Question Is there such thing as a cheap gaming PC around £500

jouster

Moderator
8i think I know the answer to this but as the tech person in my group of friends, I tend to be the person asked about all things tech.

A friend wants to get their oldest (13) a gaming PC for Christmas but wants to keep cost around £500.

Now I know that they won’t get all singing and dancing (after all a top tier GPU can cost the same amount) but is there anything worth looking at. Or is it a bit of a pipe dream to get anything for that price.

I’ll say they can update bits at anytime so a good base machine is a good place to start.

So what would everyone say is a decent base spec for that price.

TIA
 

jouster

Moderator
Also worth staying I don’t think they’ll be interested in building there own sonthey are going to want a ready built on

Would something like this be worth looking at (yes it’s a bit above budget)
 

jouster

Moderator
Apparently their son has seen this one

I’m quite shocked that for £465 it includes everything needed to start off including a monitor.

Personally I wouldn’t touch game with a barge pole but that’s just me

Thoughts?
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
Apparently their son has seen this one

I’m quite shocked that for £465 it includes everything needed to start off including a monitor.

Personally I wouldn’t touch game with a barge pole but that’s just me

Thoughts?

It's fitted with an old CPU and it's integrated graphics:
Fierce EXILE Gaming PC, Fast AMD A-Series 9600 3.4GHz, 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM, R7 Series

At £350 it'd be acceptable, at £450 you'd expect the latest 2200G/2400G if you were going down the route of integrated graphics (which are pretty decent these days). Game actually do a 2200G base unit for cheap enough to pair it with a freesync monitor and cheap and cheerful mouse/keyboard/headset for the same price.
Fierce Alpha Gaming PC, Fast AMD Ryzen 3 2200G 3.7GHz, 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM, Radeon Vega 8

I believe Fierce are ones of those newish companies that do a lot of business through ebay/amazon marketplace so you can likely find it elsewhere.

The next step up would be an RX560 and Pentium Gold (G4560+), Athlon 200GE or Ryzen but I'm not sure if that'd be in budget. A lot of the traditional sources of low end gaming machines have moved out of that area so I'm not sure who the best of the current offerings are.
 

BOFH_UK

Active Member
Appreciate that they're thinking PC rather than console but in terms of value at that price point the Xbox One X is head and shoulders above pretty much everything else at the moment. Obviously if they're after PC only games it's a non-starter but if not that £500 would get the console, a pack in game or two, a year of Gold (4 free games a month plus online) and a year of Game Pass (every first party game released that year plus a ton more catalogue titles). With black Friday deals you'd probably be able to afford an additional game or two on top by the time you're done (or a monitor with HDMI port if there's no TV handy to connect to).

If they're set on the PC it's certainly possible to get something okay around that price but expectations should be set accordingly. It's not going to be running new release AAA titles at high quality settings and you're not likely to be benefiting from high framerates either. Doubly so if they need to set money aside from the budget for a monitor etc. My worry with budget rigs is always how long you're going to go before wanting to upgrade, realistic expectations going in can really help with that! Probably the best bet is to do some research on previous gen stuff (mostly graphics cards and CPU) then see what ends up reduced around Black Friday. Seem to remember some of Curry's deals last year were pretty damn good...
 

EntryLevel

Active Member
Gaming PC is such a vague term. At 13, he may just be after something that can play Minecraft and Fortnite, which have low requirements, or he could be after the AAA titles with steeper requirements.

If the former, Scan.co.uk has an entry level offering with a Ryzen 3 2200g that is probably a good deal for a prebuilt (AVforums still get free delivery?): 3XS Gamer Vega

This build has "fast" RAM (3000Mhz), which is really needed to get the most from the integrated GPU, and is something that other builders may skimp on (e.g. the link given by @EndlessWaves) .

That would be a "pick up and play" configuration for about £500, but if they already had a windows key they could save some money and get it without an OS (or run an unactivated Windows 10 for nearly no downside). The config could then be tweaked (SSD added perhaps) within the budget to get more capable hardware.

