2012 Back-to-School Gaming PC Build
|Budget Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||Sapphire HD 6850||$150||-$15, Free Shipping |
Free DiRT 3 Code
|CPU||AMD FX-4100 3.6GHz (COMBO 1)||$110||-$10, Free Shipping||$100|
|Memory||4GB Kingston 1333MHz||$25||Free Shipping||$25|
|Motherboard||ASRock Extreme3 970 (COMBO 1)||$85||-||$105|
|Power Supply||Thermaltake TR2 430W PSU||$40||-||$60|
|Hard Drive||WD 320GB 7200RPM HDD||$65||Free Shipping||$65|
|Optical Drive||Samsung Optical Drive||$15||Free Shipping||$15|
|Case||Antec One Case||$60||Free Shipping||$60|
Optional Add-ons (pick and choose as budget allows)
|Add-on Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Combined Total|
|Operating System ||Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium||$100||Free Shipping||$625|
Once again we look to AMD's HD 6850 for the best performance at this budget, as our price-to-performance chart shows. This GPU is enough to handle most of the games out there at mid-to-high settings, with little to no problems. At only $135, this little video card that could should be great for your gaming needs.
AMD's 6850 has remained the go-to card for budget builds in the sub-$600 range, and until a 7x equivalent that's similarly-powered is available at an equally low price, it'll stay that way (which won't be long, mind you).
We have decided to move on from the now-dated Athlon Tri-Core in these builds and go with AMD's FX-4100, which offers the best performance at this non-flexible budget. It costs a bit more, but it's a great CPU for the price. AMD has found a way to redeem itself a little after the initial problems they had at the release of these Bulldozer chips, and with their 2xbulldozer modules (four threads) and great overclocking capabilities, even with the stock heatsink, it's an easy choice. With that said, if you do plan on extensive overclocking, we do suggest you pick up an aftermarket heat sink to keep the temps down and preserve your cores.
You may be considering the 6100 or 6200 FX-series CPUs if you have some money to spare, but here's the thing with those: The extra two cores won't impact your gaming performance at all. Minimally, at best. If you're rendering videos and encoding things, there may be a performance boost, but not with gaming. The FX-4170, if that's a consideration, is just a pre-overclocked version of the 4100, so keep that in mind as well.
4GB may sound antiquated, but it's still plenty for everyday computing and gaming -- no, you won't be able to keep 97 tabs open across two browsers, but an extra $10-$15 will allow that, uh, functionality. Here we decided to go with the best deal, and we found 4GB of Kingston's HyperX RAM at a very reasonable $25. The RAM is clocked at 1333MHz, the max that the board can natively support, but should be easily overclocked to 1600MHz.
This is the minimum memory I would put in this system, and would recommend that you go with 8GB if you can afford it.
Have an extra $15? Try G.Skill's 8GB variant.
ASRock's rapidly gained respect with us -- as time progresses, we've found that, build-after-build, ASRock and ASUS are neck-and-neck when ranked against each other for most sub-$200 builds. They continue to offer quality motherboards at a reasonable price; the 970 Extreme3 motherboard is one of them, and has a solid chipset (sure, not quite the 990FX, but the difference is unnoticeable at this price-point) and all the SATA connections you should require, in case SSDs are a future option. It also offers USB 3.0 and the ability to CrossFire/SLI. Bundled with the CPU, this is a great deal for the budget gamer.
The heat piping is nice, too. It's a great design with a solid style.
Without calculating power requirements, one of the other common build mistakes we see is beginners purchasing high-powered PSUs for low-powered rigs. Thermaltake's 430W power supply, for only $40, is just enough for this outfit (though you'll want to upgrade to 500W or 550W if you plan on installing more powerful components or aftermarket lighting). This power supply won't have any problems powering the system as it stands now, though, and the user-reported DOA rate is an acceptable 6%. This should be perfect for the budget gamer.
Hard drive prices have remained high, despite manufacturing starting to return to normal (a mix of price-fixing and residual flood effects, no doubt). With the higher hard drive prices, the solid state drives have become far more competitive and we've begun recommending them in nearly every build we post; since this is an ultra-cheap build, we can't quite weasel in an SSD, but we did manage to fit a Western Digital 7200rpm 320GB hard drive for only $65 (granted, 500GB at that price was expected pre-flood).
It should be adequate at storing your data, however we do recommend that you recycle a hard drive from an older build if you'd like to cut some corners and save more money. If you have another SATA hard drive at home that can be used, it might be wise to pick up a solid state drive instead of this hard drive, then use the SSD for your OS and a few games. Not sure if you need an SSD? Here's why we think you do.
There is absolutely no science to picking this part out. Provided it's SATA and has reasonable speeds (22x or higher), I select the lowest-priced, most reliable drive and go with it. This technology is getting stale anyways, making disks spin is simply - comparatively, anyway - not a very complicated thing. This $15 Samsung optical drive should spin some disks. Use promo code EMCNBNC39 for free shipping.
This, on the other hand, is a component that I take more time in selecting (and there is a bit of a science to it), since it is the primary object you'll be spending hours looking at. We try and select the best gaming case at the price, provided a certain level of style requirements and functional requirements. A good gaming case will typically have a minimum of three fans to keep the temps down inside the case, with options to add more if desired; we like expandability. A gaming case must also look good -- whether that's looking like a Transformer or looking discrete is entirely up to you -- and this Antec One case provides all that, and more. Minus the Transformers look. Coming stocked with blue LED 120mm fans and a sleek design, this case is a steal at a mere $40.
In the end, this isn't the absolute cheapest "Cheap Bastard's" build we have ever done, but it does give you a lot more room to upgrade in the future and some really strong components, more so than the less-expensive variants (understandably so).
The solid 970 Extreme3 motherboard should also be set for the Piledriver chips that, we think, will be coming out soon, and has all the extras you should need right now. The HD 6850 is a generation behind right now, but at the price it is still the best performing graphics card at the price. If you have any questions about building your own rig or would like to make some changes, please leave a comment so we can help you! Feel free to customize it in any way that suits you, just make sure the wattage and components are all compatible.
Visit our forums for in-depth support or for troubleshooting. See you there!
- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann