Building a gaming PC for $500 has always been a difficult task, even before 2020 hit and sent everyone into a crazy component-buying frenzy. At the very least, folks could turn to secondhand marketplaces for cheap yet cheerful parts. Now it’s 2021 and everything has changed: seemingly all stores across the world are struggling to get PC parts stocked and, for those who do have stock, the prices are grossly inflated. It’s tricky to put together a part list, but it’s still possible. Here’s how to build a gaming PC for $500 in 2021.
Gaming PC for $500 Parts List
CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3100
We’re immediately letting the cat out of the bag with this CPU choice. It’s one of AMD’s APUs, combining both CPU and GPU horsepower into a single chip and, most importantly, a single reasonable price. At what should be around $99.99, the AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is a capable chip that can tide new PC gamers over with good performance in lightweight titles like Fortnite, CS: GO, PUBG Lite. There’s an entire catalog of older PC classics and indie titles that this CPU will easily handle while you wait for the prices of dedicated graphics cards to go down.
While there are Intel options out there, AMD simply offers a better deal at this budget.
Motherboard: ASRock B450 Pro4 ATX AM4
Though we’re not looking for enthusiast-level features with a $500 budget, it’s nice to have a solid performer at the center of the build for longevity and support for potential upgrades. The ASRock B450 Pro4 ATX motherboard is the cheapest B450 available and in stock at the time of writing. However, most B450 boards will suit the purpose here. It’s possible to go cheaper, but this offers the most bang for your buck.
Memory: GeIL EVO SPEAR 16 GB
Though 8 GB of RAM is certainly cheaper, we’re going to start out with 16 GB. This will be great for years to come and avoids any need to upgrade from 4 GB sticks, which could be wasteful. RAM prices aren’t too terrible right now, so we saw buy it while you can.
When it comes to the exact RAM model, we just sorted by cheapest and picked out the first brand name that we recognized. The prices can change daily, so we’d recommend sorting by price before buying. Go with a brand name you recognize, aim for 3000 MHz speed or above, and you should be good to go!
Storage: Kingston A400 240 GB SSD and Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB HDD
Storage recommendations for a $500 system haven’t changed in years: Get a decent sized SSD and a big HDD. Eventually, we might see SSD prices come down enough to match HDDs, but for now this combo is the best bet. We found Kingston’s A400 240 GB model offers good value. Pair that with the tried-and-true Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB and that’s a good chunk of storage for a beginner gaming build.
Power Supply: Antec NeoECO Classic 550w
At the time of writing, the Antec NeoECO Classic 550w is the cheapest option from a brand we recognize. You’re aiming for above 400w for this build, as ideally a mid-range dedicated graphics card would eventually be added, however the 550w option offered the best value through a mail-in rebate. It’s Antec and it’s 80+ Bronze Certified, so a definite winner.
Case: Rosewill NAUTILUS ATX Mid Tower Case
Case prices are forever fluctuating. When we sourced parts and prices, the Rosewill NAUTILUS ATX Mid Tower Case offered the best value amongst other positively reviewed products. We avoided any cases that had too many negative user reviews and this Rosewill chassis came out on top. It looks okay for the price, too, which is about all you can ask for when hitting this budget price point. An extra $10-20 can get you better aesthetics, should you stretch the budget a little!
Should I buy a pre-built PC in 2021?
In the time before 2020, I would always recommend going ahead and building a PC yourself. However, at the time of writing, it’s the system integrators that sell pre-builts who actually have parts in stock. Many of them are selling for a reasonable price, especially when compared to scalpers swiping stock and flogging them on auction sites.
Though the $500 build above is solid, it’s always worth seeing what pre-builts are available, even if you’re a veteran PC builder.
While it’s tempting to spend $500 on pure power, we think it’s also worth considering future upgrades. The 16 GB of RAM is an upgrade worth making now, the processor is capable enough for low-end gaming until graphics cards become available again, and the motherboard will be suitable for a more powerful CPU when the time comes. Even at $500, you can save yourself a headache when moving on to upgrade.
A $500 budget goes further when you buy used parts, as older (yet still powerful) processors and graphics cards can be had for a significant discount, but the above build uses all totally new components with valid warranties for added peace of mind. What’s more, even mid-range components are suffering stock issues and prices on sites like eBay are skyrocketing, even for secondhand products.