What’s the Best Gaming PC Under $500 in 2021? Our Top Picks
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get a reliable, capable, and performance-driven gaming computer.
Sure, you might not be able to run on high or ultra settings at 240 FPS, but what you can get is a very decent performance that will allow you to play a vast range of gaming titles at a reasonable quality and speed.
But when it comes to finding a good gaming computer at a cheap price, we really wanted to push the limits. So we went on a hunt to find the best gaming PC under $500.
The selection process was quite simple: we found all of the best prebuilt gaming PCs under $500, then compared and reviewed the parts and specs to see which PC was the best, and which one offered the best value for money.
We found that the average PC in the sub-$500 price category has 8GB of RAM, at least 256GB of SSD storage, and a stand-alone GPU and CPU, so anything better than these specs whilst still staying at a low price would prove to be a winner.
However, we had an issue.
It turns out that finding a good gaming PC that’s under $500 is just too tough of a challenge. Unfortunately, $500 is just slightly too low of a price to offer much variety in terms of performance and value. Prices are also constantly changing due to supply.
So, here’s what we’ve done:
We’ve tried to keep the PCs we’ve selected as close to the $500 mark as possible, but many of them will be slightly over this limit as this provided much more flexibility to provide you with useful reviews and recommendations.
If your absolute maximum budget is $500 then you might have to build your own gaming PC. If you have a little more in the bank, we’ve managed to find plenty of great cheap options.
After spending over 23 hours in research, and after building multiple gaming computers over the last few years, here is our choice for the best prebuilt gaming PC under $500 — we just had to stretch the budget a little.
Before I started writing tech reviews and guides for DiamondLobby, I spent over a decade of building, testing, and playing on gaming PCs. As a result, I have become knowledgeable about gaming computer parts and their abilities in terms of compatibility with each other, performance, price points, reliability, and overall value for money.
On top of my already pretty extensive knowledge when it comes to gaming computers, I spent over 23 hours researching and testing specifically for this article to find the best budget-friendly builds on the market.
We made the selection of the 10 gaming PCs that you will come across within this review based on four highly important points; price, performance, specs, and design.
Price is often the main deciding factor behind whether or not you are willing to invest heavily, and your budget for a gaming PC is under $1000. And for this article, the price was the number one factor we were looking at. Due to the fact we couldn’t find enough good options at a sub-$500 price point, we extended our budget to around the $850 range (prices correct at the time of writing).
How an actual build performs with the parts that it was made out of is huge for how successful and “worthy” a gaming PC is for its price point. I have carefully analyzed the parts that each of the recommended builds that I have listed to ensure that they are all worth their price point and are fully compatible, with no bottlenecks present anywhere within the system.
The specifications of a gaming PC are pretty much everything when it comes to performance. They must not only be compatible with each other but they also should work together nicely so that neither of them bottlenecks the overall performance of the machine.
Having more RAM is super important for any gaming PC. Because of that, I have picked gaming systems with a minimum of 8GB of RAM. This is a sufficient amount of RAM that will allow you to not only comfortably play your games without stutters, freezes, or even crashes, but you can also play music in the background or have multiple tabs open at the same time.
When choosing a processor, you should always go for either a seventh or either generation of Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. If it is AMD, you should stick to a minimum of Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 if you would like to be able to play titles from today and for the next few years.
If you want a gaming computer, you should almost never go for an all-in-one GPU, unless it’s from Nvidia or AMD. This is because in most cases, they are way too weak to handle almost any type of game, at almost any type of setting at a decent FPS.
When it comes to storage, you either have the pretty standard HDD (normal hard drive) and SSD (solid-state drive), which is much faster than the standard hard drive. Since we are exploring more budget-friendly gaming computers, most of the builds are featuring an HDD, but there are plenty of options on this list that are making use of an SSD, even if it isn’t of the largest of sizes.
The motherboard of the computer is essentially the part that connects all the other parts together so that they can work in sync to provide a great level of performance. Because of this, choosing a motherboard like the A320M by Asus is a huge plus as it is not only one of the best in terms of value for money but also because it is extremely flexible in terms of upgradability in the future should you decide to take that step.
Also known as a PSU, the power supply of your gaming PC is truly one of the parts that are kind of forgotten about and not much attention goes to it. This is a big mistake because, without a compatible PSU, your components won’t be able to operate at their full capacity. This is why I have chosen gaming PCs with fully compatible power supplies that can provide just the right amount of power to provide you with a flawless gaming experience.
