It’s been a rough summer for anyone trying to build a cheap gaming PC, thanks to an unrelenting semiconductor shortage. However, it seems that we now have some relief in this regard. Parts are easier to find and graphics card prices are affordable again. So if you’re planning to build a cheap gaming PC, now is the time.
You may notice some entry-level GPUs like the RTX 3050 or RTX 3060 selling for a higher MSRP at some retailers. But luckily the RX 6600 has come down to a reasonable price. If you keep an eye out, chances are you’ll find one. High prices still didn’t stop us from building a $400 gaming PC that doesn’t need a graphics card (opens in a new tab).
Key components like SSD, RAM and CPU are not that hard to find. Intel and AMD have cheaper CPUs than ever and are competitive. When it comes to SSDs and RAM, you’re practically swimming in available options, even with decent capacities.
Our budget PC build does not include peripherals such as monitors, mice, keyboards, etc. However, most new games can run at 60fps at 1080p on high settings. Most of the budget went to a decent CPU and GPU, as these two components greatly affect the overall performance of the system. While the RAM we’ve chosen isn’t fancy, it’s fast enough to keep up with our CPU selection.
If you’re looking to step out of the budget guild, our main guide to building a gaming PC (opens in a new tab) is more budget-friendly and provides more images. But you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for a more affordable setup with a discrete GPU.
Intel Core i5 12400F
Performance Cores: 6 | Efficient Cores: 0 | Threads: 12 | Base Clock: 2.5GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.4GHz | L3 Cache: 18MB | Processor Base Power: 65W | Maximum Turbo Power: 117W | PCIe lanes: 20
We’re big fans of the Core i5 12400, and the only difference with the Core i5 12400F is the lack of integrated graphics. For that omission, you can pick up this chip a little cheaper at checkout, and since we’re recommending a discrete GPU below, we don’t really need integrated graphics. That’s smart savings.
This is also a smart chip. This is one of Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake processors, and while it doesn’t feature the new efficient cores that make more high-end Alder Lake chips so exceptional, the performance cores here do put some work into it. 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 released cheaper chipsets for their 12th gen chips, it’s become a bit of a favorite for us on more budget builds like this one. You also get some sweet perks with the new 12th Gen Intel platform, although we’ll skip DDR5 on this build because it’s so expensive.
One thing to note is that Intel is about to release brand new Intel Raptor Lake processors, although the 13400 is not among the first to release. We expect it to arrive later in 2023, so for now we still recommend the Core i5 12400F.
AMD Radeon RX 6600 8GB
Stream Processors: 1,792 | Base Clock: 1,626MHz | Boost Clock: 2,491MHz | Memory: 8 GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14Gbps | Memory Bandwidth: 224GB/s
This is now more true of AMD graphics cards than Nvidia, and no more so than in the budget lineup. The RX 6600 wasn’t particularly impressive to us at launch, considering it asked for the same amount of cash as the RTX 3060 12GB, but it was often outsold by the green team card. However, it is much, much cheaper now. It’s even cheaper than Nvidia’s RTX 3050, making it much smarter than both cards.
The RX 6600 is capable enough to play at 1080p in modern times, don’t worry about that. It’s built on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, which is still (at least for a while) the top performer outside of the Radeon camp. It will soon be replaced by RDNA 3 cards this November, but it will almost certainly only be the high-end cards that arrive first – the RX 6600 still has a lot of life left in it.
Asrock B660M Pro RS
Chipset: Intel B660 | Memory: 2x DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-5333 | Expansion slots: 1 x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 3.0 x1 | Rear USB ports: 4 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Ports | Storage: 1x M.2, 4x SATA, 2 x USB 2.0 Ports | Network: Gigabit ethernet | Lighting: Rear RGB lighting
That’s as cheap as we want for a motherboard, while still offering room for expansion and upgrades. It’s a fairly frugal board, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when we’re focusing on budgeting.
The B660 chipset offers exactly what we need from a gaming machine, with admirable USB connectivity and fast PCIe 4.0 support. This is quite important when you want to run the latest SSDs at their highest speeds, which can affect game performance and load times with the advent of DirectStorage technology (opens in a new tab). Meanwhile, it’s also nice to run your SSDs super-fast for fast file transfers.