This approach would provide an easy upgrade path with a dedicated GPU at a later date, as the 2200g is a relatively capable CPU for 1080p (search youtube to see).
 

Goodmane

Active Member
I think it would be a good idea to know what sort of games they are hoping to play but I think they should buy a used PC for that money. Focus on choosing something that has not been overclocked or run hot if possible.

Then buy a nice new keyboard and mouse as those are the parts you interract with.
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
If the former, Scan.co.uk has an entry level offering with a Ryzen 3 2200g that is probably a good deal for a prebuilt (AVforums still get free delivery?): 3XS Gamer Vega

This build has "fast" RAM (3000Mhz), which is really needed to get the most from the integrated GPU, and is something that other builders may skimp on (e.g. the link given by @EndlessWaves) .

While faster memory helps with minimum frame times (general smoothness) it's maybe 5-15% improvement. Spending an extra couple of hundred on it is absurd. For that sort of cash you could get a 200% improvement by buying a graphics card (which would also boost system memory bandwidth by at least as much as faster memory by eliminating integrated graphics traffic).
 

EntryLevel

Active Member
While faster memory helps with minimum frame times (general smoothness) it's maybe 5-15% improvement. Spending an extra couple of hundred on it is absurd. For that sort of cash you could get a 200% improvement by buying a graphics card (which would also boost system memory bandwidth by at least as much as faster memory by eliminating integrated graphics traffic).

I agree, but my recommendation for this build wasn't just based on the ram.

Drop Win 10 (which the Fierce doesn't have either) and you're down to £80 difference. Still significant, but all the components in the scan build are branded ones that I would have confidence using if building myself. The Fierce components may be fine, but either they are not listed or I don't recognise them, so couldn't personally recommend (not saying there is anything wrong, but I would want to research the PSU). The scan build also has a higher rated PSU, which gives overhead for the graphics card to be added later.
 

1080 jawbreaker

Well-known Member
forget the monitor if you can hook it up to just about any tv these days via hdmi.
as for graphics I would recommend something like a nvidia gtx 1060 3gb card as a minimum
 

Goodmane

Active Member
Maybe something like this:

Dell Optiplex 3020 MT PC Intel Core i5-4590 3.3GHz 4GB 500GB HDD DVD-RW WIN 10 5397063618767 | eBay

It was an i5 4590 (3.3Ghz) based Dell desktop with Win 10 for £129. Not overclockable so should be fine condition.

It has/had a PCI-e x16 slot. May need to change the case to fit in a proper graphics card and decent cooling. Maybe pick up a GTX 970 for another £130. Add an ssd for £50, double up the RAM. You are on your way then...although an xbox one x is still going to beat it in raw power, it will be able to play games with other pcs if that is the goal, whilst also being a pretty fast pc for homework etc.

I'd run a search for 'intel i5' in desktops on ebay and see what comes up.
 

Peter Parker

Distinguished Member
Maybe something like this:

Dell Optiplex 3020 MT PC Intel Core i5-4590 3.3GHz 4GB 500GB HDD DVD-RW WIN 10 5397063618767 | eBay

It was an i5 4590 (3.3Ghz) based Dell desktop with Win 10 for £129. Not overclockable so should be fine condition.

It has/had a PCI-e x16 slot. May need to change the case to fit in a proper graphics card and decent cooling. Maybe pick up a GTX 970 for another £130. Add an ssd for £50, double up the RAM. You are on your way then...although an xbox one x is still going to beat it in raw power, it will be able to play games with other pcs if that is the goal, whilst also being a pretty fast pc for homework etc.

I'd run a search for 'intel i5' in desktops on ebay and see what comes up.

Funnily enough I've been looking at the same approach.

