Cheap Gaming PC’s Starting At $200-$600: Build Your Dream PC Now!

What does a cheap gaming pc mean to you?

One person’s definition can be $300, and someone else’s could be $600.

That’s what we found frustrating in looking at the top results in Google – some sites define a “cheap” pc as high as $1,500!

After hours of research: scouring parts lists and online retailers, comparing benchmarks, in-game performance, and user reviews;

I’ve put together a guide for building (or even buying) a cheap gaming PC on a fixed budget

Since you may have a different opinion of what a cheap gaming pc is we’ve broken out this article in prices ranging from $200-$600.

We’ve also done something that no other article has really looked at.

The upgrade path to a budget PC.

For me, when I think of buying a cheap PC, I think that I will be saving up, building my PC and then upgrading in the future. Making my PC a Frankenstein of awesomeness.

We have put together 2 build versions for each price point.

Option 1) The best performance you can get within the price point
Option 2) The best parts to get to have your rig gaming now, but giving the perfect path to future performance

The following guide is the definitive way to approach PC gaming on a budget.

We’ve focused heavily on providing options for you to build the best gaming pc for your budget.

We have broken down the sections to the following:

(Note: all prices are from time of writing and are subject to change based on vendor and sales)

Prebuilt vs Building A Gaming PC

The first question when it comes to PC gaming is whether or not to buy or build a PC.

When I first became interested in PC gaming I was always intimidated by the price and complexity of the builds I saw on my favorite twitch streams.

Professional streamers all have incredibly unique and high-performance systems which made the world of PC gaming seem completely inaccessible.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

From a value standpoint, the question is very easy to answer; building a PC will almost always give a better value than buying a prebuilt system.

The bulk of this guide will focus on recommending parts to build your own PC, however, when there are options for pre-built systems I’ll list those as well.

For a more detailed answer, we have written an article detailing the factors to consider if you want to buy or build a pc.

Is Building A Gaming PC Hard?

No.

Though it may seem like a complicated task, nothing could be further from the truth.

All of our recommended components are designed to work together and as long as you take your time and follow some basic directions, building your own PC is no more complicated than building a Lego set.

All of your components should include clear directions for installation, but if you’re like me you’ll prefer to have everything all in one place.

If you’re more of a reader I’d suggest this guide or this guide.

If you’re like me, videos are more your thing then I’d recommend this video for a basic overview, or this longer video for a more in-depth explanation.

Building The Budget Gaming PC Of Your Dreams

Yes, you’re on a budget, but that doesn’t mean that you have to expect a PC that runs like a potato with a fan when playing any game.

As long as you’re willing to keep your expectations in check, you can have a really powerful PC that can allow you to play popular games while also


Best cheap gaming PC build Under $200

Unfortunately at this range finding a decent gaming PC can be an incredible challenge.

It’s impossible to find a new-prebuilt system at the $200 price point. Finding a used $200 PC in your area on craigslist is possible…but the age and condition of the system are likely, not great…or guaranteed (my local Craigslist search found nothing in this range).

However, if you’re willing to make compromises on certain aspects of performance, a usable machine can be built for incredibly low prices.

The main costs of our cheapest gaming PC in the $200 range are focused mainly on the CPU/APU & the motherboard which takes over 50% of the budget.

For other components, there is definitely a level of compromise to keep costs down.  

The CPU/APU and motherboard are important as they are the heart of your system and we focused on upgradability.

It’s worthwhile to spend a bit more of our budget on these to give room for future upgrades.

The next larger expense of the build comes with the data storage (the SSD in this case). 

Without an SSD, a cheap gaming pc will be noticeably slower. Fortunately, SSDs have become extremely affordable in the last several years which means even with a budget of under $200 one can be had.  

However, you don’t get really any space with this SSD, games use a lot of space. You will most certainly have to add a HDD later on to allow future storage.

The single biggest challenge at this price is the RAM and power-supply (PSU). 

Unfortunately, when working on a very tight budget, options for these parts are very limited.  Four gigabytes of RAM is nowhere near enough in 2019 and will cause fairly severe bottlenecks in some applications.  

For comparison, my laptop uses more than 50% of its available RAM to have four tabs open in Google Chrome.

