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Budget gaming PC build guide 2019

budget gaming PC build

Building a budget gaming PC can be done surprisingly cheap, without sacrificing quality. You can put together a rock-solid gaming rig without breaking the bank, if you know where to look and are patient enough to wait for sales. If you know exactly what you're getting for your dollars, you can spend smart and avoid turning your budget PC build into a dark, deep money pit. What's more, with the help of Black Friday deals around November, you can probably squeeze more from your funds to get an even better rig than you thought possible. For now, though, with our budget build, the bulls-eye is $750 (£600/AU$1,000) with a little wiggle room in there for flex spending.  

Buy it now

Prefer to buy a prebuilt than build your own gaming PC? Check out our guide to the best gaming PCs. Or, if you're going portable, here are the best gaming laptops in 2019.

Building a budget PC can be a bit of a double-edged sword. With so many manufacturers making many similar components, you can expect to see fairly frequent sales on many of the parts you'll need to make your build a reality. Contrary to popular belief, building a solid gaming PC isn't just about slapping the best graphics card in there and calling it a day. Expensive isn't always better. To that end, with our build, we've held back on some parts that we know won't necessarily translate to better performance, like the case, PSU, storage and RAM. This gives us the freedom to use our premium bucks on the stuff that will guarantee better dividends.

While we are trying to save money with this budget gaming PC build, that doesn't mean we're cutting corners. In fact, many of these components are upgradable or at the very least, can be slotted into your next build. The Z370 motherboard while showing its age a bit, is surprisingly versatile and can still support up to an Intel Core i7-8700K, and the unused M.2 slot in our build leaves room for quick and easy storage expansion.      

The par for this particular build was set fairly low. This machine should be able to run games well at 1080p using high settings, potentially even pushing the envelope to maximum settings with some titles. However, if we make the jump to 1440p, expect to lower the settings considerably to retain the same level of performance. Consistent, lower fidelity gaming is what we're going for here, just don't expect this rig to push 4K.

Please note that our budget didn't account for OS costs or any peripherals. But our guides for best gaming mouse, best gaming keyboard and best gaming monitor will help you find the perfect peripherals to go with your sweet new setup. 

CPU

Intel Core i3-8100

Good for gaming and regular tasks, but won't handle streaming

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base Clock: 3.6GHz | Turbo Clock: 3.6GHz | Overclocking: No | L3 Cache: 6MB | TDP: 65W | PCIe 3.0 lanes: 16

Keeps up with a Radeon 580
Efficient and fast architecture
No Hyper-threading or overclocking
Only four cores

Intel has a true quad-core processor as a budget option, mainly thanks to its continuing war with AMD's Ryzen chips. The Core i3-8100 is basically the same as the old Core i5-7400, with a slight bump in clockspeed as a bonus. For gaming purposes, Intel's quad-core CPUs have been our go-to option for several years. It's awesome that Core i5 parts now have six cores, but for more modest gaming needs the 4-core parts are still more than capable. Just be careful of running too many background tasks while gaming (like Twitch streaming, Discord, etc.) or you may get some stuttering in more demanding games.

You could go higher up the CPU ladder with an i5-8400, which we recommend over the overclocking-friendly i3-8350K, but that's a slippery slope that quickly leads to prices that push this build way beyond budget.

If you want to go with an all-AMD build, you'd want at least a Ryzen 5, preferably 6-core model, to meet or beat the i3-8100's gaming performance. It's about a $50-$100 upgrade, and certainly a viable option if you have some spare budget. (Don't forget to swap to an AMD motherboard if you go this route.)

GPU

AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

A great graphics card for 1080p gaming

GPU Cores: 2,304 | Base Clock: 1,257MHz | Boost Clock: 1,340MHz | GFLOPS: 6,175 | Memory: 6GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8Gbps | Memory Bandwidth: 1256GB/s

8GB of memory  
Good DX12 performance 
GCN architecture is getting old
Uses more power than GTX 1060 6GB 

If you're running a 1080p display a faster card would be overkill. As this is a budget build, the RX 580 is a great choice for 1080p gaming (although if you have an extra $20, you could easily push up to the RX 590). The RX 580 8GB is a little faster than the  old GTX 1060 performance-wise, but uses more power, and it sits below the GTX 1660 currently (another great option for your budget GPU). The card averages over 60fps at 1080p maximum quality in our test suite, though there are a few games where you'll want to tweak the settings a bit.

Sub-$200 is a reasonable price for budget-conscious gamers to spend on this GPU right now. Current prices are within that range, always less than the original $229 MSRP thanks to the end of crypto mining. Ultimately, it comes down to what manufacturer you prefer, as prices, clockspeed, etc. will vary. Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire, and XFX are some of the usual suspects. We do recommend sticking with the full 8GB VRAM model, though.

Motherboard

MSI Z370-A Pro

A good budget Z370 board with upgrade potential

Chipset: Z370 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4000 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x4), (4) x1 | Video ports: D-Sub, DVI-D, DisplayPort | USB ports: (6) rear IO, (6) internal | Storage: (1) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet | Lighting: None

Affordable Z370 board
Does everything you need
Limited OC potential
No Wi-Fi or RGB, single M.2

MSI's Z370-A Pro provides everything you'll need, plus a lot of extra stuff you may never use. The M.2 slot for example means you can go with a higher performance SSD, but the impact on gaming is pretty minimal and the cost can be quite a bit higher. Four DIMM slots means you can upgrade from two to four sticks if you want more RAM in the future. MSI also lists up to DDR4-4000 memory support, which is far beyond what anyone should run in a budget build.

