In this guide we’re going to go over everything you need to know in order to choose the best components for a solid cheap gaming computer. So, if you’re strapped for cash, but you still want to build a solid entry-level system, this guide will help you choose the best components for your budget.
In this day and age of incredible graphics and extremely demanding video games, you, as a PC gamer, must have a capable gaming computer if you want to play your favorite games in the way they they were designed to be played.
Unfortunately, though, the price tag that comes with a solid PC may be keeping you from getting the system that you deserve.
However, if you elect to build your own system–rather than buying it pre-built–you can forego the high costs associated with buying an expensive pre-built setup and you can finally get yourself an affordable gaming computer that will play your favorite games at acceptable levels.
In this guide I’m going to cover all of the different components that you can use in your budget build. I’m going to go over and answer every question that a prospective builder could possible ever have when looking for affordable components that will allow them to build a solid cheap gaming computer.
To start, though, I’m going to give you five different builds that you can use as is, or that you can use as a base to put together your own part list. This will allow you to skip the fine details and get straight to building your awesome gaming PC. If you want a more thorough overview of each component before you make your selection, you can use the full guide.
In the end, you’ll have a plan of action, as well as a number of different components to choose between, and you’ll be well on your way to building a cheap gaming computer that is capable of delivering excellent levels of performance.
i.PRE-MADE PART LISTS
In this section, I’ve taken five different price points ($300, $400, $500, $600, & $700) and I’ve put together builds for each budget.
These builds can either be used as is, or they can serve as a base that you can customize to your liking.
If you have any questions about these builds, please post them below in the comments section!
Navigate This Section
I. HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
This guide has literally everything you need to pick a part list for a solid cheap gaming computer. With so much information, you might get lost. So, it’s important that you know how to navigate and use this guide.
For starters, below you’ll find a Table of Contents. You can use this to easily navigate to the part of the guide you want to read.
The guide is broken down into sections. In the first couple of sections, the guide goes over some important concepts, including knowing your budget and whether or not you should buy now, or save until you can afford a better system. Then, the guide will go all of the components you’ll need in order to build an affordable computer.
Each component section will give you multiple suggestions. And, each component section is broken down to make it easier to navigate through. For instance, the processor and motherboard sections are broken down by the socket type. And, the video card, case and power supply sections are broken down by price range (i.e. Best Video Cards under $100.)
Another important thing to point out is that under each component, you’ll see the suggested “Budget Range” that that component fits into. This number doesn’t tell you how much the component costs, it tells you the kind of budget that component will work well in.
As an example, the AMD A8-5600K processor has a suggested budget range of $300-$400. This means that if you’re building a gaming computer and you have $300-$400 to spend, the A8-5600K will fit nicely in your budget.
Finally, at the end of the guide, I have put together five different builds, ranging from $300 on the low-end to $700 on the high-end. These builds can either be used as is, or they can be customized to your liking.
The budget that you set for your gaming computer is going to determine the kind of performance you get out of it. The more you spend, the more games you’ll be able to play on higher settings and the higher the framerates you’ll get.
Setting your budget will give you a price to work with when selecting your components and it will make it easier to make decisions on each part. So, set a budget and stick to it. For this guide, we’ll be looking at systems that come in under $700.
There are advantages and disadvantages that come with either buying your components now or saving up until you can get better-performing parts. It really all depends on your personal preferences as well as the kind of games you play.
If you don’t want to wait to be able to have to play your favorite games and you don’t mind playing on lower settings, or the games you play aren’t too demanding, then building now is definitely a good option. However, if you’re playing demanding games that are best experienced in full detail on the highest graphics settings, then it is probably a good idea to save up some more money so that you can get a better set of components.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can always build for now and the future. In order to build for now and the future, you must choose components that will give you decent performance now and that will allow you to upgrade in the future. Since this guide is directed towards those gamers who are building on a budget, I have tried to make it as future friendly as possible without sacrificing too much performance now.
Either way you choose, the components listed in this guide will at least allow you to start playing your favorite games. And, the top component options in each category will even allow you to play most games on the highest settings.
