The 6 Best Prebuilt Gaming Desktop PCs Under 500 Dollars in 2018: A Complete Guide

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Gaming is a pastime to some, while to others it is a serious hobby that they dedicate thousands of hours to. Just as gamers vary from casuals to hardcore/ professionals, gaming computers are also available in a wide variety of sizes, configurations, and prices. You have the extremely powerful liquid-cooled 6 and 8-core processor variants with dual GTX 1080s, these beasts will absolutely demolish anything that you throw at them.

With a rig that is this powerful, you can play the latest AAA game titles on 4k and set up multiple displays for streaming/ content creation. However, they will also cost you a fortune- anywhere between 2000-3000 dollars for a desktop that has dual 1080s or Titans and a 6/8-core i7 processor.

But what about the gamers who don’t have a fortune to spend? What if you are just someone who has been saving up money to buy an affordable little gaming desktop for yourself, or intend to gift it to someone? Maybe you are looking to make an entry into the world of gaming, and you don’t need the absolute best desktop for that. Well- worry not, since there are gaming desktops that get the job done for a fairly low price.

You can buy one of these, enjoy games for the next 2-3 years and then upgrade to a better system when you get the money. Or, you can simply upgrade the processor/ GPU in these affordable prebuilt rigs. Then, you can extend their lifetime to maybe 4-5 years.

Don’t expect to play games on high or ultra-settings. Some very demanding titles such as Prey, Witcher 3, Crysis 3, Fallout 4, etc. will not even run on medium at 1080p resolution. You should purchase these super affordable computers if you intend to play on low-medium at 1080p, or medium settings on 768p resolution. Or, if your primary goal is to play esports titles such as DOTA 2, CS GO, Overwatch, LOL, etc.

Whatever the case may be, you have come to the right place- we are about to review 6 of the best gaming desktops under 500 dollars that you can purchase right now. We selected these models based on their performance, brand reputation, online customer reviews, and overall design.

1. Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKI5 Desktop

Overview:

It is built well, features a very simple yet clean design, and is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor. There is more than enough RAM onboard for gaming, multimedia, photo editing, and pretty much any work that you would want to do on an entry level home PC. Visuals are handled by Intel HD 630 onboard graphics, and it will do the job well as long as you don’t load up any modern AAA game like Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty WWII.

Features:

The Acer Aspire lineup of desktop PCs is designed to provide excellent value at an affordable price. That is precisely what you get from the TC-780-ACKI5 desktop, lots of value at a relatively low price. It is powered by an Intel Core i5 7400 processor, a quad-core midrange CPU that is more than capable of handling everyday tasks, and can hold its own in most games.

The lack of a discrete GPU means that the onboard graphics will be tasked with the workload of processing the visual data in games, and the Intel HD 630 is one of the best onboard graphics units ever. It is incredibly good at handling older games, f2p (free to play) games, and indie titles. But throw in a modern AAA game, and you will begin to notice the disadvantages of gaming on built-in graphics.

We recommend that you either play f2p titles only, such as DOTA 2, LOL, StarCraft II, etc., or you try to play older AAA games from 4-5 years ago. We all know that graphical fidelity isn’t what defines the worth of a game, rather it is the gameplay. There are plenty of classic games that hold up great to this day, such Company of Heroes 2, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, etc.

All of these titles will run fine on the Intel Core i5 7400 processor, and if you do wish to upgrade in the future, you can always pop in a dedicated graphics card onto the PCIe slot that is unoccupied in the motherboard. A NVIDIA GTX 1050 or 1050ti will readily fit in, and you don’t have to worry about the power supply either, since both of those cards will run just fine on any 350 to 400-watt PSU. You can also go for the AMD Radeon RX 460 if you are a fan of the Red Team.

There is 12 GB of 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM onboard, so you can multitask to your hearts content. Productivity based workloads such as programming, video/ photo editing, etc. will run just fine on the Aspire TC-780-ACKI5, thanks to its 7th generation Intel quad core CPU and 12 GB of high speed RAM. A 2TB 7200 rpm SATA III hard disk drive ensures that you have ample space onboard for storing all your favorite games, movies, and photos.

There are plenty of I/O options- HDMI, USB, LAN, and a DVD R/W drive. Two separate 3.5mm jacks for mic and headphones, along with an additional slot for a 3.5” drive of your choice. Pop a dedicated graphics card into this machine, and you have got yourself an amazing entry level gaming desktop that can tackle any game you throw at it on low to medium graphics settings.