There are other budget Z370 boards, as well H370 options, but using a Z370 board here allows for a future CPU upgrade to a midrange or high-end processor, with modest overclocking potential. For the Core i3-8100 you're safe with grabbing just about any cheap Z370/H370 board, but we like to keep our options a bit more open than that. If you're stuck, check out our best gaming motherboards guide.

Memory

8GB DDR4-2400

Plenty of memory for most games

Capacity: 2x4GB | Speed: 2400MT/s | Timings: 15-15-15-35 | Voltage: 1.2V

Sufficient for most tasks
Relatively inexpensive
May need more RAM in the future

There’s no shortage of options when you’re shopping for memory, and while the past year has wreaked havoc on DDR4 prices, it looks like production has been sorted out now. Thankfully, 8GB of memory is generally fine for gaming, and for a budget build we're less picky about RAM brands and speeds.

We're not recommending a specific brand of DDR4 memory right now, as prices and availability fluctuate a lot. You should be reasonably safe with just about any DDR4 kit from Adata, Ballistix, Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, GeIL, Gigabyte, Hynix, HyperX, Micron, Mushkin, Patriot, PNY, Samsung, Team, or XPG. Worst-case, you might need to manually set the speed or timings rather than using the defaults.

Our primary recommendation is to get an 8GB DDR4-2400 kit, though if you can find DDR4-2666 or DDR4-3000 without spending too much more that's not a bad idea. If two competing kits look similar in price, capacity, and speed, check the timings. CL15 shouldn't cost much more than CL17 RAM and is slightly faster. Our guide to the best RAM for gaming can help you further.

SSD

Crucial MX500 500GB

Fast storage for your OS, apps, and a few games

Capacity: 500GB | Interface: SATA | Sequential IO: 560/510MB/s read/write | Random IO: 95K/90K IOPS read/write

One of the fastest SATA SSDS
Reasonable price per GB
Not a lot of capacity these days
Slower than M.2 NVMe drives

No matter how much storage you need, using an SSD for your boot drive is essential. The speed difference between SSD and HDD when starting up your system is massive, and with current prices even a moderate SSD has room for a few games, which will also load faster.

Crucial's MX500 SSD is one of the fastest SATA SSDs available, though it still pales in comparison to higher-end M.2 options. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in price and capacity. For around $75 (£55/AU$100), the 500GB model is cheap enough to fit our budget while providing ample storage to serve as a solo primary drive for our build. (It's also our top budget pick for the best SSD for gaming.) Sure, you won't be able to store a massive game library loaded at once, but it's enough for a handful of games on top of your OS.

Also as a point of reference, earlier this year, before SSD prices dropped, $55 is what you'd pay for the 250GB model. We've doubled capacity and kept the same price, which gives us plenty of breathing room in terms of storage. You could also use an SSD cache combined with a 1-2TB hard drive, and the MX500 is also available in as an M.2 SATA drive for around the same price point—which our motherboard supports. It doesn't offer a performance increase, but it does potentially mean two fewer cables, which can make for a better system aesthetic.

Power Supply

EVGA 450 BT

More than enough power for a budget PC

Output: 450W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Bronze | Connectors: 24-Pin ATX, (1) 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, (2) 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, (4) SATA, (3) Molex, (1) Floppy | Modular: No

Small, inexpensive, efficient
Can power most single GPUs
Fixed (non-modular) cables
Only bronze (up to 82 percent) efficiency

Like memory, most power supplies from major vendors tend to be of high quality, and we don’t recommend skimping on PSU quality. This non-modular EVGA 450W is 80 Plus Bronze certified and comes with a 3-year warranty. While we generally recommend going with a semi- or fully-modular power supply, this EVGA PSU routinely sells for just $25, making the fixed cables easy to forgive.

If you're looking for alternatives, just aim for 80 Plus Bronze or higher efficiency and at least 400W and you should be fine. If you intend to upgrade in the future, especially if you plan on adding an overclockable CPU and a faster graphics card, you may want to invest in a more powerful 600W PSU.

Case

Fractal Design Focus G

Understated and attractive

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: (2) 5.25" external, (2) 3.5" internal, (1) 2.5" SSD | Front Ports: (1) USB 3.0, (1) USB 2.0, Audio | Fan Options: Front: (2) 120/140mm - White LED fans included, Top: (2) 120/140mm, Rear: (1) 120mm, Bottom: (1) 120/140mm | Max GPU Length: 380mm | Dimensions: 444x205x464mm (HxWxD) | Weight: 4.51kg

Does what you need
Includes dual 120mm fans
Only one each USB 2.0/3.0 up front
Some people like more bling

The Fractal Design Focus G is a lovely looking box that's easy to work with and doesn't cost too much. Having said that, cases can be extremely subjective, and what one person loves another may find boring or gaudy. If you're looking for other options, the NZXT S340 from our best mid-tower case guide is another great choice.

Also be sure to get the ATX version, if you're using our recommended ATX motherboard. There's a micro-ATX Focus G as well that obviously wouldn't work.

All Components

All the totals here are correct at time of publishing, and we update this feature regularly. The widget above will always show the cheapest component prices available, but be aware they go up and down. The build is based on US prices, but should be comparable in the UK and rest of the world. 

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