Are you working with a tight budget, but you still want to jump into 1080P gaming? The affordable $400 gaming PC build in this guide will get the job done for you.
If you’re in the market for a new gaming computer and you’re working with a tight budget, one way to get more performance out of the money you have to spend is to build your computer yourself. In fact, in this guide, we’ll show you what parts to get in order to build a solid gaming PC for under $400.
This $400 gaming computer is perfect as an entry-level system and it will handle pretty much any game on an affordable 1080P monitor, including games like Valorant, COD Warfare, Apex Legends, and Fortnite. No, it’s not the best gaming computer in the world. But, if you are currently using a system that can’t even run your favorite games, this build will at least allow you to start playing those games. And, it will give you a nice foundation that can be upgraded in the future into a mid-range gaming PC that can max out anything you throw at it.
So, if you’re ready to see what the best gaming PC build under $400 looks like, keep reading!
If you want to check out more affordable build templates at various prices ranges, check out more builds on our Affordable Gaming PC Builds guide.
*URGENT: Due to extreme hardware shortages caused by the pandemic, it is currently very difficult to find new graphics cards (and other hardware) at reasonable prices. As of right now, if you want to buil a new gaming PC, your best bet is to check the used market for a video card, or you can look at a pre-built gaming PC (see our recommendation below) instead of building your own system.
This system is a little different than our $300 gaming computer build because instead of going with an AMD Ryzen APU, we instead opted for a quad-core Intel Core i3-10100f processor and a dedicated RX 550 4GB graphics cards.
And, while you could go with an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G or 3400G APU for this build (and, we have gone that route in past iterations of this build), with the price drop on the RX 550, we felt that you’d get better performance out of the 10100f/RX 550 combo.
This system also comes with 8GB of DDR4 2666MHz memory, a budget-friendly 240GB SSD, and a 500W power supply that can easily accommodate an upgrade to a mid-range graphics card in the future. And, finally, we chose the COUGAR MG130-G for this build’s case. It’s a very affordable micro-ATX chassis that has decent airflow, a tempered glass side panel, and will easily fit all of these components, as well as give you room for upgrades in the future.
*NOTE: If you’re not up for building your own computer, click the “Shop Pre-Builts” button to see a similarly priced pre-built gaming computer.
Part List for $400 PC Build
|CPU||Intel Core i3-10100f|
|GPU||XFX RX 550 4GB|
|RAM||Patriot Signature 8GB|
|ODD||Install O.S. from USB|
Grand Total: $370-$430
*Component prices fluctuate daily. Click here to check current pricing.
**Price includes the parts that make up the tower only. You’ll need an operating system and Windows 10 costs ~$100 for an activation key. However, you can still install Windows 10 for free and it will work indefinitely without activating it with no problems—there will just be a watermark at the bottom left of your desktop asking you to activate it.
Ultimately, in our opinion, the parts above are what will help you build the best gaming PC under $400 (make sure you check for fluctuating prices, though.) However, there are other routes you can go with this build. So, below we’ll discuss what some of those other routes are, as well as what kind of performance you can expect out of this $400 gaming PC, and the types of upgrades you can make to it to turn it into a mid-range 1080P-killing gaming machine.
In terms of how this $400 gaming PC will hold up against today’s top games, you can expect to be able to run less-demanding games on a 1080P monitor on higher settings, and more demanding games on a 1080P monitor at lower settings. But, for an example of what kind of a framerate you can expect to get out of some of today’s more popular games, check out the bullet point list below:
- This build will be able to run games like Rocket League, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, etc. on higher settings at ~50-60+ frames per second
- This build will be able to run more demanding AAA titles on lower settings at ~30+ frames per second
For just under $400, that’s really pretty darn good performance. You’ll be able to play any game on a 1080P monitor. Yes, on more demanding games you’ll have to turn the settings down, but at least you’ll get to play them. And, for popular eSports/competitive titles that aren’t very demanding, the CPU/GPU combination will be able to handle them with ease.
While this build is pretty barebones as is, you could potentially cut the cost down a bit more. Here are a couple of ways you can save even more money on this system in order to lower the price:
- You could choose a cheaper case and save ~$10. There are cases out there that cost just over $20 that will hold this system fine.
- You could opt for a cheaper power supply and save ~$20. If you drop to too low-end of a power supply, though, it will hurt your ability to upgrade the system in the future.
- You could start with just 4GB of RAM and save ~$30. This wouldn’t be horrible, but if it were me, I’d definitely try and fit 8GB into the build.
And, that’s really about it. You could always shop for used components as well and try to cut down on costs that way. However, if you want a brand new system, those two options would probably be the best way to get the price down a little bit more.
One way or another, you’re going to need an operating system to get this build up and running. If you buy a copy of Windows 10 along with this build, that’s going to set you back an extra $100—which, for some of you, will put this build out of reach.