Although it is important that this motherboard ditches the more expensive DDR5 memory standard for widely available and very cheap DDR4 kits. This means that you save not only on the motherboard, but also on memory.
Corsair Vegeance LPX 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4-3200
Capacity: 2x 8GB | Speed: 3200MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-36 | Voltage: 1.35V
This slimline memory kit from Corsair allows us to add massive amounts of memory and also boost clock speeds without breaking the bank. While it’s not really the fastest RAM available, it lacks the flair of many RGB RAM kits, it’s practical and reasonable, which is what we need for this build.
Of course, there are plenty of options for memory kits, and this is just a suggestion. Memory prices have really come down recently, but there’s always potential to save on higher quality RAM. You could technically get away with 8GB of RAM, but we’d recommend sticking with 16GB and staying in the 3200MHz range instead.
Just remember to pay attention to frequency and timing as well as price. If you need some more pointers in your memory search, our guide to the best RAM for gaming (opens in a new tab) can help point you in the right direction.
WD_Black SN770 500GB
Capacity: 500GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe Gen4 x4 | Sequential IO: 5000/4000MB/s read/write | Random IO: 460K/800K IOPS read/write
You can’t have a computer without storage, and you’ll need room for your operating system as well as all the games you want to keep close at hand. Fortunately, with memory and SSD prices dropping in fairly quick order, we’ve finally found a way to fit an M.2 SSD into our budget. M.2 NVMe SSDs are not only easier to install, but offer better performance than their SATA counterparts. And when you get 500GB for so little these days, the WD_Black drive is a great value.
This drive isn’t exactly what anyone would call top performance, but it’s still one of the best SSDs for gaming (opens in a new tab) if you’re on a budget. Definitely one of the best ways to increase PCIe 4.0 performance.
You may want to upgrade to a larger model one day. Fortunately, this ASRock B660M motherboard has room for several SSDs and at least one with PCIe 4.0 speeds, so you can easily add a larger, cheaper PCIe 3.0 drive to your computer later. You can also save some money with a PCIe 3.0 drive instead of the SN770, but it’s often only $10 for a faster PCIe 4.0 drive.
XPG Pylon 450
Output: 450W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Bronze | Connectors: 1x 24-Pin ATX, 1x 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, 2x 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, 5x SATA, 2x Molex, 1x Floppy | Modular: No
XPG entered the affordable PSU market with the Pylon series. The smallest member of the range has a capacity of 450W and is our top for this category, since Corsair decided to withdraw the CX450 model, which used a modern but expensive platform, so it was difficult to keep the price low. With the CX450 out of the equation, the way is open for the XPG Pylon 450.
From 2022, XPG has increased the warranty on all Pylon models to five years to keep up with the competition. Given the fluid dynamic bearing fan and reliable platform provided by Channel Well Technology, extending the warranty makes sense.
At just $50, it’s also one of the cheaper bang-for-your-buck PSUs out there, making it one of the best gaming power supplies out there today (opens in a new tab).
Cases can be extremely subjective, and while it’s easy to spend more, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better for less. We settled on this relatively spacious and inexpensive case from Corsair, which is something of a choice for us when considering 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 much.
This Corsair model is taking off a bit now, but it’s still worth a look because it’s so cheap.
There’s some temptation to max out your budget on a nice-looking case, but it’s important to remember that this part of your build will have no more impact on performance than the other things 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 a higher framerate.
What should I do if I can’t find GPU shares?
One thing you may have noticed is that GPU inventory can either be low or overpriced. It will probably be at least another few months. Trust us; we are just as frustrated with all the lack of hardware as you are.
There are several techniques for buying a new GPU (opens in a new tab) in a silicon drought, but if you’re in a rush, the best gaming PCs offer a shortcut to a high-performance PC at less of a premium than some others. of individual graphics cards today.
What if I need to spend part of my PC budget on peripherals?
Like our other build guides, the money we put into this cheap gaming PC build doesn’t include anything living outside of the cabinet. If you’re upgrading, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to make sure you budget for a Windows license, a monitor (or two), and a keyboard and mouse.
If you’re struggling with these extra expenses, you can opt for a smaller SSD or memory kit – both of which can be easily upgraded in the future when you have a little more money to spare.