I picked up an i5 3470 8GB 500GB Dell 3010 with Windows 10 for £110 inc delivery. There are quite a few Dell gaming builds on youtube if people want to see what some are doing with Dells and various graphic card combinations, but the 1060 is quite common.

Amazon are doing warehouse deals for a Zotak mini 3GB 1060 for £149,95 (the longer ones may fit, but with some Dell motherboards it could foul on something like a front panel header) and you'll need a 400w (or more) PSU which can be had for over around £25. Add an optional SSD if you want faster boot times - say 120gb at around £20 for the OS, and use the HDD for storage and where newly installed games will be placed. You should then have a reasonable starting machine for around £300. Keyboard and mouse don't have to cost the earth either if you need those too. If you want to make it look new, some new gaming cases can be had pretty cheaply on ebay for over £20, or just add in some internal RGB lighting

There are plenty of built gaming PCs on ebay that are based on a similar idea as they are using 'refurbished' motherboard memory and processor, so are probably from Dells etc. They seem to start at over £400 but you do get some warranty with those.
 

drzepsuj

Standard Member
Hi guys!

I have been pc gamer for the last 20 years or so, my insight is that if your budget is limited, look for a second hand gaming pc, you will get most for your money. New gaming pc for 500 will be very limited, especially if your price must include monitor and accessories. Single most important part in your gaming pc is the graphics card, focus your search on the fastest gpu included in the pc that is within your budget. Most cpus made in the last 5 years can handle gaming. 8gb ram is a minimum, 16 is nice. You can always add more later. As further upgrade I would suggest an SSD. I hope this helps
 

Goodmane

Active Member
Hi Jouster

I've been looking at this one for my 13 Yr old son, I'm pretty sure he falls into the fortnite and minecraft category so I'm hoping it will do the job

ULTRA FAST Quad Core Gaming PC Tower WIFI & 8GB 1TB HDD & Win 10 + 2GB Graphics | eBay

@Fat_Tony I wouldn't get that one if I were you. It's made from a used Core 2 quad cpu. They are really old. It's probably an old q6600 or something they were really popular back in the day, I think they were 2006 or something, and worth about a tenner these days. Don't get me wrong, with an ssd it could still feel really fast, but not in games. Not games more advanced than an xbox 360 could handle and then only if you upgrade the graphics to something like an old AMD HD 6850. Any better gpu than that is arguably wasted on a Core 2 cpu, as the cpu will be the bottleneck in most games.

The trouble is if you buy such an old motherboard, then you are really limited for upgrades (because new cpus now have different sockets every year, and can only fit with that year's motherboards), and you may have trouble with the Win 10 license if you have to change motherboard to upgrade to something else in future, as the license is linked to the motherboard.

I'm all for used pcs, but pick up a motherboard and cpu / ram bundle yourself, and screw it into a new case if need be rather than that deal imo. I would get an i5 2500k generation at a minimum if possible. [Note the i5 2500k and 2600k were really popular and will have been overclocked. So long as they are kept cool and not run excessively its not a problem but don't buy one that was run too fast imo, i.e. if seller is bragging about how high it will go...] The i5 I linked to above was even newer; althoug not overclockable it would still be several times faster than an old Core 2 series.

UserBenchmark: Intel Core i5-4590 vs Core2 Quad Q6600

A less old cpu/mobo will be able to cope with a much more modern graphics card, whilst also having more modern ports / usbs / pci-express etc.

Also the gpu that they are shipping is awful. Just don't go there, hope you see this in time! :)
 
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drzepsuj

Standard Member
Hi guys!

I have been pc gamer for the last 20 years or so, my insight is that if your budget is limited, look for a second hand gaming pc, you will get most for your money. New gaming pc for 500 will be very limited, especially if your price must include monitor and accessories. Single most important part in your gaming pc is the graphics card, focus your search on the fastest gpu included in the pc that is within your budget. Most cpus made in the last 5 years can handle gaming. 8gb ram is a minimum, 16 is nice. You can always add more later. As further upgrade I would suggest an SSD. I hope this helps

Following on my earlier suggestion, something like this would be reasonable and is quite well balanced:

Gaming pc setup, Core i7 + GTX 1060, VR Ready | eBay

This particular pc is collection only and im not sure if you are local to this area, but the price is right and maybe you could get it down to 500-550
If I had 500 to spend, it's something that I would buy.
 

