Every time I look for a new gaming PC (and that’s quite a lot), this is what happens. I start by coming up with a budget. It’s typically low, dear reader, because reviewing games for a living doesn’t pay all that well. It certainly has other perks, though, which I’ll come to in a minute.
So, I’m looking for a great budget gaming PC, and I find one for, let’s say, $500. But wait. I can get an extra 2GB of RAM for $45, right? And I can definitely afford $45. So now I’ve got a killer gaming PC, and it only costs $545. But wait. I can get a better graphics card for an extra $65, right? And I can definitely afford $65.
You can see the problem.
Fast forward a few hours, and I’m looking at a gaming PC costing north of $2,000. I definitely want it, but I definitely can’t afford it. If only I could put an arbitrary price cap on how much I can spend on a gaming PC. Oh wait, I can. So let’s say $500.
What can we get for that? It turns out quite a lot.
But can I really get a gaming PC for less than $500? 🖥️ 🤔
Best PC for Gaming Under $500
Yep. And I don’t mean some ancient, fourth-hand tower with a floppy drive and shambolic performance. Nowadays, you can actually get a pretty killer gaming PC for under $500.
It’s not going to be the best gaming PC out there, of course. But it will come with the necessary performance to run most games, if not on the highest graphics settings. My benchmark for this is the 8 GB of RAM that is the standard requirement for most games today, and a CPU that’s at least in the top page of the PassMark CPU Benchmarks.
How do I know that? That’s one of the perks of being a game reviewer. I’ve tested all the PCs below and benchmarked them myself using the apps that are available for GPU benchmarking. So, without further ado, let’s look at the best gaming PCs for under 500 bucks. Well, maybe a little more. But only a little, I promise.
Best Choice: CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883
Pros & Cons
- Six-Core CPU
- Huge hard drive for all the games you ‘need’ (or just want)
- Gaming keyboard and mouse included
- Only for gaming
- CPU: FX-Series Six-Core FX-6300, 3.5 GHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon R7 240
- Storage: 1,024 GB
- RAM: 8 GB
CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 Review
So let’s get one thing out of the way first: choosing a winner from this list was really tough. The marketplace for sub $500 gaming PCs is really competitive, and my choice of the best machines comes down to some pretty small differences. The CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 just edges it, though.
The stats on this machine are just slightly higher than the other gaming PCs I tested after everything is taken into account. Pairing a CPU with a GPU is something of an art, and you can never really tell just how fast a PC is until you’ve used it.
I’m glad to say that the six-core CPU used here works extremely well with the AMD graphics processor, and gives a performance that you wouldn’t expect at this price point.
The CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 comes, as standard, with the 8 GB of RAM that you are going to need to run most games, as do all the PCs on this list. The difference with the CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883, therefore, it comes down to its other features.
One of these is that, unlike some other gaming PCs for under $500, it is highly upgradeable. In addition, the huge 1 TB drive on the CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 gives you enough space for all the games you ‘need’, as well as a huge collection of other media.
Perhaps best of all, though, the CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 comes packaged with a pretty great gaming mouse and keyboard combo. That means that you are getting everything you need to play, all in one box. And that’s hard to beat at this price.
The ultimate test for any gaming PC, though, is how well it runs games. And this one runs the lot: as part of this review, I checked the minimum requirements for the top 100 PC games at the moment, and the CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 runs them all. All of them. And that even includes Fortnite. In short, if you are looking for a gaming PC for under $500, get this one.
Premium Pick: iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC
Pros & Cons
- AMD Ryzen processor
- 120GB SSD for super fast loading and boot times
- Compact, and surprisingly elegant for a gaming PC
- CPU: Ryzen 5 2400G, 3.6 GHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega 11
- Storage: 120 GB hard drive, 120 GB SSD
- RAM: 8 GB
iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC Review
The iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC costs a little more than $500, so I’m already breaking my own rules. But only a little. And what you get for an extra few bucks is the machine with undoubtedly the highest stats on this list.
