Last Updated: Jan 12, 2019
500 dollars/pounds/euros gives you plenty to work with for a very solid, cost-effective, smooth 1080p gaming system with plenty of upgrade options
If you're on a budget and looking for some guidance on choosing the absolute best bang for your buck hardware components to maximize gaming performance and frame rate for the money, this guide on how to build the best gaming PC build under $500 (or under 500 pounds/euros for UK readers and higher for Australian/Canadian gamers) is for you.
Moving on from our recommended cheap $400 gaming PC build which includes an integrated graphics solution in the CPU to save money, the following 500 dollar custom gaming PC build for this month introduces a dedicated/discrete graphics card which takes 1080p gaming performance to a whole new level that integrated GPUs like AMD's 2200G and 2400G just cannot reach.
Even though it's like comparing apples to oranges, this gaming desktop computer will beat standard modern consoles like the PS4 in terms of graphics quality, and will be about on-par with high-end consoles like the PS4 Pro. Although for the best visual experience, nothing beats the PC as getting the buttery-smooth 60FPS in 1080p (full HD) that this budget computer will allow is something that consoles just cannot do.
We'll get into all the details of this month's best budget gaming PC build throughout this guide, including what specific frame-rate you can expect in popular modern AAA titles on high settings in 1080p, but to summarize this parts-list real quick we've gone for a strategic pairing of a very affordable, surprisingly well-performing gaming CPU (the Pentium G5400 or G5500, depending on which is at the better price) with the excellent proven-performer graphics card, the GTX 1050 Ti 4GB, which is a capable well-balanced duo that stretches a 500 dollar budget well.
Topped off with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a standard yet decently-sized 1TB hard drive, and a reliable case and power supply and you have a very solid gaming base that is hard to match in terms of overall bang for your buck for under 500 dollars/pounds/euros, and a system that'll please many PC gamers assuming you're sticking to 1080p resolution (full HD) and don't expect to run the most demanding games on the market at a flawless 60FPS on ultra settings at all times. But getting 60FPS on high settings in many AAA games is absolutely what these parts will do.
Also, like all our monthly-updated recommended gaming PC builds this $500 gaming PC build blows similarly-priced pre-built gaming desktops out of the water when it comes to pure gaming performance, features, expansion options, and overall component quality and reliability. There's just nothing quite like building your own system if you want to stretch a limited budget as far as possible as a gamer, but you're a smart cookie and already know that otherwise you wouldn't be still reading and you'd already be at your local computer store looking to buy an overpriced prebuilt desktop.
So, for you gamers who wish to take the more fun, cost-effective path of buildling your own killer system for less, let's dissect this month's fully-updated and re-evaluated 500 dollar custom gaming PC on a budget including our typical in-depth explanations of exactly why each carefully-selected component made the cut for this PC build, full HD performance estimates for popular AAA games, and anything else you need to know to plan the optimal budget build around this sort of price. Enjoy, good luck, and we hope this guide helps to make your researching a bit easier.
See Also: $600 "Mid-Range" Gaming Build (faster 1080p performance)
Best Gaming PC Build Under $500 (January 2019)
|CPU||Intel Pentium Gold G5400 (Dual Core, 3.7GHz) OR Pentium Gold G5500 (3.8GHz)
|CPU Cooler||Stock (comes with CPU)|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB SuperClocked (Single Fan)
|Motherboard||Gigabyte B360M DS3H (Micro ATX, USB 3.1, DDR4x4)
|RAM||Patriot Signature 8GB (DDR4, 2 x 4GB, 2400 MHz)
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Blue 1TB (7200 RPM, 64MB Cache)
|Power Supply||EVGA 450 BT (450 Watts, 80 Plus Bronze, Non Modular)
|Case||Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower OR Corsair 100R Mid Tower
$480 - $520 (US)
$630 - $660 (Canada)
440 - 470 Pounds (UK)
$750 - $790 (Australia)
(Orders Parts on Amazon, Our #1 Recommended Hardware Store)
Note for Builders Outside the US: The parts of the recommended $500 custom PC build will typically be the exact same across all 4 countries, but where necessary we'll make relevant substitutions for Canada, UK, or Australia if a certain component isn't available in that country (or if it's too overpriced and there is a better value, still-compatible model).
