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 for serious gaming duty!

For May 2019, this build continues to feature AMD's value-packed Ryzen 3 2200G quad-core APU with built-in Vega graphics, which simply has zero competition from Intel, now that Intel has completely abandoned the low-priced CPU market. Combined with a feature-rich B450 motherboard, the 2200G makes for the perfect home office platform. And thanks to massive price drops over the past few months, we're now able to upgrade this system to an incredible 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, which will future-proof this system for years to come. Also helping in that regard is the ultra-fast 500GB M.2 solid-state drive we recommend for this build. Having an SSD puts this system light-years ahead of most off-the-shelf office PCs, which are saddled with terribly-slow mechanical hard drives. The system also gets a boost when it comes to aesthetics thanks to the compact, stylish case from Rosewill, and it's powered by an efficient, high-quality 450W 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 turn this little system into a true gaming powerhouse, as well as a fantastic, low-cost wireless mouse, a business-grade keyboard, a 24" monitor, and a wireless networking card. 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 photos and tips. Now, if you decide that building a PC just isn't going to work for you, don't worry - we recommend a great pre-built home office PC too - just scroll down to check it out!

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 - May 2019

The Pre-Built Option

    The Budget Home Office PC:

    Acer Aspire TC-885-ACCFLi3O

    While we definitely think you should check out the DIY system spec'd out below, if you decide that building your own PC is just too daunting a task, or you don't have quite the budget for a $500 PC, then this pre-built PC from Acer is what you should get. With a Core i3-8100 quad-core CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive, it's got all the basics down, but what puts it way ahead of every other ultra-low-cost PC on the market is the 16GB of Intel Optane cache, which massively speeds up the hard drive to make it feel like a solid-state drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Honestly, this PC is such a good deal that we consider it a very good alternative to building your own PC. But if Acer hadn't included the Optane cache, we wouldn't be saying that, so this easy-to-miss specification is critical!

The Build-Your-Own Option

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

    With Intel's dual-core CPUs being pulled from the market due to manufacturing problems, we're all lucky this is a two-horse race, and that AMD has a winning steed: the Ryzen 3 2200G quad-core! Not only do you get double the cores, you also get a vastly superior onboard graphics chip, the AMD Radeon Vega 8, which is actually more than capable of powering through modern games at moderate resolutions.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Want a serious upgrade for an extra $40 or so? Then step up to the Ryzen 5 2400G, which offers much better performance thanks to its four extra virtual cores, along with about 30% more GPU power.

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450M DS3H

    This inexpensive board is absolutely packed with features, starting with the new, cutting-edge B450 chipset from AMD. It has DVI and HDMI video outputs, four RAM slots, an M.2 slot, one PCIe x16 expansion slot, a PCIe x4 slot, a PCIe x1 slot, plus eight USB ports.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We recommend avoiding older B350 motherboards, because while they can technically support the 2000-series Ryzen CPU we recommend, they would need a BIOS update.

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x8GB Sport LT DDR4-2666 SR

    This fast 2666MHz 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 rated speed.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Western Digital Blue 3D 500GB M.2

    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 we simply don't think you should build a PC today without one. Among all budget drives, this 500GB drive is now the only drive to consider at its pricepoint. It uses high-quality 3D TLC NAND, and comes in at the lowest price of any SATA drive, despite class-leading performance.

    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! Among the lowest-priced cases on the market, the FBM-X1 nonetheless packs in plenty of quality and style. With an attractive front panel, along with 120mm intake and 80mm exhausts fans, it provides excellent airflow. It's also amazingly small - far smaller than typical desktop towers!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To control the noise levels of the fans, you'll want to connect them to the motherboard, rather than directly to the power supply.

    Power Supply:

    EVGA 450 BT

    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! Plus, this unit is backed by a 3-year warranty and excellent customer service.

    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

    While this system will offer very good gaming performance with its built-in Ryzen GPU, once you've developed a taste for high-end gaming, you may want even more performance. And luckily, you can turn this system into a serious gaming powerhouse with the potent Radeon RX 570 4GB from AMD! It's a perfect match for a budget system.

    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 (Optional):

    TP-LINK Archer T6E AC1300

    Need 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 (Optional):

    Western Digital Blue 1TB (Opt.)

    This drive can be used instead of or in addition to the solid-state drive recommended earlier in this guide. If you need the capacity offered by a hard drive, then there really is no substitute in terms of value per dollar. We therefore recommend hard drives for bulk media and data storage needs, and this model offers above-average performance and quiet operation.

    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 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.