There are a couple of key advantages of the iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC that makes it the best, if not absolutely the best value, of any gaming PC on this list. One is that the 3.6 GHz CPU, coupled with the RX Vega 11 GPU, give you incremental advantage in terms of computing power. That means you can push the graphics on your favorite games a little higher.
Second, this machine comes with a solid-state drive as standard. I’d recommend, if you get any of the PCs on this list, adding an SSD at some point, simply because it makes saving and booting games so much quicker. With the iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC, you’ve already got one.
Finally, this machine simply looks the best. There is an unfortunate tendency among gaming PC designers to add spikes and flaming eyes and pictures of panthers to PC cases. The iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC, by contrast, is simple and elegant.
The only reason, in fact, why the iBuyPower Enthusiast Gaming PC doesn’t get to the top of this list is that it is just a little more expensive than the other machines here. But you can afford an extra $50, right?
Best Value: HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer
Pros & Cons
- It’s an HP
- Huge 1 TB hard drive, and all the ports you could ever want
- It does thing other than play games
- Mouse and keyboard that come with this machine are not the best
- CPU: Ryzen 3 2200G, 3.5 GHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 550
- Storage: 1,000 GB
- RAM: 8 GB
HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer Review
The HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer has the most boring name of any of the computers on this list, but don’t let that fool you. It’s still an exciting, and hugely powerful, ride.
The specs on this machine put it among the most powerful gaming PCs for under $500, with a Ryzen 3 processor running at 3.5 GHz and a huge 1 TB hard drive. It ran all the games I tested pretty well and performed excellently even with a huge second monitor attached.
So far, so meh. The HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer doesn’t stand out in terms of performance (where the iBUYPOWER edged it) or all-around specs (where the CYBERPOWERPC takes the prize). It does, though, offer the best value of any of the machines here. That’s because it does things other than play games.
Ugh, boring. But hear me out. If you’re going to get a new PC, you are probably, sometimes, maybe, going to want to do boring stuff like edit your photos or watch a film. That’s where the HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer stands out. It comes with a plethora of ports (including HDMI), a great media card reader, and a ‘DVD’ writer, whatever that is.
And though HP is not known for their gaming computers, this machine performs really well on the games I tested. The only disadvantage, in fact, is that the standard HP mouse and keyboard that come with this machine are not the best. But you can always get better ones.
Best Cheap Pick: Acer Aspire TC-885-ACCFLi3O
Pros & Cons
- Adaptable build that lets you choose a starting point
- Awesome HDD
- One of the best budget CPUs
- Pretty basic
- Integrated GPU
- CPU: Intel Core i3 8100
- GPU: Integrated
- Storage: 1 TB HDD
- RAM: 8 GB
Acer Aspire TC-885-ACCFLi3O Review
As you’ve seen by now, buying a gaming PC for under $500 sometimes means that you have to compromise when it comes to power or features. 500 bucks will get you a decent machine that will play the top PC games out of the box.
You might, however, want to take a different approach: if you invest $500 in a platform that allows you huge upgrade abilities, within a few years you can build yourself a gaming PC that rivals the best pre-built machines around. That’s what the Acer Aspire TC-885-ACCFLi3O provides.
For $400, you can get the most basic machine that the Aspire series offers, though it will still come with decent stats. These include an Intel Core i3 processor and an integrated GPU. Best of all, even this basic machine packs one of the best gaming HDDs for quick load times.
The true value of this PC only becomes apparent, though, when you start looking at upgrade options. The whole system has been built with upgrades in mind and is designed to allow you to quickly and painlessly add more RAM, a different graphics card, or even another SSD.
The small disadvantage with the Acer Aspire TC-885-ACCFLi3O is that you might have to upgrade the GPU as soon as possible. Still, if you’re into playing indie titles and older games, this configuration will serve you just fine.