Let’s Get Started Choosing Components
In the rest of this guide, we’ll take an individual look at each component category and go over the different options you have if you’re building a solid cheap gaming computer. Each component is going to be broken down into sections.
First up, we’ll look at the best budget gaming processors and then we’ll proceed to look at all of the other components you’ll need.
In this part of our Good Cheap Gaming Computers guide, we’re going to take a look at all of the different CPU options you have for your budget gaming PC.
The CPU you choose for your gaming PC is going to play a pivotal role in how well your system performs.
A faster processor is going to be able to handle more games better. A slower processor will give you trouble running more demanding games.
Fortunately, even if you’re building on a budget there are a number of CPU options available on the market that will allow you to play your games at acceptable levels.
In fact, for just under $100 you can get a CPU that is capable of running your gaming computer.
In this guide I will take a look at all of the CPU options you have for your budget gaming PC.
Any of the CPUs listed in this article will at least get your foot in the door.
And, some of the processors–like the AMD FX-6300–are not only budget-friendly, but they are also good enough for a gaming computer that can max any game out.
AMD’s FM2 socket is quickly becoming one of the most popular platforms for gamers working with a tight budget. Built around AMD’s APUs (accelerated processing unit), the FM2 socket boasts processors that have powerful integrated graphics.
And, even though integrated graphics aren’t ideal for graphics-intensive games, AMD’s APUs provide enough power through their integrated graphics to play most games on at least the lowest settings. So, while FM2 APUs alone aren’t great solutions for high-end machines, they do work well for entry-level systems and will be good enough to build a solid cheap gaming computer.
Another cool feature of the FM2 APUs is that they can be paired with budget-friendly AMD video cards to give a boost in graphics performance. So, pairing the APUs listed below with an HD 6670 is a solid budget-friendly way to give you more in-game graphics power.
One of the best CPU solutions for a budget gaming computer is the AMD FX-6300. And, while there are other options for the AM3+ socket, as far as the price-to-performance ratio goes, the FX-6300 is definitely one of the better options.
However, with AMD’s recent price drops, the FX-4300 is a very nice low-budget option and the FX-8320 and FX-8350 gives budget builders a chance to grab a high-end CPU at an affordable price.
Ultimately it comes down to price-to-performance and AMD’s AM3+ CPUs offer some of the best options for gamers who have a budget between $400-$800.
There is no doubt that Intel is the king of gaming processors. And, there isn’t a question that they produce the fastest CPUs on the market.
However, for extreme budget gaming PCs, the only CPU options that Intel really has are the Intel Core i3 line of processors. And, while these CPUs have great single-threaded performance, the fact that they are only dual core processors means that they are a little more limited in multi-threaded applications.
If your budget creeps closer to the $700-$800 range, choosing an Intel Core i5 CPU becomes more and more plausible. In fact, in the builds listed at the top of this page, we use an Intel Core i5 CPU in our $700 build. So, if you have a moderate budget of $700 or more, then I would definitely recommend going with on of the Intel Core i5 CPUs listed below.
In this section of the Good Cheap Gaming Computers guide I’m going to list all of the viable motherboard options you have if you’re building on a budget. These motherboards are good enough to get your budget gaming PC up, running, and performing well.
Your gaming computer will not work without a motherboard.
And, one mistake that first-time builders and those working with a tight budget make is to choose a cheap low-quality motherboard.
However, choosing a cheap motherboard can cause a lot of problems for you and your system down the road.
Therefore, you need to make sure you get a decent motherboard for your money.
Since you’re working with a tight budget, getting a high-end motherboard is out of the question….
…but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a capable motherboard to go with your gaming PC.
There are plenty of solid motherboards under $100 that are perfect for budget gaming computers.
In this section of the guide, I will cover the different motherboard options you have for your build.
AMD’s socket FM2 is the perfect option for gamers working with an extremely tight budget, or for gamers who are playing less demanding games (like League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Dota 2, Minecraft, etc.).
There are a ton of viable budget gaming motherboard options for the FM2 socket. Below are listed all of the FM2 motherboards that will work in a solid cheap gaming computer.
If you’re going with the AMD FX-6300 CPU, you’ll need an AM3+ motherboard to pair with it. Fortunately, there are a number of affordable AM3+ motherboards available.
Listed below are all of the AM3+ motherboards that I recommend for budget gaming computers.
For those of you who are looking to go with a solid cheap Intel-based gaming computer, your best bet for a processor is the Intel Core i3-3220, as its really the only affordable Intel CPU for budget systems.
And, if you are going with an i3-3220, you’ll need a decent motherboard to pair it with. I’ve listed two options that will work well for an Intel-based budget gaming PC below.
Next up in the Good Cheap Gaming Computers guide is video cards. In today’s article I’m going to take a look at all of the budget video card options that you have for your budget gaming PC.
There is no component that dictates your overall in-game performance like your video card does.
The video card you choose is incredibly important and it’s essential that you take your time to ensure that you get the best one possible for your budget.
Fortunately, there are a ton of different affordable video card options you have. And, each one brings its own benefits.
One question that most first-time builders will ask is whether they should go with an AMD or NVIDIA. For a detailed answer on that question, check out this post.
Ultimately, though, for cards under $200, the two manufacturers are so close on performance that it doesn’t make sense to say that one company is better than the other.
However, NVIDIA cards and AMD cards perform differently in different games. So, before you choose your video card, you should check relative benchmarks and make sure that the card you choose is the better option.
Today we’re going to talk about the options you have for choosing memory if you’re working with a tight budget. The budget gaming memory options in this article are all capable of doing their part to help you secure an ideal in-game experience.
In modern gaming, there aren’t a whole lot of games that fully utilize more than 4GB of RAM. So, if you’re working with a tight budget, 4GB is a good place to start.
However, due to the fact that RAM is the one of the most affordable components out there, and because the next generation of games are right around the corner, it’s not a bad idea to go with 8GB of memory.
Of course, whether you do go with 4GB or 8GB is all going to depend on your budget. For bigger budgets, 8GB is easy to fit in. For extremely tight budgets, 4GB is the better option.
In this article I’m going to take a look at the different budget gaming memory options you have. Unlike the other posts in this series, I’m going to break down memory by the manufacturer, rather than the model.
Budget Memory Options
Next up in our Good Cheap Gaming Computer guide we’re going to discuss the hard drive. For tighter budgets it’s best to stick with a 500 GB hard drive in order to allocate more of your funds to more important components. And, there are really only a couple of options (based on manufacturer) of budget gaming hard drives that make sense in an economical build.
The hard drive in your computer is important because it will give you a place to store your games, files, programs, and operating system.
However, your hard drive will not have a significant impact on your in-game experience. It will not affect the quality of your picture, what settings you run your games on, or your framerate.
About the only thing in gaming that a hard drive will have an effect on is load times. And, once you’re in-game those don’t usually matter anyways.
With that being said, you still need a hard drive in order to store everything. So, it’s important that you choose one that is big enough to hold all of your games and that doesn’t cost a fortune. Luckily, 500 GB hard drives are pretty affordable and they will give you plenty of storage space.
In this article I will go over the two options that you have for budget gaming hard drives.
Budget Gaming Hard Drive Options
Your case is an incredibly important part of your gaming computer as it houses your components and plays a big role in the cooling process. So, today we’re going to look at all of the budget gaming case options you have. That way you can come away with a solid case for your solid cheap gaming computer.
As mentioned above, not only does a case protect your components, but it also plays a huge role in the cooling process of your components.
Air flow is crucial to keeping your components at an appropriate temperature level and therefore it’s vital that you choose a case that offers good air flow.
Also, for some gamers, the style of a case is very important. I often recommend going with the NZXT GAMMA Classic case due to its solid air flow for the price and option to add a bunch of different fans.
However, many prospective builders have written me to ask about alternatives because they don’t like the GAMMA Classic’s design. And, that’s completely understandable.
So, in this list I have tried to incorporate many different budget gaming case options, including stylish cases, and cases that provide good air flow.
Ultimately, you should pick a case that you like, as it is the one component that will be visible at all times.
