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More often than not, people don’t want to invest more than $500 on a gaming computer. Or simply they don’t have the money for such a thing. And that’s completely understandable. In this post, you will find a balanced PC for casual gamers, a good gaming computer for $400.
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.
Benefits Of Being A PC Gamer
I want to encourage you to build your own Gaming PC. You will only get benefits from it!
- Cheap games
- Almost every exclusive console game is available PC... sooner or later
- Free online multiplayer
- It has the biggest community among all the platforms
- PC gaming covers almost the 40% of the worldwide gaming market and growing every year
- You can enjoy awesome mods for your favorite games
- You can upgrade your PC whenever you want, piece by piece!
I'm very excited to help you build your next gaming machine so you can be part of the PC Master Race! If you ever need any feedback or support regarding your future buy or your current rig, I would be more than happy to connect with you.
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 can discard this option.
If you want a Ryzen-based build, I’d recommend you to take a look at the $500 Ryzen build here.
I’ve also pondered another situation where we could build a 400 dollar 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.
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 that my friends, 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 GPU’s and CPU’s are released next year.
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.
'SD STARTER 400 IA'
Zalman T1 PLUS
MSI B250M Pro-VD
Intel Pentium G4560
Ballistix Sport LT 4 GB DDR4-2666 CL16
ASUS RX 550 2GB
ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GB
EVGA 500 W1
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 Kaby 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 LoL, Dota 2 (or any other MOBA game), 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 get 8GB of RAM, instead of 4GB.
Why am I not including it by default? Adding the extra RAM would increase the total price to around $430, and in that case, this build would exceed the promised budget stated in the post title.
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 – Zalman T1 PLUS
Zalman T1 PLUS
The Zalman T1 Plus is a standard micro ATX case with one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 in the front bay. It allows up to 4 cabinet fans and has enough room to install a 300mm GPU. 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 4 fans: one 120mm in the front side, one 92mm in the rear which is included and two 120mm on the case sides. It also supports liquid cooling system in the rear. It includes dust filters installed on the front, side and bottom that prevent dust from entering.
This case has two features that are pretty uncommon within its price range:
- The whole structure is made of steel
- Cable management system. While it is a little basic, it helps to organize the cables
Check the Cases Guide to see other models within the same price range.
Motherboard – MSI B250M Pro-VD
MSI B250M Pro-VD
The best option out there nowadays for an entry-level Intel build is the MSI B250M Pro-VD, a product from the MSI’s PRO Series.
This micro ATX board comes with all the features needed for either starter or high-end builds for an unbeatable price and the reliability of a big company as MSI!
The main features of this motherboard are:
- Intel Optane Memory
- DDR4 2400 RAM support
- Tested with the major RAM brands to ensure maximum compatibility
- EZ Debug LED: Easiest way to troubleshoot
- Click BIOS 5: Award-winning BIOS with high-resolution scalable font, favorites, and search function
- Military Class 4, Guard-Pro: MSI’s high-quality components standard
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.
Check the Motherboards Guide to see other models with the same chipset.
Processor – Intel Pentium G4560
Intel Pentium G4560
And here is the KEY piece of the build, one of the new Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, the Intel Pentium G4560. But, why is this piece that important? To put it simply, this processor is almost as powerful as the older Intel i3-6100 but there is a price gap between them of 30 dollars. It is also because of this CPU that this build is so easy to upgrade to higher/powerful components.
As for the technical specifications, the Intel G4560 has 2 cores (4 threads) at 3.5 GHz and the integrated GPU HD Graphics 610. Compared to the AMD Fx 6300, the Intel G4560 is around 35% better in single core performance and the TDP around 45% lower.
The processor comes with a basic CPU cooler with pre-applied thermal paste.
Check the Processors Guide to see other models within the same price range.
Graphics Card – ASUS RX 550 2GB
ASUS RX 550 2GB
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.
Check the Graphics Card Guide to see other models within the same price range.
