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The Best Competitive Gaming PC Builds for 2020 Under $500

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Best Budget Builds Under $500

Due to Covid-19, people are buying their own gaming PCs. While consoles can provide you with the same entertainment, a PC is more flexible because it can be used in more ways than one.

That being said, because of the said pandemic, you want to make sure that you are going to get the most bang for the buck PC and I’m sure that you don’t want to spend a fortune when getting one.

Fortunately, I happen to know a lot of PC parts so today, I am going to recommend the best gaming PC builds under $500 in 2020.

What Constitutes a Gaming PC?

Well, a gaming PC is actually built just like any other PC, albeit its parts are geared towards gaming more than anything else.

Of course, the main parts of the PC will include the motherboard, the CPU, the GPU, RAM, storage device, power supply, and case.

Since you are on a tight budget, I will recommend the best builds under $500 so that you can game while you are inside the house because of Covid-19.

Do keep in mind that with an ultra-budget gaming PC, you will not be able to max out your favorite game’s settings.

Still, these are pretty respectable gaming machines that will perform better than most game consoles out there today. Just keep your expectations a bit lower than when you are buying a $1000 gaming rig.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s go with the first recommendation.

The Best $500 Build

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF
  • GPU: MSI Geforce GTX 1650 Super Ventus XS OC
  • Motherboard: Asrock B450M Pro4
  • RAM: GeIL EVO Potenza 16GB, DDR4-3000
  • SSD: Crucial BX500 240GB
  • PSU: EVGA 450 BR 80 Plus Bronze
  • Case- Thermaltake Core V21
Best Budget Build 1

For this PC build, I went with the AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF. I know that Intel is still the king when it comes to gaming CPUs, but for what it’s worth and especially for its amazingly low price, the 1600AF is the best gaming CPU for budget-conscious gamer.

The GPU is a respectable GTX 1650 Super from MSI. This is their version of the Nvidia GTX 1650 Super and it performs admirably well. Even in graphics-intensive games, it runs cool and definitely pumps up the frames.

With the motherboard, most budget-friendly mobos have an m-ATX form factor. Honestly, this is better because its smaller size will allow you to fit it in a small case (thus, saving you money and storage space).

The Asrock B450M Pro4 has a lot of ports, has an overall black and gray aesthetic and it does a pretty good job of powering the CPU.

Since AMD CPUs work really well with fast RAM, I went with the GeIL EVO Potenza which is a 2x8GB RAM kit clocked at 3000Mhz. Just make sure to enable A-XMP or D.O.C.P profile in the BIOS to unlock its full potential.

For storage, you have a couple of options. I went with the Crucial BX500 240 GB SSD which will act as your main drive for your operating system and some games. If you have an extra $40 to spend, you can also add 1TB HDD for even more games in your portfolio.

The power supply of any PC is always an important consideration because it will be the one that will supply the much-needed energy that is required for your system to run. Getting a low-quality PSU can potentially damage the components, so you’d want to spend money on it to make your system last for a long time.

That being said, I recommend EVGA 450 BR power supply which is 80 Plus Bronze certified. It is power efficient and 450 watts of power is more than enough for this build (you can also choose to upgrade to better components in the future).

When it comes to cases, it is quite subjective. That is because you will have to look at the aesthetics, as well as the form factor of the chassis for you to decide.

If you want my recommendation, I would go with the Thermaltake Core V21. It is an m-ATX case that looks like a cube. It is compact which makes it easier for you to tuck into a small space while you play your favorite games in the living room, for example.

All in all, this build should cost you anywhere between $480-$530 depending on your retailer and additional costs (like shipping).

Best Budget Build #2: A Much Better Gaming Build

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
  • GPU: MSI Geforce GTX 1650 Super Ventus XS OC
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte B450M
  • RAM: HyperX Fury 16GB DDR4-3200
  • SSD: Inland Premium 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD
  • PSU: PowerSpec 550W 80 Plus Bronze
  • Case- Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L
Best Budget Build 2

If your main intention of buying an inexpensive build is just to play games, then the first recommendation would suffice. It should be able to play the best games out there, albeit at low to medium settings at 60fps.

Anyway, if you still have money to spare, you can go with this other recommendation with slightly better performance. The reason for the performance uplift is thanks to a much better CPU which is the AMD Ryzen 5 2600.

The Ryzen 5 2600 is the second generation “Zen+” CPU from AMD. It is a 6-core, 12-thread part that has a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.9GHz.

