Best Budget Gaming PC Builds for 2021 (Powerful & Cheap)

PC gaming is often thought of as a much more expensive and premium way to enjoy video games when compared to consoles.

These are common misconceptions, however, and PC gaming actually offers some of the best value for money, especially if you plan to build your PC yourself.

Best Budget Gaming PC Builds for 2021 (Powerful & Cheap)

PC gaming benefits from some of the most up to date technology and the healthy competition between different brands and manufacturers leads to a constant battle for the best value and performance, which gives consumers one of the most highly competitive markets to choose from, especially as opposed to the relatively low competition between consoles.

Being on the bleeding edge of the latest advancements in design architecture means that PCs can achieve superb performance at staggeringly competitive prices, and there are also plenty of bargains to be found due to the constant forward march and development process.

PCs also benefit from much better longevity and practicality than consoles, giving them amazing utility and long-term value.

While consoles are fairly versatile, PCs can be used for almost anything and can easily double as workstations, entertainment complexes, editing suites, or even VR stations.

This flexibility, coupled with their upgradability makes PC’s the most powerful systems while at the same time providing amazing value for money.

In this article, we’re going to look at some great budget PC builds which will allow you to configure a very capable system without requiring you to take a huge hit in the wallet.

If you know where to look there are some excellent deals to be found and some extremely high-performance parts which will crush all current games as well as any released in the foreseeable future.

We’re going to start with the more expensive ‘sweet spot’ build and then work down the list to the more accessible options, ensuring that there’s a system here for anyone, whether you’re hoping to dominate in VR or focus on fast-paced competitive games such as League of Legends, as well as anything in between.

A note about  graphics cards and component price fluctuations

Before you continue, it’s important to note that PC part prices can fluctuate wildly.

This is due to several factors, the first being that there are often sudden and unexpected promotions that can significantly reduce the price of some parts without warning, leading to huge additional savings if you’re lucky enough to find a specific deal.

This adds huge value to building your own PC, and bargain hunting is one of the best perks for researching thoroughly and finding the best price possible for any given part.

However, there is also the reality that recently certain parts have been massively inflated in price due to a variety of factors including manufacturing disruptions, global economic issues, and incredibly high demand.

This has naturally led to a huge squeeze on certain parts, particularly graphics cards and this has made it very difficult to accurately track and predict value due to this disruption.

The majority of the latest cards are universally sold out, and this shortage has driven up the price of older and less popular cards, so keep this in mind if you are researching parts and things don’t seem to be lining up correctly. 

1. Best Bang for Buck – $800 Gaming PC

In this section, we’re going to look at a ‘sweet spot’ build, where gamers can find some of the best bang for their buck.

Around the $800 mark, there are a host of high-quality parts available for builders to take advantage of, and PC’s in this price range will often be capable of handling the most demanding games at very high graphical fidelity at 1080P and even 1440P resolutions.

Let’s take a look at the components;

  • CPU – Intel Core i5 11400F
  • MOBO – ASUS H510M
  • GPU – Powercolor RX 5600XT
  • RAM –  Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4
  • SSD – ADATA 480GB
  • CASE – Zalman S2
  • PSU – Thermaltake 650W 80+ Bronze Certified 650W
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

In this list, there are some amazing highlights which will give gamers truly astounding performance for their money.

The brand new Intel Core i5 11400F is a key highlight, and is only a few months old, but is already stirring up the CPU marketplace. This is because the 11400F is a very competitively priced component, filling a gap in the market for Intel and completely outpricing AMD’s latest Ryzen 5 series cards but offering comparable and sometimes superior performance.

The F on the end of the card’s model number distinguishes it from the standard 11400 which comes with integrated graphics. However, the 11400F doesn’t include integrated graphics as Intel is assuming that gamers will be installing a powerful dedicated GPU, creating further savings for gamers.

In terms of speed, the card is fast with a 4.6Ghz boost clock despite its relatively old 14nm process. Nonetheless, this card is fast and has a low power draw, and the only downside to this model is that it isn’t overclockable.

If you find a standard 11400 CPU available for less feel free to swap it into this build as it is exactly the same as the F series and has the added bonus of integrated graphics which can come in handy if your GPU needs to be RMA’d.

