The $500 Build

Looking to build a powerful, expandable home office PC for $500? No problem! This guide lists all the parts you'll need to put together a balanced computer that has the power to handle any office task, and can even be upgraded with a low-cost, high-powered video card to turn this system into a true gaming PC for under $650!

For November 2019, this build gets a huge upgrade, moving to AMD's new Ryzen 5 3400G quad-core, eight-thread processor with built-in Vega graphics, which is by far the best combined CPU/GPU available anywhere near its price. It simply has zero competition from Intel. Combined with a B450 motherboard specially updated for use with this new processor, the 3400G makes for the perfect home office platform. To get the most of this setup, we're now able to recommend an incredible 16GB of RAM, thanks to a big price drop that allows you to future-proof this system for years to come. Also helping in that regard is the ultra-fast 512GB PCIe-based solid-state drive we recommend for this build, which is lightyears ahead of the hard drives you'll find in most off-the-shelf office PCs. The system also gets a boost when it comes to aesthetics thanks to a compact, stylish case from Thermaltake, and it's powered by an efficient, high-quality 450W Bronze-rated power supply. No matter what you use this system for, it will provide years of top-notch performance, along with plenty of opportunity for upgrades down the line.

Need to accessorize your new PC? Just scroll down to the end of this guide for our top picks! This includes a great bargain-priced video card to build a true gaming powerhouse for under $650, as well as a wireless networking card, a low-cost wireless mouse, a business-grade keyboard, and a 24" monitor. And don't worry - if you need help building your system, our Builder's Guide to Assembling an AMD Ryzen PC will walk you through every step, providing plenty of detailed videos, photos and tips.

If you're interested in seeing how this system has changed over time, flip to the $500 Home Office PC Archive. Prices in all of our guides are shown in real-time U.S. dollars, with separate links provided to Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany for our readers in those countries. Regional substitutions have been made as necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products we list, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of these guides. 

The $500 Home Office PC - November 2019

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

    With Intel leaving the budget CPU market entirely, we're lucky this is a two-horse race, and that AMD has a winning steed: the new Ryzen 5 3400G four-core, eight-thread processor! In our testing, it kept up with the best of Intel's quad-core, eight-thread processors of years past, for a fraction of the price. You also get a vastly superior onboard graphics chip, the AMD Radeon Vega 11, which has been boosted another 15% in this 3000-series processor versus the previous generation!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The 3400G is technically an "APU" according to AMD, because it includes both a CPU and a graphics chip. AMD's "CPUs" are strictly that - no graphics included.

    Motherboard:

    MSI B450M PRO-M2 Max

    Finally, affordable motherboards have arrived that support the awesome Ryzen 3000 series, and they come in the form of MSI's B450 Max series. Don't confuse MSI's Max boards with any other boards on the market - they are the only B450 boards that come with the proper firmware to support the Ryzen 5 3400G! Buy another model and prepare for your PC to fail to boot when you press the power button!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This motherboard's video outputs will support up to 1080p (via HDMI) or 1440p (via DVI).

    Memory:

    Patriot 2x8GB Viper Elite DDR4-2666 Grey

    This fast RAM kit will allow you to get the most out of your Ryzen processor and its built-in Vega GPU, and with 16GB of capacity, you'll simply never run out of memory! Another reason to go with 16GB in this system: the Vega video chip will use some of the available system memory, so it's good to have some extra capacity. Note that using a pair of 8GB sticks rather than one 16GB stick allows for "dual channel" operation, which we consider critical when using built-in video chips.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Be sure to enable the enhanced memory profile in your motherboard's UEFI to run at this RAM's higher speed.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Sabrent 512GB Rocket NVMe

    We now recommend that all PC builders choose an SSD over a hard drive for their main storage drive. The responsiveness of a system with an SSD is so superior to systems with a hard drive that you shouldn't even consider building a PC today without one. And among all budget drives, this 512GB drive is now the only one to consider at its pricepoint, thanks to its use of the next-generation PCIe interface. It comes in at or below the price of all competing SATA drives, which are much slower.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To mount this to the motherboard, you'll need a jeweler's-type screwdriver.