Noteworthy Build Features
|Estimated Wattage (Power Draw)||34W - 158W|
|RAM Slots||4 (2 slots free)|
|Max RAM Support||64GB|
|CPU Architecture||Coffee Lake|
|CPU / Motherboard Socket||LGA 1151|
|Built-in WiFi?||No (buy adaptor: see recommended add-ons below)|
|Hard Drives Supported||6x SATA Drives, 1x m.2 SSD|
|Case Fans||2 x 120mm Included (front + rear), 3 Additional 120mm Mounts|
|Front Panel USB Ports||1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0 (+ tons more on rear of case)|
|Optical Drive Support?||Yes|
|Case Dimensions||7.9 x 14.9 x 17.5 inches|
|Max GPU Length Support||355mm / 14 inches|
|Max CPU Cooler Height Support||160mm / 6.3 inches|
|Full Motherboard & Case Specs||Gigabyte B360M DS3H | Cooler Master N200|
Gaming Performance Overview by Resolution
720p (1280 x 720):
900p (1600 x 900):
1080p (1920 x 1080):
1440p (2560 x 1440):
VR and 4K:
Green = 40FPS and Over (Smooth)
Orange = Under 40FPS (A Little Stutter/Lag)
Red = Under 30FPS (Quite Noticeable Stutter/Lag)
Estimated Frame Rate for 1080p on High Settings
Aggregated Benchmarks for 1080p HIGH Settings
(G5400, 1050 Ti 4GB, 2x4GB DDR4 2400MHz)
|Fortnite||55 - 65 FPS
|PUBG||35 - 45 FPS|
|Overwatch||90 - 100 FPS|
|CSGO||140 - 160 FPS|
|DOTA 2||105 - 115 FPS|
|GTA V||60 - 70 FPS|
|AS Origins||35 - 45 FPS|
|Battlefield 1||55 - 65 FPS|
|COD WW2||75 - 85 FPS|
|SW Battlefront 2||50 - 60 FPS|
|Witcher 3||35 - 45 FPS|
|Far Cry 5||40 - 50 FPS|
As you can see from the benchmark aggregates above for 1080p on high settings, with the Intel Pentium Gold G5500/5400 and 1050 Ti pairing in this month's best gaming PC build under 500 dollars/pounds/euros you can expect very good, smooth frame-rates for many AAA titles. Crank things down to medium settings and you'll get a consistent 60FPS in most modern games, whilst cranking up to ultra/maxed settings means you will get you a tad lower than the frame rates listed above (but this build is indeed capable of 60FPS on ultra settings in less demanding games).
A build like this is also suitable for high refresh-rate (ie for a 144Hz monitor) CSGO performance as you'll get up and around 144FPS+ consistently in this game, assuming you'll stick to 1080p. Same thing for League of Legends, another non-demanding title - even though it's not as important to use a high refresh rate monitor for that game when compared to CSGO, you have the power in this build to get 144FPS+ in LoL if you want (LoL pros do use 144Hz or higher refresh-rate screens if you were wondering). But this build isn't suited for 144Hz 1080p gaming in general, as in more demanding games a budget gaming desktop like this won't have the firepower to get 144FPS.
Let's start our in-depth breakdown of the best value January 2019 gaming PC build under $500 with the CPU, which you could consider the brains of your new system. The CPU, also known as the processor, is responsible for all the quick mathematical calculations and processes and comes in only second to the graphics card as the most important component when building a computer for the fastest gaming performance.