Although the previously-mentioned AMD Ryzen 1600 AF part is still a “Zen+” architecture CPU, the performance of the 2600 is slightly better than that.

The GPU is still the same as the previous build simply because it is the cheapest 1650 Super on the market that outperforms even the more expensive options in its class.

For the motherboard, I recommend Gigabyte B450M. Actually, you can still use the motherboard from the previous recommendation, but if you want another option that is also bang-for-the-buck, Gigabyte’s offering will also not disappoint.

Another reason why this build is faster is thanks to the 3200MHz, 2×8 RAM kit from Kingston HyperX. This brand is known for its quality RAM sticks for gamers on a tight budget.

As previously mentioned, AMD works better with faster RAM, and with the additional 200MHz from the previous recommendation, it will be noticeable in some games.

As for storage, you get an NVMe SSD from Inland Premium. For those of you who do not know, an NVMe SSD is much faster than a SATA SSD by up to 4-5x. That means that your operating system, as well as some games, should load up much faster than a regular SATA solid-state drive.

For the power supply, I went with the PowerSpec 550W 80 Plus Bronze PSU. The EVGA power supply in the build above will still work, but this one can provide up to 550 watts of power so that there is a lot of room for upgrades down the line.

Lastly, I choose Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L case. It still supports Gigabyte’s m-ATX motherboard but this case is slightly bigger than the Thermaltake case above.

That is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is a bad thing if you want to just tuck the PC build in a tight space, but it is a good thing because of better airflow and better GPU support, among many others.

This build usually goes for $499, especially since some of them often go on sale. However, with miscellaneous costs, expect to pay up to $550 for the entire build.

Best Budget Build #3: A Working Alternative

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF

GPU: XFX Radeon RX 570

Motherboard: Asrock B450M Pro4

RAM: Patriot Viper Blackout 8GB DDR-4000

SSD: PNY CS900 500GB

PSU: Seasonic S12III 500W Bronze

Case: CoolerMaster MasterBox Q300L TUF Gaming Edition

Best Budget Build 3

If you are absolutely low on money and you want a respectable gaming build under $499, then this build will definitely work for you.

The Ryzen 1600 AF comes back on this build simply because it is the most bang for the buck processor that is under $100. It performs really well in games and it is also no slouch either when performing other tasks.

With the GPU, I went with the cheaper XFX Radeon RX 570 graphics card. I know, this GPU is old by a couple of years but believe it or not, it still works really well in today’s games.

Probably, the only thing that may deter others from using this GPU is that it’s an AMD card, which means that you will have to download a different GPU driver for it to work. Other than that, this is a great budget-friendly graphics card for sure.

With the motherboard, I recommend the previously-mentioned Asrock B450M Pro 4. While the Gigabyte motherboard is good, this is great for people that want to use an RGB header for that extra bling.

For the RAM, I went with the Patriot Viper Blackout 8GB RAM kit. I know, 8GB might not be enough in today’s games, but it should still work if all you fire up is your favorite game and nothing else is running in the background.

With a respectable 3000MHz speed, it should be more than enough when it comes to playing your favorite games.

That being said, if you have an additional $30 to spend, you can go with a G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB RAM kit that is priced at $69.99. But again, if your main intention is just to play games, the 8GB Patriot Viper RAM will suffice.

I also understand that a 256GB alone will not suffice, so I went with a beefier 500GB SSD for this build. Even though this is just a SATA SSD, it should be much better than a regular HDD because your games and the operating system will load significantly faster.

The power supply is Seasonic S12III which is a 500-watt PSU that is overkill for this build. But, I still included it to allow you to upgrade to better components in the future.

My only gripe with the said PSU is that it has a non-modular design which means that all of its supported cables are attached to the unit itself. Cable management will be a pain, though for its low price, I think that is a good compromise.

Lastly, for the case, I went with the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L still but this time, it is the TUF edition. It has slightly better aesthetics, but if you want to save money, the original version is still really good.

All in all, this build should cost you anywhere between $450-$480. You can even save more if the parts go on sale, so for the truly budget-conscious, this is the build to get.

Upgrade Path

Best Budget Gaming Build

The builds that I’ve mentioned to you can all have better components in the future. That is why I went with power supplies that can support a better CPU or GPU or both.

If you are going to upgrade, I suggest that you try and upgrade either the SSD or the graphics card first. That is because those two components have the biggest impact when you are playing games.

The next thing that you’d want to upgrade is the CPU. The reason why I went with AMD CPUs is that if you are going to go with a better one, the motherboard you’re using will still support it.

