Today, we’re going to show you how you can build a PC Under $400 (slightly less or more, depending on the day) that can annihilate the modern consoles. Once you’re done, you also have the ability to upgrade just about everything in this build for years to come,from a better GPU to Cool PC Cases.This is a benefit that consoles simply cannot match.
Let’s hop into it.
Introducing The Best Budget Gaming PC Under $400
Our Gaming PC Build will even retail under $400 on some days and a bit over on others. Regardless of where it falls, do your best to stick to our recommendations. The one downside of build guides like this is that we have to stick with new hardware, and the issue with building a PC in this price range with new parts is that it’s really hard to simultaneously provide a good value and stay within budget.
That being said, we’re confident that this is the best PC gaming experience that you can get for your money. The RX 570 trounces the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti that were previously popular in this price range (these cards have also been subject to severe price inflation due to low stock) and should serve as a wonderful companion for 1080p gaming at highest settings.
Let’s hop into the full parts list.
The PC Parts
Rosewill FBM-X1 Micro ATX Case
This budget case from Rosewill offers all the essentials needed for a budget gaming PC.
Intel Core i3-8100
While not as powerful as an i5 or i7, the i3-8100 on its own should be more than enough for driving a 1080p gaming build.
Patriot Signature DDR4-2666 8GB RAM Kit
A high-quality, 8GB, DDR4 RAM kit from Patriot. More than enough for gaming.
MSI B360M PRO-VH
A basic-but-reliable motherboard, which is all you need in a build like this.
Sapphire RX 570 4GB
A 1080p powerhouse GPU from AMD and Sapphire.
Western Digital 1TB HDD
This HDD should be more than enough for your favorite games.
EVGA 400 N1 Non-Modular Power Supply
A budget PSU from one of the most reliable manufacturers, EVGA.
The PC Parts Details
Case: Rosewill FBM-X1 Micro ATX Case
First up is the Rosewill FBM-X1, a budget Micro ATX case. We chose this case for a few different reasons, but the main allure was how fully-featured it is.
Let’s talk cooling first and foremost. Despite this being a fairly cheap budget case, it already has two fans pre-installed: an intake fan and an exhaust fan. This means that you already have a completely-functional airflow setup without the need to buy an extra fan, and your general case temps should remain low.
Next, let’s talk features. You have a (presumably) acrylic, transparent side panel to show off your build inside. You also have 4 USB ports on the front (2 of which are 3.0) and two audio jacks, which is the standard. Aside from the glowing ring around the power button, you don’t really have any lighting or other extra features…but you really don’t need them.
The general size and layout of this case is fairly compact, which means that the building process will be slightly harder…especially if you opt for a non-modular PSU. This is a necessary compromise in this price range, but should only impact the initial building experience.
CPU: Intel Core i3-8100 Quad-Core Processor
One of the best parts of this $400 gaming PC build is the included Intel Core i3-8100 , which is a powerful Quad Core Intel processor at a lower price than ever.Traditionally, Intel’s Core series followed these rules:
- i3 processors would have two cores, with or without hyperthreading
- i5 processors would have four cores, without hyperthreading
- i7 processors would have four or more cores, with hyperthreading
With competition from AMD Ryzen chips, however, Intel has been forced to step up their game. Now, the core series follows these rules:
- i3 processors will have no hyperthreading, but up to four cores
- i5 processors will have no hyperthreading, but up to six cores
- i7 processors will have hyperthreading, and start at six cores
Despite the increase in core count across-the-board, per-core performance hasn’t gone down much, if at all. This means that processors like the i3-8100 are better than ever as budget gaming CPUs, especially since most games aren’t optimized to use more than four cores at once. For this reason, we’re happy to recommend the i3-8100 in this build: it’s the perfect companion for any budget PC build, and it’s usually right around $120.
RAM: Patriot Signature DDR4-2666 8GB RAM Kit
Next up is Patriot’s Signature 8GB RAM kit. This is two sticks of 2666 MHz, DDR4, 4GB RAM kits shipped together. By installing these RAM sticks together in your build, you’ll enjoy the benefits of “Dual-Channel RAM”, which will allow them both to run at 2666 MHz, as opposed to 1333 MHz.