THE RX 5600XT is a great graphics card by Radeon and in terms of performance it puts up stiff competition for the best Nvidia has to offer, with the important caveat of being a little more available currently.

A 650W power supply is suitable for this and it’s best to go for one with a 60+ Bronze rating for efficiency to provide a balance of performance and value.

480GB of SSD storage is perfect to provide ample space to get you set up, and it’s very easy to add more storage down the line as you need it.

16GB of DDR4 RAM is the standard for gaming now and Corsair’s Vengeance option is one of the fastest and most popular available.

2. $700 VR- Ready PC

This $700 VR-ready PC is capable of handling almost any game and excels at VR gaming.

A little less expensive than the above build, this PC is almost as capable in most regards but pinches a few extra pennies for the super budget conscious and may create space in the budget for some slightly better peripherals or the latest games.

  • CPU – Intel Core i5 11400F
  • MOBO – ASUS H510M
  • GPU – ASUS GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB
  • RAM – Corsair Vengeance LPX16GB DDR4
  • SSD – PNY 500GB SSD
  • CASE – Compucase HEC HX300
  • PSU – Thermaltake 650W 80+ Bronze Certified
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

Again we see Intel’s latest i5 11400F and there’s no surprise as this CPU seems set to reign as the best bang for buck gaming option for quite some time, for all the reasons we explained in the previous build.

Again, if you’re able to find a 11400 standard with integrated graphics for less absolutely feel free to swap this in, as it’s possible the demand by gamers for the F series will drive its price up to and leave the standard 11400 relatively more available and thus cheaper.

The highlight of this build however is the ASUS GTX 1660 Super which is one of the best GPU’s available currently, featuring amazing upper mid-range performance capable of easily handling the latest games at high fidelity as well as being totally VR ready. 

Nvidia offers a range of amazing aftermarket services too which are often exclusive, giving Nvidia-based systems a strong basis for their continued popularity.

The 500GB of SSD storage is again ample to get your rig up and running and get your favorite games and OS installed quickly. It’s very easy to add further storage down the line and this has the benefit of spreading costs and helping you to keep the price down in the initial purchase.

The 650W Thermaltake PSU is ample for this build thanks to the efficiency of Intel’s CPU, and this is enough power to give you plenty of expansion space if you make upgrades sometime in the distant future.

Again we have Corsair’s excellent value Vengeance DDR4 RAM to give ample memory for all modern games and applications.

The drawback of this MicroATX motherboard is that there isn’t any space to add further RAM sticks down the line, so keep this in mind if you intend to build a system capable of heavy workstation tasks.

3. $600 Mid-Range Gaming PC

Down at the $600 mark, things get a little tighter and some corners do need to be cut to stay within the budgetary boundaries.

This means that performance may be a little less aggressive than on the sweet spot builds above, however, there is still excellent value to be found at this price point and just a few years ago a PC with this parts list would’ve been considered firmly mid-range in its performance and capabilities.

Using some slightly older parts does create some space in the budget however and this rig makes a great starter PC for the aspiring streamer of competitive gamer.

  • CPU – Intel Core i3-10100f
  • MOBO – ASUS H410M
  • GPU – XFX RX 5500 XT
  • RAM – Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4
  • SSD – ADATA 480GB `
  • CASE – Compucase HEC HX300
  • PSU – Thermaltake 650W Bronze+ Certified
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

The CPU in this build is the 10th generation Intel i3, the 10100F to be specific. Despite it being slightly older and a definite step down from the excellent  i5 11400F, this i3 is nothing to sniff at and offers surprisingly strong performance, especially in gaming at 1080P.

Built on the same 14nm process as the 11th generation processors, this card has slightly slower clock speeds with a 4.3Ghz boost, but this isn’t too much slower than the i5 and for its price, this is a considerable amount of performance capable of easily handling everyday tasks and gaming.

The XFX RX 5500 XT is a great card and easily capable of powerful gaming, making this rig a deceptively powerful system capable of comfortably handling the most demanding games at 1080P.

