Nothing quite matches up to the feeling grafted from tearing (already damaged) shipping boxes to shreds; the gain is multiplied significantly when those boxes house the newest, most affordable computer hardware currently available. If you missed our December budget build, you're in luck: this is the best one yet.
This budget PC gaming rig is what we call an 'upgrade build.' The components list does not account for hardware that most everyone already has (keyboard, mouse, headset, monitors, etc.). However, if you are in need of a new keyboard or mouse, we'd suggest their respective links. There are alternative options listed for some of the components below, just in case you have different tasks in mind.
|Budget Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||XFX RADEON 5830 1GB 256-bit GDDR5||$170||-$30
|CPU||AMD Athlon II X3 3.2GHz||$80||Free Shipping||$80|
|Memory||G.SKILL Ripjaws 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600||$50||Free Shipping, Free USB Key
|Motherboard||ASRock AM3 M3A770DE||$60||-||$60|
|Power Supply||Rosewill 700W ATX PSU||$60||Free Shipping
|Hard Drive||Western Digital 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache||$40||-||$40|
|Optical Drive||ASUS DVD Burner||$20||-||$20|
|Case||Rosewill Blackbone Mid-Tower||$45||-$10, Free Shipping
As amazing as the 5700 series of ATi cards have been, the 5800 series is even more promising. XFX is one of the leading card manufacturers out there, and although the number may sound deceptively low, their 5830 RADEON card has double the memory interface of the comparatively priced 5770. The 5830 contains the now-standard 1GB of GDDR5 memory, clocking at 4.0 Gbps. The 5770 has a faster memory clock, but the 256-bit memory interface (twice that of the 5770) makes up for the speed reduction by increasing the amount of data transferred simultaneously. In short, the memory is 20% slower, but can push 100% more data at once; a fair trade if we've ever seen one. The video card posted in this build is capable of playing any game currently available at max settings. It is Dx11 compatible, so those of you with Win7 will be able to make use of the enhancements.
Alternative: Photoshop 3D modelers/renderers should use nVidia, the Adobe-supported vendor. If that's you, check out the EVGA GeForce GTX 460 (~$160).
AMD still boasts the widest array of low-middle priced processors, and as has become an accidental tradition, we've elected to go with them once again. Unfortunately, the budget-priced AMD quad-core processors are sold-out; however, the delinquent sibling of the quad-core -- yes, the one we affectionately call the 'tri-core' -- is available at reduced price. The CPU we chose operates at 3.2GHz on 3 cores, with 3x128KB L1 cache and 3x512KB L2 cache (a 33% increase from the cheaper dual cores). The processor isn't anything fancy, but it'll absolutely get the job done for many years to come.
It won't be long before a reliable memory brand releases an affordable 6GB memory package in our budget, but we're going to be sticking with the good ol' 2x2GB sticks for now. G.Skill is relatively new to the arena, but their design skill is impressive -- the Ripjaws series selected for this build has some of the coolest and most functional heatsinks we've seen for the price. For $50, you get 4GB of PC3 12800 memory (DDR3 1600). Definitely nothing to scoff at.
Although I prefer less colorful motherboards, there's nothing wrong with ASRock's double-rainbow wannabe. The board uses color-coordination to help new system builders figure out where to put components (build by numbers, if you will), but that's not what's important: the board we selected is cheap, supports all the other components, and has enough PCI-E slots to add more cards later (although, to be fair, the x4 PCI-E slot is not necessarily intended for video cards). The board has 4 SATA 3 ports, has support for RAID 0, 1, and 10, and can fit twice the memory of this build - making for a nice upgrade path. There are 6 on-board USB 2.0 ports, and standard 8-channel on-board audio. It's a perfect vessel for your budget-y goodness.
As we've warned in many previous budget builds, the power supply is definitively one of the last components you want to skimp on. Spending an extra $20 on your PSU could be the difference between a blown board and a healthy PC; the 5830 draws a lot of power, and with the other hardware in mind, we opted for Rosewill's RV2 700W power supply unit. 700W is more than enough to carry this PC through to judgment day, better still, the PSU has a whole slew of extra connectors in case more optical/hard drives are added in the future. The power supply has 1x120mm fan and a dust mesh, and can support the 5830 fully with its 2x6-Pin connectors (one of which is a 6+2 if an alternative card is chosen).
OK, I admit defeat. I've written about this hard drive so many times now that it's starting to drive me mad; in short, here's the situation with my Western Digital love affair: it's 500GB, it has 16MB of cache, works at 7200 RPM, and it fits in the box. Oh, and it's currently $40.
This is the most boring part of any hardware build, but it must be done. In all likeliness, you have at least one CD/DVD burner laying around that can be salvaged -- do it. That cannibalistic action could save an extra $20; if not, this ASUS optical drive will get you up to speed. It can read and write from/to CDs and DVDs at the following speeds:
DVD+R 24x, DVD+RW 8x, DVD-R 24x, DVD-RW 6x, CD-R 48x, CD-RW 32x, DVD+R DL 12x, DVD-R DL 12x, DVD-RAM 12x.
Rosewill's Blackbone case might not be as flashy as last build's NZXT case, but it's definitely affordable and effective. The case has room for at least two extra fans (we'd suggest red LEDs, they go nicely with the RAM), but by default, it ships with 2x120mm fans. This case will fit the video card snugly and still vent out the heat efficiently - just make sure to take care of that cable-management early on in the build process.
As with all our budget builds, this one will run any game thrown at it for the next few years at a minimum; it's not like the old days -- you can easily invest only $500 and walk away with a few years' worth of gaming. I'm working on constructing an $800 build for our very own Martin "CyberGrim" Baker for next week, so if you have the extra money, keep your eyes peeled!
~Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke