$397 Mid-Range Gaming PC Build Using Intel i5 CPU & GTX 970
|Gaming Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|CPU||Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz||$70||Free Shipping||$70|
|Motherboard||ASRock H97M Pro4||$80||-||$80|
|Video Card||PowerColor R7 250X||$100||-$10||$90|
|Memory||HyperX 2x4GB DDR3-1600||$43||Free Shipping||$43|
|Power Supply||Corsair CX430 Bronze||$40||-$20 MIR||$20|
|HDD||Western Digital 1TB Blue||$53||Free Shipping||$53|
|Case||Fractal Design Core 1100||$41||-||$41|
OS & Optional Extras
|Add-on Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64bit||$100||$3 Shipping||$103|
|CPU Cooler||DeepCool Gammaxx 300||$30||-||$30|
|SSD||Samsung 850 Evo 250GB||$90||Free Shipping||$90|
PowerColor R7 250X ($100): The R7 250X isn't exactly new, but then again, neither is the architecture on the R300 series of video cards. Short of advancing the price $15 to a GTX 750 Ti, the R7 250X is among the best ultra-budget solutions for playing games that lightly load the GPU.
An R7 250X joined with the G3258 promises in the neighborhood of 120FPS (average) in CSGO, with a 60FPS 1% low frametime. That's using “very high” and “high settings” (no AA) at 1080p; a 120Hz monitor – although it'd be odd to couple such an expensive item with such a cheap build – would get mostly saturated with this configuration. For DOTA2, we see a framerate exceeding 100FPS average, with GRID: Autosport (the most graphically intensive among these games) hitting 98FPS average at medium/1080p.
Intel Pentium G3258 Dual-Core ($70): Intel's G3258 has a few pitfalls when it comes to heavily multithreaded games; for instance, its 1% and 0.1% lows in GTA V are undesirable. For everything else, especially for games like CSGO and MOBA/RTS titles, the G3258 handles the content impressively well. Its additional headroom for overclocking is best untapped with a Z97 board, though opting for H97 (as we did) saves a bit of cash for the user who just wants to plug-n-play. The G3258 is a simple CPU at heart and hosts just two cores without hyperthreading. For lightweight games, it'll do perfectly well in our budget build.
For users who want some versatility with GTA V, we'd recommend considering a platform switch to an Athlon X4 860K and compatible FM2+ motherboard.
ASRock H97M Pro4 ($80): The G3258 is a top-class overclocker when paired with an appropriate motherboard – but we're not going to suggest a Z97 platform unless the builder actually wants to OC the CPU. For users who just want to screw it all together and “go,” an H97 platform removes some of the higher-end features that will go unused and inflate cost, but still provides stability and support for our configuration. If you're interested in CPU overclocking, we'd recommend considering a Z97 platform like this one for an extra $20-$30. Note that CPU overclocking would be best accompanied by an aftermarket CPU cooler, like this $30 solution.
HyperX Fury 2x4GB DDR3-1600 ($43): We've tested dual-channel vs. single-channel platform configurations extensively, finding that a single stick of memory will almost always perform effectively identically to two sticks in dual-channel when it comes to gaming. That stated, it was $2 more to jump from a single 8GB DDR3-1600 G.Skill stick to two 4GB sticks (total 8GB), giving us some room to play with programs that actually do want the 2x data rate. 8GB at 1600MHz is the 'sweet spot' for gaming machines right now, with higher frequencies producing limited gains in non-production software.
Corsair CX430 Bronze ($40): After MIR, the CX430 drops to just $20 for a quality, 80 Plus Bronze PSU. We'd technically be able to get away with even lower wattage supply, but the quality of PSU diminishes heavily after dropping below this power range. At 430W, we're sitting just above the ideal efficiency range of power consumption and reducing cost (or re-allocating it to chasing 80 Plus badges), making for a solid budget unit.
WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($53): Not every machine needs an SSD, though we'd certainly recommend them once reaching mid-range or higher price-points. In the case of this build, we really don't need one – an extra $100 on an SSD makes far less sense than spending that money on the GPU or CPU (or both, which is possible – an i3-4160 + GTX 750 Ti would make for a strong combo). At 7200RPM, the HDD runs fast enough to limit game bottlenecking such that it is effectively irrelevant. Boot times and general responsiveness will be slightly slower than an SSD, but that can be sacrificed for cost.
Fractal Design Core 1100 Micro-ATX ($41): We went for discretion and function with this build. A manageable 14 x 6.89 x 16.14 inches, the Core 1100 is easily relocated and can sit atop a desk, but doesn't lack the internal room that some other mATX cases do. It's not the most portable mATX case on the market, but we're not building a machine that will be going on planes for LAN events (though that wouldn't be hard with SFF cases). The case includes a single fan – enough for playing games like CSGO and DOTA2 on our low-end silicon – and can be upgraded to support more, if overclocking or adding hotter hardware.
Leave a comment below or post on our forums for additional support with this build!
- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.