Budget Gaming PC Build Powerhouse for $500

By Published February 29, 2016 at 10:35 am
  •  

Additional Info

  • Price: 499
  • Physical Size: Mid-Tower
  • Purpose: Desktop Gaming
  • CPU Preference: Intel

Building PCs is almost always a compromise between performance and cost. In this PC build, we’re making a gaming PC for approximately $500 -- but a good one; a powerful, $500 gaming PC. This $500 PC is meant to be a barebones build that still allows for a very capable 1080p gaming experience in most games at medium to high settings, although it will generally struggle – depending on the game – at resolutions and settings above that.

Today’s $500 gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 running at 3.7GHz, along with a 2GB EVGA GTX 960 with a noteable factory overclock. Together, these parts offer solid gaming performance at 1080p, while also being budget friendly. The build will readily play Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Rocket League, DOTA2, CSGO, and even heavier titles like GTA V.

$500 Budget Gaming Computer Build

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
CPU Intel i3-6100 3.7GHz $125 Free shipping $125
Motherboard Gigabyte H110M-A $46 Free shipping $46
Video Card EVGA GTX 960 2GB Superclocked Gaming ACX $180 Free shipping $180
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB (1x8GB) DDR4-2133 $40

Free shipping,

-$9 Promo code

$31
Power Supply EVGA 430W $35 Free shipping $35
HDD Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM $45 Free shipping $45
Case Fractal Design Core 1100 $30 Free shipping $30
Total       $499

OS & Optional Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 $96 Free shipping $96
Fan Corsair SP120 Fan $18 Free shipping $18

Graphics Card

EVGA GTX 960 Superclocked Gaming AXC ($180): The first part in this $500 PC build is the graphics card, one of the most important components governing gaming performance. Even a budget gaming PC will need a good GPU – among other parts, admittedly – for games to run smoothly. In this case we’ve chosen the EVGA GTX 960 Superclocked. This is the 2GB version of the 960, but the 4GB version is significantly more expensive for mostly insubstantial performance gains. We cover this more in-depth in the 960 2GB vs 4GB benchmarks.

This graphics card comes with a decent factory overclock, running a 1216MHz base clock and a 1279MHz boost clock. It uses a small, single-fan cooler, but luckily this 960 only has a TDP of 120W, so a big cooler is unneeded. The EVGA GTX 960 will perform admirably at high and medium settings for most games running at 1080p, but it generally won’t be adequate for resolutions above that. For specific numbers, feel free to browse our recent benchmarks including the 960, such as our 380X, other 380X, and 960 benchmarks.

Note: EVGA’s B-Stock GPUs (refurbished EVGA graphics cards that are being resold) provide a cheaper option for a 960. Currently, the EVGA GTX 960 Gaming ACX 2.0+ is available for $160. It features a better dual-fan cooler and a worse, but still moderate, factory overclock of 1127MHz base, 1178MHz boost clock; B-Stock only comes with a 1-year warranty in contrast to the EVGA GTX 960 Superclocked Gaming 3-year warranty.

CPU

Intel i3-6100 ($125): Of course, the GPU isn’t the only part that of a PC that determines gaming performance; a good CPU is also important to a solid gaming PC. In this case, we’ve chosen the Intel i3-6100. The i3-6100 is a dual core CPU with hyperthreading, allowing it to be seen as four threads by programs and perform better than a dual-core CPU. The CPU is clocked at 3.7GHz and is based on Intel’s latest Skylake architecture although, as shown in our benchmark, Skylake didn’t have large gains over previous architectures. Overall, the 6100 will perform capably in games with this GPU pairing but, like the GTX 960, it won’t be winning any performance records.

Starting with Skylake CPUs, Intel no longer includes stock cooler with overclockable CPUs. In this case, a stock cooler is included, so there isn’t a need to include an aftermarket CPU cooler.

