If you’re looking for a new prebuilt gaming PC, you’ve probably already realized how tough it is to make the final decision. First-time PC buyers especially may be intimidated by all the different specifications, and even experienced buyers can have trouble handling their expectations.
Not that long ago, a decent gaming PC could have cost you thousands of dollars and it would have become obsolete within a year or two. These days, however, computers cost less than ever.
You don’t have to spend $1,000 or more on a new gaming PC!
That’s right! You can buy a prebuilt gaming PC for around $500, or even less.
We have chosen five popular $500 PCs to review, and we are going to take a good look at each of them to determine what exactly it is that makes them the best in this price range.
Now, these systems are certainly not state of the art on the saturated market. You won’t be playing Anthem on them. But you’ll be able to run many games at lower settings.
Best of all, you can upgrade most of these PCs later and create a custom rig.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a quick overview of our candidates for the best prebuilt gaming PC under $500.
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- Comes with an OC
- Plenty of storage
- Optane Memory
- Low price
- Not enough RAM
Our first contestant is the HP Pavilion 590-p0033w.
While the PCs on this list are in no particular order, this one is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it’s also the cheapest.
It comes equipped with the Intel Core i3-8100 processor that has four cores, four threads, and a base clock speed of 3.6GHz.
Unfortunately, like most of the entries on this list, it doesn’t have a dedicated GPU, but the processor comes equipped with Intel’s UHD 630 integrated graphics card.
The specs are nothing to write home about, and you’d have to settle for a 720p gaming experience, but the integrated GPU is good enough that you could play many of the newer AAA titles at around 30 FPS on low settings …if you had at least 8GB of RAM …which you don’t.
Unfortunately, this PC comes with only 4GB of RAM, which is not enough for decent gaming these days as most games require 4 to 8GB of VRAM.
In this case, the four available gigabytes not only have to serve all your programs from the browser to Steam and Discord but also the GPU since the graphics card is integrated and doesn’t have its own VRAM. This means that you will effectively have only about half of your entire RAM for games.
Aside from this, the HP Pavilion comes with a 1TB HDD, plenty of USB ports, one optical drive, Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, Windows 10 Home, and its own keyboard and mouse, all protected with a 1-year warranty.
One last thing we have to mention here is the 16GB of Optane Memory this PC has that is not to be confused with RAM.
Optane memory is not RAM although it can essentially function like RAM with longer-term storage.
What we mean by this is, it stores your most frequently used files or programs just like RAM, but unlike RAM it can retain information for longer periods (even when your PC is off), and it can then launch those same programs in a flash once you decide to use them again.
Since this is a PC with an integrated GPU and 4GB of RAM, Optane memory will in certain cases slightly increase your gaming performance, but not by much.
First of all, even though the CPU is not the most powerful on the market, or on this list for that matter, it is still pretty good for this price. The specs are actually quite decent, and it even comes with its own UHD 630 integrated graphics that can run most modern games on low to medium settings, albeit at 720p.
Nothing mind-blowing, but nothing too shabby either for a PC priced this low.
We’ve mentioned in the beginning that this PC is the weakest of the bunch, and that has a lot to do with the processor, but it mostly has to do with the amount of RAM.
As we’ve already pointed out, 4GB is simply not enough for decent gaming these days, especially for a PC with an integrated GPU. That said RAM is also the simplest and cheapest component to upgrade, which we recommend you do as soon as possible if you opt for this machine.
This small change will instantly make this PC go from “ok considering the price” to “actually decent”.
In case you don’t want to upgrade, you should know that this PC can run a lot of the older games which require less RAM on low/medium settings even with 4GB, but you’d have to be careful to turn off as many, if not all of you RAM-consuming background processes as possible to maximize performance.
As for the storage, 1TB is more than enough for any regular PC, and you can be sure that you will most likely never come even close to running out. It’s no SSD, but that’s to be expected considering the budget.
What it does have is Optane memory that, as we explained above, speeds up some of your most-used programs essentially making your PC feel like it’s running an SSD in some cases. This is a cool feature that none of the other PCs in this article have, which is one of the reasons this HP Pavilion PC made it to this list even despite its RAM deficiency.
Overall, this is a decent PC for a novice gamer, casual user, or someone not too keen on having their games look too realistic, and the fact that it comes with a pre-installed Windows 10 Home, and mouse and keyboard is simply outstanding.
