When it comes to buying a new PC, there are three main categories of buyers: the ones who can afford to buy expensive branded systems, the ones who want the cheapest systems available and therefore are not interested in the system’s performance, and those who are hardware and computers enthusiasts and build the systems themselves. This article which will help you build a decent performing system at a decent price, is addressed to the third category of PC buyers.
Of course, you can stay open for other options; this guide will only give you a suggestion of building a budget system that costs under $900 and still allows you to play the latest games in good conditions.
Considering that both Intel and AMD systems are competitive at approximately the same price, we give you two options to build your system, according to your preferences.
- Choosing a motherboard
The motherboard is probably the most important component of the system, giving its stability. When choosing the motherboard you should take the future upgrades into consideration – therefore you should choose a Mobo that supports the widest range of processors, RAM memories and peripherals. Also, a good idea is to choose a mainboard cooled by a quality and smart cooling system.
- For the Intel based system – Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 ($129)
- Form: ATX
- Socket: 1156
- Chipset: Intel P55 (supports Intel Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, Pentium G6950)
- 4 DDR3 800/1066/1333/2200 RAM memory slots supporting a maximum of 16 GB
- 2 PCI Express 2.0 slots (on of X16 and one of X4), ATI Crossfire X support
- 2 PCI Express X1 slots
- 3 PCI slots
- 8 SATA-II ports, 1 x ATA133
- 2 x USB 3.0, 8 x USB 2.0, 1 x PS2, LAN Gigabit, audio 7.1, optical, coaxial.
- For the AMD based system – Gigabyte GA-880GA-UD3H ($118)
- Form: ATX
- Socket: AM3
- Chipset: AMD 880G (supports AMD Athlon II şi Phenom II)
- 4 DDR3 1066/1333/1866 RAM memory slots supporting a maximum of 16 GB
- 2 PCI Express 2.0 slots (on of X16 and one of X4), ATI Hybrid Crossfire X support
- 2 PCI Express X1 slots
- 3 PCI slots
- 6xSATA-III ports, 2xSATA-II ports, 1xATA133
- 2 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x PS2, LAN Gigabit, audio 7.1, optic, coaxial.
2. Choosing a Processor
A. Intel Core i3-540 32nm 3.06GHz ($115) – it is more than enough at the present time, at least until the more performing Core i5 and i7 will become a little bit cheaper. With the earlier chosen motherboard, you will be able to upgrade the processor after one or two years.
B. AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition 3.2 GHz ($90) – apparently is a weaker processor than the Intel Core i3, but it can be easily unlocked and overclocked (with the Advanced Clock Calibration tool in your Mobo’s BIOS) turning into a Phenom II X4, thus overtaking the Core i3. If you take the overclocking path, remember to buy a more powerful cooler for the processor.
3. Choosing the RAM
Kingston HyperX 4GB Kit (2x2GB Modules) DDR3 1600Mhz ($83) – Considering that we chose 4 GB of RAM, you should install a 64 bit OS to benefit from it – being known that x86 operating systems are capable of running a maximum of 3.2 GB.
4. Choosing a Graphics Card
Sapphire ATI Radeon HD5670 512 MB DDR5 at 4000MHz 128 bit ($80) – Considering the fast development of the GPUs and their quick price fall we didn’t choose a very expensive Graphic Card, but a decent one. It can run any game at this moment without problems at an under $100 price.
5. Choosing the HDD
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3GB/s 32 MB Buffer NCQ Technology ($60). The ideal, in matter of performance speaking, solution would have been a smaller capacity SSD drive for the OS and the main apps and an at least 1TB HDD, but for budgeting reasons (a 64GB SSD starts from approximately $120) we chose the 1TB HDD.
6. Choosing an Optical Drive
Until a fall of the price of the Blu-Ray drives, we recommend you a DVD Writer, for example, an LG Electronics 24X SATA DVD +/- RW Internal Drive at about $20.
7. Choosing a Case and a Power Source
When choosing the case and the power source a lot of people tend to scrape. But a good case and power source are vital for your system, so we recommend choosing an ergonomic, airflow interior designed case and a trustful source that will protect you from electrical fluctuations and will give your system enough power. Good examples of such a case is the Antec Three Hundred ($60) and a Cooler Master RS550 Power Plus Series providing 550W at $39.
8. Choosing a Keyboard and a Mouse – $30
We can only recommend a laser mouse and a comfortable and ergonomic keyboard. If you use your computer mainly for gaming, it’s better to use a wired keyboard and mouse, but if in the most part of the time you use your system for working, internet surfing or media playing your life will be better with wireless peripherals.
9. Choosing a Monitor
Considering we said in the beginning that this is a guide for building a budget, but gaming system, we recommend a 24’’ monitor – BenQ G2410 2ms Wide LCD at around $200.
10. Choosing the Speakers
We chose a 5.1 Multimedia Speaker System – for example, a Creative T6160 Multimedia Speaker System at $75.
The total price of the Intel based system is $691 without a monitor (in case you already own one from your current system) going up to $891 with a 24’’ FullHD LCD.
The total price of the AMD based system is $657 without the monitor going to $857 with the same 24’’ LCD.