So, as explained in our comprehensive first-time PC builder's guide, to assemble the optimal custom gaming computer for your budget (ie to get the best gaming bang for buck) you want to throw down more money at your graphics card then any other component. But at the same time, you want to pick a good enough CPU for the games (and resolution and settings) you'll be playing to get the sort of performance you want, and choose a well-balanced pairing of graphics card and CPU that maximizes your frame rate.
In this particular situation, when building a computer on a budget, right now your best bang for your buck bet IMHO is one of Intel's budget CPUs which are very cheap (assuming you find one at a good price), allowing you to invest in a very good 1080p gaming GPU (ie a GTX 1050 Ti which we'll get to next) which makes for a great pairing to get 60FPS in 1080p in many modern games (as for which settings, that'll depend on the specific game of course).
Pentium G5400 and G5500: The Lowdown for Budget Builders
The Intel Pentium G5400 Gold (and its slightly faster and more expensive brother, the G5500) build on the previous cult-like following of the Pentium G4560 within the budget gaming community, and are newer versions of it that also pack a fair punch for 60Hz-75Hz gaming (for higher frame rates you'll need a stronger CPU). As of late, they've been hard to find both in stock and at a reasonable price, but if you get lucky and are able to grab one around their MSRP in your particular country, I'd say go for it if you like the look of our frame-rate estimates we covered above in this guide.
The downside is the G5400/5500 are only dual core processors, which doesn't make them ideal for an optimal multitasking/workstation PC as you'd want a quad-core processor if you're serious about that sorta thing, but the truth is that a dual core CPU won't hold you back for a budget gaming computer as not too many games take actual advantage of quad cores (even in 2019).
However, another thing to consider is that you can always upgrade to a better Intel CPU down the line when you save up more money, as the socket type/platform for these cheap Intel processors are the same as the excellent super-fast Intel i5-8400 gaming CPU. So, overall, if building a gaming PC build on a budget under 500 dollars/euros/pounds, you can't really go too wrong with a G5400/5500 when paired with a decent 1080p graphics card.
It's a great bang for your buck setup for smooth 1080p performance in the majority of games (at decent settings) for a while to come. And no, these real cheap budget Intel CPUs will NOT bottleneck a card like the GTX 1050 Ti if you're sticking to a standard 60-75Hz monitor. Just ensure you don't pay a wild price for these and you're golden - I'd give the G5400 a miss if it's more than $70-80, and probably forget about the G5500 also if that one goes for higher than $90 in your country. At these prices or higher, you're best off just getting the Intel Core i3-8100, which would fit in just fine with all the other parts of this custom build.
AMD Ryzen 2200G vs Intel Pentium G5400/G5500
As for weighing up your options on the AMD side of things, for a 500 dollar custom build your best choice there is the Ryzen 2200G, although if the G5400/5500 is at a good current price then you're looking at spending a little more for the 2200G. For gaming performance, it's going to be quite neck and neck overall between one of these latest Pentiums and the 2200G, however the Pentium dual core CPUs will actually win in lightly-threaded titles (read: most games) while the 2200G will be slightly better in some more demanding, multi-threaded games that tap into its extra cores (the Pentiums have 2 cores and 4 threads, while the 2200G has 4/4).
See this gaming CPU benchmark here which includes the G4560 and G5600 compared to the Ryzen 2200G (and even the 2400G) in various games. The G5400 and G5500 aren't included, but their performance will lie between the G4560 and G5600, so by taking that into account you'll notice that any of the budget Pentium CPUs will beat the higher-priced 2200G in most games.
Most games still don't actually use 4 cores (where the 2200G wins), even at this stage in 2019 despite what some gamers might scream on a forum, but there are some out there and in the future more and more games will take advantage of the extra cores. Therefore, you could argue that going for the Ryzen 2200G with a GTX 1050Ti/RX 570 (make sure to switch to an AMD motherboard if you are doing so) is the better long-term play than going for our current recommended Pentium G5400/5500 and GTX 1050 Ti/RX 570.
