Can You Build a Gaming PC for $500?

Avro Arrow

Posts: 394   +420
You pay the same amount of tax on a $500 prebuilt as you do on $500 of individual components. And if you order on Amazon shipping is often free. And as the article mentioned, you can get really cheap Windows keys in a lot of places, but you don't even have to activate Windows to use it. As far as prebuilts giving you a better value, unless you're buying from a small shop like Cyberpower or Maingear, you're going to get the cheapest motherboard, CPU cooler, and power supply the OEM can source, which means your future upgrade options are basically zero. They do get bulk pricing on parts, but you still end up paying more for the same specs because you have to pay them to put it together and set it up for you. And any prebuilt in the $500 range is going to have integrated graphics too, as well as single channel memory (which will severely hamper integrated GPU performance) and likely only one storage device, either a hard drive or a small SSD. But yeah, if you're going to be gaming $500 isn't going to get you very far. Bump it up to around $700-800 and you get a lot more performance.
The flaw in the article is that it doesn't take into account the often astonishingly high prices that are attached to console games. The cost of a gaming console and the cost of a gaming PC should also include games and any online play costs incurred (especially since I've never seen online PC play that wasn't free). When those are factored in, you find out that the console isn't nearly as inexpensive as its selling price would suggest. The console itself is a loss-leader, the games themselves are where Sony and Microsoft's profits lie.
 
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Stardude82

Posts: 7   +0
For $200, you can get former buisness box with an i7, OS, HD, RAM etc. Drop in a $150 GTX 1650
and a $25 SSD for good 1080p performance. Most boxes have proprietary PSUs, so you are either locked at 75W or have to figure out adapters if you want to run something better.
 

Tom Sunday

Posts: 34   +5
As Noted: Good news that a 'Kinguin' supplied key now over 3-years ago worked for the many. My luck was not so good as I thought that a major US PC magazine sponsored reseller (June 2020) was the way to go. Even Carey Holzman in Phoenix approved. Carey noted that the US magazine store offer was a far better alternative then purchasing straight off the Internet and doing business with a company with no association nor pedigree. Bottomline the key was not accepted. Did not work. No recourse. No follow-up response nor the supply of a replacement key. I was not happy and purchased a Win 10 Home OS download on Amazon...and of course it worked. Will I ever buy a so-called bargain grey-market key again in the future! Of course not I learned the hard way.
 

Peter Farkas

Posts: 467   +265
If you're planning on playing esports titles and older games forever then this could work. If you see a new title and you want to play it then you will have to upgrade which makes it not inexpensive anymore. And a console while more powerful will also be supported for a few years at least so it will definitely outlast that PC.
Agreed. Consoles are always better value at release and they get worse over time until the point when PCs become better value. Then the whole cycle starts again.
I think the point is to decide if you only want to do what a console offers or you would like to do other tasks that only a PC offers (or games that are only on PC, like older strategy games for a budget PC like this).
 
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Peter Farkas

Posts: 467   +265
As Noted: Good news that a 'Kinguin' supplied key now over 3-years ago worked for the many. My luck was not so good as I thought that a major US PC magazine sponsored reseller (June 2020) was the way to go. Even Carey Holzman in Phoenix approved. Carey noted that the US magazine store offer was a far better alternative then purchasing straight off the Internet and doing business with a company with no association nor pedigree. Bottomline the key was not accepted. Did not work. No recourse. No follow-up response nor the supply of a replacement key. I was not happy and purchased a Win 10 Home OS download on Amazon...and of course it worked. Will I ever buy a so-called bargain grey-market key again in the future! Of course not I learned the hard way.
I have been selecting Win 10 key resellers at allkeyshop.com for like 8 years now and I only had 1 key that didn't work, though I got a new one from the reseller in about 15 minutes. All in all, these cheap keys worked for me and I recommend it to anyone on a tighter budget.
I wonder though why Microsoft is not offering a subscription based license for Win 10.
Even my boxed, retail Win 10 key that I bought for 120USD once in my life was useless once I upgraded my motherboard. I was told it should work when I upgrade my mobo, but it simply didn't. That was $120 down the toilet. I have only bought these cheap offers ever since and had no issues.
 

OptimumSlinky

Posts: 250   +445
Great article, and one that illustrates a key point: At the start of a new console generation, consoles are really hard to beat for value gaming.

Simply put, no PC for $300 is going to match the Xbox Series S, no PC for $400 is going to match the PS5, and no PC for $500 is going to match the Series X when it comes to specs or performance.

When you then factor in the SFF form factor of the consoles, it's even tougher to match them.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,727   +2,373
I have been selecting Win 10 key resellers at allkeyshop.com for like 8 years now and I only had 1 key that didn't work, though I got a new one from the reseller in about 15 minutes. All in all, these cheap keys worked for me and I recommend it to anyone on a tighter budget.
I wonder though why Microsoft is not offering a subscription based license for Win 10.
Even my boxed, retail Win 10 key that I bought for 120USD once in my life was useless once I upgraded my motherboard. I was told it should work when I upgrade my mobo, but it simply didn't. That was $120 down the toilet. I have only bought these cheap offers ever since and had no issues.
I bought a few Windows 10 Pro and Office keys on Ebay for like 3 euros each. All of them are working to this day.
 
Saying that you wouldn't buy used parts because they don't have a warranty. But then using a Windows 10 key that you question whether it's legal is not logical.