Fat_Tony

Distinguished Member
Following on my earlier suggestion, something like this would be reasonable and is quite well balanced:

Gaming pc setup, Core i7 + GTX 1060, VR Ready | eBay

This particular pc is collection only and im not sure if you are local to this area, but the price is right and maybe you could get it down to 500-550
If I had 500 to spend, it's something that I would buy.

Thanks for all the info, its really useful as I havent got much of a clue about this stuff.

He's currently making do with an awful old toshiba laptop, and an ancient macbook - he's managed to get windows running on his macbook, thats the sort of stuff he has been figuring out recently.

We dont plan on spending more than about £200-£300 - its really to test the water and see if its something he sticks at in future. I am very keen to avoid old components that limit upgrade potential for the future.

As mentioned above, gaming PC seems such a vague term. My sons needs are probably not quite as advanced. Im torn between spending more now or just getting him a basic set up and maybe looking more high end once he's tried it for a year.

Having re-read all the above posts, should we perhaps look at something like this then spend the rest of the budget on some upgrades?

Dell Optiplex 3010 Intel Core i5 3470 - 8GB Ram 500GB HDD Windows 10 Pro - HDMI | eBay

I hope Jouster doesnt mind my questions on his post, its so hard trying to research something like this when all the terms and lingo means nothing to me

Thanks for the input chaps
 

Peter Parker

Distinguished Member
The PC you have linked to is a small form factor (SFF) model so has a limited upgrade path - it doesn't use a standard PSU so the best graphics card you could probably fir would be a low profile GTX1050ti, but that will probably be as far as you can go with that machine and I think that kind of money would be better spent on a mini tower (MT) which is more upgradable. There are videos on youtube showing SFF PCs being upgraded with 1050s as well as MTs with GTX 1060s and 1070s.

This video shows a 1050ti inside a 3010 (the 3020 didn't look as viable)


I would go for a mini tower if you want a better graphics card though as you can swap out the PSU for a more powerful one and then fit a much better graphics card. I think the 3020 (and maybe all those ending in '20) are the range where the motherboard power changed form standard ATX 24pin to a DELL proprietary 8 pin or something, so you'll need to find an adaptor if that's the case. I'd stick with the 3010 range or one of the others that take normal ATX PSUs and short GTX type graphics cards (790 etc IIRC - again, youtube is is very useful - just search for Dell Optiplex gaming PC for example.
 

Fat_Tony

Distinguished Member
Thanks again, this is so far over my head but gives me plenty to investigate further
 

Goodmane

Active Member
Thanks again, this is so far over my head but gives me plenty to investigate further

It's really not that hard to understand this market imo. Keeping it really basic for ease of use over accuracy:

cpu - raw thinking speed
motherboard - aka mobo, think of it as the bit you screw everything else onto, just like a lego board
ram - short term, fast access memory, the cpu needs this as it can't cope with everything you throw at it, it's like the computers notebook or what it uses to juggle
gpu - graphics speed and self explanatory at this level of explanation
ssd/ hard drive - long term memory / like a library of all your stuff

Now here's the thing. RAM is always fast. More of it is better. Faster RAM doesn't really matter. Just make sure you have enough and that the motherboard has slots / supports what you need. 8GB is probably fine. space for 16 is sensible. You want a board with DDR3 RAM not because its so much faster than DDR2 or DDR (!), but because it is what is / was used in the mobos /cpus you will want.