However, at the right price the Pentiums are hard to beat for pure gaming performance value in most games, and whilst more games will start tapping into quad core CPUs over time, it'll be a slow transition so I personally don't see any problem with a budget Pentium serving you well for a few years to come (plus you can always upgrade to a powerful i5-8400 later on as the motherboard socket type is the same). Overall, either option (AMD or Intel) is just fine in 2019 when building a gaming computer on a budget.
Intel Pentium G5500 Gold 3.8GHz Dual Core (if you find for cheaper, or even less, than the G5400)
Intel Core i3-8100 3.6GHz Quad Core (if the G5400 and G5500 are both too overpriced, or if you just want to spend a little more on a quad-core CPU)
As for the most important gaming PC part of all, your trusty GPU (Graphics Processing Unit for any first-timers; don't worry we've all been there). For a budget gaming PC build under $500, to maximize gaming performance you'll want to spend around $150 to $200 on the best graphics card you can get your hands on, and on the current market that means either a GTX 1050 Ti 4GB or the slightly better RX 570 4GB.
NVidia GTX 1050 Ti vs AMD RX 570: Budget GPU Battle
AMD doesn't have a direct competitor to the GTX 1050 Ti, with the RX 570 being more powerful yet more expensive, and the card below in the RX 560 being less powerful. So which should you get, the 1050 Ti or pay a bit more for the 570? Well, at the moment the choice is usually quite a tough one, and it all depends on current pricing of course.
As of writing this, under normal circumstances the RX 570 is priced a fair bit higher than the 1050 Ti, and choosing one would take us over the 500 dollar budget for this build, hence why we've stuck with it again for this month's budget gaming computer. However, right now you sometimes will indeed find a RX 570 on sale at a very attractive price of around $170 or even less, which would make it hard to ignore as it does offer slightly better performance than the 1050 Ti (although it's a bit less efficient and does use a little more power than the 1050 Ti).
So, if you manage find a 570 around that price ($150-$180 ish), and the GTX 1050 Ti isn't having a sale of its own (as in, it's not at like $140 and under) - you should probably go for the 570 for the better gaming performance and better overall value. Our best video card deals page may help you to find the best GPU price for your rig as we do a daily roundup each morning of the best graphics card deals we can find around the web (for US readers).
So, if you stick with the GTX 1050 Ti for your new custom gaming desktop, what can this little thing produce? Expect really good 1080p performance, and without getting into specifics as we did above in our aggregated benchmarks from around the web, you can expect a flawless 60FPS on medium/high settings in many modern games, and 60FPS on ultra/maxed settings in the lesser demanding titles. It'll have you gaming nice and smoothly in most games in 1080p for at least 2-3 years.
Picking the best motherboard for any desktop build is usually one of the trickier, confusing selections to make, as it's easy to get lost in the myriad of seemingly similarly-named boards with various features and little details and nuances. Shopping for a motherboard can easily and quickly make your head spin, even for the more experienced builder.
So, for the best budget gaming PC build under $500 right now, you'll want a cheap-ish yet still-decent-quality board that has all the basic features to make a solid gaming base. The Gigabyte B360M DS3H mATX fits that bill nicely, and is a very affordable option from a good manufacturer. It supports i5 and i7 processors (8th gen) so you can always upgrade your budget Pentium processor later down the track should you want to give your build a complete overhaul when you have more money to invest.
It has 4 memory slots which is nice for a budget board, yet a must if you want future RAM upgrade potential whilst taking advantage of dual channel memory now with your 2 memory sticks. It's also got good quality LAN and on-board audio as any modern motherboard should have these days, as well USB 3.1 support. Simply put, a basic, inexpensive B360 Intel motherboard from a reliable manufacturer like Gigabyte is all you need for a non-overclocking budget PC gaming PC build like this.
