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How to build a cheap gaming PC that doesn't suck

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How to build a cheap gaming PC that doesn't suck
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re trying to learn how to build a cheap gaming PC that doesn’t suck, then you’ve come to the right place. After all, while most of the best gaming PCs seem to cost an arm and a leg, you don’t have to empty your bank account for a solid gaming computer. Building PCs is about more than just spending as much as possible for your parts. 

We’re going to help build a cheap gaming PC that’s actually pretty good. You will have some limitations with your build as you probably won’t be booting up Control in 4K resolution with ray tracing on. But, you’ll be able to play it in 1080p with some pretty high settings. Though parts have been tough to come by the past year, there are a lot of reasonably priced processors and graphics cards out there that come with a surprising amount of power.

If you’re building a gaming PC out of completely new parts, getting an Xbox One X will probably either be cheaper or more powerful. And, don’t expect to do any 4K gaming with a budget build. Though you might be able to soup up your rig with used parts, we wouldn’t recommend that since there’s the potential that your PC components spontaneously combust.

But, the other benefits that a gaming PC can offer more than make up for the higher price tag. And, even if PC gaming has a higher entry price, you’ll still save a ton of money over time on PC games. If you’re putting together a cheap gaming PC right now, you can save even more if you take advantage of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are out there.

Let us guide you through how to build a cheap gaming PC that doesn’t suck. Whether you’re simply looking to save a lot of cash on a great performing gaming machine or you really don’t need a setup with a lot of power in the first place, you’ve come to the right place.

What you'll need

Despite what you may have thought, you don’t need too much in the way of tools to build a cheap gaming PC. A phillips head screwdriver is the only absolutely necessary tool. However, there are a couple things that can help  you out. Because you’ll be dealing with a lot of screws, having a parts tray helps a lot. If you don’t have one of those lying around (who can blame you), you can just use a couple bowls to keep things sorted. 

Also, you have to be on the lookout for static electricity. An anti-static wristband is a godsend if you have one, but if you don’t, just make sure you’re not standing on carpet when building, and discharge any latent static electricity by touching some metal, like your power supply or PC case. 

Most importantly, however, you need a clean space to build. If you can clear off the dining room table for a couple hours, that’s perfect. You just need enough space to hold all of your PC components. 

 The parts 

There are so many PC components out there these days that you could theoretically build dozens of PCs without having the same parts list. Luckily, we follow PC components literally every day, so we used our expertise to pick out the best bang-for-your-buck PC components for this cheap gaming PC, and why those parts are the best choices for a budget PC build in 2019. And, once you’ve gathered up all the best PC components that don’t suck we’ll show you how to build a PC

AMD Ryzen 3 3200G against a white background

(Image credit: AMD)

Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200G

Getting a quad-core for cheap

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Includes on-board graphics
Reasons to avoid
-No multi-threading

This AMD Ryzen processor (CPU) is the holy grail of budget PC components. It’s a quad-core chip with a boost clock of 4.0GHz, which would be enough to get some PC gaming done on its own. Where this chip really gains its budget bragging rights, however, is in the on-board Radeon Vega 8 graphics. This integrated graphics processor (GPU) isn’t powerful enough to play top-end games, but it should be enough to try some of the best indie games while saving up for a beefy graphics.

Intel alternative: we’d suggest the Pentium G4560. It’s only a dual-core chip, but with high clock speeds and hyper-threading it can keep up with the latest PC games.

ASRock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming against a white background

(Image credit: ASRock)

Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming

You shouldn't have to break open the piggy bank

Reasons to buy
+Looks good for budget+Affodable
Reasons to avoid
-No overclocking

When you’re picking out a motherboard, you don’t want to skimp too much. It’s one of those components where if something goes wrong, you have to rebuild the entire PC. The ASRock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming will get the job done, while saving you plenty of cash. It’s not the most feature-rich motherboard out there, but you’re just looking for a dependable board. Just keep in mind that you'll have to update the BIOS to at least version P3.20 to use the Ryzen 3 3200G. But, if you're not comfortable with that,  you can always pick up the Ryzen 3 2200G instead – you won't lose much performance.

