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If you’re in the market for a new prebuilt gaming PC and your budget’s capped at $500, you’re gonna have a hard time finding a decent machine. This part of the prebuilt PC market’s dominated by overpriced new builds made of dated components and refurbished PCs from big-name manufacturers such as Dell or HP, also made of dated components.
Finding a decent gaming machine in this jungle of shady deals is an achievement in itself, but don’t worry. Our list of the best gaming PCs under $500 includes the finest deals you can find at the moment. Of course, if you don’t mind playing the waiting game and have some knowledge about PC building, feel free to hit the used market. It’ll take some time, but you should be able to assemble a build that’s much better suited for gaming than the PCs shown below.
If you want a cheap gaming PC to play esports and older games you won’t spend weeks putting together, read on and if you have more cash to spend on a gaming PC, check our list of the best gaming PCs under $1000.
1. ViprTech Prime Gaming: Best new prebuilt gaming PC under $500
There are new prebuilts in the $500 market, but most are sorry excuses for machines that should run newer games. They often pack GPUs from a decade ago and pair them with similarly geriatric CPUs. However, we’ve found one new prebuilt system with half-decent internals.
Meet our pick for the best new prebuilt gaming PC under $500, the ViprTech Prime Gaming. Now, this PC is far from being considered a prime gaming machine, but at least it packs better hardware than any other new build we found at this price.
For starters, you’ve got a Core i5-3570 CPU that’s more than half a decade from its prime but still capable of running esports titles, indies, and older AAA titles without hitches. The latest and greatest titles should run mostly fine. That said, you should expect stuttering and frame rate hovering between 30 and 60.
A less-than-ideal CPU is okay since it’s paired with a GTX 750 Ti graphics card. This GPU isn’t as old as the i5-3570, but it isn’t much faster either. It should run newish AAA games at 1080p and around 30 frames per second or higher with the lowest settings. The Latest & greatest AAA titles (think Cyberpunk 2077) will run at about 30 frames per second but in 720p resolution. Overall, not bad for such an old GPU.
The rest of the specs include not that bad-looking case, 1TB HDD, and 16GB of memory. It’s too bad not to see an SSD here since even a 120GB unit would do wonders for the responsiveness and boot times. On the other hand, sixteen gigs of memory is excellent to see. It looks like the PC uses a single stick of RAM, which means no dual-channel memory here. Still, considering the rest of the hardware here, you shouldn’t notice the performance difference compared to running memory in dual channel mode.
2. Dell OptiPlex 3020: Best refurbished prebuilt gaming PC under $500
Our pick for the best refurbished prebuilt gaming PC for $500 or less goes to this Dell OptiPlex 3020 machine that packs much better hardware than our pick for the best new prebuilt gaming PC for ~$500. Firstly, instead of a dated Core i5, you’ve got a less dated Core i7. We might be joking, but the Core i7-4770 found here is miles ahead of the meek i5-3570 powering the new machine.
The i7 has hyperthreading – 4 cores/8 threads instead of the i5’s 4 cores/4 thread design – and will run newer, CPU-intensive AAA titles much faster. There will be some stuttering, but the overall performance will be notably more stable. Next, the 750 Ti here is the 4GB version of the said card. Not really faster, but 4GB of video memory instead of 2GB means playing newer games in 1080p with textures set to medium, even high in some cases. Also, much less stuttering and way more stable performance in general.
The refurbished option also has a 128GB SSD and a 2TB hard drive. In other words, you’ve got more than double the storage space and an SSD! Another plus is 16GB of memory that, as we discovered in Dell’s spec sheets for this model, should run in dual channel mode! Overall, this Dell OptiPlex 3020 is a much better deal than the ViprTech Prime Machine. Yes, it’s refurbished, but with a 90-day free return & refund window, it’s definitely worth getting.
3. HP Desktop M01-F1: Best prebuilt gaming PC under $500 with iGPU
Now, if you’re looking for a cheap gaming PC with integrated graphics which you’ll be able to upgrade with a dedicated graphics card in the future, this refurbished PC from HP looks like the best choice right now. This is by far the best prebuilt gaming PC with iGPU we found for under $500. The heart of the system is a Ryzen 5 4600G APU that includes a Vega 7 integrated GPU. The CPU is much faster than the previous two machines, and its six cores will handle any current game without issues.
As for the iGPU performance, it’s okay for indies and esports titles at 1080p and 60fps or less, with low settings, of course. Older AAA games should run fine, also @1080p, but you should expect average performance to drop to about 30-50fps. The latest and greatest games should run at about 30fps. That’s better performance than what you’d get with the GT 1030, found on a ton of refurbished desktops sold as cheap gaming PCs.
Note that iGPUs are very sensitive to memory speed. They also perform much better when paired with memory running in dual channel mode. The first thing you should do after acquiring this PC is to stick another 8GB memory module for dual-channel performance. Just make sure that the two modules run at the same speed.
Or, just sell the single stick of memory you’ve got here and buy a 16GB memory kit; they’re pretty cheap these days, and you should stay in the $500 budget even if you spend extra money on a 16GB RAM kit. We recommend our budget pick found in the best RAM for Alder Lake CPUs guide. It will work great with the 4600G despite it being a Ryzen CPU.
The PC also comes with a 256GB SSD. Not that great, but okay for a cheap prebuilt machine. Enough space for the OS and like half a dozen games. Finally, when it comes to suitable dedicated graphic card upgrades for this PC, you can go wild. The 4600G is more than a decent gaming CPU that you can pair with GPUs up to the RTX 2080. Our GPU hierarchy tier list has a number of great upgrade options; you should focus on tier B and below for this particular CPU.
4. HP Tower: Best budget prebuilt gaming PC under $500
Now, if your budget is capped at $500, but you want to save as much cash as possible, this refurbished HP tower looks like a slick deal. It packs a Core i5-6500, which isn’t a great choice but is still much better than the i5-3570 found in our first pick. The CPU is paired with an RX 550 4GB graphics card that should perform similarly to the 750 Ti 4GB card. This translates into solid 60fps@1080p in older games, indies, and esports titles and 1080p/720p@30fps with new AAA titles.
8GB of single-channel memory isn’t incredible, but hey, you shouldn’t ask for anything more at this price. Finally, the PC also packs a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. Overall, this is a surprisingly solid prebuilt gaming PC with a price that’s only 60 percent of the maximum $500 budget. For that money, you’ve got an okay CPU and a 4GB GPU, which means you’ll be able to play any game available at the moment.
5. Periphio Tempest: Prebuilt gaming PC under $500 with best graphics card
The Periphio Tempest Gaming PC is not the best refurbished gaming PC for $500 or less you can get, but it does pack the fastest graphics card out of the PCs features on this list. It’s the RX 560 4GB from AMD, which offers about 20 percent faster performance than the GTX 750 Ti. That said, the card’s paired with the Core i5-3470 CPU, the slowest CPU on this list. Talk about min-maxing.
This means that older games and most esports titles should run perfectly on this PC. As for newer AAA titles, limited CPU performance will make them run the same as on the machines equipped with the GTX 750 Ti. This translates to about 30 frames per second in 1080p and 720p resolutions.
As for the rest of the specs, they include 8GB of single-channel memory, a 120GB SSD, and a 500GB hard drive. Overall, not great but far from being terrible. This would be a much better choice if we only had something like the Core i7-3770, which supports hyperthreading. Still, you can end up much worse in the ~$500 prebuilt market.
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