|Budget Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|Video Card||HIS HD 6790 1GB 256-bit||$140||-$10, Free DiRT 3
|CPU||AMD X2 Regor 260 3.2GHz||$65||Free Shipping||$65|
|Memory||Patriot 4GB PC 12800 Memory||$44||Free Shipping, -$10
|Power Supply||RAIDMAX Hybrid 630W PSU||$50||-
|Hard Drive||WD Caviar Blue 500GB 7200RPM||$40||-
|Optical Drive||LITE-ON DVD Burner||$19||Free Shipping||$19|
|Case||Rosewill Smart One ATX||$45||-
I was blown away by this deal -- a Radeon 6790 with 1GB GDDR5, a 256-bit memory interface, and a beautiful case and heatsink to top it off. The card will run any modern games at highest settings, save for maybe one or two outliers, and will be stable in the gaming world for a minimum of 3 years to come. The memory clock is an effective 4.2Gbps, putting it right up there with comparable nVidia 560Ti models. What really puts this one over the top, though - aside from being $130 after rebate - is that it comes with a free copy of DiRT 3. There's no better way to break your new system in than with a racing game: they have beautiful graphics, high speeds, and spectacular particle and lighting effects. See for yourself.
Alternative: 3D modelers and expert Photoshop users should opt for nVidia for better support, this one will do the trick.
Processors have become increasingly boring in the budget arena -- but that's good. That means they've become more common, and has a magical effect on the price: it lowers. Magic. I should write a book.
AMD stands strong in the sub-$100 spectrum, as has remained true for the past few years we've been doing these builds; this time, we went with the 3.2GHz Regor with 2MB of L2 cache (1MB/core) and two total cores. Sure - it's not quad, but for $65 and free shipping, it's certainly a good deal. This CPU will handle just about any game, though the Total War series does strain the CPU beyond belief, so you may want to consider a $700-800 range build if you're a Shogun 2 fanatic. Don't let that deter you from this awesome system, though; it'll run games just fine.
Patriot has made some of the best memory for a long time now (spoiler alert: patriotism does not prevent outsourcing), and although Corsair, G.Skill, and Crucial are right up there with them, Patriot prevails for a few key reasons: heat spreading, design, and efficiency. These two memory modules have some of the best heat spreaders for the budget, and they're PC3 12800 (DDR3 1600 Dual Channel) modules, giving you that extra 300MHz boost on other comparable configurations. There was a time when 4GB of memory would run you $200 or more, and with the mass production and technological advancements of this decade, you can now get 4GB of this Patriot memory for $34.
It's nice to be back in ATX territory - big, beefy, and not so damn small that you suffer the torture of one-thousand copper-cuts in your hands. This board was originally priced at $100, but comes out to a keen $75 after rebates. The board is completely compatible with everything else we've used so far, can support up to 16GB of memory for future upgrades, and has two PCI-e x16 slots for your dual-card endeavors. I don't want to be the one sticking two of those massive 6790s in there, though. Talk about a pinch.
The board comes with 5x3Gb/s SATA ports, 6xUSB 2.0 ports, 1 forever alone eSATA port, and the nForce 750a north bridge -- you won't get anything better unless you pour another $50 into this thing.
MSI and ASUS are two of the absolute best brands in hardware production, and just by looking at the quality of the stock heatsinks for this board, that's apparent. Besides, if you get hungry, you can always just reach in and grab that candy-bar-sized heatsink on the north bridge.
Yes - this is the boring part. Although, it's not nearly as boring as writing the paragraph about optical drives. I'll make it quick.
At .85 horsepower (oh man, way too much Top Gear) -- that's 630 watts, to those of you who didn't convert it with Google and pretend to be a physicist -- this power supply will easily handle your CPU, memory, video card, and everything else in the system. It runs up to 85% efficiency, although it is safe to assume that this number will average out around 75-80%. Still good. The PSU has two PCI-e connectors (1x6-pin, 1x6+2-pin), 4xSATA power connectors, and 2x12V rails -- plenty.
Also, the fan is blue.
Aaaand, we're back to the Caviar Blue. It's a great hard drive: 500GB clocked at 7200RPM and armed with 16MB of cache. Also, the drive is fully compatible with 6Gbps SATA, making your next upgrade even more affordable. You'll be able to take your data with you to bigger and better things, you know, when you start stealing from Initech. It's $40 of flawless stability, and WD leads the mid-range market at the moment.
... Where do I start? These devices are the pinnacle of recent computing technology: they can hold cups, allegedly 'burn' discs without catching them alight, operate as a hiding location for your... discs, and hold cups. You guessed it - the optical drives! Huzzah! It has free shipping, stop whining.
24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X
Have we got a beaut' for you today: in the left corner of the ring, we've got the Rosewill Smart One ATX mid-tower, equipped with three fans and capable of fitting more - and in the right corner, we've got... no one, because they were all killed by this case. Come on, now - it's a $45 case with everything you need to get gaming; it's easily mod-able; it's not offensively colored; it has blue lights, damn it!
This case will comfortably fit everything in the shopping cart inside of it, although you've been warned: modern video cards are big. Will it fit? Yes. Will your beautiful, hairy hand come out with all of its original hairs? Maybe not. Who the hell counts their hand-hair, anyway?
The whole build totals at around $460 - a phenomenal price for any budget gaming system, especially considering the power you gain from the video card and other components herein. If you're new to gaming, throw in a monitor and a nice mouse for another $150 - $200 and you'll be set for a long, long time.