Build a budget Ryzen gaming PC for $550 or less

With Ryzen 3, you can build a console-beating, quad-core gaming PC for under $550—or even $500.

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Building the cheap Ryzen gaming PC

It’s been a while since I’ve built such an affordable gaming PC, and the $550 Ryzen 3 PC came together wonderfully. If you follow the steps outlined in PCWorld’s guide to building a computer you’ll be up and running in no time. Hit that link for in-depth information about each step of the process, as we’ll just cover the highlights here.

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 20 Brad Chacos/IDG

You’ll want to build out your motherboard first. Install the RAM (read the manual to ensure you slot the sticks in the correct channel!), then install the CPU by matching up the golden triangle on one of the bottom corners of the chip with the similarly marked corner of the motherboard socket. Be careful not to bend those delicate pins while you’re handling the Ryzen 3 1200!

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 35 Brad Chacos/IDG

Build out your motherboard before installing it in your PC.

Once all that’s in place, it’s time to install the Wraith Stealth cooler by simply tightening the bolts into place on the motherboard. (The cooler already has thermal paste preinstalled.) Don’t tighten one bolt all the way, then move onto the next; instead, give each bolt a turn or two and move on, slowly but surely setting the cooler into place with even pressure from all corners.

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 39 Brad Chacos/IDG

Slip the rear case fan’s wire through the minuscule cut-out in the upper-left corner of the case before installing the motherboard.

Once that’s done, it’s time to perform a couple preparatory steps before inserting the built-out motherboard in the PC case. Get that rear motherboard I/O shield in place first! It really sucks to forget it and then have to rip the entire thing apart. Also route the rear case fan’s cable through the top-left cut-out in the motherboard tray now, as you’ll have no room to do so after the motherboard’s installed. Then install the motherboard in the case as normal.

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 47 Brad Chacos/IDG

This big bundle of wires is why you want to install the power supply last.

From there, the rest of the build goes together easily. One of the boons of a budget PC? Everything’s simple. You don’t have to worry about finding spaces for water-cooling loops, mutlitple storage drives, or RGB light strips. You just slot in the basics, wire everything up, and start gaming. Put the power supply in last to keep its bundle of cables out of your way, though.

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 63 Brad Chacos/IDG

Several wires have to be strewn about the cheap PC’s interior, including two fan cables and the bulky 8-pin CPU power connection.

Speaking of which, cable management is the one bugbear of this affordable Ryzen build. The Corsair Spec-Alpha doesn’t include many cable-routing holes on the top or rear of the case, so I wound up having to string two fan cables and the 8-pin CPU power connector across the interior of the case rather than tucking them away neatly. Ugh. That’s compounded by the Spec-Alpha’s lack of room behind the motherboard tray. With no room to hide behind the motherboard, unused ketchup- and mustard-colored cables from the non-modular EVGA power supply just sit in an ugly ball on the bottom of the case.

ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 6 Brad Chacos/IDG

I’m dying inside—but it works!

I’m very particular about cable management and the end result here makes my eyes hurt—doubly so because of the Spec-Alpha’s large side window, which rubs all those ugly cables in my face. A cheaper case with no side window might actually wind up looking more attractive overall for a budget build like this. Out of sight, out of mind.

But that’s nitpicking. This PC works like a charm!

Next page: Performance and bottom line

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