This has no impact on how well a gaming PC is performing. Besides visual appeal, there is very little point in the design, however, lots of people want a good looking gaming computer so we tried to include products that look the part.
RGB-enabled PCs (that light up in different colors) typically look much more modern, cool, and expensive than a PC that is plain, but we’ve included a range of RGB-enabled and non-RGB PCs in this guide – and RGB lights can be turned off if they’re not your thing.
If you are after the best value-for-money gaming computer, the iBUYPOWER Mini 9300 Gaming PC is our favorite pick. Packed in an iBUYPOWER Element Mini RGB case, the iBUYPOWER Mini 9300 hosts an AMD Ryzen 3 3100 Processor, AMD Radeon RX 550 Graphics Card, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and 240GB SSD, this build is my personal favorite if you are looking for a starter gaming computer without splashing thousands of dollars.
To give you a little bit of perspective, with this kind of specs, you can run games such as Fortnite on low settings at 144 FPS with ease. For other slightly more graphically-demanding titles, you can expect around the 100 FPS range. For less demanding titles, you shouldn’t have an issue with reaching 160+ FPS.
The price at the time of writing was $529.99.
We’ve pushed past the limit of our $500 budget quite significantly here, but if you are looking for a budget-friendly gaming computer that has the capacity to perform on a high level without spending thousands of dollars, I would highly recommend the SkyTech Blaze II Gaming PC.
The price at the time of writing was $829.99.
Within the tempered glass SkyTech mid-tower gaming case, you will find an AMD Ryzen 5 2600 processor backed up by a powerful 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Ti. With 16GB of DDR4 RAM, you can rest assured that your system has plenty of quality memory to handle all of your side operations such as listening to music while gaming.
The 500GB SSD offers plenty of fast storage space (up to 35x faster than the average HDD) for you to store all of your favorite games and access them in seconds.
This system can easily run any of your favorite mainstream titles like Warzone, Fortnite, or Cyberpunk at 1920 x 1080 resolution on high to ultra settings with 60+ FPS.
Now, if you prefer to play on lower settings, which won’t make most of these games look any different, you can expect quite a significant jump in FPS that can comfortably be maintained.
The iBUYPOWER Trace 4 9310 is a pretty solid gaming PC for gaming enthusiasts who are looking for a mix of both performance and value for money. Featuring an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 gaming CPU and an AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT GPU, this system can comfortably run mainstream games at high settings without stutters, freezes, or crashes. Besides, if you are into VR, it can comfortably host a decent environment for such technology too.
The price at the time of writing was $699.99.
The Trace 4 9310 features a very sleek and flashy exterior design with RGB-enabled strips directly on the front of the case. As for the side, the case hosts a transparent side panel that provides a direct point of view to the RGB-enabled case fans.
The Trace 4 9310 also features a fairly spacious design that allows you to make any necessary upgrades in the future should you want a more powerful rig without spending money on starting from the ground up.
When it comes to a diversity of connectivity ports, the Trace 4 9310 certainly doesn’t disappoint. In total, there are 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port for LAN connectivity, and a 7.1 audio channel output.
If you are a serious gamer that wants to have a multi-monitor setup, you can easily achieve that through the HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity ports. As a side bonus, this model also features wireless connection possibilities via 802.11AC Wi-Fi.
In full, the Trace 4 9310 by iBUYPOWER hosts a 3.6 GHz AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, a powerful 4GB AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT GPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and 240GB of SSD storage.
Now, I realize that these may just sound like any other gaming computer part so let me provide you with some insight into how this system will perform at 1080p while you are playing your favorite games.
The examples below were played at high graphics settings and 1080p resolution.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey performed at 71 FPS, Far Cry New Dawn managed to pull out an average of 85 FPS, while Tomb Raider comfortably held at around the 76 FPS mark.
Direct Performance Comparison:
If we take our Best Performance Pick and our Best Value Pick and put them head to head with the Trace 4 9310, these are the results that we get.
|iBUYPOWER Trace 4 9310||iBUYPOWER Mini 9300||SkyTech Blaze II|
|CPU||3.6 GHz||10% worse||15% worse|
|GPU||1607 MHz||71.18% worse||46% better|
So, if you are willing to spend around $100 more dollars for approximately 46% better GPU performance the SkyTech Blaze II is definitely worth it.
The Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92 features quite a basic and standard design. The computer or the case itself isn’t RGB-enabled, meaning that if you are an RGB fan, this probably isn’t for you. However, if you are after pure performance and aren’t too bothered about RGB lights, then this gaming PC is just right for you if you want to keep the spending to a minimum while being able to enjoy a decent range of titles.