Naturally, the said motherboards should support the Zen+ architecture right out of the box, but if you are going to upgrade to, say, a Ryzen 5 3600, all you have to do is download the latest BIOS for your motherboard to support the latest generation CPU.

Ryzen PCs work better with faster memory, so after upgrading the GPU or SSD, you can either go with a better CPU or better RAM. Ideally, you want to buy at least DDR4-3200 or DDR4-3600, though the latter is much pricier.

You need not worry about the power supply because a budget build will never go over 550 watts. Even if you upgrade the GPU, graphics cards are even more efficient now and 550 watts of power is more than enough to power the entire system.

For the case, it is subjective. Even if all of the motherboards mentioned in this article are all m-ATX ones, buying a chassis intended for ATX motherboards would still make sense if you are to upgrade to a better one in the future.

Of course, with so many case sizes and styles out there, I would say that choosing the PC case is entirely up to you, so long as it supports the motherboard you want to use and has considerable clearance for the GPU you intend to buy.

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Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service

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Amazon Luna

It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.

Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.

Channel-based Platform

Amazon Luna Platform

Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.

Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.

Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.

It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).

That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).

With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.

Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.

Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.

1080p and 4K Gaming

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.

Cross-Platform Support

Amazon Luna Cross-Platform

Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.

Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.

You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.

NVIDIA Hardware Use

According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.

That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).

Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.

Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites

Amazon Luna Controller

Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.

The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.

This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.

New Controller with Alexa Support

Amazon Luna Controller 2

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.

What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.

According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.

Conclusion

Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.

Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99

If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.

Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review

Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.

Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.

Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively. 

Design

Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.

The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.

Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.

It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.

I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.

The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.

For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.

The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.

Display

Acer Nitro XV340CK Review 2020

The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.

You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.

Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.

However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.

It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.

I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.

Performance

Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.

Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.

How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.

It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.

This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.

Acer Nitro XV340CK

Verdict

With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.

The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.

Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.

Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review

As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.

In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.

Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.

Design

The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.

I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.

Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.

There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.

This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup. 

While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.

All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.

The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.

Audio Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review 2020

There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.

Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.

That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.

I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.

Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.

As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.

Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.

Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.

Microphone Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S

There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.

Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.

The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.

Verdict

For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.

I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.

I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.

Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.

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The Best Competitive Gaming PC Builds for 2020 Under $500

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Best Budget Builds Under $500

Due to Covid-19, people are buying their own gaming PCs. While consoles can provide you with the same entertainment, a PC is more flexible because it can be used in more ways than one.

That being said, because of the said pandemic, you want to make sure that you are going to get the most bang for the buck PC and I’m sure that you don’t want to spend a fortune when getting one.

Fortunately, I happen to know a lot of PC parts so today, I am going to recommend the best gaming PC builds under $500 in 2020.

What Constitutes a Gaming PC?

Well, a gaming PC is actually built just like any other PC, albeit its parts are geared towards gaming more than anything else.

Of course, the main parts of the PC will include the motherboard, the CPU, the GPU, RAM, storage device, power supply, and case.

Since you are on a tight budget, I will recommend the best builds under $500 so that you can game while you are inside the house because of Covid-19.

Do keep in mind that with an ultra-budget gaming PC, you will not be able to max out your favorite game’s settings.

Still, these are pretty respectable gaming machines that will perform better than most game consoles out there today. Just keep your expectations a bit lower than when you are buying a $1000 gaming rig.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s go with the first recommendation.

The Best $500 Build

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF
  • GPU: MSI Geforce GTX 1650 Super Ventus XS OC
  • Motherboard: Asrock B450M Pro4
  • RAM: GeIL EVO Potenza 16GB, DDR4-3000
  • SSD: Crucial BX500 240GB
  • PSU: EVGA 450 BR 80 Plus Bronze
  • Case- Thermaltake Core V21
Best Budget Build 1

For this PC build, I went with the AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF. I know that Intel is still the king when it comes to gaming CPUs, but for what it’s worth and especially for its amazingly low price, the 1600AF is the best gaming CPU for budget-conscious gamer.

The GPU is a respectable GTX 1650 Super from MSI. This is their version of the Nvidia GTX 1650 Super and it performs admirably well. Even in graphics-intensive games, it runs cool and definitely pumps up the frames.

With the motherboard, most budget-friendly mobos have an m-ATX form factor. Honestly, this is better because its smaller size will allow you to fit it in a small case (thus, saving you money and storage space).

