The 4 Best Gaming PCs Under $500

You don't have to spend a huge amount on a PC that can play Fortnite or PUBG. In fact, you can even play new games on a budget. Here are your options if you're looking for the best gaming PC under $500. Can you actually get a good gaming PC for $500? Yes, but it depends on your definition of what a good gaming PC is.

If you want to play the latest Call of Duty game at its optimal graphics settings, then no, $500 probably isn't enough. But if you're okay with reducing the graphics settings, or optimizing Windows 10 for gaming, it's possible. For new games like Fortnite and PUBG, or older games, these $500 gaming PCs will let you play with ease.

The HP Pavilion Gaming 690 should be the first choice for most people who need a gaming desktop PC at this price. It comes with the popular AMD Ryzen 3 series processor and AMD's own Radeon RX550 graphics card.

This PC doesn't boast a particularly impressive list of hardware, but at this price, it's the best you will find online. Surprisingly, HP's configuration is even better than some of the lesser-known brands like CyberpowerPC, Skytech, or Panther.

What You Can Expect: Most older games (like GTA V, Battlefield 1) will run well at Medium graphics settings. Fortnite and PUBG will also run fine. However, this system won't smoothly run newer games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 720 has a Ryzen 5 series processor that comes with hyper-threading technology for better gaming. Hyper-threading basically creates virtual cores, so the four-core CPU can act like an eight-core CPU, which boosts performance for things like playing games.

Overall, the performance of this Lenovo unit for games will not be as good as the HP Pavilion 690. But it will be faster for other things like multitasking, browsing the web, and so on.

Please note that the model listed here does not have the Radeon R560 graphics card that many think it comes with. It has the inferior Radeon R5 340 card.

What You Can Expect: Most customer reviews say you can run PUBG, Fortnite, and Overwatch at 720p on Low or Medium graphics settings. However, this system won't smoothly run new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

The Best Cheap Gaming Desktop With Intel GraphicsAcer Aspire TC-780-ACKI5

Over the last few years, Intel's onboard graphics have become much better, and can actually handle some basic games without needing a dedicated DPU. The Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKI5 has a good combination of a processor and extra RAM to show what's possible with this.

It has a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, which gives you hyper-threading for additional virtual cores. Acer has also included extra RAM, boosting it to 12GB instead of the standard 8GB you usually get at this budget.

What You Can Expect: The Acer Aspire can run Fortnite and PUBG at 720p on Low graphics settings. However, this system won't smoothly run new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

Every time we talk about a gaming desktop PC, we don't include the monitor or the screen. That's because the best gaming monitors are a different topic altogether. But you can't really use your PC without a screen, can you? You can either go for a cheap monitor within your budget or try an option like the Lenovo IdeaCentre 610s, which comes with a free projector.

It's not a great projector and you should only think of it as a stop-gap arrangement until you buy a good monitor. It only projects HD resolution (1280x720 pixels) and has a maximum brightness of 220 lumens. But hey, until you buy a monitor, at least you'll have a screen.

Even with its dated hardware, the IdeaCentre 610s packs a punch. The Core i5-6400 is still a good processor. The Nvidia GTX 750 is old, but you can't be too choosy at this price.

Buy this model only if your $500 budget also includes a screen. It's not even among the best mini PCs, but it serves a specific need for light gaming with a screen at this budget.

What You Can Expect: This PC is only for playing old games. Fortnite and PUBG will run on Low graphics settings. If you're playing for a long time, the IdeaCentre 610s heats up and you will see the game stutter and lag, so you'll need to stop playing for a while so that the computer can cool down.

Bonus: Consider Building Your Own Cheap Gaming PC

Assuming you already have a Windows 10 license, all you need now is to build a good gaming PC in your budget. So we put together a shopping list for you.

The two important components for a gaming build are the processor and the graphics card. We've gone with the Intel Core i3-8100 since we don't need integrated graphics here, but you might consider one of the best gaming CPUs instead too. Intel has edged ahead of AMD here in the Coffee Lake vs. Ryzen battle.

For the GPU, there was only one option that makes sense today: the GTX 1050 Ti, which will provide decent performance for most games.

We've put together a full list of parts on PC Part Picker, so you can easily order the components and build your own PC from scratch.

What You Can Expect: All games will run on this, but newer games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed Odyssey will have to be at Medium settings. Older or less-intensive games like Fortnite and Counter-Strike will be smooth.

Note: The Cost of Windows 10

Something to consider when building your own gaming PC is the cost of Windows 10. It's the operating system that supports the widest variety of games, but it will cost you.

No matter which way you get a legal and cheap Windows license, you will have to pay about $80 minimum.

This is why it can actually work out cheaper to get a pre-assembled PC. Microsoft gives mass Windows license deals to companies, which cuts their costs. The end result is that your self-build might actually cost more than a pre-built model from HP or Lenovo.

In other words, when it comes to budget builds, it's not always cheaper to build your own PC. Don't forget about other purchases like buying a gaming headset, either.

There Are Also Games Consoles...

As you can see from the list above if you're looking to play PC games on the cheap you have a few choices. But the gaming performance you'll get on a gaming PC costing under $500 is nowhere near what the current-generation consoles can offer.

For $250, you can get a PlayStation 4 Slim or Xbox One S. And both of those consoles offer a better gaming experience than any of the computers in this guide. Unless you specifically want to play games on your computer with a keyboard and mouse, consider buying a dedicated games console instead.

We've also looked at the best gaming smartphones for playing on the go.

We hope you like the items we recommend and discuss! MUO has affiliate and sponsored partnerships, so we receive a share of the revenue from some of your purchases. This won’t affect the price you pay and helps us offer the best product recommendations.

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About The Author
Mihir Patkar (1287 Articles Published)

Mihir Patkar has been writing on technology and productivity for over 14 years at some of the top media publications across the world. He has an academic background in journalism.

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