Memory: Here we’ve been bitten by pricing fluctuations yet again. When we priced out the parts for this article, the 2x4GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 RAM we’re using cost $65. Now it’s up to $83. Ugh. A quick glance at Newegg shows that all 8GB dual-channel kits at 3000 speeds are selling for similar prices, though. Those predictions of surging memory prices weren’t wrong.
Don’t skimp on RAM though. Recent firmware updates have fixed the platform’s early memory compatibility headaches, but Ryzen chips are still very sensitive to RAM speeds. Faster RAM often means better gaming performance, so I recommend DDR4 3000 as your baseline. (Dropping to DDR4 2400 can slash $20 off the price, though.) You definitely need 8GB of RAM in a gaming rig. Many modern games are starting to require 6GB to 8GB of system memory, and cutting corners down to 4GB is an especially bad idea if you’re using slower storage. Speaking of which…
Storage: We’re going with a traditional 1TB, 7,200rpm mechanical hard drive for this build. After using an SSD for years now, the boot and program installation times on an HDD is excruciatingly slow. But budget builds often require tough decisions, and in an era where game install sizes routinely surpass 50GB, opting for a large 1TB hard drive makes more sense than trying to squeeze things onto a similarly priced 120GB SSD. We had a spare hard drive lying around, but you can pick up one for $45 on Amazon.
Power supply: You don’t need to splurge on a fancy power supply in a build like this. Get one from a reputable manufacturer with 80 Plus Bronze certification and you’re good to go. The EVGA 500B ($36 on Amazon) fits the bill perfectly.
You might be able to save some cash by using a PSU with less wattage in a build like this, but that’s already a damned competitive price for a power supply from a top manufacturer, and the 500W capability allows you to overclock your rig while also leaving room for potential hardware upgrades later.
Case: Here is my one regret in this build. Not that Corsair’s Spec-Alpha case sucks or anything; it’s actually a very compelling sub-$100 case that I’ve used for several builds. But because it costs $80 on Amazon. That’s a hell of a lot of money to spend on a case in a budget build like this, even though the Spec-Alpha includes niceties like native USB 3.1 front-panel connections and RGB-laden fans galore. The fact is, I just didn’t have time to buy a new case for this build, as I crammed this project in during a weekend, between several trips and all sorts of hardware launches.
It makes a lot more sense to spend a whole lot less on a case in a $550 build. Definitely grab the Spec-Alpha if you can afford it, but if you need to cut costs, here’s a great place to do it. Just make sure the case you pick can accommodate your motherboard and includes both front and rear fans for optimal airflow. I recently helped a buddy build an affordable PC using the Deepcool Tesseract ($38 on Newegg) and it checks every box.
Windows 10: A Windows 10 Home OEM key for $26 on Kinguin, which is sort of like an eBay for software.
Grand total: Add it all up and you’re looking at a grand total of $552 for this system at the time we obtained the hardware, though the post-purchase price inflation brings that total up to $604 in today’s street prices. Again: Ugh. But on the other hand, price fluctuations mean prices could go down when you’re ready to buy, too.
This assumes you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse you can reuse from another PC, which is typical for build guides like this. If you don’t, the overall cost will obviously go up, though you can purchase basic keyboards and mice for next to nothing on Amazon.
Alternatives: Build a cheap gaming PC for under $500
So let’s pretend you’re on a really tight budget and need to save every penny possible. What could you change in this build to bring costs down?
The most obvious answer is the part I’ve already mentioned: the case. Swapping out the Corsair Spec-Alpha for the $38 Deepcool Tesseract saves you $42 instantaneously. Indeed, I’d recommend that most people opt for the Tesseract, unless you have the extra cash and deeply dig the unique “gamer-y” look of Corsair’s case.
Beyond that it’s hard to cut deeper without making some noticeable performance sacrifices. You could opt for DDR4 2400 memory instead of DDR4 3000 to save another $16, but like I said, Ryzen performance can be heavily affected by RAM speed. Only do that in a pinch.
Likewise, downgrading from the GTX 1050 to something like the Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 ($70 on Amazon) or Radeon RX 550 ($85 on Amazon) would save you another $15 to $30, but it will greatly limit your ability to play modern AAA games. That said, it could be a smart swap if you only play e-sports titles like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Rocket League, or Dota 2.
If you make all of those tweaks you could build a Ryzen 3 1200 gaming PC for $113 less, or somewhere between $450 and $500 depending on street prices that day. Not too shabby—and heck, you could save another $26 if you ditch Windows for Linux! Again though: Don’t change out the memory or graphics card for slower models unless you have a concrete reason to do so. They’ll profoundly affect your gaming performance.
Next page: We build!