The $1500 Budget Gaming PC Build

edited January 2022 in PC Build Guides

Building a gaming PC can be a daunting task, especially on a tight budget. But where there’s a will, there’s a way – and we’re here to help. If you’re looking to build a good budget gaming PC, we’ve put together a build guide so you can get the most performance for your dollar.

Our working budget for this gaming/creator PC build is $1,500, and our goal is to end up a machine that is capable of running the latest AAA games on high settings at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second (or even 1440p for many games if you have a Quad HD display). We’ve also included several different CPUs and GPUs that fit in our target price/performance range so you have some options to choose from.

WPL BUILD - raymond d - approximate cost: $1240.95

How do I choose the right budget PC parts?

The first consideration when choosing the right parts for any PC is compatibility. Obviously, you want to make sure everything goes together smoothly and boots up perfectly the first time you hit the power button. The ultimate PC building pleasure is to bask in the glow of the operating system installation screen after everything’s together, and not to find yourself stuck staring at an error message (or worse, a black screen that’s not telling you anything).

Your PC build basically starts with the case, motherboard, and CPU. Graphics cards are widely compatible with most motherboards, but CPU slots are more specific. You might already know which graphics card you want (you likely have an idea, at least, if your priority for this build is playing video games), and while this is the most important component for a gaming PC, don’t treat your processor as an afterthought.

CPU choice boils down to Intel or AMD. We’ll get to specific processor recommendations later, but once you’ve chosen one, you can then find an AMD motherboard or Intel motherboard with a CPU socket that’s compatible. We are sticking with ATX or microATX motherboards for this build, the most common and widely compatible with most cases, with a minimum of four RAM slots. The Gigabyte B560M DS3H microATX LGA1200 motherboard and Asus Prime B460M-A microATX LGA1200 motherboard are suitable picks for Intel CPUs, while the ASRock B550M Pro4 AMD AM4 microATX motherboard and MSI B450M PRO-VDH MAX microATX AM4 Motherboard are good for AMD CPUs. Just note that some motherboards may require a BIOS update for the newer Ryzen 5000 CPUs.

You also need to make sure that the motherboard fits inside whatever computer case you’ve chosen. ATX mid-tower is the most common for good reason: It’s a nice sweet spot between size and ease of building. These cases usually offer good room to work in and allow for proper cable management. The Corsair iCUE 220T RGB mid-tower case (in white or black) is a good example, but really any of the ATX mid-towers are fine if they come from a reputable brand. If you do decide to go with something smaller, an ATX mini tower is also a good alternative. The Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L is one such ATX mini tower that can fit full-size GPUs and offers good cable management.

For your power supply, the general rule of thumb is to have twice the wattage that your complete system draws once assembled and running under load. 80+ Bronze certified PSUs are plenty efficient for a modest or entry-level gaming PC, but you can spring for better if your budget allows. The EVGA SuperNova G3 650-watt 80+ Gold ATX Modular PSU, Corsair CXM 650-watt 80+ Bronze semi-modular ATX PSU, and EVGA 650BQ 650-watt 80+ Bronze ATX semi-modular PSU are all fine choices that deliver 650 watts of juice – more than enough for our needs. These are either fully or semi-modular as well, allowing you to remove some unneeded cables to reduce case clutter a bit.

Finally, a word on cooling: Don’t overthink it. CPUs typically come with a stock cooler which is good enough unless you’re overclocking, in which case you might want to upgrade to a better CPU fan. For this build, we’re staying stock. Cases often come with two or three fans as well, but you should consider adding a couple more. The most common sizes are 120mm and 140mm. Check and see which size your case uses (some use both) before you spring for these. Water cooling kits, also known as all-in-one or “AIO” coolers, are beyond the scope of this budget gaming PC build.

5600x/3060ti - Majd S - Approximate cost: $1264.93

What parts should I use in a budget gaming PC?

The basic parts checklist for any PC build includes a case, motherboard, cooling apparatus, processor/CPU, memory/RAM, storage (either a hard drive or solid-state drive), and power supply. For a gaming computer, you’ll need to add a discrete graphics card/GPU to the mix. Your GPU is really the only thing that makes a “gaming PC” from any other desktop computer, although gamers also tend to favor snappier RAM and more advanced cooling setups to keep things running smoothly.

