If you want to hop into the world of PC gaming, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ve made a budget build that should serve as a perfect entrypoint to the world of PC gaming, which we’ll be updating on a regular basis. Depending on the success of this PC build, we may consider expanding to others, but for now, we’ll be sticking with the best $400 gaming PC build that we’ve created below.
About This Build
The goal of the Best $400 Gaming PC Build is to create the best possible PC build in the ~$400 range. While sometimes this may even be the best gaming PC build under $400, fluctuating prices mean that this build will generally stay somewhere between $390 and $430 in exact pricing. While cheaper PC builds are possible, this price point is about the minimum you should be spending on a PC with new parts, or else you’ll be getting screwed over by incredibly poor price/performance and limited upgrade paths.
Fortunately, now that you’ve hopped the barrier of entry, it’s very easy to improve your experience further down the line. This build will be capable of handling major upgrades, unlike a console. Upgrading to a graphics card or CPU that’s over twice as powerful as what’s here, for instance, is well within the limitations of this build’s capabilities.
Keep this in mind when buying a PC. You aren’t just buying what you get on day one, you’re making a long-term investment that can be built upon with more storage and more performance further down the line. Thanks to the relatively young age of this board and chipset, you shouldn’t need to worry about obsolescence any time soon.
In case you are worried about CPU power, we’ve provided a recommended upgrade after the main portion of the build article, but note that it will significantly raise the price of this build. However, it’ll also make the system better at handling CPU-intensive applications, like emulators, and ensure that any GPU you slap in in the future won’t be bottlenecked by the CPU.
What This Build Is Capable Of
The build we’ve created here should provide roughly console-class performance, though you may need to adjust settings in certain games. However, thanks to the benefits of the PC platform, you may actually be able to get better visuals/performance out of certain titles with the right adjustments. More specifically, here’s what this build should be able to do:
- Play eSports and multiplayer titles - eSports and multiplayer titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Team Fortress 2 should all be easily playable with this PC build. Some particularly well-optimized titles may even be playable at higher settings, depending on how efficient they are with CPU resources.
- Play Fortnite: Battle Royale - The biggest multiplayer game of them all, Fortnite: Battle Royale, should play smoothly at Low-Medium settings with these specs. The CPU will bottleneck once you start pushing higher settings, but there’s only minor visual differences, so you’ll still get a great experience. We’d go as far as to say that this is the best budget Fortnite PC build.
- Watch movies, videos, etc - This machine will be more than powerful enough for streaming Netflix and YouTube video. You can even turn it into an HTPC, if you like, though you’ll need to install the appropriate applications and get them set up for couch usage.
- Personal, light professional desktop usage - For just regular old web browsing, don’t even worry: this machine will blast through that. 8GB of RAM also means that using a ton of browser tabs and multitasking with different applications should be a breeze, within reason.
Here is where this build might struggle, however:
- Pushing higher settings in newer games - The GTX 1050 is a good card, but it may struggle with more graphically-intensive titles released on PC recently. You’ll likely need to make settings adjustments on a per-case basis to get the best out of the games that you’re playing- this isn’t the price range where you can set everything to max and forget about it.
- Play eSports titles/Fortnite at high/max settings - While eSports titles and Fortnite are built to be playable on low-end machines, their high settings can be a bit much for this build to handle, especially due to its weaker CPU. Plus, if you’re serious about playing eSports, you’re going to want to maximize performance by staying at the lowest graphical settings possible.
- Rendering video or Twitch streaming - Rendering video should work fine, but take a long time. Twitch streaming with a dual-core processor is a big no-no, however, especially if you’re playing anything remotely resembling a modern game. You’ll want to consider an external streaming device or a stronger CPU if you plan on regularly making or live-streaming video with this machine.
- High-end emulation - Most retro emulators should work fine with this build, but more intensive emulators like Dolphin or PCSX2 might give you some trouble. Emulators like RPCS3 or Cemu are likely to be unplayable, especially if you attempt to emulate games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Here’s the meat of this project. We’re going to discuss each and every component in this PC build, why it was chosen, and what you can expect it to do within the confines of this machine.
We went for the ASRock H310M-HDV Micro ATX Motherboard because it’s the best budget pick for a build in this price range, and offers plentiful USB ports and ports for onboard video. While it may not be as large as a full ATX motherboard (or offer as many PCI Express slots), for our purposes, this motherboard is perfect and will fit everything we’re slapping into it without any issues.
The only real downside in this case is the fact that the motherboard doesn’t offer overclocking support. So if you choose to upgrade your CPU to a K-series Intel processor somewhere down the line, you aren’t going to be able to overclock it and push it to its full potential. Aside from that caveat, this motherboard should serve you well.
The Intel Celeron G4920 Dual-Core Processor isn’t necessarily built for gaming, but will do just fine in most titles, thanks to our strong mid-range GPU. With only two cores, this CPU won’t be suited for applications that need a lot of cores (like video rendering or Twitch streaming), but the power available will be more than enough for common desktop applications and playing modern games at medium-to-low settings.
In terms of value, this CPU can’t be beat. (At least in terms of buying new.) Lower-priced CPUs simply won’t be capable of respectable gaming performance, and higher-priced CPUs would push us over budget without much in the way of improvements until the i3 line. For entry-level gaming value, this CPU can’t be beat.
We’re going to be honest: this is the cheapest 8GB RAM kit we could find for this build, and that’s why we grabbed it.
But don’t run away!