On top of possible issues with RAM, skimping on the quality of the power supply can be a risky decision.  

At under $200, the options are very limited and almost none of the available choices have an efficiency rating even in the bronze category rating

As mentioned earlier, this is one of the parts of the extreme budget build that is the toughest. 

Personally, I would recommend saving up until your budget can handle a well-reviewed and high-quality power supply (our upgrade recommendations are later in this segment).

$200 PC Build Explanation

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Upgrade Path To Increase Performance

The Best Cheap Gaming PC Build Between $300-400 

Once we move past the $200 and below range your options become much better.  

For the same price (or often less) than a current generation PlayStation or Xbox, you can easily build a budget gaming PC which can keep up on any modern titles and has plenty of room for upgrades in the future.

Unlike the first price bracket, finding a prebuilt system at between $300-400 is not impossible.  The options are still rather limited and will often compromise by using last generation components.  

However, if you do not have the time to build a PC or are willing to make upgrades to a prebuilt PC in the future this can be a viable option. 

Our recommendation is still to custom build, at this price, pre-built systems are not going to be garbage for gaming.

We have also prepared 2 build choices for you.

Build 1 is focused on the best performance you can get right now.

Build 2 assumes you wish to upgrade your PC in the near future when some more cash rolls in.

If you want even more options, we have written dedicated pages for our $350 Gaming PC build and our $400 Gaming PC build.

Build 1 – The absolute best performance below $400

The main difference between this budget build in the $300-400 range and our recommended system in the sub $200 range is the inclusion of a powerful dedicated graphics card.  

In this case, the graphics card consumes more than a quarter of the total budget, but we’re building a gaming computer here – it is absolutely worth the cost!

Again, Given the budget, we couldn’t increase the storage space.

You should really consider getting an additional HDD, as most games are 40GB file sizes. You’ll use up your SSD storage very quickly.

When bundled with the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G and 8GB of RAM – the RX 570 can handle any game at 1080p and even push up into the 1440p+ range especially in older titles.

How will this budget PC handle Games?

Benchmarks from GPUcheck show this system is able to output playable framerates (average of 50.9 FPS ) on all games tested at 1080p Ultra quality. 

Most of these games, which run below 60fps at 1080p, can be pushed above that threshold by decreasing the game settings to high ( average 85.9 FPS) or medium (average 106.9 FPS).

This performance is lightyears ahead of our sub $200 build and means that you are no longer locked out of the latest AAA experiences at enjoyable resolution and quality settings.

$400 PC Build Explanation

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Build 2 – The $400 Cheap Gaming PC Built For Upgrading

For this build, I’ll focus on explaining some of the component choices that I think would be better suited for a more long-term build.  

This build should last you longer because it is easily upgradeable and the parts should last for several years before they feel obsolete.  

The first and most obvious change is the lack of a dedicated graphics card.  

This will mean that out of the box this system will drastically underperform our other sub $400 build.  

It should still be able to handle most games decently considering the AMD Ryzen 5 2400g is a very powerful APU, but the initial parts list is only meant to hold you over until you can get a more powerful graphics card.  

The thought process is that a small budget shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the world of PC gaming now, but if you’re willing to wait and break the project up into several chunks a $150-200 GPU a couple of months later can give you an incredibly powerful system for the price.

$400 Future Upgrade Build Explanation

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$400 Upgrade Path To Increase Performance

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Build The Best Cheap Gaming PC Under $500

Before we move forward, I just want to note that some of the parts previously featured will be used in future lists as well.

For these components, I will only note differences unique to different budgets, otherwise, the descriptions are the same as those used above.

We still chose to install a small size SSD in this build, for performance.

At the end of the day, you will need to buy an additional HDD for storage, or you can elect to just use a large HDD and skip the performance gains of the SSD…but I would just save up and buy a bigger additional storage drive.

If you want even more options, we have a dedicated page for our $500 Gaming PC build.

Build 1 – The absolute best performance below $500

$500 PC Performance Now Build Explanation

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Build 2 – The $500 Upgrade PC

For this build, I’ll focus on explaining some of the component choices that I think would be better suited for a more long-term build.  

This build should last you longer because it is easily upgradeable and the parts should last for several years before they feel obsolete.  

The first and most obvious change is the lack of a dedicated graphics card.  