    Case:

    Rosewill FBM-X1

    Who says a budget case has to look budget? Not Rosewill! Its FBM-X1 packs in plenty of quality and style. With an attractive front panel sporting an impressive four USB ports, a 120mm intake fan and 80mm exhaust fan, it provides excellent airflow. It's also amazingly small - far smaller than typical desktop towers!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model goes out of stock constantly - catch it if you can!

    Power Supply:

    EVGA 450 BR

    This 450W model offers unmatched value, providing Bronze-rated efficiency and quiet operation. And the reality is that this build will use less than half of this unit's rated power output, even with an added video card, meaning you'll have power to spare!

    The Guru's Tip:

    You may find "White"-rated 450W power supplies for a few dollars less, but they are far less efficient, wasting an additional 5% of electricity and turning it directly into heat!

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 offers excellent usability and security, along with lots of fine tuning under the hood to make the best use of modern components like the ones used in this system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Microsoft releases a major Windows 10 update every spring and fall, adding plenty of new features and enhancements (and requiring a big download!).

Optional Components

    Video Card:

    PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon RX 570 4GB

    Turn your system into a screaming-fast gaming rig by adding the potent Radeon RX 570 4GB from AMD! It's a perfect match for a budget system. It offers performance about 4x higher than the CPU's built-in graphics. You'll even receive a code for your choice of Ghost Recon Breakpoint or Borderlands 3 with the purchase, through Dec. 31st!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that this card requires a power supply connection in order to operate, so don't forget to locate the "PCIe" cable coming from the power supply!

    Wireless Card:

    TP-LINK Archer T6E AC1300

    Want to add wireless networking to your new home office PC? Look no further than the ultra-fast Archer T6E, which offers dual-stream 802.11ac networking and dual external antennas. It provides speeds of up to 1300Mbps!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We know a lot of our readers are tempted to buy tiny USB-based wireless adapters, which look really cool in promotional photos. Unfortunately, they don't work at all, so please take our advice and go for a serious wireless card!

    Hard Drive:

    Seagate Barracuda 2TB

    If you need extra space for bulk storage of media like photos, videos, and music, add this bargain-priced 2TB hard drive to your build. Coming in at just $10 more than most 1TB drives, it's a tremendous bargain.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Using an SSD for the operating system and main applications, along with a hard drive for data, provides an incredibly-responsive user experience along with plenty of storage capacity. Read our SSD Setup Guide to learn how to make sure they're running optimally.

    The Basic Wired Keyboard:

    Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600

    While most people probably have a spare keyboard or two laying around, if you need a new one to go with your system, you can't go wrong with this inexpensive option from Microsoft.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Going with a wired keyboard avoids issues with interference and low batteries, and more importantly saves money too!

    The Perfect Travel Mouse:

    Cherry MW 3000 Wireless Mouse

    While you may have an old mouse sitting in your desk, you probably want to upgrade to a new, modern model like the awesome MW 3000 from Cherry. A high-end wireless model at a bargain price, it features forward/back thumb buttons, an ergonomic grip, and a tiny USB receiver. We love this model!

    The Guru's Tip:

    While some wireless mice can have drop-out problems, we've had nothing of the sort with our MW 3000 sample.

    The 23-inch General-Purpose Monitor:

    HP VH240a IPS

    Featuring a 23" IPS-based 1920x1080 panel with great colors and viewing angles, along with built-in speakers and a stand offering full tilt and height adjustability, this model from HP undercuts its competition by $100. It's truly the ideal home office monitor!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This monitor stands head-and-shoulders above any other model you'll find at this pricepoint, and is a huge upgrade from typical bargain-basement $100 monitors. We think it's definitely worth the extra cash.

    Bluetooth PC Speakers:

    Logitech Z207 Multi Device Speakers

    Because desktop PCs, unlike laptops, don't have internal speakers, we recommend you pick up the Logitech Z207 set. Whether it's music, You Tube videos, TV, or movies, the Z207 will sound great. And it has a special trick up its sleeve - built-in Bluetooth allows you to stream music to it wirelessly, and it will even auto-switch sources when you stop the music on one source and start it on another! The Z207 is even available in a super-stylish white finish!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that the monitor listed above has built-in speakers, so if you end up buying that, it will provide great basic audio output. But if you're serious about sound, the Z207 is still worth the purchase.