Acer Aspire TC-895-UA91
CPU: Intel Core i3-10100
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630
Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD
- Great upgradability options
- Great price
- NVMe SSD
- Low wattage PSU
The Acer Aspire TC-895-UA91 is a decent PC right out of the box.
This one comes equipped with Intel’s latest-gen processor, the Intel Core i3-10100. This generation Intel finally decided to add hyper-threading to their lower-tier processors, which has significantly improved their processing power.
This particular processor has four cores, eight threads, a base frequency of 3.6GHz, and a max boost frequency of 4.3GHz.
What they haven’t improved upon is their integrated GPU, which is still the Intel UHD Graphics 630, just like with the previous three generations of Intel processors.
In terms of specs, the difference between this PC and the PC from the previous entry is astronomical.
This is in great part thanks to the processor, but it also has a lot to do with the amount of RAM. The Acer Aspire TC-895-UA91 has 8GB of RAM compared to HP Pavilion’s 4GB, not to mention the incredibly fast NVMe SSD with 512GB of storage.
Once again, the PC offers plenty of connectivity options, and it even has an optical drive, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6, and comes with Windows 10 Home, a keyboard, and a mouse.
There is an option to buy it in a bundle with a monitor, in which case the price rises to $550, but there are so many great options when it comes to monitors that aren’t too expensive, that you might be better off buying it separately.
The only possible downside of this PC is that it only has a 300W PSU.
This is enough for it to run smoothly with its current components, but if you ever decide to add a dedicated graphics card, keep in mind that you will have to get a stronger power supply as well.
In terms of processing power, this is a great PC.
While 4 cores and 8 threads may not be mind-blowing, it’s perfectly acceptable for any modern-day budget PC.
Hyper-threading will allow your CPU to work faster and be more efficient than any other quad-core processor that doesn’t have this feature, and it will significantly decrease lag when running multiple programs at once.
It also helps that the PC has 8GB of RAM. Of course, 16GB is still the optimal amount, but that’s for much more expensive builds. In this case, 8GB is fantastic.
The more RAM you have, the smoother your PC will function. You’ll be able to run multiple processes at the same time without any stuttering or lag, your programs won’t crash randomly, you’ll be able to have more tabs open in your browser, etc.
Naturally, RAM will also have a play in how well your games run, or if they run at all. All the more so if you have integrated graphics, which this PC does.
Dedicated GPUs have their own onboard VRAM (video RAM) that’s used by the graphics card only. Integrated GPUs don’t have this, so they have to use your system’s RAM. This is why it’s important to have as much RAM as possible when running integrated graphics.
As we said, 8GB is great and it won’t pose any problem when you’re browsing the Internet for instance, but it will hold you back to an extent while gaming.
For anyone gaming on an integrated graphics card with less than 16GB of RAM, we recommend turning off as many programs and processes unrelated to the game, so as to free up as much RAM as possible. This still won’t allow you to play games that require much more RAM than you have to begin with, but it might make the situation slightly better for the games that you can run.
When it comes to storage 512GB is, once again, not ideal, but it’s not too cramped either. And considering it’s an NVMe SSD we’re talking about, even if you’re mad about the volume, you won’t be complaining about the speed.
When looked objectively, this is a very good PC. Granted, it will function better as a budget workstation than a gaming PC, but you will still be able to play many games, both old and new on it, as long as you don’t mind gaming at 720p most of the time.
The best thing about this PC is that it contains a 10th-gen Intel processor.
This means that if you decide to upgrade to an 11th-gen Intel processor by any chance, you’ll be able to do it without changing the motherboard. And if you don’t, you’ll be able to cram even an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti in the system without experiencing any bottlenecking thanks to the strength of this CPU.
The only thing that will likely pose a problem if you add a dedicated graphics card is the power supply but think about crossing that bridge when you get to it.
Overall, the Acer Aspire is a fantastic choice and, although it’s not the best PC on this list, it offers the best price to performance ratio out of all the systems listed here. It’s also an especially great deal if you’re planning on getting a dedicated GPU soon, and you want to spend as little money as possible with the best possible outcome.
If, on the other hand, you want to find the best PC that you can use for gaming right out of the box, without any tinkering or upgrades, then read on, because there’s a real treat coming up for you further down the list.
Acer Aspire TC-895-UA92
CPU: Intel Core i5-10400
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
- Great upgradability options
- Great CPU
- 12GB of RAM
- NVMe SSD
- Low wattage PSU
This is another Acer Aspire TC model, in this case, the Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92, and it’s a step up compared to the first two entries on this list.
