Today we are going to look at gaming on a budget, and by budget, we mean a budget. Not everyone is in a position or comfortable to go for a flashy gaming build, but still want to get into the world of gaming or at least dip a toe into the gaming world before diving in. Luckily, depending on the games you want to play, there’s still a way to get a worthwhile PC at almost any price point. You might not be able to push 144fps at 1440p, but you should be able to enjoy e-sports or older titles in full HD at between 30 and 60 FPS and play older games without an issue. So, for those people looking to test the gaming waters or get a strong PC for varied use, we will be looking at the best pre-built gaming PC’s under $500.
A couple of things that we should mention before we get started: buying used at this price point is something to consider, there is almost always a sacrifice to be made at this price for new builds, and Black Friday is around the corner so keep an eye out for builds that didn’t fit the sub-500 criteria now but might when on sale. The first point, buying used, will depend on how comfortable you are with second-hand ownership, and the second point we will be sure to highlight in each option below, but the third point is hard to predict the future so keep your eyes open if you are trying to buy in the next couple weeks!
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the best pre-built PC’s under $500:
Best Prebuilt Gaming PCs under $500 – Our Recommendations
|Best Overall Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
|AVGPC MAX III Gaming PC
|Best Design-focused Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
|Allied Gaming PC Javelin Mini Desktop
|Best CPU-Focused Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
|Dell Inspiron 3670
|Intel UHD 630
|Best Prebuilt Gaming Laptop under $500
|Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-5812
Best Overall Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
The chief components for a gaming PC are the CPU and GPU, and so that’s where we want the majority of the cost of a gaming PC to be spent. Other add-ons are great, like an SSD or higher amounts/faster RAM, but the CPU and GPU are really going to define your ability to game. Typically, the GPU is even more important, but finding balance is the key to a great gaming PC. So, when we were looking for our best overall value gaming PC, we were absolutely thrilled to find an offering that has an SSD, 8 GB DD4 RAM, a modern GPU, and a multi-core Ryzen CPU. Hands-down, as of writing this article, our choice for best value gaming PC under $500 is the AVGPC MAX III Gaming PC.
It’s hard to find a real flaw with this PC for the price. The GPU, an Nvidia GTX 1650, is a superb budget offering that excels at 1080p, producing between 60-144fps depending on settings on which title you are playing. The CPU is the Ryzen 1200, a slightly dated but still modern processor with 4 cores and 4 threads that is also great for a 1080p machine and won’t create any real bottlenecks for the GPU or rest of the machine, allowing all the components to fully stretch their legs. With those two really strong core components, we expected major cuts elsewhere…. but we are happily able to say that’s not the case! The 8GB of DD4 RAM is exactly what you would want for a build like this, and the 500GB SSD is a major plus to help boot and load times. The PC case offers a window to enjoy the insides, including the included LED fans and Cooler Master CPU cooler. The motherboard is an A320 (very basic but totally functional) and while the PSU isn’t specified and likely nothing special, but none of the components draw large amounts of power so it shouldn’t impact the gaming experience. There is even an included Windows 10 Pro license and WiFi! This specific build doesn’t have any reviews, but other builds from the company (AVGPC) have strong reviews and inspire confidence. The more we look the more we find to like, and at $499, it very easy to recommend this PC as our overall gaming PC pre-built for under $500.
Best Design-focused Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
If part of the draw to the gaming PC world is the design and flash of a ‘gaming’ computer, the best overall value one might not have enough pizzazz for your taste. While the core components are hard to beat, and the window to the LED fans is a nice touch, the build doesn’t exactly scream “expensive”. Some people don’t mind the ‘sleeper’ style build, but others are looking for a statement piece! And while RGB isn’t everything, a nice quality case with some RGB fans and a side window go a long way in sprucing up a PC. Based on that combination of pleasing aesthetic and still high performance, we recommend the Allied Gaming PC Javelin Mini Desktop.