This will mean that out of the box this system will drastically underperform our other sub $400 build.  

It should still be able to handle most games decently considering the AMD Ryzen 5 2400g is a very powerful APU, but the initial parts list is only meant to hold you over until you can get a more powerful graphics card.  

The thought process is that a small budget shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the world of PC gaming now, but if you’re willing to wait and break the project up into several chunks a $150-200 GPU a couple of months later can give you an incredibly powerful system for the price.

$500 Build 2 Explanation

The Best Available $500 Prebuilt Gaming PC’s

Fortunately, at this price range, there are far more options when it comes to prebuilt systems. 

These pre-built systems will underperform our builds in the $300-400 category, but these are your best prebuilt gaming PC’s out there right no

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer

This system is a better offering than the one from Cyberpower.  It shares the same specs as our sub $200 build except it includes an RX 550 graphics card and a large capacity hard drive rather than an SSD.

Sale
HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop Computer, AMD...
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen(TM) 3 2200G Processor, Quad-Core, 3.50GHz
  • Video graphics: AMD Radeon(TM) RX 550 (4 GB GDDR5 dedicated)

This means that you are paying a $300 dollar premium to get a 1tb hard drive and an RX 550.  If you were to build our sub $200 system and buy both of those components separately, your total would cost below $350.  

So far, however, this is looking like the best value in a prebuilt so if you absolutely are going this route this is the best you can do in the $500 price range. 

Cyberpower Gamer Ultra GUA883 Desktop Gaming PC

First, Cyberpower is far more reputable than the unbranded systems we’ve been looking at earlier, this means that performance is the primary concern rather than the ability of the system to function at all.

CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Ultra GUA883 Desktop...
  • System: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6 Core | AMD 760G Chipset | 8GB DDR3 | 1TB HDD | Genuine Windows 10...
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 240 2GB Video Card | 1x VGA | 1x DVI | 1x HDMI

Unfortunately, the performance here is not great.  The CPU is a several-year-old offering from AMD that will severely underperform even the AMD CPU we have in our sub $200 system above.

Even more embarrassing perhaps is the R7 240 GPU when compared to the integrated graphics on the Ryzen 3 chip.  The Ryzen 3 graphics chip is almost 80% more powerful across the board.

Overall between the last generation CPU and GPU as well as only having DDR3 RAM you would be better off building our sub $200 dollar system than purchasing this prebuilt desktop pc.

In my opinion, at this price level, it is well worth building your own PC. The performance difference at this price point is significant between building and buying.

Build The Best Budget Gaming PC Under $600

This is the price point where we can start to get some more performance for great games.

As always, we have two paths for you to choose from at this price point.

I’m really excited about the upgrade later build, as it has the newest 3400G from AMD.

If you want even more options, we have written a dedicated page for our $600 Gaming PC build.

$600 Build 1 – The Best Performance Right Now

Sale CPU - Ryzen 5 2600 $129.30






Build Explanation







$600 Build 2 – Future-Minded Performance






$600 Prebuilt Gaming Desktop Systems

Once again, I feel gross in even recommending a prebuilt system at all. 

I can’t help being biased, I’m a frugal person – I want to maximize value as much as possible.

Even the best value prebuilt systems at this price lag behind our custom built systems in the sub $500 and even $300-400 categories.  The best system I can find in this price range is this Skytech offering which jumps around between $599 and $699 it seems.

For $600, it’s not a bad deal.

For $700, I’d say forget it.

You’ll be getting a Ryen 3 1200, a Geoforce GTX 1050ti and 8gb of RAM.  Fortunately, the RAM is DDR4 this time around, but that’s the only thing going for this system.

Most of these parts are the last generation and underperform our custom built options. 

Operating System Options 

The one downside to building your own PC is then needing to figure out an operating system.  As far as we’re concerned, Windows is the best overall system.  

If you buy a windows 10 key new, you’re looking at around $120.

Sale Microsoft Windows 10 Home from $92.00

Tomshardware wrote an article of the different ways to get a Windows 10 license – if you’re a student, you should be able to pick one up for cheap.

Getting Windows 10 is well worth it because almost every application is developed for windows, and this is especially true for games.  