Not only does it come with 12GB of DDR4 RAM, but also the Intel Core i5-10400 processor. However, all of this comes at a slightly greater price.
The CPU has 6 cores, 12 threads, a base frequency of 2.9GHz, and a maximum boost frequency of 4.3GHz.
It may not seem like much of an improvement when it comes to gaming mainly because the integrated GPU is still the same as in both of the PCs mentioned above, but the i5-10400 will be able to squeeze a few extra FPS out of that GPU.
On top of that, the extra RAM compared to the previous model is sure to exponentially improve your overall experience.
That said it still won’t be enough to see any major enhancements in gaming. You will be able to play some older games like the original Civilization VI in 1080p at around 40-45 FPS, but for the most part, you’ll have to stick to 720p gaming until you decide to add a dedicated graphics card.
Like the previous model, the Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92 comes with a 512GB SSD which is amazing, a pre-installed Windows 10 Home, USB keyboard and mouse, a DVD writer, a 300W PSU that will, unfortunately, have to be replaced with a more powerful one if you decide to add a dedicated graphics card, and a 1-year warranty.
Just like with our previous option we once again have a 10th-gen Intel processor. Thanks to this, the motherboard that comes with the PC will be able to support an 11th-gen Intel processor if you ever decide to upgrade it.
This is always a big plus for any PC since CPU upgrades are often considered the most bothersome because in most cases upgrading a CPU also means having to buy a new motherboard that can support that CPU which makes your expenses pile up.
This tradition has been broken by AMD and their AM4 socket, and we’re happy to see Intel finally coming to their senses regarding this issue as well.
When it comes to the CPU specs, they are fantastic.
True, the integrated GPU is still the same Intel UHD Graphics 630, and just as we said above, there won’t be a huge difference in your gaming, but when it comes to everything else a massive performance boost is guaranteed.
Most prebuilt budget systems come with 8GB of RAM which isn’t terrible, but it’s not impressive either, especially considering that most of these systems run an integrated GPU. That said we were thrilled to stumble upon a PC with 12GB of RAM. This still comes short of the optimal 16GB, but we’d take it over 8GB anytime.
These two things – the processor and the RAM – are the only improvements compared to the previous entry.
But are these two improved components worth the $110 price difference?
We think they are.
First of all, while the difference between 130 and 135 FPS may not make any difference whatsoever in your gameplay, the difference between 30 and 35 FPS is much more noticeable, and it can significantly improve your gaming experience.
Second, it’s always wise to think ahead. If you plan on one day getting a dedicated graphics card, you’ll want a CPU that will be able to support it and won’t cause bottlenecking, which is why it’s never a bad idea to go for the better processor if you can afford it.
After all, the processor is the heart of a PC, and not only do your games depend on it but everything else as well.
There is not much to say about the RAM. The more, the better! And the 12GB this PC comes with is plenty of memory to allow you to both play games and run several background processes at a time without much trouble.
Once again, the 512GB SSD is a welcome element. HDDs may offer more storage for the same price, but the superb speeds of SSDs are worth a little sacrifice. Plus, if you ever need more storage, investing another $40 in a regular HDD shouldn’t be a problem, and can be done at any moment should you choose to do so.
As with our previous entries, this PC comes with its own keyboard and mouse, which is great if you need it, but we would have liked an option to order just the PC as it would lower the price for those who already have extra peripherals lying around from an older rig.
Other than that, the only thing we can complain about is the price. This PC costs a whopping $540. Nevertheless, with this PC you are one upgrade away from a gaming beast.
- Has a dedicated GPU
- Looks amazing
- Very little storage
Next up is an iBUYPOWER Pro GamingPC, the iBUYPOWER Element Mini 9300.
This is the first Ryzen build on this list, and even though it’s a mini PC, it’s still the best gaming system for $500, or $530 to be precise.
It has a dedicated GPU.
The AMD Radeon RX 550 is by no means a state of the art card. It has 2GB of VRAM and you’ll still have to stick to 720p most of the time, especially in AAA titles, but it’s still a huge improvement compared to integrated graphics.
This GPU is paired up with the AMD Ryzen 3 3100. The processor has 4 cores, 8 threads, 3.6GHz base clock speed, and 3.9GHz max boost clock speed. These are perfectly decent stats, especially for a budget PC.