However, there are a few ways around paying $100 for Windows 10:
First, you could install a free Linux-based operating system. You won’t be able to play certain games that aren’t compatible with Linux, but you will save $100.
Second, you could buy a Windows 10 key from a third party marketplace for ~$30. I’ve had good success purchasing Windows keys from Kinguin.net or G2A.com in the past, but there is definitely some risk involved in purchasing a Windows license from a third party source.
Finally, you could just install Windows 10 for free and not activate it. In my opinion, this is probably the best route to go. Essentially, Microsoft allows anyone to install Windows onto their computer without forcing them to activate it. And, for the most part, you can still use Windows normally even when it’s not activated. The only thing you will lose out on is some customization options like setting your desktop’s wallpaper. But, I think in order to save $100, that is not a bad trade-off cost. And, at the very least, you could run the non-activated version of Windows until you can afford to purchase an activation key for it.
While this $400 gaming computer won’t max out today’s top games on a 1080P monitor, it will give you the potential to upgrade it to be a system that can max games out. In my opinion, this system is only one major upgrade away from being able to max out most games on a 1920 x 1080 monitor, and a couple of more upgrades after that away from being a really solid all-around computer.
Here is the upgrade path I would take for this system
The first upgrade that I’d make would be to add a solid mid-range (or higher) graphics card.
The following GPUs would make for a good upgrade:
- GTX 1660
- RX 5600 XT
Fortunately, the power supply in this build will be powerful enough to accommodate any of the graphics cards listed above. If it were me, I’d try to save up for an GTX 1660 or RX 5600 XT, because for 1080P gaming, those will allow you to max out any game with ease.
You could also upgrade to a high-end graphics card as well (like an RX 5700, 5700 XT, RTX 2070 SUPER, or RTX 2080 SUPER) with the 600W PSU in this build.
After you upgrade the graphics card, you can also consider upgrading your monitor as well. Depending on what graphics card you upgrade to, you could also opt for a higher refresh rate monitor or a higher resolution monitor. For the GTX 1660 or an RTX 2060 SUPER, an affordable G-Sync monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate would be worth looking into—especially if you play competitive-driven titles like Rocket League, PUBG, COD, Apex Legends, etc.
For an AMD graphics card upgrade (RX 5600 XT, RX 5700, or RX 5700 XT), you’ll want to opt for a FreeSync monitor.
The second and third upgrades I’d make would be to add another SSD and another 8GB stick of RAM.
This system doesn’t come with a lot of storage space off the bat. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to add more storage space (moving the operating system is a bit more challenging, though) into a system. And, by adding an extra SSD, your system and games will load much more quickly and your system will feel a lot faster in general.
Your system’s memory will also be simple to upgrade. Because this build starts out with a single 8GB stick of RAM, it gives you the opportunity to bump up to 16GB of RAM pretty easily. If we opted for a dual-channel 2x4GB kit to start out with, you’d have to completely replace that kit with a 2x8GB kit in order to reach 16GB of RAM. So, with one 8GB stick of RAM already in there, bumping up to 16GB of RAM will be as simple as adding a second stick of memory (just make sure it’s the same stick that you already have, in this case, an 8GB stick of Corsair Vengeance LPX 2400MHz.)
The fourth upgrade I’d make would be to upgrade this system’s processor.
Since the Intel Core i3-10100 is a decent processor, you can hold off on upgrading it for a little while. However, once you’ve upgraded the components listed above, you can also look to get a higher-end processor.
The motherboard that comes in this $400 gaming computer will accommodate the following processor upgrades (will require a BIOS upgrade):
- Intel Core i5-10400
- Intel Core i7-10700
I think your best option for an upgrade here is the Intel Core i7-10700. The i5-10400 won’t provide that significant of an upgrade, whereas the i7-10700 will give you a sizable performance increase (both in gaming and CPU-intensive tasks.)
If you don’t already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to go along with your new system, you will definitely need them. So, if you’re looking for some budget-friendly peripherals to pair with your computer, the options below will suit you well without breaking the bank.
*If you’d prefer a mechanical keyboard, check out our post on the best mechanical keyboards under $50.
|Redragon M711 COBRA||
*For more cheap mouse options, check out our guide on the best budget gaming mice.
If you’re looking for the best gaming PC under $400, you’ll definitely want to consider building your own system rather than buying a pre-built computer. By opting to build the computer yourself, you can avoid the markup cost that comes on pre-built machines, which will allow you to put more money into your system.
In this guide, we’ve given you a solid list of components that will allow you to build an entry-level $400 gaming PC. This build is capable of running pretty much any game (like Fortnite, Apex Legends, Valorant, etc.) on a 1080P monitor on at least lower settings. And, you’ll be able to play less-demanding games on medium or higher settings, too.