It’s always recommended to buy RAM in pairs to enable Dual Channel mode- if you were to buy only a single 8GB RAM stick, for instance, that stick would only run at half-speed and bottleneck your CPU. Fortunately, this kit is already two 4GB sticks, so you don’t need to worry about that.
8GB of RAM will be more than enough for modern games, even with some multitasking (music or video, for instance) in the background. If you do start multitasking more (or your games start having hungrier RAM requirements), you will need to consider an upgrade, though.
Motherboard: MSI B360M PRO-VH
Our choice of motherboard is the MSI B360M PRO-VH.
Truth be told there isn’t much that’s special about this motherboard. The most important thing to take into consideration when buying a motherboard is making sure that it comes from a reliable manufacturer. Motherboards themselves…don’t really impact the gaming experience much, unless they enable overclocking. Those boards and capabilities are well outside of this price range, though, so we didn’t need to worry about that.
Taking a closer look at this motherboard, the only real downside we notice is that there are only two DIMM slots for your RAM. This means Quad-Channel configurations will be impossible, and RAM upgrades will require a full RAM kit replacement (as opposed to just doubling up on the RAM kit we’ve already provided).
Even by Micro ATX standards, this motherboard is also quite small. This is actually a benefit when you consider our choice of chassis, and should improve the building experience a bit.
Aside from that, all of the expected features are here, including M.2 support, DDR4-2666 MHz support, and your typical USB 3.0 ports on the back.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit extra now, you can also opt for the VDH model, which will enable Quad-Channel configurations and save you money when it’s time for a RAM upgrade. This will make the motherboard slightly larger, though, which will mean a slightly tougher building experience in our compact case.
GPU: Sapphire RX 570 4GB
The beating heart of this build (and budget gaming builds everywhere, as of February 2019), is the AMD RX 570. This particular RX 570, from Sapphire, often retails for just under $100 and offers 4GB of VRAM. Compared to the 8GB version of this card, you’ll have more trouble using high-resolution texture packs or running at resolutions above 1080p. Aside from that, there’s no performance difference, especially while gaming at 1080p.
With this card, you can safely expect to run most modern titles at 1080p and High-to-Max settings and 60 FPS. We’ll go into a more detailed performance breakdown later in the article.
The only real downside of this GPU is that it has only one video port- a DVI-D port, to be exact. You’ll need to grab a DVI cable or DVI-to-HDMI adapter if you don’t already have one, but fortunately, this will only add about $7 to the total price. If you’re buying a new monitor with this build, that will also include a DVI or HDMI cable.
If you want a better 1440p gaming experience (which is on par with PS4 Pro/Xbox One X, which are only running ~1440p upscaled to 4K), we recommend taking a look at the recommended GPU upgrade later on in the article.
HDD: Western Digital 1TB HDD
One of the more humble components in this build is the Western Digital 1TB HDD we’ve included, but at only ~$30 can you really complain? This 1TB HDD should be more than enough for your favorite games, though you will need to make the occasional compromise if you have a larger Steam library and intend on installing all of those titles.
Even so, it’s hard to beat the value of a 1TB HDD in this price range, and the reliability of Western Digital as a manufacturer. Even if you only use it as starter storage, this drive should serve as the perfect companion to the best gaming PC build under $400.
PSU: EVGA 400 N1 Non-Modular Power Supply
This PSU is where the most compromise had to happen to stay within budget.
The EVGA 400 N1 is a perfectly solid PSU that will provide more than enough power for this PC build. However, it’s also a Non-Modular Power Supply, which means that all of its cables will be inside your case at once, even if they aren’t being used. This means that the building process will be more difficult, and for better cable management you’ll likely need to opt for electrical tape and zip-ties to secure the extra cables to the top and sides of the chassis.
In addition to the cable management, this PSU is also notably lacking an 80+ Efficiency Certification. According to EVGA, it has 75% Power Efficiency which is low by PSU standards, and means that your PC will consume more power than it needs to, even when you aren’t doing much on it.
Even with these downsides in mind, however, we still recommend this PSU. It’s the best that you’re going to get in this price range, it has all the capacity we need, and most importantly it comes from a reliable manufacturer. Cheapo PSUs from no-name manufacturers can be outright dangerous to your PC, if not your person. For that reason, it’s best to stick with brands like EVGA and Corsair, even when you’re buying on a budget.
