It's been a rough summer for anyone trying to put together a budget gaming PC, thanks to an unforgiving semiconductor shortage. It seems like we have some relief in that regard now, however. Components are becoming easier to find, and graphic card prices are back to being affordable. So if you planning to build a budget gaming PC, now's a good time.
You might spot some entry-level GPUs like the RTX 3050 or RTX 3060 selling for above MSRP at some retailers. But thankfully the RX 6600 has dropped to a reasonable price. If you keep a lookout, chances are you'll find one. High prices still didn't stop us from putting together a $400 gaming PC that doesn't need a graphics card.
Crucial components like SSDs, RAM, and CPUs aren't as hard to find. Intel and AMD have more budget CPUs than ever and competitive ones. Regarding SSDs and RAM, you're practically swimming in affordable options, even at decent capacities.
Our budget PC build does not include peripherals like monitors, mice, keyboards, etc. It can run most new games at 60fps at 1080p on high settings, though. Most of the budget went into a decent CPU and GPU since those two components greatly affect the system's overall performance. While the RAM we chose isn't fancy, it is fast enough to keep up with our CPU choice.
If you want to step up from the budget guild, our main gaming PC build guide has a higher budget and delivers more frames. But you've come to the right place if you're after a more affordable setup with a discrete GPU.
We're big fans of the Core i5 12400, and the only difference with the Core i5 12400F is the lack of onboard graphics. For that omission you can pick this chip up for slightly less at checkout, and seeing as we're recommending a discrete GPU below we don't really need the onboard graphics anyways. That's a smart saving.
This is also a smart chip. This is one of Intel's 12th Gen Alder Lake processors, and while it doesn't contain the new Efficient Cores that make more high-end Alder Lake chips so special, the Performance Cores here do put some work in. In fact, they're exceptionally good for gaming, with really great single-threaded performance.
So we like the Core 15 12400F a lot, and since Intel has released cheaper chipsets for its 12th Gen chips it's become a bit of a favourite for us on more budget builds like this one. You also net yourself some sweet benefits with Intel's new 12th Gen platform, though we will be skipping DDR5 for this build since it's so pricey.
One thing to note is that Intel is about to release brand new Intel Raptor Lake CPUs, though the 13400 is not among the first to release. We suspect that'll come later, in 2023, so for now it's still the Core i5 12400F that we recommend.
Read our full Core i5 12400 review (the one with integrated graphics).
It's not been a great few years to buy into PC gaming or build your own machine. However, things are finally improving. Stock can still be hit or miss, but prices have started to become reasonable again.
That's more true of AMD's graphics cards than Nvidia's right now, and no more so than in the budget lineup. The RX 6600 wasn't super impressive to us at launch, considering it asked the same amount of cash as an RTX 3060 12GB but was often beaten by the green team's card. However, it's now much, much cheaper. It's even cheaper than Nvidia's RTX 3050, which makes it a much smarter buy than both cards.
The RX 6600 is plenty capable of 1080p gaming in the modern age, don't fret about that. It's built using AMD's RDNA 2 architecture, which is still (for a while, anyways) the top dog out of the Radeon camp. It will soon be replaced by RDNA 3 cards this November, but that'll almost certainly be only the high-end cards arriving at first—the RX 6600 has a lot of life left in it yet.
Read our full AMD Radeon RX 6600 review.
This is as cheap as we want to go for the motherboard while still offering room for expansion and upgrades down the line. It's a fairly parsimonious board, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when we're targeting a budget build.
The B660 chipset offers exactly what we need for a gaming machine, with some admirable USB connectivity and speedy PCIe 4.0 support. That's pretty important when you want to run the latest SSDs at their top speed, which might play more into game performance and load times with the arrival of DirectStorage technology. In the meantime, it's also nice to run your SSDs super-fast for rapid file transfers.
Though importantly this motherboard ditches the more expensive DDR5 memory standard for widely available and very cheap DDR4 kits. That means you don't just save on the motherboard, you also save on your memory, too.
