Budget gaming PC build guide

Budget PC build components on a blue background with best value badge
(Image credit: Future)

It's been a rough summer for anyone trying to put together a budget gaming PC, thanks to an unforgiving semiconductor shortage. It seems like we have some relief in that regard now, however. Components are becoming easier to find, and graphic card prices are back to being affordable. So if you planning to build a budget gaming PC, now's a good time.

You might spot some entry-level GPUs like the RTX 3050 or RTX 3060 selling for above MSRP at some retailers. But thankfully the RX 6600 has dropped to a reasonable price. If you keep a lookout, chances are you'll find one. High prices still didn't stop us from putting together a $400 gaming PC that doesn't need a graphics card (opens in new tab).

Crucial components like SSDs, RAM, and CPUs aren't as hard to find. Intel and AMD have more budget CPUs than ever and competitive ones. Regarding SSDs and RAM, you're practically swimming in affordable options, even at decent capacities.

Our budget PC build does not include peripherals like monitors, mice, keyboards, etc. It can run most new games at 60fps at 1080p on high settings, though. Most of the budget went into a decent CPU and GPU since those two components greatly affect the system's overall performance. While the RAM we chose isn't fancy, it is fast enough to keep up with our CPU choice.

If you want to step up from the budget guild, our main gaming PC build guide (opens in new tab) has a higher budget and delivers more frames. But you've come to the right place if you're after a more affordable setup with a discrete GPU.

CPU

Intel Core i5 12400F CPU box

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Core i5 12400F

Alder Lake's finest on a budget

Performance Cores: 6 | Efficient Cores: 0 | Threads: 12 | Base Clock: 2.5GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.4GHz | L3 Cache: 18MB | Processor Base Power: 65W | Maximum Turbo Power: 117W | PCIe lanes: 20

Great stock performance
Low power
Stays cool
Holy hell, does it overclock
Comes with Intel Laminar RM1 CPU cooler
Requires a whole new motherboard
Included cooler isn't the best

We're big fans of the Core i5 12400, and the only difference with the Core i5 12400F is the lack of onboard graphics. For that omission you can pick this chip up for slightly less at checkout, and seeing as we're recommending a discrete GPU below we don't really need the onboard graphics anyways. That's a smart saving.

This is also a smart chip. This is one of Intel's 12th Gen Alder Lake processors, and while it doesn't contain the new Efficient Cores that make more high-end Alder Lake chips so special, the Performance Cores here do put some work in. In fact, they're exceptionally good for gaming, with really great single-threaded performance.

So we like the Core 15 12400F a lot, and since Intel has released cheaper chipsets for its 12th Gen chips it's become a bit of a favourite for us on more budget builds like this one. You also net yourself some sweet benefits with Intel's new 12th Gen platform, though we will be skipping DDR5 for this build since it's so pricey.

One thing to note is that Intel is about to release brand new Intel Raptor Lake CPUs, though the 13400 is not among the first to release. We suspect that'll come later, in 2023, so for now it's still the Core i5 12400F that we recommend. 

Read our full Core i5 12400 review (opens in new tab) (the one with integrated graphics).

GPU

Sapphire RX 6600 graphics card

(Image credit: Sapphire)

AMD Radeon RX 6600 8GB

A great graphics card for 1080p gaming

Stream Processors: 1,792 | Base Clock: 1,626MHz | Boost Clock: 2,491MHz | Memory: 8 GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14Gbps | Memory Bandwidth: 224GB/s

Actually affordable right now
Quiet
Power efficient
Works with 450W PSUs
Often slower than an RTX 3060
Weak ray tracing performance

It's not been a great few years to buy into PC gaming or build your own machine. However, things are finally improving. Stock can still be hit or miss, but prices have started to become reasonable again.

That's more true of AMD's graphics cards than Nvidia's right now, and no more so than in the budget lineup. The RX 6600 wasn't super impressive to us at launch, considering it asked the same amount of cash as an RTX 3060 12GB but was often beaten by the green team's card. However, it's now much, much cheaper. It's even cheaper than Nvidia's RTX 3050, which makes it a much smarter buy than both cards.

