This post is also motivated by the many requests I received to design a cheaper version of the $500 Console Killer gaming computer. So, here’s my attempt at designing the cheapest gaming PC while keeping two premises: it has to be easily upgradeable and it must include an SSD, which will dramatically boost the overall computer value.
If you see errors, misleading information, or you just don’t agree with me I would really appreciate your comments so we all can improve this post together. Try to be nice to each other and be collaborative.
Ryzen Version For This Budget?
Before you ask for it, I’ve been thinking about adding a Ryzen version of the $400 build lately. Here are my conclusions:
The cheapest Ryzen CPU is the Ryzen 3 1200, which is 20-40 dollars more expensive than the used in this build and it’s also the direct competition of the i3-7100. Adding the remaining parts would increase the budget close to the $500, so we should drop this option.
If you want a Ryzen-based build, I’d recommend you to take a look at the $500 Ryzen build here instead.
I’ve also been thinking about designing a gaming PC with a more powerful CPU but without a GPU, for those who want to buy later or don’t need it right now. This can be done with the 2nd generation of Ryzen processors, but still, their integrated GPU is less powerful than the one used here.
I wouldn’t recommend going that way for a simple reason: getting a better CPU also implies getting a better PSU, a better case, a better CPU fan, or even buying more RAM for when you get the GPU.
And let me tell you that it would be the same as buying the $800 build without the GPU.
That being said, I guess we can’t get anything better with this tight budget… at least until the new generation of GPU’s and CPU’s are released.
Best Budget Gaming PC Build Under $400
I’m really excited to introduce you this build because it’s just the best gaming PC you will find around within the $400 range. I’ve been studying what other “expert” websites recommending gaming computers under 400 dollars and I can tell you that the build you will find here in this post beats them all.
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Why am I so sure about that? I’m using an Intel CPU + Radeon GPU, while others usually use a crappy AMD CPU. It is really hard to fit this combination of CPU + GPU in such a low budget. And this is only possible thanks to the new Intel Coffe Lake processors.
Using an Intel processor is always a better choice for gaming computers, as they are known to have a better performance per core, which is what we are interested in to get the most out of the latest games.
As of today, Intel beats AMD and Nvidia USUALLY beats AMD, at least in the gaming industry.
In this case though, a GTX 1050 and a Radeon 550 2GB are pretty much the same in terms of performance, and lately, due to the graphics cards stock shortage that is heavily affecting Nvidia prices, the Radeon is definitely the best option.
Now you know what to look out for when deciding on one or another build you may see on the internet.
Before digging into the details, here are the goals and main characteristics of this build:
- It allows you to play up to non-so-demanding AAA Games at 1080p + High settings + 30 to 40 FPS. This category includes games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Doom, Overwatch or Fallout 4 among others.
- And of course, you will also be able to play at Ultra / +60 FPS on games like Fortnite, PUBG, LoL, Dota 2, Counter Strike, Paladins, War Thunders, FIFA 17 and any Indie game with low graphics requirements.
- If you want to upgrade your computer to play ANY current game at 1080p with Ultra settings, all you have to do is to buy a better GPU, like the GTX 1060. With this upgrade, your computer would be as powerful as the $600 gaming build. The point here is that this computer is really easy to upgrade.
- Unlike any other builds you can find around, this one includes an SSD. And this really makes a difference no matter the CPU or GPU you are using.
This build has been designed to cost EXACTLY $400, with a margin error of 5 dollars. I want to note here that it is highly recommended to upgrade the RAM to 8GB, instead of 4GB, as soon as you can.
Why am I not including it by default? Adding the extra RAM would exceed the estimated budget of this build, making it closer to the next budget tier.
The good thing about getting just one single 4GB RAM module is that you can get another one later to take advantage of the Dual Channel. So I leave this decision entirely up to you.
Case: Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1
Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1launch
The Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1 is a micro ATX case with one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 in the front bay. It allows up to 3 cabinet fans and has enough room to install a full sized GPU (up to 380mm).
Another thing to note is that the PSU space is located at the bottom, which improves the computer cooling airflow, lowering the inside temperatures, and also you will get a cleaner interior.
It supports up to 3 120mm fans and also supports liquid cooling systems for the CPU.
It includes dust filters installed on the front and bottom that prevent dust from entering.
Motherboard: Gigabyte B360M DS3H
Gigabyte B360M DS3Hlaunch
For builds mounting 8th Intel generation (Coffee Lake), the Gigabyte B360M DS3H provides all you need.