Intel alternative: if you’re going with Team Blue, you can save quite a bit on the motherboard by going with the ASRock B250M-HDV motherboard. It’s an older chipset, so you can find a bargain. 

G.Skill Ripjaws V against a white background

(Image credit: G.Skill)

Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V

Some reasonable RAM

Reasons to buy
+Affordable +Neat red shroud
Reasons to avoid
-Only 2,400MHz

For budget gamers, sticking with 8GB of memory (RAM) is reasonable. There are some heavy duty games that will really start to push past that limit, but those are few and far between – especially at 1080p. So, we recommend picking up an 8GB kit of G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4. It’s not the fastest or the flashiest, but it gets the job done.  

Adata Ultimate SU800 128GB against a white background

(Image credit: Adata)

SSD: Adata Ultimate SU800 128GB

An affordable boot drive

Reasons to buy
+Super affordable+Easy to install
Reasons to avoid
-Not the fastest SSD on the block

A 128GB SSD may sound small to you, and it is, but when you’re just trying to get an affordable PC build done, it’s perfect. The Adata Ultimate SU800 128GB is big enough to fit your operating system on, which means your computer will be nice and fast, and more importantly, it’s dirt-cheap. This drive is just $20, and you should be able to find it for even cheaper during seasonal sales like Black Friday.

WD Caviar Blue 1TB against a white background

(Image credit: Western Digital)

Hard drive: WD Caviar Blue 1TB

This is where your games go

Reasons to buy
+Power efficient+Lots of space
Reasons to avoid
-Not as fast as an SSD

Unfortunately, SSDs are so much more expensive than the best hard drives when it comes to mass storage – that’s just a fact of life. That’s why picking up a 1TB hard drive, like the WD Caviar Blue, just makes sense for a cheap gaming PC. You’ll install your OS and maybe like one game on your SSD, and everything else can just go on your hard drive.

AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB against a white background

(Image credit: AMD)

Graphics card: AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB

A great 1080p card

Reasons to buy
+Great 1080p performance+Doesn't hog too much power
Reasons to avoid
-Won't move to 1440p well

When you’re shopping for the best graphics card for your build, the most important advice we can give you is to consider what you’re going for. A lot of people will tell you that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the best graphics card out there, but not everyone has $1,200/£1,200to throw at a GPU. That’s why the AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB is such a gem. It’s extremely affordable, and should be good enough to handle most games at 1080p at high settings.

Nvidia alternative: If you’re looking for an affordable Nvidia card that trades blows with the AMD Radeon RX 570, you’ll want to take a look at the GeForce GTX 1650. It’s not super powerful, but it will get you through your 1080p gaming.

Corsair Carbide 100R against a white background

(Image credit: Corsair)

PC case: Corsair Carbide 100R

A big black box

Reasons to buy
+Expandability+Decent airflow
Reasons to avoid
-Kind of ugly

With a PC case, you really don’t need the most badass tower to get the job done. And, the Corsair 100R s a perfect example of a cheap PC case that doesn’t suck. It doesn’t have all the RGB lights and tempered glass panels that a more expensive case might, but what matters is that there’s plenty of room for case fans, and more than enough space for full length graphics cards if you want to upgrade later. 

Corsair VS550 against a white background

(Image credit: Corsair)

PC power supply: Corsair VS550

Desperate times ...

Reasons to buy
+Won't set your house on fire+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Not modular

When you’re setting out to build a cheap gaming PC that doesn’t suck, it's easy to find the cheapest power supply and toss it into your PC. But, because that could literally present a fire hazard, you should at least find something like the Corsair VS550K. This budget power supply just has an 80+ efficiency rating, rather than the Gold, Silver or Bronze efficiencies of more expensive PSUs, but it should still be good enough to get the job done. Just keep in mind that this power supply isn’t modular, so you might have to find some creative ways to hide the extra cables.

Jackie Thomas

Jackie Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's US computing editor. She is fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but she just happens to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop her a line on Twitter or through email.