The price at the time of writing was $593.99.
In terms of design, the case is black with no tempered windows that will allow you to see inside the PC, like most of the other gaming PCs on this list. There are several easy-access ports in the front and the rear of the PC with a grid-like opening on the side panel for sufficient ventilation.
The Acer Aspire, TC-885-UA92 hosts, a total of 4 frontal and 13 rear connectivity ports. In the front, you will find 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Gen2 port, 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 port, and 2x Audio ports.
In the rear, you will find 2x HDMI, 1x VGA, 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.1 Gen1, 1x Ethernet RJ-45, and 3 Audio connectivity ports.
In other words, there are plenty of options for you to connect all of your devices in whatever way you find suitable for the ultimate cable management.
In terms of performance, this gaming PC packs a 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9400, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, Intel UHD Graphics 630, and 512GB of SSD storage. This is plenty for you to run titles such as League of Legends in over 100 FPS at medium settings. When it comes to playing more graphically demanding games such as Call of Duty or Fortnite, then this rig probably isn’t the best unless you upgrade the GPU to something a little more powerful as Intel Graphics 630 just isn’t enough.
One of the benefits of this system is that it comes with a keyboard and mouse, so you won’t have to invest extra money in such necessities.
If you still desire a rig within this price point, check out the cheaper iBUYPOWER Mini 9300 Gaming PC.
What a Little More Money Can Get You
As we mentioned above finding a decent gaming machine for under $500 is quite the challenge. So, not to spread my recommendations too thin, I have decided to take it upon myself and explore gaming PCs that cost a little bit more than 500 dollars.
The results were very surprising. I found some truly incredible machines that you will quite literally struggle to build on your own for the price that they are retailing for. So, if you are after a pretty sophisticated system that can run the latest titles at pretty high FPS on high or ultra graphics, then the systems that I am about to review are definitely worth your attention.
The Shadow Gaming PC by SkyTech is what you would describe as a medium-range PC build. It is perfect for gaming enthusiasts who are either looking to move away from console gaming or are looking to start gaming on a PC as a whole. This sleek SkyTech build features an Intel Core i5 9400F that is backed up by a powerful 4GB GTX 1650 graphics card. When it comes to playing your favorite titles, you can expect around 120 FPS on Fortnite, 135 on CS: GO, and around 75 FPS on GTA V. All this was tested on medium settings.
The price at the time of writing was $799.99.
In terms of design, the SkyTech Shadow Gaming PC is all packed up in an RGB-enabled stripe going down one side of the temperated glass case. The case itself comes with 3x RGB RING fans which contribute greatly towards maximum airflow. In terms of spaciousness, there are definitely opportunities for expansions and upgrades should you want to make any changes in the future to your build.
As for cable management, there is plenty of space for you to organize and hide away all of the cables to ensure a clean, RGB look.
The SkyTech Shadow Gaming PC hosts a wide range of connectivity ports. Those include 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x DVI-D, 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 3.1 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, and HD Audio & Mic ports.
In terms of performance, this rig really is made for beginners who want to be able to play their favorite titles with no performance-related issues at all, while enjoying the RGB lights without spending thousands of dollars.
To really break it down, this machine hosts an Intel Core i5-9400F 6-core 2.9GHz processor, B365M motherboard, a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, 8GB of DDR4 3000MHz RAM, and 500GB of SSD storage that is up to 30x faster than the traditional HDD.
With the PC parts listed above, you can comfortably run your favorite titles such as World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Roblox, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Battlefield V, Minecraft, The Division 2, and more at High to Ultra settings in crisp 1080p Full HD resolution at the pretty smooth 60+ FPS. Now, if you want to get more FPS out of this system, all you can do is sacrifice a bit of graphics, and enjoy a smoother gaming experience.
If you really like this system but want to keep your high graphics while enjoying higher FPS, you could go one step further and get the version with a GTX 1660.
Whether it is worth the extra cost, I will leave that up to you to decide, however, I have taken it upon myself to take the GTX 1650 and the GTX 1660 and put them head to head.
The results: The GTX 1660 provides over 50% better performance as compared to the GTX 1650, so, if you were to ask me, the Shadow Gaming PC by SkyTech is definitely worth the small mark up.
The price at the time of writing was $899.99.