Patriot is a very reliable and trustworthy memory manufacturer, so you don’t need to worry about these RAM sticks crapping out on you. The only downside to this budget RAM is that it doesn’t have a fancy, visually-pleasing heatsink, but in terms of speed and performance you’ll be more than fine. 8GB of RAM is enough for all but the most intensive multitasking scenarios, and should be just fine for any modern game you play.
The strongest part of this build is EVGA’s GTX 1050. It’s on the small side- hence the ITX designation- but don’t let that fool you, it boasts a significant factory overclock and should stay cool thanks to its integrated fan-and-heatsink design. This is a card designed to run cool in much smaller builds than this one, so you shouldn’t need to worry about thermal throttling or any problems of the sort.
In terms of raw gaming performance, the GTX 1050 will be your greatest ally, pushing last-gen games to high/max settings with ease. Current-generation titles will definitely require more compromise, unfortunately, but playing at 1080p/Low or 720p/Medium should be easily attainable for all but the most poorly-optimized games. Well-optimized games should work great at medium-to-high settings, though!
This is probably the most significant compromise that we had to make in this price range. For just $20 more, we could’ve bumped this up to a 2TB HDD or better, but that would’ve pushed us closer to $450 and $500, thanks to current RAM and GPU prices. However, 1TB of storage isn’t a bad place to start- it’ll carry plenty of your games, especially if you’re just starting to build your Steam library, and its 7200RPM speeds will be much better than a laptop’s 5400RPM hard drive.
If you have extra money to spend, grab this larger HDD instead. ($60 at the time of writing.) Also consider an SSD if you want the fastest storage possible and don’t need a whole lot of games installed at once.
For the PSU, we couldn’t go for anything less than a high-quality product from a trusted brand. Never, ever buy PSUs from no-name brands: you’re liable to have them fry your machine or, worse, combust and start a fire. If you’re serious about the safety of your system and your components, never, ever skimp on your PSU.
Fortunately, while we managed to grab a budget PSU for this build, we didn’t skimp on what mattered. EVGA is a very reliable PSU and GPU manufacturer, so we feel safe recommending this power supply to any of our readers. Additionally, we opted for a semi-modular power supply to make the building process significantly easier- non-modular PSUs have all cables running at all times, resulting in a lot of clutter and extra cable management work.
Since this is a 450W PSU, it should also offer more than enough power for the components in this build. Even if you choose to upgrade to a better CPU and GPU, you’re very unlikely to push this PSU to its limits, though we recommend using a wattage calculator if you decide to totally overhaul your PC in the future.
This is a simple, no-frills, budget-oriented MicroATX case. Truth be told, that’s really all you need- the money we saved here made things like the RAM and GPU more affordable, which are worthwhile tradeoffs for aesthetics. You’re also welcome to replace this case pick with one of your own, but if you do...please make sure that it is a MicroATX case.
Well, you have the PC build now. But what about upgrades, peripherals and other stuff!?
Don’t worry: we have you covered. We don’t include these things in the base cost of the build (industry standard) since you may already have one or all of these items on hand, but if you’re on a tight budget you can probably get everything you need for basic PC usage for under $100.
Recommended CPU upgrade: Intel Core i5-7600K
Somewhere further down the line, you may decide that you want more CPU power for certain games and applications. While GPU upgrades will largely depend on what the newest GPUs are at that time, this is going to be the best price/performance pick for this motherboard slot for...well, ever, since this is no longer a current platform.
If you want to go even more high-end, also consider an i7. However, note that the motherboard included in this build does not support overclocking, so you won’t be able to push these CPU upgrades to their absolute limits if you decide to buy them. In terms of raw gaming performance, though, the i5 will generally be as good as the i7, and offer the best gaming performance on this platform.
What about my operating system?
You have a few options when it comes to an operating system for this build.
If you’re previously purchased a home version of Windows, you can transfer the license from a previous machine to this one, though that machine will no longer have a Windows license. OEM licenses, unfortunately, aren’t transferable.
If you want to buy Windows, expect to spend $60-80 on a copy of the operating system on Amazon. While there are other options to acquiring Windows (like from resellers or friends), do note that these are less reliable by nature and can sometimes result in deactivated copies. Your best bet with Windows is to buy new, buy official, buy OEM.
However, you don’t have to buy Windows. You can also choose to opt for a Linux installation- we recommend Ubuntu or Mint! These are completely free, and game compatibility is always going up for Linux. However, Linux will require a higher level of technical proficiency than Windows to use effectively.
I need some peripherals!
Peripherals like a mouse and keyboard can be found for pretty cheap- a basic Logitech kit shouldn’t run you more than $20. However, if you want something that’s actually gaming-oriented without breaking the bank, we highly recommend checking out our peripherals!
If you want a gaming mouse, consider our EasySMX V18 Wired Gaming Mouse. For only $9.99 at the time of writing, you can get a fully-fledged gaming mouse, complete with programmable buttons, DPI shifting, and more. We’ve even included mouse weights!
I need a monitor!
To stay on the cheaper end, we recommend browsing sites like eBay, Craigslist or even the Facebook marketplace to find a display for under $100. If you already have a monitor or HDTV, though, those will work perfectly fine with this build and help save you money.
If you’re only interested in buying new monitors and want to keep the price around $100, we recommend the Dell S32417HG for its low latency or the ASUS VS229H for its stellar color reproduction and IPS display.
And we’re done!
That’s everything you need to get started on your budget $400 gaming PC build. We hope that our guidance helped, but feel free to sound off in the comments below if you need any assistance from us.
We plan on keeping this build up to date as time passes, staying competitive and ensuring that our builds are always ahead of the curve so you’re getting the best deal possible. We’ll also be releasing other more informative, evergreen articles in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!