What This Build Plays
If you’re interested in playing the latest and greatest games, chances are you have an interest in Apex Legends. We’ve embedded a benchmarking run of the game above, using the same GPU that we have inside this build.
As you can see, the game doesn’t dip below 60 FPS, even when the entire map is being rendered at the beginning of the game. Once you start gameplay on the ground, you can expect FPS to stay between 70-80, which translates to a consistently smooth and enjoyable experience.
Here’s how it performs in a few other popular games:
- Fortnite – At High-To-Max settings and 1080p, this card should easily be able to manage 60 FPS. The first thing to turn down would be AA and texture resolution since this card has a VRAM bottleneck.
- CS: GO, TF2, and Dota 2 (Source games) – These games are primarily CPU-oriented and aren’t very GPU intensive. 1440p and high settings at 100+ FPS should all be easily achievable with this card.
- League of Legends, Warframe, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six: Siege – Should all be playable at 60+ FPS, 1080p, and maximum settings. (Performance requirements scale up from left to right.) The first things to turn down should be AA, AO, and texture detail.
- GTA V and Monster Hunter: World – Should be playable at mixed high/max settings and 1080p to maintain 60 FPS. More demanding titles like these will need more compromises, but this PC is still well-specced to handle it.
Our Selection Process
The selection process is based on two things:
- Our own experience and expertise
- What competitors are up to
Our expertise is, of course, what makes us capable of writing build guides like this to begin with. We don’t eye our competitors to copycat, though: we eye our competitors to find how we can one-up them and provide a better experience for the same or less money. Our only goal is to provide the best gaming PC under $400- nothing else matters.
That being said, we aren’t solely cutthroat competitors. We do keep an eye for quality, and make sure not to cut corners where it isn’t safe to. We stick with reliable manufacturers for all of our components, but especially the PSU, where going with the cheapest possible option can result in short-circuiting your PC or starting an actual fire.
Note: If you want a better all-around experience from the start, also consider our $500 Gaming PC Build!
Our recommended upgrades for this PC are listed below.
MODULAR PSU: Corsair CX 450W 80+ Bronze-Certified Semi-Modular PSU
For not much more money, this will provide a significantly improved building experience, especially for first-timers. Semi-Modular PSUs have only the motherboard power cable connected at all times (which you’ll always need, anyways), meaning that you’ll only have to manage cables you’re actually using.
This Corsair PSU also comes with the benefit of an 80+ Bronze Certification, which means that your PSU will be more power-efficient. This will save you electricity costs in the long run, and also reduce excess heat that is exhausted into your PC build.
1440P GPU: XFX RX 580 8GB
The RX 580 provides a roughly 15% boost in performance versus this build’s RX 570…when both cards are using 8GB VRAM, that is. The card we’re using in this build has only 4GB VRAM, which limits its capacity for 1440p and VR gaming.
With this 8GB RX 580, you’ll see a general improvement to performance across-the-board, as well as far better performance in 1440p and VR gaming. Even 1080p games with high-resolution textures will also be significantly improved: the increased VRAM makes all the difference here.
This will bump up the cost of the build by a fair bit but is absolutely worth considering if you plan on playing at resolutions higher than 1080p.
AMD Ryzen Best $400 Gaming Build
Rosewill FBM-X1 Micro ATX Case
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G APU
Patriot Signature DDR4-2666 8GB RAM Kit
Sapphire RX 570 4GB
Western Digital 1TB HDD
EVGA 400 N1 Non-Modular Power Supply
In addition to our Intel-based machine, we’re also providing an AMD Ryzen alternative in this article.
The AMD Ryzen build provided here is mostly the same as the above build, except we’ve swapped out the CPU with the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G APU. We’ve also swapped out the motherboard with a Ryzen APU-compatible motherboard.
One of the biggest differences with this build is that the Ryzen 3 2200G actually has built-in graphics, which means you don’t necessarily need to buy your GPU right away. If you need a PC right now and want to save a hundred or two on your GPU, buying this build without the GPU will still provide you a fairly strong general use experience.
Fortunately, the Ryzen 3 2200G performs about on par with the i3-8100 in most benchmarks. This means you aren’t really sacrificing any performance by going with the cheaper option, and your CPU still shouldn’t start bottlenecking anything until the GTX 1070 Ti/RTX 2060 tier.
