The closing months of the year bring with them a superfluity unachievable anywhere other than the Internet. You can get buckets of games for $5, hop on Steam and grab the latest indie bundle or Valve bundle, but in the end - some gamers are still stuck on old, dusty machines that are spinning their last fan-cycle of life at this very moment.
Continuing our wildly popular Budget Gaming Rig feature, we've taken advantage of a few of the Newegg sales to put this beauty together. Its prime focus is to satisfy the graphics-hungry gamer, but options for gamers that double as video editors or Photoshop artists are at the end of the article (opting for more CPU power in sacrifice of GPU power). Let's get started!
|Budget Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||XFX RADEON 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5||$160||-$30
|CPU||AMD Athlon II X2 Regor 3.1GHz Dual-Core||$63||Free Shipping||$63|
|Memory||G.SKILL 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600||$55||Free Shipping
|Motherboard||ASRock AM3 AMD 770 ATX Board||$60||-||$60|
|Power Supply||Rosewill 600W ATX PSU||$80||-$20||$60|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache||$50||Free Shipping||$50|
|Optical Drive||ASUS DVD Burner||$20||-||$20|
|Case||NZXT M59 ATX Mid-Tower||$70||-$10||$60|
This is the best card we've had in our employ throughout the duration of the custom PC build feature! AMD/ATi's 5770, assembled by XFX in this case, has one of the fastest core clocks out of the low-end cards - matching its 1GB memory size. The memory interface is only 128-bit, but without splurging on ridiculously power-hungry cards or setting a higher budget, that is expected and acceptable. The card is Dx 11 compatible, so Windows 7 will be used to its fullest potential. Equipped with two DVI-standard ports and one HDMI port, you'll be able to multi-monitor (or even plug an HDMI camcorder in) if it so pleases his Majesty! We picked this card over a similar MSi card because of XFX's finless fan design, drafted to attract minimal dust, thus decreasing the chances of dust-related death for your card. Your bearings will live a happy, healthy life. If you're going to be working with Photoshop's 3D tool, there is an alternative build at the bottom for you.
Every budget PC build has to make cuts somewhere, and while adding an extra $40 will make a quad-core obtainable, our budget didn't allow it. If you're doing processor-heavy computations (video rendering, for example), we have an alternative build for you below. Otherwise, this 3.1GHz dual core will cover any gaming needs you have. It's outfitted with fairly standard 2 x 1MB L2 cache, but the speed per core outdoes any other low-end competition. With two cores at full power, most games should run at their full capacity - even with fourteen tabs, youtube videos, and StarCraft replays in the background. The AMD CPUs, just like their ATi counterparts, are currently the best price-to-performance ratio for gamers (although this swaps back and forth to nVidia and Intel every few years).
Despite G.Skill's extremely corny description of their products ("Pwn the competition and frag your enemies with fast DDR3 1600 SDRAM"), they're a rising star in the RAM industry. The company has been drawing attention from our PC build crew for the last few months - often for their heatsinks and price-points unavailable elsewhere - but that's not the only reason: 4GB of DDR3 1600 (or PC3 12800) will handle any current games with some memory to spare; the board we picked comes with four memory slots, so that makes upgrading to 8GB at a later time possible (just make sure you have a 64-bit OS if you plan to do that). At this price, the Cas Latency timings are relatively invariable, and G.Skill is no different - 9-9-9-24 timings and 1.5V won't win you any overclocking contests, but it'll do just fine for our budget builder's purposes.
ASRock's low-end boards have become a plague on Newegg (unintentional, I promise), and the group has grown in reliability since we first started using them in our builds. A $59.99 board is always a gamble, but the research that went into picking this one is naught to laugh at; the board has 2x PCI-E slots (1x16 mode, 1x4 mode), carrying our theme of upgrading at a future date (although fitting two 5770's in there may prove impossible). 8x audio channels isn't special, but the extra 2x eSATA II/USB combo connectors gives an extra push of USB-ness if it is ever needed. The board also has 3x PCI slots and 1 PCI-E x1 mode slot, giving room for additional USB cards or K1LLER NIC's if they are laying around. ASRock's board supports up to 16GB of dual channel memory, has 4x SATA 3Gb/s connectors, and bears basic RAID functionality. The rear ports include 4x USB 2.0, 2x PS/2, the eSATA connectors mentioned above, 1x Optical, 1x Coaxial, and 6x audio ports. There is support for a total of six onboard USB slots.
We searched hard for an efficient, reliable power supply for this build. There's no point in cutting corners on your PSU, that is, unless you like the ruthless murder of components connected to it (which can be summarized as everything). Rosewill's PSU is currently marked down $20, making it a relatively affordable $60 for 600W at a borderline 72% efficiency, entirely acceptable at our budget. There are 2x 12v rails and 2x PCI-E connectors, the rest of the outputs and connectors are standard, although it does come with a silent 120mm (blue LED) fan.
I can't count the number of times we've used Western Digital's caviar series for budget (and high-end) builds. This particular drive has raked in more than 2500 reviews on Newegg, and still performs solidly for gaming (7200 RPM, 500GB, 16MB cache). If you're feeling rich, you could probably, depending on sales, snag a 32MB cache drive for ten bucks more, but the Caviar Blue WD500 comfortably sits at $50 (and with free shipping!). I like this drive almost as much as I like parenthetical notation...
What spins discs, makes a whirring noise, and is rapidly approaching obsolescence? Optical drives! We don't like them, but until optical media is completely phased out, we're stuck with 'em. ASUS is the best name in hardware right now - they ranked number as the first most reliable brand of last year, noting only 7% failure of hardware within two years. This optical drive is fairly standard though, and brand likely won't make much of a difference. $20 gets you:
Speeds: 24X DVD+R, 24X DVD-R, 48X CD-R, 16X DVD-ROM, 48X CD-ROM, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW.
DVD+R media is favored on this drive, not that there's a huge difference (or concern, these days).
After much deliberation, NZXT's M59 case was the best sale opportunity. The case has a jagged exterior, and while the artistic enjoyment of such a design is debatable, the engineering of the interior is not. This case was picked almost exclusively for its fast-swap bays, which face the user (instead of the motherboard), making it easy to add or remove hard drives in the future. The case was designed with larger cards in mind, and will fit most modern video cards comfortably. As has been noted before, these gaming rigs have a tendency to run hot - so the case has a total possibility of 5x 120mm fans, but comes equipped with 2x 120mm fans (exhaust and side included). It is recommended that you order another 120mm fan for this case, although not completely necessary. The front panel has USB, 3.5mm audio jacks, and e-SATA functionality (and e-SATA can double as USB, for those unaware). Sticking to the new trend in cases, the PSU mounts on the bottom of the case, making for better cable management. There are seven internal drive bays, so expansion - as if it were a concern on budget builds to begin with - is not an issue.
This rig will run just about any game you throw at it for the next few years, and is definitely a worthwhile buy for anyone on a budget. However, video editors and 3D manipulators via Photoshop should be warned - you might want more CPU cores (for video) and definitely need an nVidia video card for 3D manipulation via Photoshop. Video editors should purchase this AMD Athlon II X4 CPU (2.9GHz Quad-Core, $100) to render more swiftly, while 3D manipulators might want this nVidia EVGA GTX 465 (1GB 256-bit GDDR5, $160).
Note: This is an upgrade kit. It is assumed that the purchaser has an OS, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and audio output.
Hurry up and grab those deals before they disappear!
~Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke and Stewart Brooks.