A Slightly Cheaper Option
The Lenovo IdeaCentre 720 Tower hosts perhaps the most conservative design from all gaming PCs on this list. Under the sleek grey case, you will find a Ryzen 5 2600 Processor and an AMD Radeon RX 560 Graphics Card. Those two alone are decent enough to provide you with a fantastic gaming experience with 100+ FPS on medium settings at 1080p for titles such as CS: GO, Fortnite, and PUBG.
The price at the time of writing was $599.99.
As I said above, this system is not RGB-enabled. The grey case is quite modern and sleek, making it pretty easy to fit within any gaming environment.
This tower system is also designed with flexibility in mind. Should you decide to upgrade your system in the future, you can easily upgrade the current GPU with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or similar.
In terms of connectivity ports, there are some in both the front and the rear of the gaming PC. The front connectivity ports are stowed behind a sleek magnetic door to enhance the tower’s clean, and modern design.
In total, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 720 has 2x USB 2.0 ports, and 6x USB 3.0 ports, both of which can be found at the front and the back of the machine.
This Lenovo gaming PC is powered by an intelligent 2nd Gen AMD Ryzen processor, packed with the most recent AMD multithreaded processing technology that ensures a blazingly fast gaming performance.
Under the sleek case, you can find a Ryzen 5 2600H CPU, AMD Radeon RX 560 graphics card, 12GB of Dual Channel DDR4 RAM, and 2TB SATA HDD.
In other words, it a very stable and reliable gaming computer for gamers who are looking to take gaming seriously or are after some reliability with the potential for upgrading in the future to solidify the in-game performance of the system.
After running a couple of tests myself, with this gaming tower PC, you will have no problems at all when it comes to running games at low to medium settings at an average of 120 FPS. Some of the titles that we tested were CS: GO, Fortnite, PUBG, GTA V, Battlefield V, and Call of Duty.
As a final comment on this gaming computer, I am perfectly satisfied when it comes to value for money and performance on a multitude of games with vastly different graphical demands.
Who This is For
A gaming computer from this list is for someone who is looking to get into PC gaming with a reliable machine without spending thousands of dollars on a high-end build.
The large majority of the builds we have presented you with don’t need to be in their final form. If you decide to take your gaming PC to a new level in the future, you can make upgrades in all of the areas like RAM, GPU, CPU, and Motherboard to create a more powerful system that can run games at higher quality settings, in more frames per second.
Having researched and tested all of the builds on this list thoroughly, we can confirm that all of the parts that they are individually made out of are fully compatible with each other.
An Alternative: Build it Yourself
Regardless of whether you are purchasing a pre-built gaming PC from Amazon, or your local store, there is a 100% chance that it would cost you more to buy it built as compared if you picked apart the computer, bought the same parts, and built it yourself. This is because labor cost is included, and often an additional increase on the price for that extra little bit of profit that the retailed will make from you for the convenience of having the system be ready to use.
In those 23 hours of research that I conducted to write this article, I spent quite a decent chunk on exploring the best parts that you could get if you wanted to build the gaming PC yourself and save on some money from price mark-ups.
As a side note, you could push the boundaries on the money that you can save from building this PC by purchasing the parts that I am going to share with you second hand from the Facebook marketplace, eBay, or virtually any other place where you could find the parts that you need.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at ideally what you should be looking for when it comes to building your own PC.Case: When it comes to picking a gaming case for your gaming PC build, you should pick between either a mid or full-tower case. The main key difference between a mid-tower and a full-tower case is that the latter is bigger, which means more cooling fans, the possibility for a bigger motherboard, bigger GPU, and expansion slots.
If it came down to picking for a mid-tower case, I’d go for the Cougar MX330 or the Fractal Design Meshify C (the case I have right now) because they are nice, simple, and affordable. As for a full-tower case, Thermaltake View 71 is my personal favorite because of its sheer size, design, and available connectivity ports.
My choice for CPU is the Intel Core i3-10100. The reason why I picked this processor over any other affordable alternatives is that it quite literally provides the best performance at its inexpensive price point. Despite its affordable price, this processor hosts 4 cores/8 threads and a 4.3 GHz turbo frequency.
Besides, you also won’t have to spend extra money on a third-party cooler as this CPU comes with a decent cooler that can comfortably cool down the I3-10100.
The motherboard can easily become a pretty significant bottleneck to your overall computer’s performance. Thus, you should really be looking to get something that not only provides decent performance but is also pretty flexible in terms of compatibility with potential future upgrades. One that I would recommend would be the MSI MAG B460M BAZOOKA Micro ATX LGA1200 which perfectly meets the criteria with its B460 chipsets and 4 DDR4 DIMM slots for future expansion possibilities.