This micro ATX board comes with all the features needed for either entry-level or high-end builds for an unbeatable price and the reliability of a big company as Gigabyte!
The main features of this motherboard are:
- Intel Optane Memory
- DDR4 2666 RAM support
- Tested with the major RAM brands to ensure maximum compatibility
- Supports RGB light strips, which can be customized using the included the RGB Fusion software
It also includes a pretty handy feature called Dual BIOS: the motherboard has two BIOS, main and backup, protecting users from BIOS failure due to virus, hardware malfunction, improper OC settings or power failure during the update process.
And, of course, it also has latest-generation ports for all your needs: 4x USB 3.1 ports and 1x M.2 port to plug in a super fast SSD.
Processor: Intel Pentium Gold G5400
Intel Pentium Gold G5400launch
And here is the KEY piece of the build, one of the new Intel’s Coffe Lake processors, the Intel Pentium Gold G5400.
But, why is this piece that important?
This processor is as powerful as the older Intel i3-7100 but there is a price gap between them of 30 dollars, which means we are getting an i3-7100 but 33% cheaper. Isn’t that awesome?
This also means that this build can be easily upgraded with better components in the future while reusing the same CPU and motherboard.
As for the technical specifications, the G5400 has 2 cores (4 threads) at 3.7 GHz and the integrated GPU HD Graphics 630.
The processor comes with a basic CPU cooler with pre-applied thermal paste.
Graphics Card: ASUS RX 550 2GB
ASUS RX 550 2GBlaunch
Here is the ASUS RX 550 2GB with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, a base clock of 1100 MHz and 1183 MHz in OC mode.
Thanks to this little GPU, you will be able to play most of the current games at 1080p at 30 FPS, which is something pretty awesome given its price.
There’s no big difference Compared to the Nvidia GTX 1050, they both perform very similarly in most of the games.
The main difference is their prices, which have diverged a lot during the past 6 months: the cheapest GTX 1050 you can find these days will be around the $170, while you can get an RX 550 for as low as $100.
You can find a video where these two GPUs are compared in several games here.
With this GPU you can play all the current games at 1080p, low to medium-high graphics settings and stable 30 – 45 FPS and even it could hit 60 FPS on some games like FIFA’s, Borderlands’, CoD’s and others.
It also supports DirectX 12 and it is Vulkan ready, two 2016 new technologies that will be used shortly in new games.
RAM: Ballistix Sport LT 4 GB DDR4-2666
Ballistix Sport LT 4 GB DDR4-2666launch
As for the RAM, it is always a good idea to choose modules of the same frequency and, preferably, in groups of two. Which means that if you want to install 16GB of RAM, instead of buying a single 16GB module, try to find a 2x 8GB pack.
When building super tight budget PC builds, I think the most intelligent decision is starting with one single module of 4GB DDR4 2666Mhz.
That way, you will be able to keep the build quality standards as high as possible. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend you to get another 4GB DDR4 2666Mhz RAM module as soon as you can.
Choosing a 2666Mhz memory is the wisest option because it is the new standard frequency supported by the new chipsets introduced by the AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Coffee Lake’s processors, so you will exploiting its full potential.
Storage Unit: ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GB
ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GBlaunch
As I said earlier, this build features a 128GB SSD, the ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GB specifically.
This model was released in 2016 and it has proved over and over to be one of the best SSD available, with +1000 5-star reviews on Amazon.
It is fast (520 Mb/s write speed) and pretty durable and the selling price is pretty much unbeatable for what it offers.
Power Supply: EVGA 500 W1
EVGA 500 W1launch
It is hard to find a model that meets the quality standards while keeping a low budget but the 80 PLUS “White” Certified EVGA 500 W1 clearly nails it.
This is without a doubt the best PSU in the market to be used in tight budget gaming computers.
The EVGA 500 W1 features a quiet and auto-regulable fan which makes it pretty silent, which is something rare to find in this price range.
Other than that, it also has heavy-duty protections (that you won’t definitely find in any other PSU for this price) including UVP (Under Voltage Protection), OPP (Over Power Protection), and SCP (Short Circuit Protection).
What To Do Next
Now that you have the hardware parts list, the next steps would be figuring out what peripherals do you need (if any) and how to putt all the parts together. Here you have some posts to keep reading on these matters:
How did you find this build? Do you think it can be improved in any way? What would you change? Do you want to go for it but not sure about something?Comment Below!