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How to build a cheap but powerful gaming PC for $500

Brad Chacos | Sept. 16, 2016
She's got it where it counts, kid.

Shaving $30 off the cost of this build to include Windows would require even more painful compromises. It would be better to install Linux at first and save your pennies for a month rather than cut deeper into this build. (There are tons of superb Linux-ready games now, tool!) But if you absolutely, positively have to squeeze the cost of Windows into the $500 total, you could replace the Core i3-6100 and the H110 motherboard with AMD’s FX-6300 ($90 on Amazon) and a $50 AM3+ motherboard like Gigabyte’s GA-78LMT-USB3 ($55 on Amazon). You’d be sacrificing future upgradability, as we discussed in the CPU section, but the difference in price between the two processors is enough to snag you a Windows license from Kinguin.

Alternatively, you could swap the $200 Radeon RX 470 for an older GeForce GTX 950, which you can frequently find for $100 on sale. (PC Part Picker’s great for finding discounts.) It’s a massive step down in terms of raw graphics firepower, but Nvidia’s card would still deliver 1080p gameplay that outshines the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You’ll need to tinker with graphics settings more to hit decent frame rates, though.

Don’t be tempted to cut costs by using a no-name power supply. Just don’t.

Peripherals?

PC build guides—including this one—often don’t factor in the price of a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, as many people already have these lying around, or know people who have spares lying around. If you don’t, however, expect to spend a few dollars more.


The Razer Naga is an example of a more expensive gaming mouse.

A basic keyboard ($9 on Amazon) and mouse ($7 on Amazon) will set you back a mere $17 total, though you can spend much, much more on keyboards and mice designed specifically for gamers. Gamer-centric peripherals are definitely a worthwhile upgrade, but not something you need to blow your budget for up front. Your PC’s core hardware is more important. If you don’t have a spare monitor and can’t scrounge up a free one from a pal, Craigslist, or local swap shop, a basic 22-inch 1080p monitor can be found as cheaply as $90 on Amazon.

Don’t buy it though.

Instead, if you need to buy a whole new monitor, just grit your teeth and connect your PC to your TV until you’re able to spend a bit more for a monitor with better gaming specs, like the aforementioned 22-inch FreeSync-compatible ViewSonic display ($120 on Amazon). It’s still no high-end gaming monitor, but spending the extra $30 for a panel with a low 2ms response time and FreeSync support will result in a smoother, more satisfying overall gaming experience.

 

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