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Best Overall: HP EliteDesk 800G1 at Newegg
"Configured with an Intel Core i5-4570 processor and a 3.2GHz clock speed that can boost up to 3.6GHz."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: HP Pavilion 590-p0057c at Amazon
"The CPU experience will be great on this one, with an Intel Core i5-8400."
Best with Integrated GPU: HP Pavilion 590-p0040 at Amazon
"With 8GB of DDR4 memory included, this desktop is also excellent for everyday computing."
Best Compact: CUK Axiom TS Tiny (Ryzen 5) at Amazon
"Contains the Ryzen 5 2400G with four cores, eight threads, and clock speed of 3.6GHz."
Runner-Up, Best Compact: CUK Axiom TS Tiny (Ryzen 3) at Amazon
"Despite the budget price, this model gets 8GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at a high 3000MHz."
Best Gaming Laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (Ryzen 5 2500U) at Amazon
"A 1TB hard drive provides plenty of room for storing games."
Best Laptop for Light Gaming: Asus VivoBook F510UA at Amazon
"An incredibly solid offering with integrated graphics that can handle some light gaming."
Courtesy of Newegg
When you want to get the most for your money, it can pay to consider refurbished models. That’s definitely the case with the HP EliteDesk 800G1 desktop PC. By going with a refurbished model, you’re able to get a more powerful gaming PC for under $500 than you would by going with a brand new model.
The HP EliteDesk 800G1 we’ve selected comes configured with an Intel Core i5-4570 processor with four cores and a 3.2GHz clock speed that can boost up to 3.6GHz. The processor is paired with 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and the PC runs Windows 10. These specs are decent for a sub-$500 PC, but what really kicks things up for gaming is the included Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
If you’re hoping to dive into some serious Fortnite, the specs on this computer should be up to the task, and it can handle other eSports titles like Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or Dota 2. With a 2TB hard drive, you’ll have plenty of room for games as well.
Another testament to what choosing a refurbished model can get you, the HP Pavilion 590-p0057c offers modern components ready for gaming at a nice, sub-$500 price. These are specs you couldn’t expect to get for this price without going refurbished. Meanwhile, you still get a limited warranty and can extend the coverage with protection plans.
The model we’ve picked comes configured with some solid components. The CPU experience will be great on this one, with an Intel Core i5-8400. That’s from a recent generation of processors, and the 2.8GHz clock speed is matched with better instructions-per-clock than previous generations for improved speeds. Further amping up the experience is the 16GB of DDR4 memory included. From a non-gaming standpoint, this model would overtake our top pick, especially with the fast 7200RPM hard drive with 1TB of storage.
The reason this model lands as runner-up is because of the AMD Radeon RX550 graphics card. It is a worthy performer for a budget gaming PC, but it falls a hair short of the GTX 1050. Still, if gaming isn’t your sole focus, this PC is a winner.
Grabbing a computer with a solid integrated GPU is another way to dip your toes into gaming without having to spend too much extra. AMD’s Ryzen line of chips offers integrated graphics processors on select models, and the HP Pavilion 590-p0040 has a great version of these chips.
The HP Pavilion 590-p0040 we’ve selected comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G APU with four cores clocked at 3.6GHz with a 3.9GHz boost. The CPU has two threads per core, further improving performance. With 8GB of DDR4 memory included, this desktop should be an excellent performer for everyday computing. The Ryzen 5 2400G includes AMD’s Radeon Vega 11 graphics, which is sufficient for gaming on less intensive video games like Fortnite and Rocket League.
The HP Pavilion 590-p0040 includes a DVD drive for reading and writing along with wireless connectivity (not always a given for desktop computers), ample USB ports (including USB Type-C), and a 3-in-1 media card reader. This version runs Windows 10 and includes a 1TB hard drive.
If you want a gaming desktop PC that can be easily integrated into a media center, you’ll likely want a compact model. These can be tough to find at affordable prices, but CUK has several models that do the job. Our top pick does require a small bit of flexibility in budget, but we believe the upgrade is well worth it, and fluctuating prices could see it fall lower.
Our top pick for compact gaming PCs is the CUK Axiom TS Tiny configured with a Ryzen 5 2400G chip. Its earned this spot because of the integrated GPU. Beyond the Ryzen 5 2400G’s four cores, eight threads, and clock speed of 3.6GHz, it comes with the capable Radeon Vega 11 GPU. Making this package all the better is the inclusion of 8GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 3,000MHz. Ryzen processors have a knack for performing better with high-speed RAM, and this combination delivers great performance.
In addition to the core internals, this model includes a 250GB SSD for fast access to your games and equally fast boot times for the computer. When you want to turn the PC on and jump into a game quickly, that SSD will make a big difference.
If you want the small form factor for a PC that can fit easily into most setups or tuck away beneath a TV, CUK has another option that doesn’t require the extra budget flexibility. The Axiom TS Tiny can be configured with a Ryzen 3 2200G chip that has Radeon Vega 8 graphics built in. While the performance will be lower than a Ryzen 5 pairing with Vega 11 graphics, it’s still enough to do light gaming and jump into some popular eSports titles.
The Ryzen 3 2200G has four cores and a base clock speed of 3.5GHz. Despite the budget price, this model gets 8GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at a high 3000MHz, giving the processor plenty of fast memory to work with. There is also a 250GB SSD included in this configuration.
This desktop PC includes an 802.11ac wireless adapter for Wi-Fi connections. Two USB ports, a mic jack, and a headphone jack on the front of the desktop offer easy access. Meanwhile, the rear offers an Ethernet port for speedy internet connections and four USB 3.1 ports for easily expandable storage with external hard drives.
While going for a desktop is usually the best way to get the most performance for your money, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a sub-$500 laptop that’s ready to get into gaming. And, compared to desktops, laptops don’t require the added expense of a monitor or keyboard.
Our top pick for gaming laptops under $500 is the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 configured with an AMD Ryzen 5 2500U chip. That comes with four cores running 2.0GHz with a boost up to 3.6GHz. Each core supports two threads, helping further improve the performance of the CPU. A 1TB hard drive provides plenty of room for storing games.
Powering the gaming experience on this laptop is the integrated Radeon Vega 8 GPU. This graphics processor should be able to handle games like Fortnite or CS:GO when played at 720p. The laptop includes a Full HD touchscreen, which may be too high a resolution for smooth gaming, but will provide good clarity for everything else you do on the laptop.
If you want gaming as an option but it’s not your top priority, the Asus VivoBook F510UA puts up an incredibly solid offering with integrated graphics that can handle some light gaming.
The overall package is really great for the price. You’re getting a thin and portable laptop that measures just 0.8 inches thick with super slim bezels around the 15.6-inch, Full HD display. It also only weighs 3.7 pounds, which bodes well for its portability. There’s still a nice bit of power in there, too, with a modern Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. A 1TB hard drive also offers plenty of room for the Windows 10 operating system, files, movies, music, and a video game library.
The integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics processor has enough power for gaming, but it’s not up to the task of Full HD gaming at high settings or the latest blockbuster titles. It's enough to handle games like Fortnite and Rocket League at 720p. And, with fast wireless connectivity, it can make for a viable streaming platform.