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AMD vs. Intel: Which PC Build is Better for Under $500

Intel/Nvidia Build: Pentium Gold G5400 & Nvidia GTX 1050

Our Intel/Nvidia build pairs a dual-core (four-thread) Pentium Gold G5400 chip with a Gigabyte GTX 1050 card. It’s a capable pairing that should beat the AMD build in raw frame rates. But those two parts alone add up to about $210, compared to AMD’s $160 CPU/GPU combo. Because of our hard $500 price limit, that forced us to go with a more cramped 256GB SSD for this build.

As was immediately clear when we started testing and ran out of room after installing just a couple titles, a 256GB drive is far from ideal for a gaming rig in a world where AAA games inch up to (and above) 100GB. We would definitely recommend adding more storage if and when possible. If your budget won’t allow you to do that during the initial build process, the good news is that 500GB SSDs can be found for around $80 and up, and this system has room and connectors for five more SATA drives, plus an M.2 SSD.

Intel Pentium Gold G5400 ($59.99)

Intel’s sub-$70 Pentium G5400 is a dual-core, four-thread Intel 8th Generation CPU that, until recently, didn’t really have any current competition from AMD. It doesn’t have the gaming-ready graphics of the much pricier Ryzen 2400G, nor as many computing threads. But paired with a capable graphics card (the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 in this case) it makes for a fine budget gaming chip. And with a locked 3.7GHz clock speed, it’s not exactly a slouch in the productivity department, either.

Intel Pentium Gold G5400View Deal

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 OC 2G ($139.99)

Nvidia’s sub-$150 graphics card may now be a couple of years old, but there’s no indication as of this writing that we’ll see a 2000-series replacement from Nvidia or a new similarly performing part from AMD anytime soon.

We knew going in that this dedicated card was going to easily beat the AMD Raven Ridge APU in gaming, but it’s also more expensive when paired with the Pentium CPU. This forced us to make sacrifices to this build elsewhere, which we’ll touch on shortly. But in short, if you’re going to build a system around this card (or anything else in this price range), you should probably budget a bit more than $500 for your build.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 OC 2GB GDDR5View Deal

MSI B360M GAMING PLUS ($79.99)

This $80 board from MSI won’t let you overclock, but that’s not an option with our clock-locked Pentium chip, anyway. The motherboard does bring some edgy gamer aesthetics, an NVMe-capable M.2 slot for a fast future boot drive upgrade, and a USB-C port. There’s no USB 3.1 Gen 2 support here, but you do get a header for LED light strips, which can be controlled via MSI’s Mystic Light software. Adding lights would push this build over budget, but the board does have a trail of RGB light running around the audio circuitry area on one of its bottom corners.

MSI B360M Gaming PlusView Deal

G.Skill F4-2400C17D-8GNT ($74.99)

Super-fast RAM is a no-go with Intel’s B360 chipset, and would push us over our build budget anyway. So we opted for G.Skill’s budget 8GB kit in part because it’s fairly cheap, and the grey PCB matches our build better than basic green. As with the AMD build, we’d love to step up to 16GB for future proofing and better productivity/multitasking performance. But RAM is just too expensive to make that a reality in a build that’s this budget constrained.

G.Skill F4-2400C17D-8GNTView Deal

Gigabyte UD Pro 2.5-inch 256GB SATA SSD ($54.99)

The cost of other components forced us to step down to a less-roomy SSD here. But we just weren’t willing to opt for a slower, roomier hard drive. Instead we went with a 256GB Gigabyte drive, mostly because of its affordable price--and we were a bit curious about Gigabyte’s entry into solid-state storage.

The drive performs well enough, but as soon as we started games (or a game) it immediately became clear that 256GB really is too cramped for a gaming/boot drive these days. One of our test titles, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, is about 126GB all on its own with the DLC. And plenty of other popular titles take up lots of space, too. The good news: You can step up to a 512GB Gigabyte SSD for $89.99.

And we definitely think you should opt for at least a 500GB or larger SSD for gaming. But doing that here would push us more than $30 over our $500 budget. So we made do with our 256GB drive. If you do the same, you’ll likely run into situations where you’ll only be able to have a single game installed at a time (with little room for other non-gaming programs, too). But as we noted up top, the MSI motherboard we chose has room for six more drives (five SATA and one PCIe M.2), though. So it’s easy enough to add lots of storage down the line once you’ve saved up some money for an upgrade.

GIGABYTE UD Pro (256GB)View Deal

Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1 ($39.99)

Another stylish budget case from Cooler Master, the MasterBox Lite features an acrylic side panel to show off your parts, a tinted translucent front for LED fans (not included), and swappable front trim that comes in three colors. We went with the white for our build, but red and black plastic grille covers are also included in the box. The MasterBox Lite 3.1 may not look as visually striking as the Master MasterBox Q300L that we used in our AMD build. But that case’s entire front and top are covered in magnetic dust filters that tend to slide around whenever you move or nudge the case. That’s not an issue with the MasterBox Lite 3.1. Since both cases cost the same $40, you’re of course free to opt for whichever one you like--or something else that catches your case fancy.

Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1View Deal

Corsair CX-M Series CX450 ($49.99)

Corsair’s 450-watt CX-M PSU, the same model we used in the AMD-based build, gives us more than enough wattage to work with, and its semi-modular nature means we don’t have to hide a massive group of unneeded cables behind the motherboard. It was a bit expensive when we bought it, but it often goes on sale, and is sometimes accompanied by rebates that can take the final price down even more.

Corsair CX450View Deal

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