The Asrock B450M Pro4 has a lot of ports, has an overall black and gray aesthetic and it does a pretty good job of powering the CPU.

Since AMD CPUs work really well with fast RAM, I went with the GeIL EVO Potenza which is a 2x8GB RAM kit clocked at 3000Mhz. Just make sure to enable A-XMP or D.O.C.P profile in the BIOS to unlock its full potential.

For storage, you have a couple of options. I went with the Crucial BX500 240 GB SSD which will act as your main drive for your operating system and some games. If you have an extra $40 to spend, you can also add 1TB HDD for even more games in your portfolio.

The power supply of any PC is always an important consideration because it will be the one that will supply the much-needed energy that is required for your system to run. Getting a low-quality PSU can potentially damage the components, so you’d want to spend money on it to make your system last for a long time.

That being said, I recommend EVGA 450 BR power supply which is 80 Plus Bronze certified. It is power efficient and 450 watts of power is more than enough for this build (you can also choose to upgrade to better components in the future).

When it comes to cases, it is quite subjective. That is because you will have to look at the aesthetics, as well as the form factor of the chassis for you to decide.

If you want my recommendation, I would go with the Thermaltake Core V21. It is an m-ATX case that looks like a cube. It is compact which makes it easier for you to tuck into a small space while you play your favorite games in the living room, for example.

All in all, this build should cost you anywhere between $480-$530 depending on your retailer and additional costs (like shipping).

Best Budget Build #2: A Much Better Gaming Build

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
  • GPU: MSI Geforce GTX 1650 Super Ventus XS OC
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte B450M
  • RAM: HyperX Fury 16GB DDR4-3200
  • SSD: Inland Premium 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD
  • PSU: PowerSpec 550W 80 Plus Bronze
  • Case- Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L
Best Budget Build 2

If your main intention of buying an inexpensive build is just to play games, then the first recommendation would suffice. It should be able to play the best games out there, albeit at low to medium settings at 60fps.

Anyway, if you still have money to spare, you can go with this other recommendation with slightly better performance. The reason for the performance uplift is thanks to a much better CPU which is the AMD Ryzen 5 2600.

The Ryzen 5 2600 is the second generation “Zen+” CPU from AMD. It is a 6-core, 12-thread part that has a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.9GHz.

Although the previously-mentioned AMD Ryzen 1600 AF part is still a “Zen+” architecture CPU, the performance of the 2600 is slightly better than that.

The GPU is still the same as the previous build simply because it is the cheapest 1650 Super on the market that outperforms even the more expensive options in its class.

For the motherboard, I recommend Gigabyte B450M. Actually, you can still use the motherboard from the previous recommendation, but if you want another option that is also bang-for-the-buck, Gigabyte’s offering will also not disappoint.

Another reason why this build is faster is thanks to the 3200MHz, 2×8 RAM kit from Kingston HyperX. This brand is known for its quality RAM sticks for gamers on a tight budget.

As previously mentioned, AMD works better with faster RAM, and with the additional 200MHz from the previous recommendation, it will be noticeable in some games.

As for storage, you get an NVMe SSD from Inland Premium. For those of you who do not know, an NVMe SSD is much faster than a SATA SSD by up to 4-5x. That means that your operating system, as well as some games, should load up much faster than a regular SATA solid-state drive.

For the power supply, I went with the PowerSpec 550W 80 Plus Bronze PSU. The EVGA power supply in the build above will still work, but this one can provide up to 550 watts of power so that there is a lot of room for upgrades down the line.

Lastly, I choose Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L case. It still supports Gigabyte’s m-ATX motherboard but this case is slightly bigger than the Thermaltake case above.

That is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is a bad thing if you want to just tuck the PC build in a tight space, but it is a good thing because of better airflow and better GPU support, among many others.

This build usually goes for $499, especially since some of them often go on sale. However, with miscellaneous costs, expect to pay up to $550 for the entire build.

Best Budget Build #3: A Working Alternative

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF

GPU: XFX Radeon RX 570

Motherboard: Asrock B450M Pro4

RAM: Patriot Viper Blackout 8GB DDR-4000

SSD: PNY CS900 500GB

PSU: Seasonic S12III 500W Bronze

Case: CoolerMaster MasterBox Q300L TUF Gaming Edition

Best Budget Build 3

If you are absolutely low on money and you want a respectable gaming build under $499, then this build will definitely work for you.

The Ryzen 1600 AF comes back on this build simply because it is the most bang for the buck processor that is under $100. It performs really well in games and it is also no slouch either when performing other tasks.