Pros:

Intel Core i5 7400 CPU

12 GB DDR4 RAM

2TB 7200 rpm HDD with Windows 10 preloaded

Free Acer keyboard and mouse

3 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, HDMI, DVD R/W, 3.5mm input for headphone and mic

Cons:

You will need an HDMI splitter to connect dual monitors, since there is only one HDMI output and a single VGA output port

The hard disk drive can get quite loud at times

 

2. DTA Computers Fusion Gamer DGX7000 Desktop Gaming PC

Overview:

Powered by a 7th generation quad-core AMD APU and featuring 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, the DTA Computers Fusion Gamer DGX7000 gaming PC is one of the most beastly gaming machines you can find for under 500 dollars.

It is assembled from a collection of high quality parts to ensure longevity and reliable performance over the years. The case is from Thermaltake, and has a mesh intake grill on the front for superior airflow that ultimately results in lower operating temperatures for the APU.

Features:

AMD had been lagging behind Intel in the processor market, since their CPUs and APUs were based on older architectures from 2-3 years ago, and did not support the latest technologies such as DDR4 memory or PCIe version 3. However, with the release of the new 7th generation APUs, AMD have managed to somewhat bridge that gap between them and Intel.

For example, the APU installed inside this gaming PC from DTA Computers, has support for DDR4 RAM. The performance uplift that you get in gaming isn’t very significant, but it is especially important in the case of an APU since the onboard graphics shares memory with the RAM and that means you get better performance from having faster RAM since the overhead isn’t as high.

The A10 9700 APU features 4 physical processing cores, along with 6 GPU cores that deliver much higher performance than any comparable Intel HD chip. The base clock speed for this APU is 3.5 GHz, and it has a turbo speed of 3.8 GHz, for when applications demand extra power.

With support for PCIe 3.0 x 8, and a TDP of just 65 watts, this processor is truly a modern replacement for the aging 5th and 6th generation APU lineup from AMD. The A10 9700 is powerful, efficient, and a very capable multitasker. It features the Radeon R7 graphics core, running at a speed of 1029 Mhz.

What really seals the deal for us, is the fact that DTA Computers were kind enough to include an 802.11 ac WIFI module, along with Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit Ethernet. There are 4 USB 3.0 ports, along with a DVI port and dual USB 2.0 ports. No optical drive included, but you can remove the top slot from the grill on the front and slide in any 3.5” SATA III drive of your choice.

There is a 1TB hard drive installed, along with 8 GB of 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM. You can add an additional 8 GB of RAM, and you can even install a dedicated graphics card if you wish, since there is an empty PCIe slot on the motherboard.

Pros:

7th generation AMD A10 9700 APU, with Radeon R7 graphics

8GB of DDR4 RAM, running at 2133 MHz

1TB HDD, Windows 10 Home 64-bit preloaded

802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0

USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet

HDMI and DVI output

Comes with free keyboard and mouse

Cons:

No Optical Disk Drive

The default cooler doesn’t do a very good job of keeping the processor cool while playing games

 

3. Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi3 Desktop

Overview:

Yet another desktop from Acer, only it is just as amazing as the previous one that we analyzed. Remember the TC-780-ACKi5? This is basically the smaller brother of that one, the key difference between the two being their processors- one has an i5, the other an i3. It is all in the name, TC-780-ACKi3 is powered by an i3 processor, and TC-780-ACKi5 is powered by an i5.

Features:

So, you all remember how much we liked the Acer Aspire TC-780-ACKi5 desktop. The only thing separating that sub 500-dollar home desktop from a gaming PC, is the fact that it lacks dedicated graphics. Pop a graphics card into the empty PCIe 3.0 x 16 slot, and you have yourself a mighty good entry-level gaming PC.

Keep in mind the PSU on both of these desktops is a 300-watt unit from FSP, so you can’t go above a GTX 1050ti if you want to stay safe. Either that, or you add in an aftermarket PSU if you wish to support a more powerful graphics card. In the TC-780-ACKi3, we have the exact same motherboard, slightly less RAM, same power supply, and cooler- except for a different processor.

The Intel Core i3 7100 is a dual core, hyperthreaded 7th generation CPU from Intel, based on the KabyLake architecture. It has a base frequency of 3.9 GHz, with no turbo boost. There is 3MB of SmartCache onboard, and it features the Intel HD 630 onboard graphics system.

The Intel HD 630 onboard graphics unit supports up to 4k resolution at 60 Hz, and is embedded with all the latest technologies such as DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4, Intel Quick Sync Video, Intel InTru 3D, etc. and can power a maximum of 3 displays simultaneously. The Core i3 7100 also supports Intel Optane Memory, along with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology for maximum power efficiency.

The TC-780-ACKi3 desktop is loaded with a 7200 rpm 1 TB HDD from Toshiba, a step down from the 2 TB 7200 rpm HDD that is found on the TC-780-ACKi5 desktop. It also has only one 8 GB DDR4 2400 MHz RAM stick, instead of an 8 + 4 GB RAM configuration like we saw on the TC-780-ACKi5. You can add another 8 GB DDR4 RAM stick if you wish, along with an extra 3.5” drive of your choice by removing the empty slot cover on the front panel.