If you’re into coding and are familiar with Linux based operating systems, valve (the company behind Steam) has been starting to develop software which will make Windows compatible games run on Linux.  

If this is your area of expertise we say go for it! (but we still recommend getting a windows license anyways).

Wireless Connectivity

So far, this guide assumes that you’ll be using an ethernet cable to connect your desktop to the internet.  This is not the only solution, however. You can also purchase a relatively inexpensive wifi adapter which often times will use USB or a PCI slot. 

You can see our article about the best PCI wifi Adapter here.

We also have an article about the best USB adapter here.

Overall my personal recommendation would be to use ethernet. A wired connection tends to be more stable and often times is faster than a connection via wifi.

Best Cheap Gaming PC Accessories

Core PC Accessories

Monitor (Acer – SB220Q 21 or 27 in)

This monitor from Acer is an excellent choice for someone just starting off with PC gaming.  Both the 21 and 27-inch models are only 1080p, but all of our recommended systems will work best at this resolution anyway.  For around $90 starting price it’s difficult to find a better monitor.

This is our number 1 pick for gaming monitors under $100, which we wrote a full article about it here.

Mouse (Logitech – G502 Hero)

This is one of my favorite gaming mice.  So, the fact that is only ~$55 is a complete steal.  I’ve had the previous generation G502 for nearly five years now and see no reason to upgrade.  

The materials have barely aged, the buttons feel as crisp as the day I bought the mouse, and the braided cord has almost no visible wear.  Logitech also makes a more expensive wireless version, but unless wires really bother you the standard G502 is absolutely the way to go.

Keyboard (Redragon 552) 

Before I give a general keyboard recommendation I think it’s important to note that I am an extreme keyboard snob.  My daily use keyboard is incredibly overkilled, and unless you have a very specific taste the difference between two different kinds of mechanical keyboards or even the difference between a membrane and a mechanical keyboard will probably be very small.  

I’ll still give a few of my favorite budget options, but most importantly go with what you’re most comfortable with.

the Redragon keyboard has excellent reviews on Amazon and it’s a reasonably priced high-value mechanical keyboard.

Headphones (or a microphone)

The only reason to purchase new headphones specifically for a PC is to get something that can also act as a gaming headset.  I’m assuming that many of you already have a pair of headphones that you’re comfortable with. If that’s the case then purchasing a basic desktop microphone can be a good way to save money on buying a new headset altogether.  

If you want to buy a headset I’d recommend this very well reviewed pair from Amazon.  They strike a good balance between value and quality.  

Sale NUBWO Gaming headset $24.99

Speakers

While most monitors (like the Acer ones I’ve recommended) do come with built-in speakers, those speakers tend to be very weak and will often suffer from quality distortions.  If you’re not a fan of headphones you may want to look into a small set of speakers to sit on your desk. I’ve had this very affordable offering from Logitech for a little over a year now, and am very impressed with how much quality these speakers offer for just a hair over $30. 

This speaker is number 3 on our list of the best gaming speakers under $50 and is quite impressive.

If you want to see our number 1 pick for our best budget Speakers here.

Interesting Optional Accessories

Mousepad

Mousepads are some of the most absurd accessories in all of PC gaming.  You can buy a hard mouse pad with custom RGB lighting for $50 or a worthless piece of cloth that never seems to track correctly.  My personal preference is to use a large mouse mat.  

I’ve had one very similar to this one for about two years and I absolutely love it. 

It provides good cushioning on a hard desk and also doubles as protection for the desk.  I especially love never needing to worry about moving my mouse pad around or running the mouse off the edge of the mousepad.

Soundcard

Another downside to many motherboards is that their onboard audio often isn’t up to the quality that audiophiles demand.  Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple.

Even a basic card like this can make a huge difference, especially if you have a very high-quality pair of headphones.

Some Building Tips Before I Go

Before I go I just want to leave you all with some last minute tips.  Building a PC should not be a stressful thing! The only real risk is static electricity exposure during the build, but this is an easily solvable problem.  For about five dollars you can get an antistatic wristband and get some really solid peace of mind.  Just follow our guides and you should be good to go.

This post is the culmination of hours of research about the best components at the best prices.  If you have a question about anything at all please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

If after reading this guide you decide you want to look at builds above $600 you can check out our master guide here.

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