The RX 6600 is plenty capable of 1080p gaming in the modern age, don't fret about that. It's built using AMD's RDNA 2 architecture, which is still (for a while, anyways) the top dog out of the Radeon camp. It will soon be replaced by RDNA 3 cards this November, but that'll almost certainly be only the high-end cards arriving at first—the RX 6600 has a lot of life left in it yet.

Read our full AMD Radeon RX 6600 review (opens in new tab).

Motherboard

ASRock B660M motherboard with box

(Image credit: ASRock)

Asrock B660M Pro RS

A good budget B660 board that offers great value for money

Chipset: Intel B660 | Memory: 2x DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-5333 | Expansion slots: 1 x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 3.0 x1 | Rear USB ports: 4 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Ports | Storage: 1x M.2, 4x SATA, 2 x USB 2.0 Ports | Network: Gigabit ethernet | Lighting: Rear RGB lighting

Affordable B660
Cheap platform for Alder Lake
DDR4 support
Limited expansion
Missing some of Alder Lake's newest features

This is as cheap as we want to go for the motherboard while still offering room for expansion and upgrades down the line. It's a fairly parsimonious board, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when we're targeting a budget build.

The B660 chipset offers exactly what we need for a gaming machine, with some admirable USB connectivity and speedy PCIe 4.0 support. That's pretty important when you want to run the latest SSDs at their top speed, which might play more into game performance and load times with the arrival of DirectStorage technology (opens in new tab). In the meantime, it's also nice to run your SSDs super-fast for rapid file transfers.

Though importantly this motherboard ditches the more expensive DDR5 memory standard for widely available and very cheap DDR4 kits. That means you don't just save on the motherboard, you also save on your memory, too.

Memory

(Image credit: Corsair)

Corsair Vegeance LPX 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4-3200

Plenty of memory for most games

Capacity: 2x 8GB | Speed: 3200MT/s | Timings: 16-18-18-36 | Voltage: 1.35V

Sufficient for most tasks
Some overclocking headroom
Great value for money
You could get by with just 8GB
Not the fastest RAM around
Lacks RGB (not necessarily a bad thing)

This slim, no-nonsense memory kit from Corsair lets us deliver a huge amount of memory and increases our clock speeds, too, without going off the deep end with our budget. While indeed not the fastest RAM available by any stretch, lacking the flair of many RGB RAM kits, it's practical and sensible, which is what we need for this build. 

Of course, there are tons of options for memory kits, and this is just a suggestion. Memory prices have really dropped recently, but there's always the potential for higher quality RAM savings. You could technically get away with 8GB of RAM, but we'd recommend sticking to 16GB and staying in the realm of 3,200MHz instead. 

Just make sure to pay attention to the frequency and timing, as well as the price. If you need some additional pointers when looking for memory, our guide to the best RAM for gaming (opens in new tab) can help point you in the right direction.

SSD

WD_Black SN770 500GB model pictured

(Image credit: WD)

WD_Black SN770 500GB

Deent capacity and low cost makes the SN770 a winner

Capacity: 500GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe Gen4 x4 | Sequential IO: 5000/4000MB/s read/write | Random IO: 460K/800K IOPS read/write

Decent capacity
Gen4 without breaking the bank 
Easy installation
You might use up 500GB pretty quick
1TB is tempting

You can't have a PC without storage, and you're going to need space for your OS as well as whatever games you want to keep on hand. Thankfully, with memory and SSD prices dropping in pretty rapid order, we've finally found a way to slot an M.2 SSD into our budget build. Not only are M.2 NVMe SSDs easier to install, but they offer better performance than their SATA counterparts. And when you get 500GB for so little nowadays WD_Black drive is great value.

This drive isn't exactly what anyone would call the top-of-the-line performance, but this is still one of the best SSDs for gaming (opens in new tab) if you're on a budget. Definitely one of the best ways into PCIe 4.0 performance.

You just might want to upgrade to a larger model someday. Luckily, that ASRock B660M motherboard has space for a few SSDs, and at least one at PCIe 4.0 speeds, so you could add a larger, cheaper PCIe 3.0 drive to your PC with ease at a later date. You could also save some cash with a PCIe 3.0 drive instead of the SN770, however, there's often only $10 in it for the faster PCIe 4.0 drive.