Motherboard

Gigabyte H110M-A ($46): For the motherboard on this build, we’ve chosen the Gigabyte H110M-A, primarily for its low price and decent features (for its price). The Gigabyte H110M-A is a basic mATX motherboard with 2xDDR4 slots, supporting up to 32GB of RAM at 2133MHz in a dual-channel configuration. It has 1xPCIe x16 slot and 2xPCIe x1 slots (that run at PCIe 2.0) that provide some basic expansion options. For storage, there are 4xSATA 6Gb/s connectors, but unfortunately there aren’t any M.2 or SATAe connectors. Ultimately, the Gigabyte H110M-A is a budget friendly motherboard without any breathtaking features, but it’ll work well for a budget-constrained gaming PC. It also comes with a decent warranty of 3 years.

Memory

HyperX Fury 8GB (8GBx1) DDR4-2133 ($31): Currently, the go-to “standard” RAM capacity for gaming is 8GB (total system memory), and so in this case, we’ve gone with 8GB of HyperX Fury DDR4-2133 RAM. The memory has a CAS latency of 14 and runs at 1.2v. We chose this RAM kit in part because it features 1x8GB stick, so the system can still be upgraded to 16GB down the road (since the motherboard only has 2xDDR4 slots). Only having one memory stick does mean the system will run in single channel but, as we’ve shown, the difference between dual-channel and single-channel isn’t significant for gaming. This RAM kit also comes with a lifetime warranty.

HDD

Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM ($45): Currently, 1TB hard drives are the effective standard HDD size for budget gaming PCs. SSDs are prohibitively expensive for budget PCs, hard drives under 1TB generally sacrifice a lot of space for little savings, and hard drives above 1TB cost too much for many budget PCs. In this case, we’ve chosen a 1TB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda HDD. This will provide a decent amount of storage for cheap and have acceptable performance. The Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD comes with a 2-year warranty.

Power Supply

EVGA 430W 80+ ($35): On account of only having one hard drive, an i3, and a 960, this build actually doesn’t require a large power supply (although even higher-end PCs don't generally need 1500 jigawatt power supplies). We’ve chosen the EVGA 430W PSU. It is a pretty basic power supply, in that it is only 430W, isn’t modular, and only has an 80 Plus certification. That being said, 80 Plus certification isn’t overly common at this price point and the unit has a number of important protections like UVP (under voltage protection), OPP (over power protection), and SCP (short circuit protection), a single 6+2 PCIe power connector (meaning it will work with most GPUs around the power consumption level of a 960), and a 3-year warranty.

Case

Fractal Design Core1100 ($30): Since the motherboard for this build is an mATX motherboard, it makes the most sense to have an mATX case. We’ve chosen the Fractal Design Core1100. Like many of the other parts in the build, it’s a pretty basic case, but will do its job without issue. The Core1100 has 1xUSB 3.0, 1xUSB 2.0, 1x3.5mm aux input, and 1x3.5mm aux output for the front panel. Internally, it has 2x5.25”, 2x3.5”, and 3x2.5” mounts. The PSU and GPU fit, although the latter will require one HDD sled removed so it can fit. The Fractal Design Core1100 comes with 1x120mm fan, but has positions for additional 1x120mm and 1x92mm fans. The case comes with a warranty of 1 year.

Feel free to post a comment below for quick help or questions! For more in-depth, one-on-one support, check our PC build forums.

- Michael “The Bear” Kerns.

Michael Kerns

Michael Kerns first found us when GN's Editor-in-Chief was tirelessly answering questions on reddit pertaining to a new product launch, likely after the Editor had stayed up all night writing the news post. Michael offered a tired Editor reprieve, taking over the role of questions-answerer-extraordinaire when it was most needed. These days, Michael can be found pulling his mechanical keyboard collection apart and building Frankenstein's Monster-like monsters of keyboards. Michael wrote the vast majority of our mechanical keyboard dictionary and is an expert in keyboards.

Advertisement:

  VigLink badge