When it comes to RAM, ideally, you don’t want to drop below 8GB of DDR4, if you could spend a little bit more, I would highly recommend you to get 16GB of DDR4 RAM. This will allow your PC to be able to handle more operations at the same time. So, if you prefer to listen to music while gaming or have discord open while playing with your friends, 16GB would do the job very nicely. In terms of brands, performance, and value for money, TEAMGROUP and Corsair make some of the best, most affordable RAM on the market.
The CPU is one of the most important parts that your computer cannot work without. Some people even claim that it is the brain of the computer. When it comes to picking the right CPU for your build, you really want to pick between either Intel or AMD as they offer tremendous value for money, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. If there was an absolutely go to CPU that I would choose, I would put my money on AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600X, which beat its closest competitor, Intel Core i5-9600K. When shopping for a CPU, first, you need to look at whether it is compatible with your motherboard.
Secondly, the clock speed. Ideally, for gaming, you should be looking at anything between 3.5 GHz to 4.0 GHz.It is important to also remember that your CPU needs to have a good single-thread performance, which will allow it to do a good job at understanding and completing single tasks. This is not to be confused with having a single-core processor as more cores in a CPU means that your CPU can understand and work on multiple tasks, whereas single threading means that it’s able to process, understand, and work on these individually really well.
Your graphics card is probably the single most important part of your gaming system. If you have an outdated graphics card that cannot perform on a level to comprehend the graphical technology that new games are operating within, you will have a really difficult time getting decent performance.
And no, I am not saying that you should be spending hundreds of dollars on a GPU. Those days are long gone. You can really get something decent for a hundred or a few hundred dollars. When it comes to GPUs, I will always direct gamers to either go with Nvidia or AMD. I personally use Nvidia as I prefer the technology and what it can do for the games that I play.
Without breaking your bank, some really recommended GPU’s that you can get are the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 TI which the SkyTech Blaze II uses, or the AMD’s RX 5500 XT which the iBUYPOWER Trace 4 9310 uses. While those are still budget-friendly, they may be a little bit expensive if you don’t know where to look.
When it comes to storage, you really have two options, HDD or SSD. HDD is the standard hard drive that has been out for decades. On the other hand, SSD (Solid-State Drive) is a newer, much faster alternative.
When it comes to picking hard drives, if you could invest more money in an SSD, it is totally worth it. You will not only access and transfer data at hugely improved speeds, but can also access and read games way faster than ever before. In most cases, integrated m.2 slot SSD’s are in times smaller than the standard hard drive. When it comes to storage, you literally cannot go wrong with storage manufactured by Seagate, Crucial, Samsung, or WD.
As for affordable storage for your gaming PC, if it game to SSD, I would either go with the Crucial P5 500GB SSD or Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB SSD. Bear in mind that both offer storage space as low as 250 GB all the way up to 2TB. With that, of course, the price increases vastly. If you are after an HDD, Western Digital 3TB HDD won’t disappoint you in any way at all.
The power supply or the PSU of your system is a really overlooked component. To describe it in simple terms, if your PSU isn’t powerful enough, your PC cannot get the power that it needs to perform at its best. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you get a more powerful PSU than you need, you will be wasting money (as a more powerful PSU cost more), it won’t be as efficient as it will be operating at 80 or 90% as that would be plenty for your PC while bumping your electricity bill for no reason at all.
To determine how powerful your PSU needs to be, you should look at your setup and the parts that are being used. For example, if you take a medium-range build such as the Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92 uses a 300W power supply.
Note: Building your own system is hard, especially if you have little to no idea what you are doing. Yes, in most cases it will be cheaper, however, in building a computer, there are many risks involved so always follow the steps of a professional.
Some things to look out for are definitely compatibility and potential bottlenecks within the parts that you are looking to use. There is no point in purchasing an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 TI if you can’t afford a good motherboard and processor that can squeeze every bit of performance that this graphics card can produce. Generally speaking, the more expensive and recent parts you go for, the more expensive and recent parts you will need to buy for your system because bottlenecking is a real issue and if you don’t upgrade everything, chances are that you will just be wasting your money.
Finding a decent, pre-built gaming PC under 500 dollars is an almost impossible task, at least for now, while some of the cheaper parts still hold value.
Spending a little bit more money can really buy you an amazing gaming experience. One example is our “Runner Up” pick, the iBUYPOWER Trace 4 9310.