This Ryzen alternative is important, for both budget gamers and protecting competition in the PC space. We recommended it just as much, if not more than the main Intel build provided above.
So you’re ready for your sexy new $400 gaming PC build but you forgot your peripherals!
Don’t worry, we got you covered. This will raise the price of the build, of course, but you the budget options here should still provide a good experience.
Basic Mouse and Keyboard Set:Logitech MK120
The Logitech MK120 is a classic, especially for school and office environments. For less than $20 on most days, you can get a fully-functional mouse and keyboard set. Even for a budget gaming PC, these should suffice.
AUKEY Mechanical Keyboard
If you want more gaming-oriented mechanical hardware and are willing to spend just a bit extra, this AUKEY keyboard should serve you well. This is a powerful gaming and fully-mechanical keyboard.
The Logitech G403 is just a genuinely good gaming mouse. It doesn’t look particularly flashy, but it has Logitech’s high-end sensor, and that’s all that really matters.
Budget Speakers: Logitech Z313
The Logitech Z313 Speaker Set may be cheap, but it provides pretty strong sound and value at its price point. Highly recommended if you don’t have speakers already.
Now, let’s talk monitors. Below, we’re going to provide two options: a 144 Hz monitor to prioritize smoothness, and a 4K monitor to prioritize visuals.
144 Hz Gaming Monitor: ViewSonic XG2401
If you want maximum responsiveness in your games, especially multiplayer games, this is the monitor for you. While you will have to turn down settings to achieve high framerates, a 144 Hz monitor is perfect for the burgeoing eSports player or any gamer that’s serious about competing.This is budget friendly but will come at the cost of poorer colors and viewing angles, though.
IPS Graphics Monitor: HP VH240a
If you’re mainly into immersive games, especially pretty single-player titles, an IPS monitor is the way to go. The HP VH240a is an IPS, 60 Hz monitor that should be perfect for playing games non-competitively. While you won’t get the hyper-fast responsiveness of a 144 Hz monitor, you will get far better color reproduction and viewing angles, which will make your games even more immersive.
Getting Your Operating System
Unfortunately, you’ll need an OS if you want to use your PC. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to cost money.
Windows 10 is the leading desktop OS, but a license will usually run you about a hundred bucks. Fortunately, you can also just…install Windows and use it without a license. While you won’t be able to change your wallpaper, your actual gaming and usage experience won’t really be all that affected by this. Just click here and follow instructions to create a Windows 10 install drive!
If you’re willing to do a lot of extra work and are particularly tech-savvy, you can also opt for Ubuntu Linux. Game support is getting better every day, and Linux offers a level of customization that Windows can’t hope to match. We still only recommend this if you’re a tech-savvy user, though: otherwise, stick with Windows.
How To Build
For this section, we’ve opted to simply embed a video building tutorial. Written PC building guides aren’t actually very helpful, in most cases. By following this video and the instruction manuals included with your hardware, however, your building experience should go pretty smoothly.
Best Prebuilt Gaming PC Under $400
Unfortunately, pre-built gaming PCs don’t really exist in this price range. At least, not anything with performance levels that are even remotely acceptable.
PREBUILT: HP 8300 Elite SFF Desktop
Instead, your best bet is to buy an older prebuilt desktop and a low-profile, low-power GPU to install into it. The HP 8300 Elite actually has a pretty decently strong i5 processor inside of it, and the GTX 1050 we’ve added here is pretty plug-and-play as well.
GPU: MSI GTX 1050 Low Profile
This PC will not perform on par with our $400 gaming PC build, even though it is roughly the same price. To get the best possible price-to-performance, the best option is always to build it yourself. However, this serves as an alternative for those who want entry-level 1080p gaming and aren’t ready to build a PC of their own yet.
And that’s it!
We ran you through each of the components making up this beast, two alternatives in case the main build isn’t for you, and even pointers on other components you might need. We feel like this guide is pretty definitive and extensive…but feel free to comment below if you need any more help!
Comment below and let us know: do you need any help? Is this the best $400 gaming PC, or do you think we could have done better?
Last but not least if you liked this article, help us grow and share it with your friends!