Acer has included a DVD R/W drive, along with 802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. There is a SD card reader, along with USB 3.0 (3 of them), and 4 USB 2.0 ports. There is 1 HDMI output, and a VGA output so you can connect the desktop to older monitors or projectors.

Pros:

Intel Core i3 7100 dual core 7th generation CPU

8 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM

1TB 7200 rpm HDD with Windows 10 Home 64-bit preloaded

DVD R/W

802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0 LE

USB 3.0 and 2.0, HDMI, VGA, SD card reader, Gigabit Ethernet

Free keyboard and mouse

Cons:

Noisy hard disk drive

300-watt PSU limits the type of dedicated graphics card that you can install

 

4. Lenovo 310S Desktop PC

Overview:

Powered by the 9th generation A9 9410 APU and loaded with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, the Lenovo 310S desktop PC is a worthy contender for the title of “most value for money PC” at less than 500 dollars. It gives you the ability to play older games, f2p and indie titles at low to medium graphics settings and 60+ fps. The overall design and compact form factor means that it will easily fit onto crowded or small desks, and the wide range of I/O options that you are provided at this price is honestly amazing.

Features:

Combining the power of a dual core compute chip with a triple-core Radeon R5 graphics unit, the AMD A9 9410 7th generation APU is an amazing low budget processor for gaming. It can handle multiple programs at the same time, so you can have up to 20 or 30 browser tabs opened simultaneously while also watching a movie on VLC media player, and running a download in the background.

The gaming performance of this relatively low power chip is astonishing, considering that even an i5 can’t stand up to the graphical prowess of the A9 9410. The i5 and even most i3 processors will easily beat it in terms of processing performance, but when it comes to rendering visuals in games, the 3 Radeon R5 cores (running at 800 MHz) handily beat Intel HD 620 or 630 onboard graphics.

One of the best parts about owning a machine with an AMD 9th generation APU inside, is the support for all the latest technologies such as – DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0 x8, DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4, Vulkan, etc. All 9th generation AMD APUs also support the latest encoding formats (H.264, H.265, and Google VP9 encoding).

All A-series AMD 9th generation APUs also support up to 4k resolution at 60 fps, and the improved power efficiency helps with lowering heat output and power consumption. The A9 9410 APU has a base clock of 2.9 GHz, with a boost clock of 3.5 GHz. The max TDP is only 25 watts.

There is 8GB of 2133 MHz RAM onboard, along with a 1TB HDD. The Lenovo 310S is one of the most compact desktop PCs you’ll find, yet it is powerful enough to handle anything you throw at it- from browsing the internet and preparing presentations, to editing photos and gaming.

The ports on this desktop PC include the following- 2X USB 3.0, 4X USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, and RJ45 Ethernet. It even features a SD card reader and DVD R/W drive. Perfect for casual gamers, students, and offices, due to its small size and affordable price tag.

Pros:

AMD A9 9410 9th generation APU

8GB 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM

1TB HDD, Windows 10 Home 64-bit preloaded

Lots of ports (USB, HDMI, VGA, SD card reader, etc.)

DVD R/W drive

Compact size

802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth

Wired mouse and keyboard included in the package

Cons:

Will get quite hot if you’re gaming or editing videos

No DVI/ DisplayPort output

 

5. HP Pavilion 570-p020 Desktop PC

Overview:

Compact, powerful, and stylish- the HP Pavilion 570-p020 desktop is great for casual gamers, students, and office work. It will fit on top of the smallest desks, and does its job discreetly, while consuming less power than most office workstations. Powered by an Intel Core i5 7400, the Pavilion 570-p020 has all the makings of a good budget gaming desktop, it just needs a discrete graphics card to become a full-fledged gaming PC.

Features:

The Pavilion 570-p020 is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core processor, based on the critically acclaimed KabyLake CPU architecture. It is loaded with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, which should ensure smooth gaming and a seamless multitasking experience. With support for all the latest technologies such as 4k, DirectX 12, H.265 video encoding, etc. the Intel Core i5 7400 processor is one of the most widely used CPUs in entry level gaming desktops and home PCs.

It is equipped with 4 processing cores (no hyperthreading), and runs at a base clock speed of 3.0 GHz. The CPU can boost clock speeds on one core up to 3.5 GHz, typically this will be the core that is stressed the most out of all 4. Whenever you play games or run multiple programs at the same time, you will notice the power of the i5 7400 come into play.

With 6 MB of SmartCache and a TDP of just 65 watts, not only is the i5 7400 extremely power efficient, but it is also very versatile and can be used to carry out a wide variety of workloads ranging from something as simple as browsing the web, to heavy tasks such as gaming and video editing.

