It's technically Thanksgiving here, and we need some easier content to consume to go with the rest of the consumption this weekend—and we mean consumerism and Black Friday, not food. Our latest experiment is a cheap gaming PC build for under $500, using an AMD X4 845 and GTX 1050 for games like Overwatch, DOTA2, and even GTA V.
Oh, and just for fun, we did throw in a Battlefield 1 benchmark -- it's just that this isn't an ideal configuration for that sort of game. Still worth learning about performance limitations, though.
The system build is detailed below.
Gears of War 4, despite its woeful exclusivity to Windows Store, remains one of the best iterations of the franchise we've played – and the best on PC, of the two available on the most glorious platform. The game's overall aesthetic is cohesive and, for those first few levels, bright and punchy. As we dug deeper into the underground portion of Gears, we were met with more desaturated, foreboding tones that made Locusts visually pop. And, most importantly, it's a game with 40 graphics options, each accompanied with indicators as to expected performance. This, we think, is the saving grace to counter the game's Windows Store exclusivity.
That also makes it an excellent title for settings tweaking and tuning, though we found the presets to be generally performant across most GPUs currently out, even at High and Ultra. To play Gears of War 4 at 60FPS with High settings, we've assembled this list to build your own gaming PC around $700.
Too often people considering PC gaming will fall into the train of thought that gaming PCs have to be expensive. This train of thought is both unfortunate and untrue: Gaming PCs can certainly be expensive, but a decent gaming PC can also be built relatively cheaply.
Today’s “Cheap Bastard” gaming PC build comes to a total of about $436, and uses an ASUS R9 380 Strix along with an i3-6100 to allow for solid gaming performance at 1080p. Graphics settings at 1080p will generally fall within the “medium” to “high” range, depending on the game.
We tested Overwatch back when it was still in beta, posting one of the earliest GPU benchmarks for Blizzard's new team shooter. The game's finally concluded its full beta pass and has set its final release date for May 24. Graphics requirements have more-or-less remained the same as when we last tested the game, making Overwatch one of the more accessible titles for PC builders. We're building this machine with a GTX 960 and i5-6400 non-overclocking CPU; the combination runs significantly cheaper than the next step up – and that's good anyway, since the GTX 1070 (and presumably, Polaris) will soon land in that mid-range price gap.
This ~$700 gaming PC build uses the best components for playing Overwatch at ultra graphics settings (1080p, 60FPS) while staying on a budget. Follow the below parts list and DIY PC guide to get up and running, and remember to check our forums for one-on-one help.
It sometimes seems that gaming PCs have to use high-end components and, subsequently, be expensive. These high-end PCs may provide a pretty looking picture and high FPS, but a PC capable of a decent gaming experience at 1080p can actually be built fairly cheaply.
Today's "Cheap Bastard" build totals about $455, and uses an nVidia GTX 950 along with an i3-6100 to enable a decent gaming experience at 1080p for most games using medium settings.
PC build list follows!
Building PCs is almost always a compromise between performance and cost. In this PC build, we’re making a gaming PC for approximately $500 -- but a good one; a powerful, $500 gaming PC. This $500 PC is meant to be a barebones build that still allows for a very capable 1080p gaming experience in most games at medium to high settings, although it will generally struggle – depending on the game – at resolutions and settings above that.
Today’s $500 gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 running at 3.7GHz, along with a 2GB EVGA GTX 960 with a noteable factory overclock. Together, these parts offer solid gaming performance at 1080p, while also being budget friendly. The build will readily play Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Rocket League, DOTA2, CSGO, and even heavier titles like GTA V.
Gaming PC build classifications haven't changed much over the years, despite enormous leaps in hardware capabilities and game graphics. The price brackets are largely defined by the likes of Intel, AMD, and nVidia, responsible for the most critical and expensive gaming components. For an Intel i3 – what we're deploying today – total system build price generally, in our experience, spans the ~$400 to ~$650 range, with an i5 or equivalent CPU generally entering the fray thereafter. That's not how it always works, of course, and PC builds can be targeted at different use cases with a different component price split.
This gaming PC build is targeted at the entry-level gaming market – not quite a full-on 'budget' build, but not mid-range. It's a gaming PC best suited for high-FPS throughput in games like Rocket League, DOTA, Counter-Strike, Black Ops III, Overwatch, and similar games.
We just leveraged the season's sales to restock GN's lab with test equipment – mostly SSDs and CPUs – and took the opportunity to throw together a budget gaming PC. The goal was to create a truly down-the-center machine, capable of playing most modern games at high settings with an FPS target of 60+ (at 1080p). A few outliers exist that would stress this system beyond its limits, like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, but the rest of the season's titles are mostly within reason. Fallout 4 is playable on the GTX 950 (at higher settings now, with optimization patches), as are Battlefront (tested) and Black Ops 3 (tested). We've also recently shown the i3 CPUs to retain fiercely competitive market positioning at ultra/1080p settings.
Intel's new i3-6100 Skylake CPU is currently the only available i3 SKU (i3-6300 ships in December), but at $130, it's also the cheapest Skylake SKU. This budget gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 and GTX 950 to play games at under $500, including Battlefront, Black Ops 3, and Fallout 4. Fallout 4, surprisingly, will be the most abusive of the lot – but it's fully playable on this setup at a mix of medium/high settings.
2015 has proven to be a relatively big year for game releases: GTA V, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Battlefront are all certifiable “block-busters.” As we ramp into next week's Fallout 4 release date, 11/10, we thought it wise to prepare a budget gaming PC for playing the game at high settings.
A full Fallout 4 GPU benchmark will be published closer to launch, alongside several other tech articles, but we're going to open the floor with this build. Bethesda posted somewhat zealous recommended specs for Fallout 4 already. Despite this, the game is easily played on most mid-range GPUs and CPUs, as should be apparent from its relatively modest graphics, and it'll run well on the R9 380 and high-end i3 CPUs. That's what we've got here – a ~$550 budget gaming PC build for Fallout 4, taking the DIY approach to drive costs down.
Here's the list:
It's been a while since we've done a low-budget HTPC build, so this time around, we've pieced together a PC for under $500. This will do great as either an entry-level gaming system or as an HTPC for the living room. If you're looking for a build with a bit more "under the hood," consider our high-end Witcher 3 PC Build.
This sub-$500 gaming PC build is powered by an AMD A10-7850K, which is a cheap solution for light gaming, streaming, and everyday usage. You won't be playing GTA V or the Witcher very well on this build, but not everything has to be high-end – for League of Legends, Skyrim, DiRT, and similar games, this will do just fine.