I refurbish about 30 computers each month and would 100% recommend buying used hardware if you're on a super strict budget. Just make sure it has a 30 day return window. And then run stress testing on the system with Prime95, FurMark, etc.

I would take a used 4770 with 16GB of DDR3 and a GTX 1650 any day. And that would come in around $325. CPUs and RAM rarely go bad these days, cases don't go bad. Windows 7 still has a free upgrade to 10 through the media creation tool so you can use an OEM pre-built with a 7 key and get windows 10 (100% legally)
 
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In my country, usually use cheap PSU just about 10$ for R3 2200G/R3 3200G. May be bad or worst PSU, but many of them using that PSU, and they have no issue for the long term.
 

Dimitrios

Posts: 686   +526
What are you guys smoking????????????????

I see comments on cheap old GPU's that don't use DX11 or DX12 let alone the OS and what it supports!!!! Who uses an ATI 4850 or Radeon 7000 series on Windows 10???? If you game on Windows XP or Windows 7 with old games I guess that makes sense.
 
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Dimitrios

Posts: 686   +526
Every new generation Console will always be a better option budget wise but you're stuck with that console for many many years and games cost more on console than PC games which can be had really cheap on STEAM, GOG, HUMBLE, and other digital stores. Long term wise PC will always be the better option then the game starts all over again if or when that time comes again.
 
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mrvco

Posts: 98   +86
I'd say either bump the budget to $600 or drop the display requirement. A ~24" 1080P should be the target though, check eBay (lots of sub $100 'good enough' options) or your local thrift stores.

In general, don't back yourself into too much of a corner with budget choices that preclude future upgrades. Start with the 3400G and use the iGPU until you can afford an RX5x0 card. Drop the SSD+HDD combo and pay a bit more for a $100 1TB m.2 SSD. You can always add a SATA drive later for more storage.

Minus the display, swapping in the 3400G and 1TB M.2 SSD comes to $497.
 

Tom Sunday

Posts: 34   +5
I have been selecting Win 10 key resellers at allkeyshop.com for like 8 years now and I only had 1 key that didn't work, though I got a new one from the reseller in about 15 minutes. All in all, these cheap keys worked for me and I recommend it to anyone on a tighter budget.
I wonder though why Microsoft is not offering a subscription based license for Win 10.
Even my boxed, retail Win 10 key that I bought for 120USD once in my life was useless once I upgraded my motherboard. I was told it should work when I upgrade my mobo, but it simply didn't. That was $120 down the toilet. I have only bought these cheap offers ever since and had no issues.
It's good to see both sides of the coin here! I do understand that the purchase of a "full retail version" will be regocnized by talking directly with a Microsoft service representative in case of a Mobo upgrade! As to the cheap offers I do see your point, but for this item I am on the other side of the coin...at least for now .
 

Tom Sunday

Posts: 34   +5
For $200, you can get former buisness box with an i7, OS, HD, RAM etc. Drop in a $150 GTX 1650
and a $25 SSD for good 1080p performance. Most boxes have proprietary PSUs, so you are either locked at 75W or have to figure out adapters if you want to run something better.
I thought to be extra smart with almost exclusively buying from the "Amazon Warehouse" and parts either returned and or refurbished. Or better yet a few generations behind. And all with full no quibble Amazon return support. But you with a 'business box approach' are the smartest here and for starters totally forgoing the separate purchase of an OS and thus saving big bucks, all the while when people like me are dreaming about a $500 gaming rig. I tip my hat to you with deep bow.
 

Tom Sunday

Posts: 34   +5
You can build a gaming rig for even less money.
After all, Tetris is a game, isn't it?
Yes of course Tetris...but please allow a poor soul like me a little bit more of longer lasting entertainment. Will settle for Wolfenstein 3D in a pinch.
 

Mike Koh

Posts: 10   +3
$30 for Win 10 ? what ? I rather just used the free trial version, who cares if you cant personalize the background.

And monitors shouldnt be counted as part of the budget. You did not buy your TV with every new console release, did you ? definitely more room for improvement

 
I bought my son a previously owned Dell 7010 with i7-3770, 16 gigs of RAM, and a legit OEM license of Windows 7. I then swapped the PSU to 80+ one, installed a GTX 1060 3GB, and equipped the system with a 21.5" Dell monitor. Yes, those are all second-hand parts. To complete this low-end gaming rig, I also bought a new 480GB SATA SSD, a new cheap gaming keyboard, a new affordable gaming mouse, a new low-end headset, and a new basic 2.0 speaker. Of course, I got discounted price for returning the mechanical HDD and stock Dell PSU. Windows 7 then upgraded to Windows 10 at no additional cost. All in all, I shelled out around 500 bucks for those. Although not impressive, it's enough to run some modern games at 1080p at high (or even ultra / epic / very high) setting.
 
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Stardude82

Posts: 7   +0
I thought to be extra smart with almost exclusively buying from the "Amazon Warehouse" and parts either returned and or refurbished. Or better yet a few generations behind. And all with full no quibble Amazon return support. But you with a 'business box approach' are the smartest here and for starters totally forgoing the separate purchase of an OS and thus saving big bucks, all the while when people like me are dreaming about a $500 gaming rig. I tip my hat to you with deep bow.
Tom's Hardware just ran an article about this... Comments section hated it. Also, looking at modern games even with an i7, you are taking a big hit with the less than 6 cores and slower RAM. Maybe this approach is best for $300 gaming boxes with something like a GTX 950/1050 or RX 460/560.