If you've read our cheaper PC builds for this month, you'll notice that for this $500 PC build we're dropping down to 2400Mhz RAM modules instead of the 2666MHz modules included in the $400 build. Ryzen CPUs, and APUs for that matter, take more advantage of faster RAM, whereas the G5400 and G5500 (and even the next tier up in the i3-8100) only support a maximum speed of 2400Mhz. So there's no point getting 2666Mhz modules for these budget Intel Pentium CPUs as you couldn't utilize the faster speed anyway.
As for the size of the RAM, 8GB is all you need for the far majority of games right now to maximize performance now and into the near future, and plus you can't fit any more into a budget of 500 dollars/pounds/euros anyway. Patriot is also a solid name in the memory game.
You don't need any more than 8GB of memory unless you're building a high-end gaming computer of around 1000 dollars or higher, or if you're assembling a streaming PC build or workstation setup where the extra RAM would actually be totally practical.
But when building a budget gaming PC build for around/under $500 - or even $600-$1000 to be honest - 8GB is perfect and fitting 12-16GB into your parts-list would probably not be a smart allocation of your money as you're better off sticking with 8GB when on a budget and investing that saved money into your graphics card. For example, if we went with 16GB for this $500 build (which would be silly), we would be lucky to be able to squeeze in a GTX 1050 which would decrease your gaming performance a fair bit.
Also, we've included dual channel RAM (that is, 2x4GB sticks instead of the 1 8GB module) because you do see an increase in gaming performance with dual channel memory compared to single channel. It's not a huge difference in frame rates, and perhaps a 10-15FPS increase at the absolute best, but dual channel RAM is usually around the same sort of price so you might as well go for them if you can to crank out those extra few frames. Check out this benchmark below which tests the G4560 - a very similar processor to the G5400 - with single vs dual channel RAM which shows a nice little performance boost:
These components remain the same as in our best entry level gaming PC build so see that build's explanation if you want to know our reasoning behind these selections. To quickly summarize, the Western Digital Blue 1TB is a fast, reliable and value for money pick, and the EVGA 450 BT is a reliable quality-brand bang for your buck PSU that's also suitable for this build and an 80+ bronze certified model for decent guaranteed efficiency which is the minimum you should aim for when choosing a PSU. Feel free to include an SSD if you like as a small one that'll boost your boot and load times isn't expensive, but we've opted out of one for this tier to focus on pure gaming performance and other more crucial features.
Just one thing to point out about power supplies. A common misconception among beginners is how much power you really need for your components, and you usually need less than you may imagine. For this $500 build, believe it or not but 450 watts of power from a decently-reliable unit is all you actually need, and it includes some wiggle room for future upgrades, too. Only reason to get a higher powered unit such as 500 watts or more is if you're planning on some extensive upgrades outside the norm of a standard budget gaming build. Learn more about how much power you need and everything else about PSUs in our in-depth computer power supply guide for gamers.
Last but not least, the Cooler Master N200 is a stellar budget case that's compact, good overall quality with very decent durability for the price, and has a simple yet clean, crisp look that might be up your ally if you don't need any fancy aesthetics and design. This is the case we used in the example build for the photos in our PC building tutorial and it was a very easy case to work with that has handy cable management features as well.
As for cooling, which is something to consider when building a gaming PC, and the case comes with 2 pre-installed fans which is enough for this setup. Plus, it has a meshed front panel which helps overall airflow. Consider getting more fans if you'll be tweaking this setup further with added power (ie overclocking, faster graphics card, etc) or if you live in a real hot climate and your system gets real hot and/or loud, but the 2 strategically-situated included fans will be enough for most. Overall, the Cooler Master's N200 is a decent-quality, wallet-friendly compact case that is hard to fault for a budget gaming build.