Coupled with the 4 GB of 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM, this processor makes multitasking seem like a walk in the park- you can have 20 different windows opened at the same time, with a 4K video running in the foreground, a virus scan running in the background, and a 10 GB file transfer going on at the same time. Even with all of this going together, the i5 7400 will manage to deliver a smooth computing experience without any noticeable lag or crashes.

The games that you can play on this desktop PC are usually AAA titles from 4-5 years ago, or f2p and indie games. Since it lacks a discrete GPU, you can’t hope to load up something like Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty WWII and play it in 1080p resolution.

But in case you really want the full-on, hardcore gaming experience, you can buy a low to mid-end graphics card from the market and attach it to the empty PCI express slot on this desktops motherboard. That will convert this home/ student PC into something that can handle any game you throw at it. We recommend the NVIDIA GTX 1050 or 1050ti.

Pros:

Intel 7th generation Core i5 processor

8GB DDR4 2400 MHz RAM

1 TB 7200 rpm SATA HDD with Windows 10 Home 64-bit preloaded

Headphone/ microphone combo jack, USB 3.0 Type-C and 2.0, SD card reader, and DVD R/W drive

802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.2

Free keyboard and mouse

Compact and stylish design

Cons:

DVD burner tray is somewhat flimsy

Gets a little too noisy at times

 

6. Acer Aspire ATC-280-UR11 Desktop

Overview:

Simple, yet elegant- the Acer Aspire ATC-280-UR11 desktop is designed with students and casual gamers in mind. It is powered by one of the finest AMD APUs developed to date- the A10 7800. Equipped with plenty of RAM and a 2 TB HDD, this desktop is almost like an AMD-powered version of the highly acclaimed TC-780-ACKI5 from Acer.

Features:

Powered by an AMD A10 7800 APU and featuring 12 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM, the Aspire ATC-280-UR11 is yet another fine budget offering from Acer. It packs plenty of graphical power despite being so cheap, thanks mainly to the 8 GPU cores found in its A10 7800 APU.

Each Radeon R7 graphics core runs at a speed of 720 MHz, and supports DX12, Vulkan, 4k resolution, OpenGL 4.4, and all the latest encoding formats in use today (H.264, H.265, V9, etc.). In terms of processing power, the A10 7800 competes with the best i3 processors, and even some lower-end i5 CPUs. It is equipped with 4 CPU compute cores, each running at a base clock of 3.5 GHz.

Whenever an application needs some extra power to run, the A10 7800 will automatically ramp up the clock up to 3.9 GHz. You can overclock it manually, but make sure that you have an aftermarket CPU cooler installed before that, since the default cooler that comes with this Acer desktop isn’t designed for speeds higher than the specified limits.

The 12 GB of DDR3 memory works well with this APU, resulting in smooth gaming across a variety of titles- Deus Ex Human Revolution, Assassins Creed 3 and Black Flag, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, NFS Hot Pursuit 2, and many other AAA games will run at 768p resolution and 60+ fps. You can also play indie games and f2p titles such as DOTA 2, LOL, etc. at 1080p resolution and a smooth framerate.

There is a 2TB 5400 rpm HDD onboard, it is slightly slower than the 7200 rpm HDD found on the TC-780-ACKI5. But you won’t notice any practical difference between the two while gaming, loading times on some programs may be 5-6 seconds more, but that’s it. There is a single HDMI port on the back (with HDCP support) and a VGA port as well, we recommend getting a splitter if you want to run two monitors off the HDMI output.

The DVD R/W drive is slightly noisy and isn’t the most well-built, but we consider that to be a major design flaw, after all Acer had to cut some corners while designing a desktop that is cheaper than 500 dollars. There are 4 USB 3.0 ports, and 4 USB 2.0 ports, along with a SD card reader. Wireless connectivity is handled by 802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Gigabit Ethernet takes care of wired LAN connections.

Pros:

AMD A10 7800 APU with Radeon R7 graphics

12 GB DDR3 RAM at 1600 MHz

2TB HDD with Windows 10 Home 64-bit preloaded

DVD R/W drive

802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0 LE

Cons:

Default cooler that comes within isn’t going to hold up well if you manually overclock

5400 rpm HDD instead of 7200 rpm (minor setback, won’t be noticeable while gaming).

 

Conclusion

After reading these reviews, you must have a pretty nice idea of what you can expect from a sub 500-dollar gaming desktop. They are not exactly powerful, but will get the job done. Unlike cheap laptops, you can actually upgrade these machines with superior processors and graphics cards to extend their lifespan.

We made this list with esports gamers (DOTA 2, LOL, CS GO, etc.) and casual players in mind, if you are an advanced user with knowledge of computer parts and the need to run games at high settings, you will consider building a custom gaming desktop yourself, or you will go for a much more expensive prebuilt system. These desktops in the list are all very similarly priced, and they perform within 20-25% of each other. Which is why you must select a specific model based on storage and build quality, as well as looks and design.

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