Read our full WD_Black SN770 review (opens in new tab) (1TB).

Power Supply

XPG Pylon 450W PSU from various angles.

(Image credit: Future)

XPG Pylon 450

More than enough power for a budget PC

Output: 450W | Efficiency: 80 Plus Bronze | Connectors: 1x 24-Pin ATX, 1x 8-Pin (4+4) EPS12V, 2x 8-Pin (6+2) PCIe, 5x SATA, 2x Molex, 1x Floppy | Modular: No

High build quality
Compatible with the Alternative Sleep Mode
Fluid dynamic bearing fan
Five-year warranty
Non-modular
Lower than 17ms hold-up time
Lower than 60% efficiency with a 2% load

XPG entered the affordable PSU market with the Pylon series. The smallest member of the line has 450W capacity and is our peak for this category, from when Corsair decided to withdraw the CX450 model, which used a modern but expensive platform, making it hard to keep its price low. From the moment the CX450 is out of the equation, the road is open for the XPG Pylon 450 to shine.

From 2022, XPG upgraded the warranty on all Pylon models to five years to keep up with the competition. Given the fluid dynamic bearing fan and the reliable platform provided by Channel Well Technology, the warranty upgrade makes sense.

At just $50, it's also one of the cheaper PSUs worth your cash today, hence why it's one of the best power supplies for gaming (opens in new tab) today.

Read our full XPG Pylon 450 review (opens in new tab).

Case

Corsair 100R PC case

(Image credit: Corsair)

Corsair Carbide Series 100R

Understated and attractive

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: 2x 3.5-inch internal, 4x 2.5-inch SSD | Front Ports: 2x USB 3.0, Audio | Max GPU Length: 414mm | Dimensions: 471mm x 200mm x 430mm | Weight: 4.8 kg

Does what you need
Interchangeable SSD/HDD trays
Lacks the latest bells and whistles
Somewhat unexciting to look at
Buy it now

Desktop PC with glass side panel

(Image credit: ABS)

Your best chance of getting hold of the best graphics cards and CPUs right now is to buy one of the best gaming PCs (opens in new tab) or best gaming laptops (opens in new tab).

Cases can be extremely subjective, and while it's easy to spend more than this, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better one for less. We've settled on this relatively spacious and inexpensive case from Corsair, which is something of a go-to for us when we consider cheaper cases. It lacks many of the bells and whistles that a more expensive case can provide, but it gets the job done without cutting too many corners.

This Corsair model is getting on a bit now, but it's still worth looking at as it's so cheap.

There is a certain temptation to max out your budget on a pretty looking case, but it's important to remember this piece of your build will have no impact on performance than the other stuff you should be spending money on. Buy something that does what you need it to do and is easy to work with. 

Or go ahead and make a fashion statement; just don't expect higher framerates.

Components

Budget gaming PC build guide FAQ

Why you can trust PC Gamer Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

What do I do if I can't find GPU stock?

One thing you might have noticed is that GPU stock can be running either low or is priced too high. It probably will be for at least another couple of months, too. Trust us; we are just as frustrated with all the hardware shortages as you are.

There are a few techniques to buying a new GPU (opens in new tab) in the silicon drought, but if you're in a rush, the best gaming PCs offer a shortcut to a high-performance machine with less of a premium than some individual graphics cards today.

What if I need to spend some of my PC budget on peripherals?

Like our other build guides, the money we've allowed for this budget gaming PC build doesn't include anything that lives outside of the case. If you're upgrading, this shouldn't be too much of an issue, but if you're starting from scratch, you'll need to make sure you set aside extra cash for a Windows license, a monitor (or two), and a keyboard and mouse. 

If you're struggling with those additional expenses, you can opt for a smaller SSD or memory kit—both of which are easy to upgrade in the future when you have a bit more cash at your disposal.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog from his hometown in Wales in 2017. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, where he would later win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Nowadays, as senior hardware editor at PC Gamer, he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. When he's not writing about GPUs and CPUs, however, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.

With contributions from