Over the past year or so, building a PC has not necessarily been easy. This has been in part because of the higher cost of components, but mostly because of the limited availability of graphics cards. That limitation has been caused by a pair of major factors: manufacturing constraints because of global lockdowns and higher demand thanks to crypto mining. Luckily, in recent weeks, supply chain issues have eased and crypto mining has become less valuable with the crash of the crypto market. Now, with supply returning to normal, it's possible to build a decent gaming PC for under $500 - with and without a GPU.
For both of our builds, with and without a GPU, there are a number of common components, such as RAM, storage, case, and power supply. It's important to note that prices may vary based on the date and time of your reading.
A pair of 4 GB sticks of Crucial RAM is the start - and will only set you back $29. Together these sticks will give you a workable 8 GB of system RAM, though we do recommend spending a few more dollars to double the quantity. 8 GB is enough to work, but 16 GB is the minimum we recommend for a truly usable system.
For system storage, you can make a workable system with a TEAMGROUP 512 GB SSD. In this case, the drive is an M.2, meaning it has the potential to be lightning fast for a price that won't break the bank - $42. As with the RAM, we recommend upgrading the storage by double for less than double the price, though it is not required.
There are a few decent quality cases that are inexpensive, but the CORSAIR Carbide Series 175R happens to be a great case that is running just $44. This is the one component that is likely to be a timing issue for our readers, though, as the case is on sale at time of writing. Fortunately, there are other good cases in the same price range, including a few from Rosewill.
Our power supply (PSU) is the Thermaltake Smart 430W, which runs $29. While this is a great PSU (we use them in Mission Control), there are other options in the event the price on this one changes. Most PSUs in this power range tend to run in the same price range.
The best system we can build with a GPU involves a specific processor, motherboard, and GPU.
The CPU we chose is a modern Intel Core i3 processor - the 12100F. Despite being of the current generation, the price is only $106. Tom's Hardware considers this the powerhouse of cheap gaming processors, so it is a great deal for a great processor. To go along with the processor is a compatible motherboard - the MSI Pro H610M-G DDR4. The board supports 2 sticks of RAM and our chosen processor.
For our GPU, the most expensive component in the build, we've got the XFX Speedster SWFT105 Radeon RX 6400. The card has 4 GB of GDDR6 RAM and plugs into the PCI Express 4.0 port on our motherboard.
Without a GPU, the only additions to the core components are a processor and motherboard.
In order to skip the GPU, we need a processor with a built-in GPU. In this case, we went with the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G, a 6-core processor with Radeon Graphics onboard. With a different processor, we need a different board. Avram looked for a board that supported 5000 series processors out of the box, and we went with the ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0, which says it ships with support. This is important because the more modern processors need a firmware update, which is a major challenge.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.