With the GPU, I went with the cheaper XFX Radeon RX 570 graphics card. I know, this GPU is old by a couple of years but believe it or not, it still works really well in today’s games.

Probably, the only thing that may deter others from using this GPU is that it’s an AMD card, which means that you will have to download a different GPU driver for it to work. Other than that, this is a great budget-friendly graphics card for sure.

With the motherboard, I recommend the previously-mentioned Asrock B450M Pro 4. While the Gigabyte motherboard is good, this is great for people that want to use an RGB header for that extra bling.

For the RAM, I went with the Patriot Viper Blackout 8GB RAM kit. I know, 8GB might not be enough in today’s games, but it should still work if all you fire up is your favorite game and nothing else is running in the background.

With a respectable 3000MHz speed, it should be more than enough when it comes to playing your favorite games.

That being said, if you have an additional $30 to spend, you can go with a G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB RAM kit that is priced at $69.99. But again, if your main intention is just to play games, the 8GB Patriot Viper RAM will suffice.

I also understand that a 256GB alone will not suffice, so I went with a beefier 500GB SSD for this build. Even though this is just a SATA SSD, it should be much better than a regular HDD because your games and the operating system will load significantly faster.

The power supply is Seasonic S12III which is a 500-watt PSU that is overkill for this build. But, I still included it to allow you to upgrade to better components in the future.

My only gripe with the said PSU is that it has a non-modular design which means that all of its supported cables are attached to the unit itself. Cable management will be a pain, though for its low price, I think that is a good compromise.

Lastly, for the case, I went with the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L still but this time, it is the TUF edition. It has slightly better aesthetics, but if you want to save money, the original version is still really good.

All in all, this build should cost you anywhere between $450-$480. You can even save more if the parts go on sale, so for the truly budget-conscious, this is the build to get.

Upgrade Path

Best Budget Gaming Build

The builds that I’ve mentioned to you can all have better components in the future. That is why I went with power supplies that can support a better CPU or GPU or both.

If you are going to upgrade, I suggest that you try and upgrade either the SSD or the graphics card first. That is because those two components have the biggest impact when you are playing games.

The next thing that you’d want to upgrade is the CPU. The reason why I went with AMD CPUs is that if you are going to go with a better one, the motherboard you’re using will still support it.

Naturally, the said motherboards should support the Zen+ architecture right out of the box, but if you are going to upgrade to, say, a Ryzen 5 3600, all you have to do is download the latest BIOS for your motherboard to support the latest generation CPU.

Ryzen PCs work better with faster memory, so after upgrading the GPU or SSD, you can either go with a better CPU or better RAM. Ideally, you want to buy at least DDR4-3200 or DDR4-3600, though the latter is much pricier.

You need not worry about the power supply because a budget build will never go over 550 watts. Even if you upgrade the GPU, graphics cards are even more efficient now and 550 watts of power is more than enough to power the entire system.

For the case, it is subjective. Even if all of the motherboards mentioned in this article are all m-ATX ones, buying a chassis intended for ATX motherboards would still make sense if you are to upgrade to a better one in the future.

Of course, with so many case sizes and styles out there, I would say that choosing the PC case is entirely up to you, so long as it supports the motherboard you want to use and has considerable clearance for the GPU you intend to buy.

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Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service

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Amazon Luna

It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.

Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.

Channel-based Platform

Amazon Luna Platform

Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.

Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.

Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.

It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).

That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).

With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.

Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.

Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.

1080p and 4K Gaming

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.

Cross-Platform Support

Amazon Luna Cross-Platform

Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.

Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.

You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.

NVIDIA Hardware Use

According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.

That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).

Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.

Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites

Amazon Luna Controller

Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.

The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.

This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.

New Controller with Alexa Support

Amazon Luna Controller 2

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.

What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.

According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.

Conclusion

Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.

Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99

If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.

Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review

Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.

Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.

Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively. 

Design

Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.

The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.

Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.

It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.

I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.

The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.

For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.

The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.

Display

Acer Nitro XV340CK Review 2020

The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.

You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.

Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.

However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.

It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.

I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.

Performance

Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.

Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.

How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.

It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.

This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.

Acer Nitro XV340CK

Verdict

With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.

The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.

Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.

Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review

As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.

In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.

Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.

Design

The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.

I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.

Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.

There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.

This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup. 

While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.

All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.

The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.

Audio Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review 2020

There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.

Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.

That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.

I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.

Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.

As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.

Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.

Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.

Microphone Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S

There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.

Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.

The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.

Verdict

For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.

I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.

I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.

Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.

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