Allied Gaming is a new producer as far as we can tell, which means it has some risk but also some possibility for success. To be honest, if it weren’t for Amazon’s strong A to Z protection, we would likely be more careful in suggesting this PC. But based on that guarantee and Amazon’s customer service, it’s hard not to really like this PC. The two massive ARGB fans in the front combined with the sleek case and window offer an aesthetic that is very similar to PC’s that cost several hundred dollars more. And to go with that look, the PC offers some pretty strong internal components. The 8GB 3000 MHz RAM, 550W PSU, and A520 motherboard are all serviceable, and a 240 GB SSD will serve nicely as a boot drive and for main applications, but the star of the show is the CPU. The Ryzen 3100 is one of the strongest budget offerings available today, with the same terrific value as other Zen2 AMD offerings in a 4c/8t package that is well suited to modern gaming. The graphics card is slightly underwhelming with the RX550 when compared to the 1650 offered in our overall choice above, but it will still push plenty of frames at 1080p for a budget build. For the same $499, this PC offers a great alternative to someone looking for a little less GPU in exchange for a bit more style in their gaming PC.
Best CPU-Focused Prebuilt Gaming PC under $500
While gaming may be the main focus of the article, some buyers are really using the PC for a lot of things and gaming on the side. For them, the CPU will have a much larger impact on their daily usage than the GPU for basically any regular task other than the actual gaming. While the Ryzen 3100 above is a great CPU and even the Ryzen 1200 in the first recommendation is strong, Intel is still the leader in single-core performance that is most applicable to typical computer usage. For the user that wants the absolute strongest CPU they can find and the ability to game occasionally, we recommend the Dell Inspiron 3670.
This is a bit of a qualified recommendation to be fair, a gaming PC without a dedicated graphics card is really more of a basic desktop. But being able to get an Intel i5-9400, 12 GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, Bluetooth + WiFi and Windows already installed for $500 is a great start to a build that needs only the GPU to become a gaming powerhouse. The reason we chose this specific desktop for a CPU-focused gamer is two-fold: finding a 9th generation CPU at this price is pretty impressive, and Dell is known for PCs that are expandable without too much work. If you’re comfortable opening up the case and slotting in a GPU (something like a 1050Ti or 1030 that pull power directly from the motherboard), you’ve got yourself a gaming PC that is absolutely killer at 1080p. Not everyone would be comfortable with this as it requires a little bit of DIY knowledge and an additional upgrade for the GPU down the road, but if you want a strong CPU for now and the possibility to add a GPU later, this Inspiron 3670 is our choice for you.
Best Prebuilt Gaming Laptop PC (Not-quite) under $500
OK, after the best value above, the RGB alternative, and the CPU beast, there are not a lot of other desktops we would recommend for a potential gamer. So, we are going to cheat our own criteria a bit and provide a different style recommendation for someone looking to get into gaming: a laptop! Typically, a desktop will always offer better price-to-performance and our first recommendation above is going to give the absolute best experience possible at this price point. But with a desktop comes a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a desk…etc., so if we say that all that costs around $100 (which is probably a little low!), and put that into a laptop budget which comes with all of those things, we can find a nice little gaming machine. With that logic, we can recommend happily for best pre-built gaming laptop PC under $600 the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-5812.
This laptop is a steal at $599.With a ninth-gen Intel i5-9300U, a dedicated Nvidia GTX 1650, a full HD IPS display, WiFi 6, 8 GB DDR4 RAM, and a 256 NVMe SSD, this is a really strong offering. Acer is a major manufacturer with a great reputation, so you know the build quality will be professional and any issues have good customer service to find solutions. While the laptop won’t perform quite as well as our first-choice recommendation AVGPC MAX III due to thermal constraints, it will more than power the 1080p 60hz display and offer a great gaming experience. If you are starting from absolute zero and would need to buy all the peripherals that go with a gaming PC anyway, this laptop is absolutely worth considering for your next prebuilt gaming PC.
The sub-$500 gaming PC realm is filled with bad buys that focus on poorly balanced parts or cutting extreme corners to keep costs down, so be wary of scooping up any old PC. The relative lack of options is why so many people in this budget ballpark look to buy used, which is a can be a great choice depending on your local market. But if you know you are only comfortable buying new, the AVGPC MAX III really is a strongly spec’d machine and by far our favorite product, though the alternative Allied Gaming Javelin and Dell Inspiron 3670 each offer something that is worth the $500 price tag for the right user. And if you are starting new, the Acer Nitro 5 gaming laptop may be more than $500, but once you factor in the costs that go along with a desktop vs. laptop, it is also a very attractive option.