Other than that, the PC is equipped with 8GB of memory, a pre-installed Windows 10 Home, Wi-Fi, and the usual keyboard and mouse.
The storage is a little weaker in this case, which is probably due to the dedicated GPU, so the Element Mini 9300 comes with only a 240GB SSD.
And lastly, the PC looks gorgeous. It comes in a sleek, minimalistic black case with transparent side and front panels, and RGB case lighting.
Ok, so this PC slightly exceeds the budget, but is it worth it?
Just like for the previous entry, the answer is yes, but this time, a resounding yes.
A dedicated GPU is a rarity with prebuilt budget PCs, which is why we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show you this little gem.
As we said above, the RX 550 is not an amazing graphics card, but compared to integrated graphics… well, it kind of is.
You’re looking at a 20FPS increase at the very least compared to the Intel UHD Graphics 630 that all of the previous systems on this list had. In many cases, this number goes up as high as 40.
Many of the games you would barely be able to play with integrated graphics will work smoothly, and you’ll be able to run titles you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to without a dedicated GPU. Of course, you’re still doomed to 720p, but at least your gaming experience will now be entirely tolerable.
Now, it seems that some compromises were made because of this GPU which is why we still only get 8GB of RAM, and a 240GB SSD.
8GB of RAM is fine, especially since the GPU has its own VRAM in this case which takes some load off your system RAM, but the situation could be a lot better.
For starters, considering this is a prebuilt PC there should be only one 8GB RAM stick on this motherboard instead of two 4GB sticks. Upgradability-wise this is good since all your other slots are empty and you may upgrade as you please. Performance-wise, not so much because dual channel benefits can’t be unlocked without the second stick.
Put simply, dual-channel memory configuration has a positive impact on your PC’s performance and can significantly improve it. So, for now, 8GB is fine, but our warm recommendation is that you get another 8GB stick the first chance you get.
Storage was another thing sacrificed for the sake of the GPU. It pains us to say this, but unlike with the RAM that you may, but don’t have to upgrade, you will definitely have to upgrade your storage soon since 240GB is just not enough for gamers these days.
The fact that it is SSD storage is a redeeming point, but in this case, we would have preferred volume over speed simply because the PC would have seemed more complete that way.
Finally, let’s discuss the CPU. This is a fairly decent model comparable to the Intel Core i3-10100. This means that it’s a low-end, budget processor. However, even low-end Ryzen processors are really good, and this one belongs to the 3rd-gen Ryzen lineup which means it’s based on the Zen 2 architecture.
To put it in perspective CPU is as powerful as the Ryzen 5 2600X which is a mid-level processor of the previous generation of Ryzen processors. As you can see, the switch in architecture has resulted in a huge leap in performance.
So, to conclude, this is not a mind-blowingly fantastic CPU, but it’s definitely nothing to complain about. For a budget PC such as this one that even has a dedicated GPU, this is an excellent deal, and if you look at our custom $500 build article, you’ll see that the Ryzen 3 3100 was also our CPU of choice.
This PC may be $30 more expensive than advertised, but if you want to get a PC that you can use for gaming right away, and you’re on a budget, then this is just the thing for you. It’s the perfect system to help you dip your toes into gaming waters.
- NVMe storage
- 16GB of RAM
- No room for upgrades
- No OC
And in the end, we have something a little different.
The CUK ASRock DeskMini A300W is truly a mini PC. Because of this, it doesn’t leave much room for upgrades. But if what you want is a budget PC for gaming that will do its job for a while, and then be replaced with another machine, this is a pretty good deal.
This Mini PC comes with the Ryzen 3 3200G. You also get 16GB of DDR4 RAM running at 2666MHz, an NVMe SSD with 512GB of storage, and a 3-year warranty!
This is one of the best PCs on this list just because of the type of integrated graphics it has, but it comes with some major drawbacks.
Unlike the other PCs on this list, this one has none of the additional features (no optical drive, no Windows, no keyboard or mouse) except for Wi-Fi. And also, due to its size, a dedicated GPU or an HDD just won’t fit, so you’re basically stuck with what you get.
Considering its size, this little one is a real beast.
The DeskMini A300W has a great processor that can run most of the newer games at a minimum of 30FPS in low settings, but what surprised us the most was the RAM.