This slim, no-nonsense memory kit from Corsair lets us deliver a huge amount of memory and increases our clock speeds, too, without going off the deep end with our budget. While indeed not the fastest RAM available by any stretch, lacking the flair of many RGB RAM kits, it's practical and sensible, which is what we need for this build.
Of course, there are tons of options for memory kits, and this is just a suggestion. Memory prices have really dropped recently, but there's always the potential for higher quality RAM savings. You could technically get away with 8GB of RAM, but we'd recommend sticking to 16GB and staying in the realm of 3,200MHz instead.
Just make sure to pay attention to the frequency and timing, as well as the price. If you need some additional pointers when looking for memory, our guide to the best RAM for gaming can help point you in the right direction.
You can't have a PC without storage, and you're going to need space for your OS as well as whatever games you want to keep on hand. Thankfully, with memory and SSD prices dropping in pretty rapid order, we've finally found a way to slot an M.2 SSD into our budget build. Not only are M.2 NVMe SSDs easier to install, but they offer better performance than their SATA counterparts. And when you get 500GB for so little nowadays WD_Black drive is great value.
This drive isn't exactly what anyone would call the top-of-the-line performance, but this is still one of the best SSDs for gaming if you're on a budget. Definitely one of the best ways into PCIe 4.0 performance.
You just might want to upgrade to a larger model someday. Luckily, that ASRock B660M motherboard has space for a few SSDs, and at least one at PCIe 4.0 speeds, so you could add a larger, cheaper PCIe 3.0 drive to your PC with ease at a later date. You could also save some cash with a PCIe 3.0 drive instead of the SN770, however, there's often only $10 in it for the faster PCIe 4.0 drive.
Read our full WD_Black SN770 review (1TB).
XPG entered the affordable PSU market with the Pylon series. The smallest member of the line has 450W capacity and is our peak for this category, from when Corsair decided to withdraw the CX450 model, which used a modern but expensive platform, making it hard to keep its price low. From the moment the CX450 is out of the equation, the road is open for the XPG Pylon 450 to shine.
From 2022, XPG upgraded the warranty on all Pylon models to five years to keep up with the competition. Given the fluid dynamic bearing fan and the reliable platform provided by Channel Well Technology, the warranty upgrade makes sense.
At just $50, it's also one of the cheaper PSUs worth your cash today, hence why it's one of the best power supplies for gaming today.
Read our full XPG Pylon 450 review.
Your best chance of getting hold of the best graphics cards and CPUs right now is to buy one of the best gaming PCs or best gaming laptops.
Cases can be extremely subjective, and while it's easy to spend more than this, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better one for less. We've settled on this relatively spacious and inexpensive case from Corsair, which is something of a go-to for us when we consider cheaper cases. It lacks many of the bells and whistles that a more expensive case can provide, but it gets the job done without cutting too many corners.
This Corsair model is getting on a bit now, but it's still worth looking at as it's so cheap.
There is a certain temptation to max out your budget on a pretty looking case, but it's important to remember this piece of your build will have no impact on performance than the other stuff you should be spending money on. Buy something that does what you need it to do and is easy to work with.
Or go ahead and make a fashion statement; just don't expect higher framerates.
Budget gaming PC build guide FAQ
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What do I do if I can't find GPU stock?
One thing you might have noticed is that GPU stock can be running either low or is priced too high. It probably will be for at least another couple of months, too. Trust us; we are just as frustrated with all the hardware shortages as you are.
There are a few techniques to buying a new GPU in the silicon drought, but if you're in a rush, the best gaming PCs offer a shortcut to a high-performance machine with less of a premium than some individual graphics cards today.
What if I need to spend some of my PC budget on peripherals?
Like our other build guides, the money we've allowed for this budget gaming PC build doesn't include anything that lives outside of the case. If you're upgrading, this shouldn't be too much of an issue, but if you're starting from scratch, you'll need to make sure you set aside extra cash for a Windows license, a monitor (or two), and a keyboard and mouse.
If you're struggling with those additional expenses, you can opt for a smaller SSD or memory kit—both of which are easy to upgrade in the future when you have a bit more cash at your disposal.