitor to maximize the immersion.
Of course, we didn’t want to go past 24-inches, since that’s as big as you can comfortably stretch the 1080p resolution without exposing yourself to some unsightly aliasing.
Once we decided on these parameters, the HP 24mh became an easy pick.
This monitor has an IPS panel with FHD and it actually has a 75Hz refresh rate. This is actually a little higher than we hoped to get, and it means that the monitor will be able to register up to 75 FPS in games where your GPU can deliver. This is a welcome bonus to an otherwise already perfect monitor.
In addition to this, the HP 24mh also has a low blue light mode that protects your eyes by switching to slightly warmer colors, as well as built-in speakers. As expected of an integrated sound system on a budget monitor, it isn’t anything special, but it’s enough to let you get by until you get actual speakers if you don’t already have them.
Of course, we’d still like to offer an alternative for those of you who are into eSports and value performance over everything else.
This PC can’t run many AAA-titles at more than 60FPS, but eSports are another thing entirely. So, for all your high refresh-rate needs and low response time requirements, we present the AOC G2460PF.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something cheaper, you can take a look at the Samsung LC24F396FHNXZA, or the Acer SB220Q, which is considered one of the best budget monitors on the market considering its price.
For the peripherals section, we did our best to choose items that fit this $500 build price-wise, which is why we were delighted to find this amazing Havit mechanical keyboard, mouse, and headset kit, and we’re sure you will be too.
Some people tend to shy away from bundles thinking they offer worse value for the money compared to if you bought each item separately. Granted, this is the case sometimes, but there are some gems out there that are worth checking out, and this combo is definitely one of them.
For less than $100 you get a full-sized mechanical keyboard complete with adjustable RGB. And not only that, but the keyboard has a metal shroud that gives it heft, durability, and protection from bending. It comes with a detachable wrist rest, as well as anti-ghosting and full n-key rollover which allows the keyboard to register every single key, and in the right order even if you press all of them at once.
The mouse is likewise impressive with its bright RGB and 6 DPI levels, the highest of which is at 4800 DPI which will be plenty for a 1080p monitor. Those of you who prefer first-person shooters will be glad to know that the mouse also has 2 programmable buttons, and an ergonomic design reminiscent of the Razer Viper, or most other Razer mice for that matter.
And finally, there’s the headset. Like every other item in this bundle, the headset is equipped with RGB lighting, which is in this case a bit unnecessary, but we’re not complaining. It has soft, memory foam ear cups, 50mm drivers, and virtual surround sound, which, while it cannot compare to the more expensive headsets, sounds surprisingly crisp and clear, and the same goes for the microphone.
Well, there you have it. If you need a keyboard, mouse, and headset, and don’t plan on spending hundreds of dollars on them, this Havit bundle is definitely worth a try.
If you need a headset and you want something better than the Redragon solution, you can get in a bundle, then look no further than the Corsair H60.
The H60 is one of the latest gaming headsets by Corsair, and it’s one that strikes a balance between affordability and quality perfectly.
It has a sound profile that’s perfect for gaming, with decent but not overpowering bass. Needless to say, the virtual 7.1 capabilities are there, and they are on point. But more importantly, it has the comfort you’ll need to get through those prolonged gaming sessions.
The headset is lightweight, has enough adjustability to form a snug fit around most heads, and offers the pillow-like level of plushness we’ve come to expect from Corsair.
Most importantly, the microphone is very clear. It’s a bit thin, but this shouldn’t ever be an issue when playing team-based online games, which is what the mic was made for in the first place.
Also, it’s one of the most versatile headsets around, as it’s compatible not only with the PC but all the major consoles as well. In fact, you can connect it to anything with the right adapter.
Of course, with the awesome new keyboard and mouse, you’ll need a mouse pad to match them.
The Ktrio Extended Gaming Mouse Pad is an excellent choice for anyone on a budget. It has a micro-weave cloth surface that feels smooth under the mouse, but is actually slightly textured, enough to give you that extra bit of control.
The underside is a sticky kind of rubber that will keep your mouse pad in place, which is always neat to have, but what we like most about it are the stitched edges that prevent fraying and damage over time and the waterproof surface.
And of course, there’s the design. This is a clean, black, extended mouse pad, or an XL one if you will, meaning that it’s large enough to accommodate both your full-sized keyboard and mouse with room to spare.
These kinds of large mouse pads are becoming increasingly popular with the gaming community, and it’s easy to see why. They look and feel stunning. In fact, this particular Ktrio pad is the smallest out of all the ones they have.
Now, we understand that not all of you like large mouse pads, or have enough room for something of this size on your desks, in which case you can take a look at the HyperX FURY S mouse pads. These come in various designs and sizes, one of which is sure to appeal to you. And if you’d like to see even more options you can check out the link below for more recommendations.
In today’s gaming climate, a controller can end up more important than the keyboard and mouse, depending on what type of games you play.
As you can see, we’ve gone out of our way to find affordable quality keyboard and mouse bundles. However, you don’t really have that many options when it comes to controllers.
Sure, there’s no shortage of PC controllers on the market, but if you plan to do most of your gaming on the controller, then you’ll need an Xbox One controller.
No controller manufacturer save for Sony even comes close to offering the same level of quality, but the problem with Sony is that their DualShock 4 controller is only officially supported through Steam. And for better or for worse, Steam is no longer the only relevant client installed on most gamers’ PCs.
Even if you need a controller just for a couple of games every now and then, an Xbox 360 controller would be a wiser pick than anything else in that price range. But if you intend to game on the controller full-time, then getting the Xbox One controller will save you a lot of headaches in the future.
It’s responsive, it’s ergonomic, and it’s no longer as expensive as it used to be.
When they think of PC peripherals, most people forget all about the chair. This is unfortunate since it is a part of your setup that makes the biggest difference in how you game, and how you feel besides the monitor. And not only that, but it will greatly affect your health and posture too.
For this particular build, we chose something that looks great, has an ergonomic design, and is affordable enough to comfortably fit anyone’s budget, and that’s the BestOffice Mesh Chair.
Like the name says, the seat is made of a mesh material that allows the skin to breathe during hot summer months. But don’t worry, it still has a soft cushion to sit on, and plastic support on the backrest which functions as lumbar support and makes you sit upright at all times.
While this is by no means a high-end chair, and far from the best chair we’ve recommended on this website, it’s a great choice for those of you not ready to spend a fortune, but still looking for something that won’t twist your spine. It’s also an amazing choice for children and teenagers thanks to its smaller frame.
Lastly, in case you do get the K552 keyboard, or any other keyboard that could be unable to type out the word ergonomic, you want a wrist rest to ensure maximum comfort during long hours of gameplay.
To this end, we give you the HyperX Wrist Rest.
This combination of memory foam, superfine fiber, and gel will ensure a level of comfort during gaming so high that you’ll wonder how you’ve ever got by without this $20 product.
In summation, while there are still areas in which this PC needs improvement – an additional 8GB RAM stick for example – it should be crystal clear that it’s no slouch.
If you’re looking to run AAA titles on a budget at better settings than what consoles could offer, then this is the right PC build for you!
Now all that’s left is to order the parts and put them together, but we have no doubt you’ll succeed at this.
There are loads of helpful guides online that you can refer to, so just things one step at a time and enjoy the best gaming $500 PC right now.