Another great value for money case for a budget gaming build that we suggest is the Corsair Carbide 100R Mid-Tower, which is a little bigger than the Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower and therefore has more future upgrade potential. It's another simplistic, classic design of a case with nothing fancy about it, but not every builder wants a flashy case. More importantly, along with the N200 it's got a solid set features and good overall quality for (normally) very affordable price tag. If you find it $60 and under, it's an excellent buy if you'd prefer a Mid Tower over a Mini Tower for this budget build.
No surprises here. Windows 10 (64-bit if you wanna get technical) is what we'd suggest (Home edition if you're on a budget), and there are a few different ways to buy and install it onto your new custom build:
Recommended Optical Drive
Like all our monthly gaming PC builds, we don't include an optical drive as it's a totally optional component when building a computer these days as not everyone needs to play or burn CDs and DVDs (or Blu-ray if you wanna get fancy). But if you want to include one for the budget gaming build, go right ahead as the current recommended case (Cooler Master N200) does indeed have room for one (not all cases do). Below is the model we'd suggest in terms of bang for buck, but you can see all the best optical drives for PC builds here.
Recommended Budget PC Gaming Accessories
When planning the best gaming PC build under $500, if you're also buying accessories because you don't have any left over from a previous setup to save money, then you'll also want to also be smart about your selections and pick good value for money yet decent models as a gamer. Here are our top bang for your buck picks for this particular $500 budget build, but see our in-depth accessory buying guides (on our main menu up top) if you want to see all our top picks for all budgets:
Assembling the $500 Parts-List
Building your own custom computer is very straightforward to do and simply a matter of following instructions, plugging things in, connecting things, perhaps screwing a few things in (although not necessarily as many modern computer cases have tool-free designs) and following some simple safety procedures. See How to Build a PC Step by Step for the full instructions.
This essentially wraps up our monthly-updated guide to building the absolute best gaming PC build under 500 dollars/pounds/euros (or higher for Canadian and Australian gamers). We hope it helps you whether you're assembling this exact computer, or using this guide as a base for your ongoing research. Anyway, thanks for reading, good luck with your build, and happy gaming.
Get Notified of Build Updates
Building your PC in the near future and want to be notified the exact moment we release the next monthly instalment of this build (or any of our builds)? Subscribe to our email list below to receive build updates straight to your inbox the moment they are published, as well as any other noteworthy news, guides, hardware releases, and special deals related to building gaming PCs:
Let's do a quick comparison of the $500 custom gaming PC build versus the best prebuilt gaming desktops that we could find on the current market that have similar specs. We list these prebuilts here for two reasons.
So, these are the closest (in terms of specs) prebuilts at the best price we could find right now, and that would make acceptable alternate buys to the above custom PC if you really don't want to build your own:
- Intel Pentium G5400 3.7GHz Dual Core Processor Price History, Specs & Reviews (PCPartPicker)
- Intel Core i9-9900K Review (includes budget Intel vs budget AMD benchmarks)
- The Best Value CPU: Pentium Gold G5400 vs. Ryzen 3 2200G
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC GAMING 4GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 Single Fan Specifications
- Intel Pentium G5400 3.7GHz Dual Core Specifications
- Gigabyte B360M DS3H Micro ATX Motherboard Specifications
- Patriot Signature Line DDR4 Specifications
- Western Digital Blue 1TB 7200RPM Desktop Hard Drive Specifications
- EVGA 450 BT 80+ BRONZE 450W Power Supply Specifications
- Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower Specifications
- Carbide Series 100R Mid-Tower Case Specifications
A hobbyist game programmer turned hardware enthusiast, Julien "cyberjulz" is the founder of BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming ever since starting BGC back in '06 as an almost laughably-basic and brief 20 page site with the aim to make building PCs more accessible to the average gamer since most resources weren't too noob friendly. Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality, depth and usefulness of the content over many years the site has steadily grown into the expansive, comprehensive and ever-updated first-time PC builder resource that it is today that now reaches and helps thousands of gamers and power users each month to more easily plan optimal setups for their exact needs. You can learn more about the BGC mission and ways to support it here.
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