The graphics card and processor are the heart and brain of your computer, and even for our modest budget gaming PC, these two components are going to be the biggest purchases. Your CPU and GPU choices are also arguably the two most important decisions you’ll make during the pre-build planning process. As stated in the intro, we’re going to lay out a few CPU/GPU options for you to choose from. This should make it easier to plan your build depending on what stock is available to you.

Even for a budget gaming PC, you’ll want to stick with at least an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU or a current-gen AMD Ryzen 5 CPU. Depending on which graphics card you pair your processor with, you might be able to go with a Core i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU instead, but don’t spend too much of your budget on your processor only to have to go with a cheaper GPU than you want. The performance bottleneck for an entry-level gaming PC is going to be the graphics card, not the processor, so your GPU selection takes priority.

Intel recently released its 12th-generation Core Alder Lake CPUs, but the 11th-gen Tiger Lake and Rocket Lake processors are still plenty capable. You can determine a Core CPU’s generation by the first two digits of its model number; for instance, an Intel Core i5-11400 CPU is 11th-gen, while the Intel Core i5-12400 is a 12th-gen model. Either of these two particular examples are great picks for a budget gaming PC.

AMD Ryzen CPU is a bit trickier at first glance, but once you know it, it’s just as easy: Currently in their third generation, the Ryzen (or simply “Zen”) processors include the Ryzen 5 5600X; the Ryzen 7 5800, 5800X, and 5800X3D; and the Ryzen 9 5900, 5900X, and 5950X. The Ryzen 7 and 9 CPUs fall in the enthusiast-grade price bracket, so if you favor AMD over Intel, then the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and AMD Ryzen 5 5600G are perfect for this loadout and deliver a lot of bang for your buck.

Your GPU is going to be the most expensive single component and one you don’t want to skimp on. For this setup, we’re going with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti or the AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT which are ideal for 1080p or 1440p gaming. You can also go for the GeForce RTX 3060 or Radeon RX 6600 if you want something a bit more budget-friendly, but these are still perfectly able to handle modern games at 1080p/60fps. For this build, avoid mini or single-fan versions of cards that are designed to fit into small ITX cases. Dual-fan GPUs will run cooler and more quietly.

What memory and storage to put inside your budget gaming PC is an easier choice, thankfully. We recommend two sticks of 8GB DDR4 (so 16GB dual-channel) with a minimum speed of 3,200Mhz and a CAS latency of 16 or lower for this setup. The Crucial Ballistix Gaming DDR4-3200 RAM and G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-3200 RAM kits both fit the bill perfectly.

For your primary storage, stick with a solid-state drive. They’re faster than traditional platter-based hard drives – in other words, better for loading and running games and other software – and aren’t prohibitively expensive anymore. A 500GB SSD is our recommended minimum, but 1TB is arguably the sweet spot between price and size. M.2 NVME SSDs have faster read/write speeds than 2.5-inch SSDs but are costlier. RAM and storage are both very easy to upgrade.

Once you’ve got a shortlist of parts you want to use, you can plug them into the Custom PC Builder to check compatibility, see what’s available to you, and create a blueprint for your build.

Pippin - Jonelle F - approximate cost: $1208.92

Who would this PC be good for?

This budget gaming PC is good for almost anything you’d need a computer for short of playing the latest AAA games at 4K on “ultra” settings. The only fundamental difference between a gaming computer and any other computer is a discrete GPU, the vital component that does the heavy lifting when it comes to demanding graphical tasks like playing video games.

A gaming desktop isn’t only useful for gamers, however. Even a budget gaming PC still has the same basic hardware that any other computer has – a CPU, RAM, a hard drive, etc. – and is perfectly suitable for basic work tasks, browsing the web, photo editing, streaming videos, and so on. In other words, everyday activities for which you’d use any other non-gaming PC.

Having a dedicated graphics card is also a boon for anybody doing intense graphics-heavy work aside from gaming, like streaming and video editing. Tasks such as rendering high-definition videos will go faster while also keeping your computer running more smoothly as the GPU does more of the work instead of having your CPU bear all the stress of a job that it might not be built to handle. If you’re a streamer and/or content creator, even a budget gaming PC will help you work more efficiently than a system without a discrete video card.

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Building a PC? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose Parts for you Custom PC BuildProduct Reviews, and Part Comparisons. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!

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