If you’re looking for a mid-range computer build without the mid-range price, this is one which I highly recommend. It focuses on spending over 50% of the overall budget on the CPU and graphics card while still giving you solid parts. While some may focus on the high-end $2,000 world of PC gaming, this is the price range I like to focus on as it’s affordable to a much wider group of people.
It’s a PC that can play most 1080p titles on high to ultra settings and more demanding titles on medium settings. If you’re like me, then the majority of titles that you play are the likes of WoW, CSGO, League of Legends, and even Hearthstone. The graphically demanding AAA titles are actually a small part of what I do so paying four times our $500 to $600 budget seems hardly worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to play AAA titles and if you have the money, go ahead and build that high-end PC. We’re all jealous. Still, I don’t feel like the experience which you get on a machine like this is that different. You still get to play those games and yes, they still look great.
Best $500 to $600 Gaming PC Build for the Money 2015
Best Budget Graphics Cards Under $200
Yes, you could spend a little less on your CPU and have what is around $200 to $220 for a dedicated graphics card. This would put you in GTX 960 or R9 380 territory which would give you a bit more FPS than the option I’m going to suggest.
Instead, we’re going with the R7 370, a GPU readily available for around $150. It gives you slightly better performance than the R9 270x while leaving you enough of a budget to still go for an i5.
The GPU itself does well on most games and the CPU will allow you to use this PC for the next several years without worrying about bottlenecking your CPU. As upgrading your CPU down the road is more difficult than upgrading your graphics card, I suggest you take that route. Alternatively, go with the i3-4160 and R9 380 if you’d rather take that route.
Benchmarks for the AMD R7 370:
Battlefield 4 Ultra Preset
R7 370: 39
Assassin’s Creed High 4x MSAA
R7 370: 29
Total War: Rome II
R7 370: 29
Better than Shown: Keep in mind that these numbers are run on Hih and Ultra settings. Lowering settings and turning off MSAA should greatly improve performance.
|CPU||i5-4460||With a base frequency of 2.3GHz and turbo of 3.4GHz, this sub $200 Haswell Refresh CPU gives you fast single-threaded performance with four cores for multitasking and rendering.|
|Graphics Card||Asus Radeon R7 370||Regularly on rebate, the Asus R7 370 is my choice at the time of this post for $149.99.|
|Motherboard||ASRock H97M PRO4||ASRock gives you a lot of value for the money you spend. Since we don't have a lot to spend, they're an ideal choice.|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance 2x4GB DDR3-1600 Memory||Cheap and reliable ram. If it's not available for $45 to $50, find something similar. I also like the G. Skill Value and NS 1600 Memory.|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB / Optional Kingston V300 120GB SSD||To make this build around $550, we only have $50 for our Hard drive. If you're willing to extend it to $600, you can get a 1TB drive in the WD Caviar Blue as well as a 120GB Kingston V300 for your OS and most important programs.|
|Power Supply||CX 430||Modular, 80 Plus Certified, and a fairly reliable brand in Corsair.|
|Case||Silverstone PS08||A solid micro-ATX with an appealing look, included 120mm front fan, and solid feel all around.|
A Good Gaming CPU for Under $200
As for your CPU, consider it an investment here. Ever since Sandy Bridge, the i5 has shown an uncanny ability to not bottleneck the graphics cards it has been grouped with. Case and point is the i5-2500k which many users bought years ago and still see relatively no need to upgrade from. For that reason, I recommend you go with the Haswell refresh i5-4460. At $175 it allows us to stick within our budget and still gives us the performance we need.
If you want the option to overclock your CPU when it gets a bit stale, consider the i5-4690k for around $50 more. This will put your budget more in the $600 range but might add some valuable longevity. Keep in mind that if you do this you’ll want to either get a Z87 motherboard with an easy-to-upgrade USB BIOS or a Z97 motherboard. I only mention Z87 boards right now because of the incredibly low prices I’ve seen lately on them.
Good Gaming Motherboards Under $75
It may cause some level of controversy or at least pain when I say this but at this price range it’s not worth it to overclock. Spending that extra $30 to $100 on a graphics card would net you much better results. For that reason, I’m recommending an H97 chipset motherboard with a ton of features that’s not built for overclocking although it is overclockable.
One of the better H97 motherboards around $75 is the ASRock H97M Pro4. It has a solid capacitor design and supports up to 32GB of Dual channel DDR3 1600 at 1600MHz. Expansion slots include 1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 and 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16.
Good Gaming Cases Under $30
Here we’re looking for a quality Micro ATX case which has USB 3.0 headers and a good design. For this, I’d suggest the SilverStone PS08. It’s solid with high-strength plastic and has good breathability with a meshed front panel and an included 1x120mm front fan. It also has plenty of expansion slots for your drives.
Good Power Supplies Under $25
You can get a lot more from a power supply than you used to be able to for a lot less. The Corsair CX430W Modular power supply is on sale right now with a 10% off promo code and $20 mail-in rebate at Newegg. This makes it around $25. It’s a perfect choice to go along with this build that should use, on the high side, around 283W total.
For hard drive options, we have around $50. While I’d like to be able to buy a cheap 128GB SSD for the OS, it’s not in the budget. If you decide that you want one anyway, go with something like the Kingston SSDNow V300 series. The 120GB version comes in at around $50 and will make your computer feel a lot faster. For a standard hard drive, I like the Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB hard drive here for around $52.