PC Builds

Forget the Phenom CPUs, this gaming rig manages to cram in an i5-2500 (second only to the 2500k), a 6870, 8GB of memory, and an awesome case for only $679. A number of you have asked us to figure out how to pull off a budget i5 gaming PC, and with a bit of combo-swapping, we've done it. At $730 before rebates, the initial investment is very affordable and the performance challenges that of our $558 affordable gaming PC (although that one's still very powerful, for those who can't stretch to $679).

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This build list is "the box and everything in it" and will, with relative ease, handle most current games on anywhere from very high, ultra, to max settings (depending largely on the game, of course). If you're spec'ing for BF3 or some of the games slated for 2012, you're in the right place.

There are several upgrade / downgrade options we've included herein, so if you can't quite reach this budget (or have $50 extra), we've given you plenty of options to customize this ultra-modular setup.

$558 Budget Gaming Build - January, 2012

By Published January 07, 2012 at 1:35 pm

The first build of the year is here! After posting our hardware release timeline for 2012, and with all the big conventions kicking off in the next few months, now's the perfect time to start working on a system. Our newest addition to the "budget gaming build" family of cheap PC builds on our site is, as we always say, extremely powerful for the budget. We worked on this one a bit to include some excellent combos that mitigate the price of the artificially-inflated HDD prices.

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Our PC builds have been getting progressively better in spite of the recent announcement that Hard Drives will remain expensive; this build is spec'd out to steamroll the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO at an impressive build price of $430. With its 6850 and 8GB of memory (and a reasonable 3.2GHz X3), this system can effortlessly handle SWTOR, will handle Skyrim on very high or ultra quite capably (granted, these graphics mods change that), and can even play Battlefield 3 without too many problems -- you'll probably be running BF3 on high or a hybrid of medium/high.

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In the end, though, this build was made to duel with our alternative, the $717 SWTOR Jedi Build -- and an epic duel it shall be! If you've got the extra money to spend on a gaming rig or are a fan of the light side, we suggest you go check that system out immediately. If you're on a strict budget or are Vader's #1 fan, stay right where you are (though the case for the Jedi build is quite attractive... damn it, Yoda, stay back!).

So how did we get this thing down to $430? Here's your chart:

With the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic getting closer, here at GN we have decided to prepare two builds for our awesome readers: a Jedi-themed build and a $430 budget Sith-themed rig. This build is designed to run SW:TOR and other games, like Battlefield 3 and Skyrim, at max or near-max settings while still retaining future-proof options, a sleek exterior, and upgradability.

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Come to the Light Side, we have the winning team. Forget Vader and his minions -- the third movie sort of ruined Anakin for us, anyway. Come chill with Luke and Obi. And Jar-Jar.

Not everyone has the extra few bucks to spare for a $550 budget gaming rig, but even when money's tight, it's still possible to set up an amazing budget gaming PC build. This newest revival of our forlorn Cheap Bastard's build is loaded with surprisingly high-performing, high-profile brand names for the restrictive budget we set ourselves.

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Unfortunately, due to the recent inflation of the Hard Drive market from the flooding in Thailand, the hard drive is about twice the price it should be - and that won't get any better in the near future. Analysts have told us that hard drives should return to their normal pricing in the first half of next year, but until then, this is the best system you can put together for the money (if you have an old hard drive, salvage it and use it instead).

The objective of this build is to get as many games performing on ultra/high settings as possible for under $500. We've done just that: welcome to the best gaming pc build for under $500.

Our recently-posted $550 budget gaming PC and $1795 BF3-themed rig have both prompted support requests on our forums for building an in-between system -- that's what this one accomplishes. If you're in the "heavy wallet, but not quite burning a hole in my pants" stage of the game, this ~$900 build will suit you beautifully for many, many years of gaming on high or ultra graphics settings.

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This system addresses all the same concerns as our previous hardcore gaming rig did, with the exception that -- you know -- it's new and shiny. That one is nearly two months old now! Yuck! The system build list below includes all of the greatest parts currently available for the sub-$1000 range (you could probably tack on this Antec 900 v2 case if you have extra money, or even a different video card), but for our price, this machine is nothing short of monstrous. Let's break-down the list below:

If our Battlefield 3 Caspian Border squad gameplay video didn't tip you off, DICE's latest addition to the world of FPS games will do what shooters inarguably do best: advance the front of graphics technology to yield the most realistic visuals yet seen. We've already provided a convenient chart of graphics card compatibility (cross-referenced with graphics levels) for Battlefield 3, so it's no secret that you could run max settings on a GTX 570 -- however, this PC goes beyond playing the game on max: it's specifically built to resemble something we think you'd find on the battlefield. Of course, if this system's a bit out of your budget, try our wildly-popular $550 budget gaming build.

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This system is futuristic-looking, has a rifle magazine on the motherboard, and utilizes not one, but two video cards that are colored in a killer gun-metal gray design. Besides, it'll last you several years on maximum settings before you even need to think about an upgrade (and believe us, this motherboard will certainly allow for a number of upgrades before it is inevitably retired).

Let's get started with the parts list; we're putting the motherboard first this time purely because of its cool factor.

$550 Budget Gaming PC Build - September 2011

By Published September 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm

After the thrilling combination of parts we assembled in our previous $744 hardcore gaming rig (still an amazing option for those of you with some extra cash to spend) and the affordability of our prior $458 budget gaming build, we've decided to put together an "in-betweener" for you guys: this $550 budget-core gaming system. Yes, that's right -- a new category of gaming computers: the budget-core computers.

In essence, this rig is affordable - costing you only slightly more than an ultra-budget system - and powerful - consisting of a Phenom II X4 quad-core (with amazing L3 cache and cache per core ratios), an ATi 6870, and 8GB of beautifully heat-spread memory modules - clocking in at 1600MHz (PC3 12800 RAM). Oh, and there's more, too.

Our builds get better with each passing month, and although we at GN would like to attribute it to our god-like PC building ability, much of it can be acknowledged as consumer availability for newer products creating a decline in retail pricing trends for PC hardware.

$744 Hardcore Gaming PC - August 2011

By Published August 06, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Despite how fantastic our $458 PC build turned out, some people were looking for a little extra power in their system. Prepare yourself: this build is fully decked-out with the best hardware in the sub-$1000 range, and we've even gone out of our way to provide a list of optional add-ons for those who are building a rig for the first time and need new base components.

This system utilizes Intel's highly-praised Sandy Bridge chipset, meaning faster processing times, the inclusion of turbo boost (up to 3.7GHz, in this case), smaller architecture, and more cache. Everything herein is compatible with the Sandy Bridge architecture so that you can make the best use of your system.

We estimate this system will produce high to ultra graphics for the next three to four years, at which point you can replace the video card for another couple of years of maximum settings. Of course, there's nothing wrong with running the card into the ground either. Hey, at least it'll run Terraria for eternity.

$458 Budget Gaming PC - July 2011

By Published July 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Components have become increasingly affordable as the years drone on - this custom PC build is a testament to that; for a mere $458, we've packed in everything you'll need to replace that sluggish PC hiding under your desk. Having trouble rationalizing an upgrade? Here's a way to justify it: open your case -- is it dirty? Buy a new one. Is it clean? You must like clean things. New things are clean. Buy a new one.

That about covers it.

Despite our current obsession with games like Revenge of the Titans, it's always important to prepare yourself for the big games that you've been dreaming of for yours: Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are two of those. If you've got about double the price of this rig, you might want to instead opt for our "entry level" 3D PC, which you can find here. Go ahead and check it out -- I'll wait. Parts list below.

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