While the 5500XT has been hit by the same shortages that have plagued the graphics card market, it is one of the more available cards making it a superb mid-range option with 8GB of DDR6 memory and PCI Express 4.0 compatibility

Again we have the excellent value 16GB’s of Corsair Vengeance RAM which is a solid option providing all the speed and space you need to game comfortably at 1080P.

The ADATA 480GB SSD is far faster than any hard drive disk and makes a perfect storage option for a fresh build, with ample space for the OS, key applications, and some of your favorite games and as with the other system builds above its very easy to add additional drives to this down the line for extra value and longevity.

The Thermaltake PSU is a solid option again filtering down due to its reliability and value, however, there are often offers and discount that can crop up and offer superior value for a similar wattage PSU, just be sure that it’s from a similar reputable brand and is at least Bronze rated for efficiency to protect your PC and keep your draw under control.

4. $500 Console Slayer PC

The $500 market is interesting because at this price point the PCs are competing directly with the latest consoles and other devices which are increasingly attempting to compete with the best PC has to offer.

While consoles have undoubtedly closed the gap on PCs in terms of raw performance and resemble PCs more than ever in their setup and functionality, the PC still edges out consoles in terms of performance as evidenced by the parts list below.

  • CPU – Intel Core i3-10100F
  • MOBO – ASUS H410M
  • GPU – MSI GTX 1650
  • RAM – G.Skill Aegis 8 GB DDR4
  • SSD – ADATA 480GB
  • CASE – Compucase HEC HX300
  • PSU – 650W Bronze+ Certified
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

Much like the mid-range PC above, the Intel core i3 10100F makes an appearance in this build and again provides its excellent price to performance ratio, providing an amazing experience in the 1080P range.

The key difference between the 600 and 500 dollar builds is actually in the GPU, with the console killer using the slightly more budget-friendly MSI GTX 1650 which may not be quite as powerful as some of the flagship cards but still provides superb performance at 1080P which is where this system excels.

The 1650 comes with 4GB of RAM and a clock speed of 1410MHz core speed and a 1620Mhz boost clock, making it surprisingly powerful despite its small size.

The same ADATA 480GB SSD provides excellent performance for its price and as with the other systems, provides the perfect amount of space to get you up and running but gives space for you to expand your storage capabilities down the line, maximizing your budget in the first major part of the build.

Again, any 650W Bronze+ certified PSU that you can find from a reputable brand is a fine option for this build, giving upgrade potential as well as a very efficient and reliable power source for all your sensitive components.

5. $400 Budget PC

It’s at the $400 mark where PC’s often started to really need to make compromises, and in a market that is still recovering from shortages and huge price fluctuations, it’s the budget level builds which are the most challenging as these components become much more expensive and popular than they otherwise would be.

Despite this, there are some amazing bargains to be found for the eagle-eyed builder, and a very capable system is possible at this price bracket if you’re selective with your choices and invest in the right places.

While a $400 PC may not be quite so capable of high frame rate or high-resolution gaming, it is a great beginner option for budding gamers, especially for those interested in better optimized or smaller games such as League of Legends or Fortnite, while still able to provide respectable performance in more challenging games.

  • CPU – Intel Core i3-10100F
  • MOBO – ASUS H410M
  • GPU – XFX RX 550 4GB
  • RAM – 8G.Skill Aegis 8 GB
  • SSD – Kingston A400 240GB
  • CASE – Compucase HEC HX300
  • PSU – 650W Bronze+ Certified
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

Again this system bears a lot of resemblance to the $500 rig, and the key changes largely involve a slightly more economical power supply with a lower amount of memory and storage to stay on budget.

The Intel Core i3 survives due to its unparalleled efficiency and value, paired again with the ASUS H410M motherboard.

The first cutback we see is in the amount of RAM which has been reduced to a single stick of 8GB DDR4 RAM from G.Skill, a very popular brand for RAM.

While 8GB is a little less it’s still enough to handle most applications and games, and the beauty of this choice is that it’s very easy to add a further 8GB to this system down the line once you’ve saved up a little more money, which will unlock a substantial amount of performance and increase the smoothness of this system in more demanding games and workloads.

The next cutback is in the amount of storage space, which has been halved down to 240GB of space provided by the Kingston A400 SSD.