Best Mini PC: CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W
Pros & Cons
- Fully SSD-based storage makes loading and booting super fast
- It’s really small, so you can take it to your mate’s house
- Triple display capability
- Not upgradeable
- CPU: 3.5 GHz AMD R Series
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega 8
- Storage: 256 GB SSD
- RAM: 8 GB
CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W Review
Last but definitely not least, the CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W. That’s right, a mini PC. I know mini PCs tend to divide opinion in the gaming community, but hear me out. The CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W is a great machine that gives you (almost) the performance of a dedicated gaming PC, without the bulk of a huge tower.
The advantage of that is that you can take it to your friends’ houses, and watch them squirm with envy as your tiny box outperforms their ancient tower. Don’t get me wrong. There are people for whom buying a mini PC that will not be right.
On the other hand, it’s hard to fault the CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W according to any metric that matters. The performance here is as good as any of the other machines on this list. In fact, in some ways the CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W is actually a more flexible machine than the some of the other gaming PCs above, notably in its ability to support 3 monitors natively.
The only black mark against the CUK AsRock DeskMini A300W is a ‘problem’ it shares with all mini PCs: it is not really upgradeable. Still, if you just want to play the latest games, and don’t care so much about how, this is a great choice.
Gaming PCs Under $500: Buying Guide
The features you should look for in a gaming PC for under $500 are, basically, the features you should look for in any gaming PC:
CPU and GPU
At the heart of any gaming system are the CPU and GPU. Pairing these components is something of an art form, though, so it’s not necessarily true that the best budget gaming CPU, paired with the best graphics card for gaming, is going to produce the system with the best performance overall.
This is, in fact, one of the major advantages of buying a pre-built machine, because you can be assured that the components have been chosen because they work together well. That said, you should always look for the fastest CPU, and the most advanced GPU, available.
RAM is the next most important feature of any gaming machine, but for under $500 you shouldn’t expect more than 8 GB. Don’t worry, though: very few games require more than this today, so with 8 GB of RAM you will be able to play almost everything, if not on the highest graphics settings.
Keyboard and Mouse
Finally, an important consideration in buying a gaming PC for under $500 is the extras that it comes bundled with. You don’t want to exceed your budget by getting a bare-bones PC, and then having to buy a mouse and keyboard separately.
Most of the machines above come with included peripherals, but we’ve also put together a guide on the best gaming keyboard and mouse combo if you want to upgrade your equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Cheaper to Build a Gaming PC or Buy One?
Ah, the age-old question. If you have the time to invest, you can definitely build a gaming PC for cheaper than a pre-built one. On the other hand, buying a pre-built machine comes with the assurance that the components work well together. It also allows you to just get on with what you want to do – play games – rather than tinkering with the innards of your machine…
How Much Would a Decent Gaming PC Cost?
About $500, I would say. There are cheaper ‘gaming’ PCs, of course, but they do not really deserve the name. Equally, some people might say that you can’t get a ‘decent’ gaming PC for above $1000. But those people have more money than sense.
If you decide to invest in a gaming PC costing around $1000 or more, we recommend you look at some of the best surge protectors. You really don’t want expensive hardware getting destroyed by a power outage.
What Is a Good Gaming PC for a Beginner?
All of the machines above are also great for beginners. If you’ve just got into games, and are annoyed with the performance of your ancient laptop, any of the sub $500 gaming PCs above will blow you away with their performance.
What’s the Cheapest Gaming Computer?
Probably your Dad’s Amstrad. But if you get bored with Pong, take a look above.
Finding a cheap gaming PC isn’t easy. However, you should know that it’s possible but you will have to make a small compromise regarding the build quality.
If you’re looking for something that’s not expensive but truly competitive in today’s gaming space, we recommend looking at the best gaming PCs under $1500.
Still, if you are satisfied with what our best gaming PC under $500 has to offer, go ahead and get it.