This is the first and unfortunately, the only PC on this list with 16GB of RAM. While 8GB and 12GB of RAM is really good, these days 16 is the ideal number when it comes to memory, and especially when it comes to memory meant for a PC with an integrated GPU.
What’s more, AMD’s processors rely heavily on RAM, so the more you have, the better the CPU’s performance (although any more than 16GB would be overkill for gaming).
However, as if to balance it out, this rig has a bunch of other things we aren’t crazy about.
For example, as we mentioned above, it can’t really be upgraded as there is simply no room for a dedicated graphics card or an additional HDD. But there are other options for the latter, like getting a 2.5 SSD, M.2 drive, or even external storage if you really need more space.
It also comes without an operating system, any kind of peripherals, and has only one USB 3.0 port in the front of the case, so you’ll probably have to spend a bit more to complete this PC unless you have some spare peripherals lying around.
The DeskMini A300W is a really good budget PC, but it’s not for everyone.
The only ones we’d recommend it to are those who only need a quick and portable solution for casual gaming and everyday use. If your goal is to gradually improve your rig over the years and keep up with the current trends, this PC will not allow you to do that.
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Do You Need A $500 Prebuilt Gaming PC?
Let’s take a good, honest look at what $500 can get you in terms of PC hardware.
Generally speaking, you’re going to end up with a PC that’s missing some features.
Whether you’ll need to buy an operating system, add a hard drive, upgrade the graphics card, or add more RAM you’re not going to play any current games with amazing graphics without investing a little bit more time and money.
That said these PCs are quite good for prebuilt machines compared to a lot of what’s being offered at the moment. In fact, they would have been state-of-the-art just a few years ago. They’re great for getting you started, and you can play a lot of cool games on them.
If you’re looking to play older games or spend some time upgrading your system, a $500 prebuilt gaming PC is a good choice for you.
Of course, if you’re looking to play newer games, there are better ways to spend $500. You can buy an Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro for less, or even the new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 for about the same price, and you’ll be able to play new releases with fantastic graphics from the moment you open the box.
On the other hand, there’s no way to upgrade a console. Once the next generation of consoles comes out, the only way to play newer games is to buy a whole new device.
With a PC, you can make upgrades over time, as you can afford them. This is easier on your wallet, and it also means you aren’t paying to replace parts that are working perfectly fine, like your case, fans, storage, or even the CPU for example.
However, if none of the options we’ve suggested so far work for you, the final option is to build your own PC, and in our honest opinion, that’s also the best option.
Because for $500, you can put together a system that blows all these prebuilt rigs out of the water.
Of course, this requires some expertise, so keep in mind that this is only if you know how to put a PC together or are willing to tinker with it or follow one of the numerous tutorials on Youtube.
Leaving it to the professionals is probably the best decision if you’re not confident in your skills.
However, if you are, we urge you to take a look at our ultimate PC build for the Best Budget $500 Gaming PC.
Conclusion – The Best Prebuilt $500 Gaming PC For 2021
So, you’ve seen the best $500 prebuilt gaming PCs, you’ve read all their pros and cons, but you still can’t decide which one to get?
We’ll help you.
Out of the five systems listed above one stands an inch above the others, and that’s the iBUYPOWER Element Mini 9300.
Because it has a dedicated graphics card.
There are many reasons why some of you may choose to go with one of the other four builds.
You might want to spend as little money as possible. You might be planning to buy a specific dedicated graphics card, so you want something that you can be sure can support it, or perhaps you’ll be using your PC for both gaming and work, so you also need it to be able to function properly as a workstation.
Different systems will work better for different people, and your final choice will ultimately depend solely on your plans for the future and the way you plan to use your PC.
However, since this is a list of the best prebuilt budget computers for gaming, we’ll go ahead and assume that you’re not too keen on tinkering with your rig, and you just want something decent, usable right out of the box and hassle-free, which is why the iBUYPOWER Element Mini 9300 is the best choice.
It might be tiny, but it packs a punch.
As we mentioned above, the main reason this PC offers the best performance is because it has a dedicated graphics card.
Yes, it has a slightly weaker processor than some of the other entries, and it has less storage, but neither of these things will make as much of an impact on the PC’s performance as the graphics card.
In conclusion, this is the closest to a “finished” PC on this list, it looks fantastic, and it takes the crown when it comes to gaming performance. It comes neatly put together in a box and your only job is to enjoy it and take good care of it so it will last you for years to come. You have no more excuses, time to have some fun!