Black Friday Budget Gaming PC Build for $490 – i3-6100 & GTX 950

By Published November 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm
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Additional Info

  • Price: 490
  • Physical Size: Mid-Tower
  • Purpose: Desktop Gaming
  • CPU Preference: Intel

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.

Other Recent Buyer's Guides

$490 Budget Gaming PC Build - DIY For Battlefront, Overwatch, Black Ops 3, & More

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
Graphics Card MSI GTX 950 2GB $160

-$30,

Free Shipping

$130
CPU Intel i3-6100 3.7GHz $130 Free Shipping $130
Motherboard MSI Gaming B150 M3 $90

-$10 MIR,

Free Shipping

$80
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V 8GB 2133 $40 Free Shipping $40
HDD WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM $45 Amazon Prime $45
Power Supply Corsair CSM450W $55

-$30 MIR,

Free Shipping

$25
Case Corsair 100R Silent $55

-$15 MIR,

Free Shipping

$40
Total   $575 -$85 $490

OS & Optional Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates, Promos, etc. Total
CPU Cooler Cryorig H7 $35 - $35
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 $98 Free Shipping, Amazon Prime $98
SSD OCZ Arc 100 240GB $60 Free Shipping $60

Video Card

MSI GTX 950 2GB ($130): Note that, at time of publication, this card carries a $30 rebate that brings the price down to $130. The $130 final price is what makes the GTX 950 appealing, bringing it down to the old price-point of the GTX 750 Ti. Our GTX 950 review shows the disparity between the 750 Ti and GTX 950 to be reasonably gapped in some games, and at $130, the 950 does feel like a bit of a steal.

You can expect to play games like Overwatch at Ultra with ease (68 AVG FPS on 'ultra' / 1080), Battlefront at high/ultra settings, and Fallout 4 at medium/high. Assassin's Creed Syndicate, sadly, is fairly abusive on the 950, requiring a settings configuration of low/medium for reasonable 1080p performance.

overwatch-gpu-bench-1080-ultra battlefront-gpu-1080-high

CPU

Intel i3-6100 CPU ($130): We opened our Skylake coverage with a review of the i7-6700K, Intel's latest i7 SKU CPU with a fully unlocked multiplier. As the “halo” products have established presence in the market, Intel's shifted to i5-6600K and i3-6100 sales; additional i3 CPUs (including the i3-6300) are expected to hit shelves in the first week of December.

The primary difference between the i3-6100 and the impending i3-6300 comes in the form of a 1MB L3 Cache, joined by a 100MHz clock difference (3.7GHz vs. 3.8GHz). The i3-6100 includes a stock cooler – not ideal, but fine to start – and uses hyperthreading turn the two cores into four usable threads. We recently found that the G3258, despite a powerful output at its $50 price-point, has begun to show obsolescence in some modern games. This pushed us to the i3-6100 for the new build, which also means using the 100-series Skylake platform and DDR4 memory. The i5 and i7 are shown favor in more heavily threaded games, but for the most part, i3 CPUs are still the best choice for budget-friendly PC builds. If you start digging deeper into CryEngine games or other heavily multithreaded titles, an i5 consideration may be worthwhile.

CPU Cooler (Optional)

Cyrorig H7 Cooler ($35): It's worth replacing the box cooler at some point, but that replacement doesn't have to be immediate. If spacing-out the extra $35 on a good cooler is beneficial to your budget, there's no harm in running the stock clocks on the stock cooler until money frees up. An aftermarket cooler will enable lower overall thermals on the CPU and quieter operation, both good for extended system lifetimes. Cyrorig has fast grown in the cooler market and seems to be taking an approach associated with quality (not to exempt any company from poor-quality output, of course). The H7 cooler runs 145mm tall, fitting within most mid-tower height tolerances, and uses a 120mm fan.

Motherboard

MSI Gaming B150 M3 ($80): We recently reviewed another MSI B150 motherboard, though it's got LEDs and runs a bit steeper on the price. MSI's Gaming M3 motherboard was just featured in our “Best Motherboards of 2015” buyer's guide, primarily highlighted for its affordability and high-quality build. The B150 board gets away with its price primarily by eliminating the Z170 chipset for its bill of materials, instead replacing it with the B150 business-targeted Intel chipset.

Its original business target has been overtaken as the gaming market has discovered B150's unique mix of ability and low price. There's no overclocking here and you're effectively limited to a single GPU, but for a budget build, neither of those things is particularly necessary. This keeps costs down while retaining a focus on components with a relatively high build quality.

Read about chipset differences here.

Memory

G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-2133 8GB ($40): DDR4 has fallen considerably in price – as has DDR3, but not much lower than this. G.Skill, which has claimed a few memory overclocking records, has 2x4GB of DDR4 memory at 2133MHz retailing for $40 right now. The frequency is what is maximally supported by the MSI B150 motherboard (which is more limited on frequency than the Z170 boards). We've found that multi-channel configurations don't necessarily yield performance gains for gamers, but at this price, it's preferable to go for the full kit.

HDD

WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM ($45): Not every build needs an SSD. Granted, they are exceptionally affordable for Black Friday ($60 for 240GB). For this build's one and only drive, we're opting for Western Digital's WD Blue 1TB HDD. The drive spins at 7200RPM – a “sweet spot” between reasonable boot times, price, and noise – and stores, obviously, 1TB of data. If you've got some extra cash lying around and you prioritize boot times over a CPU upgrade, an SSD isn't a bad add-on for the boot drive. It is worth considering whether that money would be better put toward a CPU upgrade, though.

Power Supply

Corsair CSM 450W PSU ($25): Marked down to $25 after MIR, a modular, 450W PSU is an easy choice. For a build like this – an Intel i3 and GTX 950 – 450W is an ample supply of power. New builders make the common mistake of going “overkill” on PSU wattage, but if we look at one of our PSU graphs, it's clear that a 950 can easily run on this sort of power:

black-friday-psu-draw

Case

Corsair 100R Silent ($40): Corsair's 100R Silent is a case we previewed at CES 2015 and is effectively the same as Silverstone's PS11B. Right now, with discounts, the 100R has the best mix of build quality (for a ~$40-$50 case) and price. The 100R Silent Edition uses padding to assist in noise reduction, fronts a toned-down aesthetic, and includes two 120mm fans for cooling basics. The low power draw and thermal generation of this rig's components won't demand much in the way of cooling, though we would still recommend an eventual upgrade to that Cryorig cooler (or similar).

For anyone requiring assistance building this machine – or tuning it more personally – check out our one-on-one support forums.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on November 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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