CPU it's Intel or AMD. Several years ago AMD were not competing high end. In the used market you are going to want an Intel at the moment. They are all numbered by year, if overclockable they are more exp. and have a k on the end of the code name. You are going to want a 2000, 3000 or 4000 series probably. You want a quad core, not dual core. You can compare speeds by googling the component name against another e.g. "i5 2500k vs i5 4650". If overclocked it's like making your engine run faster. Think of it in percentage terms versus base clock and factor that in to your comparisons. Overclocking requires nice fans and heatsinks (large bits of metal with lots of fins connected to the metal plates above the CPU / GPU chips. Better fans/heatsinks also means a quieter PC when it's not being used for gaming.

GPU. The easiest component to upgrade. So long as the mobo has a PCI-E x16 slot to put it in you're fine. Just check the case is big enough to take it. Cases are easy enough to replace though esp. if your son is keen to do it himself. They're AMD or nvidia. Again, they follow a fairly easy to follow naming convention each year, e.g. Nvidia..... gtx 700 series, gtx 900 series, gtx 1000 series, rtx 2000 series. The second part of the nvidia code is e.g. 40 50 60, 70, 80. Enthusiast is anything at or over '70' e.g. gtx 780 or 970. Lower than a 70 is cheaper and inferior, sometimes over several generations. More than a 70 is very expensive when launched, i.e. for really well off folks. Add Ti means it's a turbo edition of that card basically brought out in response to competition. Top/popular models from previous nvidia years are gtx 780, 970, 980 1070 etc. These are the good ones that cost a few hundred pounds. They are all still capable cards whereas every year nvidia and AMD still churn out new budget cards that are much slower than the proper cards of yesteryear. On a budget you are going to be looking at gtx 970. The AMD cards of yesteryear (I have the 390) are power hungry.

On a budget your PSU (power regulator) is probably going to be low quality so I would stick with Intel and nvidia as these are more power efficient. Over time, a good PSU will pay for itself by not ruining your expensive components with voltage spikes etc. But don't worry too much for now.

SSD- get a 240GB SSD, preferably Intel for reliability. I like the 520 series as they're server grade. There are faster these days. But they're all so fast, it doesn't really matter. The SSD will mean the PC is nicer to use than a modern tablet etc. Without an SSD, it will just feel old, and nobody will want to use it.

You'll also want a 500GB hard drive or bigger to begin with.

Monitors matter, but they are all a lot better for the money these days, and are easily upgraded. Also the differences aren't enormous imo. Gamers talk about speed/refresh rate and used to like TN panels but they must have been blind as they look awful with color shifts etc. I'd go for a used ips screen for eye comfort and general use. IPS screens can be okay for gaming, but it's model specific so check for lag. Dell are very popular so easy to find used / i.e. worth researching by model name as you have a chance of finding whichever ones you prefer.

Get a nice keyboard and mouse too, old ones can ruin the experience. I prefer Logitech wireless mouses with back/forward button on the left hand side, and a small keyboard like the Microsoft Arc. These days the kids like gaudy keyboards for gaming I think so might want to allocate some presents from family for such upgrades.
 
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Fat_Tony

Distinguished Member
Thanks so much for taking the time, that's really useful plus has confirmed some of the info I had found out today.

I'm actually going to print that post out for my son aswell.

This is the latest option I've considered, taking into account as much of this thread as possible, what do you think? I've got a decent monitor I'm donating too him and he has his own gaming mouse and keyboard already

Thanks again

Ultra Fast Quad Core i5 Gaming PC Tower 8GB RAM 1TB HDD WIFI Windows 10 Desktop 5060500437381 | eBay
 

drzepsuj

Standard Member
I personally wouldn't look at such listings. This is something where a retailer has to make money on and will use cheapest stuff available to build it. Graphics card in this machine won't play any modern games. I would strongly suggest finding a complete second hand machine with half decent gpu. You should be able to find one with gtx 1060 or 970 within your budget, which will perform way better than this pc where about are you based? Maybe we can find some local offers for you to consider?
 

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