RAM – Ballistix Sport LT 4 GB DDR4-2666
Ballistix Sport LT 4 GB DDR4-2666 CL16
As for the RAM, it is always a good idea to choose modules of the same frequency and, preferably, in groups of two. That is, 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.
I chose a 2666Mhz memory 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.
Why shouldn’t I use one single RAM module? Learn all about choosing the best modules in the RAM Guide.
Storage Unit – ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GB
ADATA SU800 3D-Nand 128GB
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.
Do you want to learn more about SSDs and the different options currently available in the market? Read the SSDs Guide.
Power Supply – EVGA 500 W1
EVGA 500 W1
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).
Why are PSUs so important in every computer? Find it out in the Power Supplies Guide.
Sometimes, you will find that some of the build’s components are not available because there is no available stock or the product is no longer available. Here you will find some alternatives for those components that are likely to vary both in price and availability.
PNY CS1311 120GB
DREVO X1 Series 120GB
GIGABYTE GT 1030 2GB
Peripherals and Extras
If you are building a gaming computer from scratch you will probably need a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, extra storage or even a Windows 10 copy.
'Extras & Peripherals - 1080p 60 Hz'
'Cooler Master Devastator II'
'Toshiba 3.5 1TB 7200 RPM SATA3'
'Microsoft Windows 10 Home x64'
'Noctua NF-S12A ULN'
- For the Win10 license, I recommend you getting it from Kinguin instead ($25) –> link
Even though we are in 2017, every time someone asks me for a 1080p gaming monitor I recommend the Asus VG245H, released in August 2016. This is just the best 1080p monitor of the moment. Period. It features a TN panel with just 1ms of input lag, FreeSync compatible and a refresh rate of 75 Hz. You can read a mini review here: Asus VG245H Review – The Best 24″ FHD FreeSync Monitor Under $200.
As for the keyboard and mouse, if you have a tight budget I would recommend you the Coller Master Devastator II combo bundle. For just 30 bucks you get a decent quality keyboard and mouse. The best way to check if a product worth the money is checking the customer reviews and this product is a true winner. It has 4 out of 5 stars and +300 customer reviews. You won’t find anything better for this price.
If you want to forget about running short of free space then you should consider the option of getting a standard HDD just to store static data like images, music, torrent downloads, games, etc. Just remember to keep the operating system installed on the SSD to get the fastest performance levels.
How To Build a Computer
There are tons of tutorials and video tutorials out there about how to put together the different PC parts.
The Newegg guys did a great job with a series of video tutorials which I highly recommend.It's an easy process if you follow the process step by step and you will feel like a god when you see that you build your Gaming PC from scratch!
If you have never built a computer before don't worry, I know the idea of putting together all the parts and dealing with all the cables can be overwhelming.
That's OK. If I can do it you can as well.
What would I recommend you is to have a quick look at the following video so you can get an idea of what's this about.
And if you have any questions feel free to comment at the end of this post :)!
Things To Note
- Nomenclature: the configurations are named according to the used CPU and GPU:
- IN: Intel CPU, Nvidia GPU
- AA: AMD CPU, AMD GPU
- IA: Intel CPU, AMD GPU
- OC: the configuration is designed for Overclocking.
- Internal storage: the best option here is to add an SSD exclusively for the Operating System. This will increase the general performance a lot. A second standard HDD can be used to store games and general data.
- Power supply: the chosen power supplies will give you more than enough room to satisfy the computer needs. The Intel CPU . Nvidia GPU have lower consumption rates. For example, an i3-8350K with a GTX 1060 will consume up to 300W, which is really low. In those cases, the recommended PSU capacity is 450W, so it works under optimal conditions.
- Component brands: you can be sure that the brands used are first brands only, just the best of the best. There are maybe some of them that don't sound familiar to you but they are still top brands in their respective business sector.
- You don't need to buy all the build components at the same time: unlike consoles, you can buy the build's components as you could afford them and once you have all the parts start to build it. You can even buy all the parts except the GPU (if you bought an Intel CPU, which includes a basic integrated GPU) and add the dedicated graphics card a couple of months later.
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!
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