While 240GB seems small, it’s still enough space to easily handle your OS, several applications, and at least a handful of games which means this system will be able to get you started in the PC gaming world and allow you to add storage down the line as this is one of the easiest attributes to upgrade on a PC alongside the RAM and GPU.

The final major cutback is the inclusion of the XFX RX 550 graphics card by Radeon, and while this is a noticeable step down in performance, it’s still an excellent card that will easily be able to handle most games at 1080P, even the latest most demanding versions at a reasonable graphics set up.

Most of the other components remain the same, with a 650W PSU for future upgradability and the same case and OS which are both fine options, particularly for this price point.

6. Entry-Level $300 Gaming PC

The entry-level gaming PC is a very curious area of the market and it’s quite surprising how much performance you can get for so little money.

While some say that for this price a console has superior performance, PC’s have access to a lot of games and experiences that can’t be found on console, so it’s great to provide an option for aspiring PC gamers who want to get in at the entry-level and find out the many joys of PC based gaming.

  • CPU – AMD Ryzen 3 3200G
  • MOBO – ASUS A320M
  • RAM – G.Skill Aegis 8 GB
  • SSD – Kingston A400 240GB
  • CASE – Compucase HEC HX300
  • PSU – 650W Bronze+ Certified
  • ODD – N/A – Install using flash drive
  • OS – Windows 10

The key difference in this system is that it uses AMD’s excellent Ryzen 3 3200G which performs the dual role of CPU and GPU thanks to its respectable integrated graphics.

Using integrated graphics means that this system won’t be able to provide the highest levels of performance even at 1080P, but it will allow a playable experience in most games to get you started and will confidently handle some older or lighter games quite easily.

Most of the components are the same as the $400 build, the only other difference being the ASUS 320M motherboard to allow the usage of the Ryzen 3’s different socket type.

This system may seem relatively sparse but it’s an excellent platform to get you started in the gaming world, and the ace up its sleeve is that it can very easily be converted into a mid-range gaming PC with a few upgrades down the line.

The CPU performs well at 1080P, and adding an additional 8GB stick of RAM and a GPU if you’re able to in the future will take this PC to the next level, turning it from an entry-level rig into a powerful mid-range beast.

Benefits of building

If you’ve never built a PC before or weren’t aware people did this, you may be wondering why you should bother spending time researching and building your own PC.

We certainly wouldn’t blame you for wondering, after all, it seems a very intimidating prospect fraught with potential problems and a lot to learn about.

However there are a ton of benefits to building your own system, and what’s more, it isn’t half as difficult to do it yourself as you may think. 

There are tons of video tutorials online that will be able to take you through a build step by step, and most first time builders are often surprised by how simple and logical the process actually is, likening it more to fitting together pieces of lego than trying to wire up high tech systems and equipment.

The number 1 benefit is how much money it can save you. Buying a pre-built PC often comes at a considerable markup in price, and it also often leads to a lot of corner-cutting to save the builders as much as possible.

Building your own PC will often get you a superior parts list for far less money than a pre-built PC which is a win-win for both your wallet and your overall gaming experience.

Furthermore, the building allows you to choose the best components you can for your budget, meaning no corners are cut and you can make sure that every part is a reliable and well-regarded piece of hardware.

Building also allows you to learn a new skill and is incredibly rewarding, knowing that you’ve done something that a lot of people are too intimidated to even look into.

Another key benefit is that you can make your PC to your exact specifications, which can be hard to get from pre-built PCs.

Deals and offers are also very common and this provides a ton of additional value to builders. It’s quite common for retailers to offer rebates, flash sales, refurbished parts, and even included games all in a bid to attract the attention of builders. This means that you can save a lot of money and still get amazing equipment and additional exclusive deals.

While there are a ton of benefits, it of course has a few drawbacks that do need to be mentioned. Some people find building stressful and may not have the confidence to actually build a PC when they have all the parts which can add an additional cost if you get someone else to build it for you.

There’s also the fact that if you break something you will have to incur the cost yourself, however, the likelihood of doing this if you are careful and research properly is very low.

Time investment is the main drawback, and researching parts as well as how to build may not be something people can devote enough time to.

Regardless, it’s one of the best ways to get into PC gaming and there are so many great options it’s almost always worth the added effort.