In this section of EGC’s Good Cheap Gaming Computers guide, we will take a look at the different options you have for your power supply. There are really only four budget gaming power supplies that I recommend, as I believe they are the four that offer the most value relative to their price.
Most first-time builders mess up when choosing a power supply. They think that a higher wattage rating means quality.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Quality power supplies are not determined by their wattage rating (which may or may not be misleading). They are determined by their build quality, their efficiency, and their ability to provide stable power for your system.
In fact, label wattage is not the number you want to look at when choosing your PSU. Instead, you should be looking at the amps available on the +12V rail(s). That is a much better indicator of what a power supply is capable of handling.
Listed below are four power supplies that will handle any combination of components that have been listed throughout this series. They are my choices for the best performance/price power supplies for system’s that cost under $600.
So, if you’re looking for a solid budget gaming power supply, these PSU options are your best bet.
Optical drives are slowly becoming more and more obsolete. In fact, with the rise of digital downloads, an optical drive isn’t even necessary. It is entirely possible to build your system without one.
With that being said, I still include an optical drive in the majority of my builds, simply because it makes installing your operating system much easier. If you don’t choose an optical drive for your build, you’ll have to install your operating system from a USB drive. This actually isn’t that difficult of a process and you can read a guide on how to do it here.
The good thing about foregoing an optical drive if you’re building a budget gaming computer, is that it will give you an extra $20 to put to better components. Though if you have a lot of older games on discs that you want to put onto your computer, you’ll want to get an optical drive. And, if you want to use your computer as a home theater as well, you’ll probably be interested in a Blu-ray player.
If you want an optical drive for your new build, here are some options to consider:
There’s really nothing fancy you need to look for when choosing an optical drive. The only thing you might want to consider is the color of the front plate of the optical drive. If you’re going for style points, you’ll want to match the optical drive to your case.
If you’re choosing a Blu-ray drive just remember that you’ll need software to go along with it. In some cases the BD-ROM will come with the necessary software. However, in other scenarios (like with both of the BD-ROMs above) the software is not included. You can always download and install VLC for free. Or, if you don’t get the software with the BD-ROM you buy software like Cyberlink PowerDVD.
You have to have an operating system if you want to actually use your gaming computer. Currently there are really only a couple of viable options for operating systems if you’re building a gaming computer: Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
Both options are suitable for gaming, but both also have a couple of aspects that you might want to consider before buying…
Windows 8 launched to quite a bit of criticism. It had a ton of bugs, it completely changed its interface (which confused people), and it had upset Valve (who owns Steam) by releasing some restrictive licensing rules.
Now that the smoke has cleared a little bit and Microsoft’s new operating system has been out for over a year, there’s a couple reasons why you might want to choose Windows 8 for your next gaming computer.
First, off, with the 8.1 update a lot (not all) of the nuisances of Windows 8 have been fixed. 8.1 fully supports DirectX 11.1, while Windows 7 does not (at least not fully). And, in games like Battlefield 4, there is actually a noticeable performance increase when using Windows 8.1
Microsoft’s reluctance to provide updated support for Windows 7 is another sign for concern. It’s clear Microsoft wants everyone to be using Windows 8. This isn’t good news for Windows 7, as it is likely that in the future, Microsoft will stop updating it to support the latest advancements.
Ultimately, despite it’s many annoying problems, I’m now recommending Windows 8.1 for all new gaming computer builds, simply because I believe Windows 7 is going to be left behind in future updates. However, Windows 7 is still not a bad choice, and if it gets to the point to where your performance is being limited, you can always upgrade.
Windows 7 is definitely the more popular decision for operating systems among enthusiasts. It’s stable and much more familiar than the new Windows 8. And, in terms of performance, there aren’t many (but there are some, see above…) instances where Windows 8 clearly pulls ahead. At least not as of yet.
As of right now, Windows 7 is still, perhaps, the best choice for an operating system. Though, that’s likely to change in the future, as it looks like Microsoft is going to stop releasing important updates for Windows 7 in an effort to get more people to switch to Windows 8.
In the end, the decision comes down to you. Do you prefer an easier-to-use and more comfortable operating system? Or, are you concerned about the future and want to make sure you have the best OS (performance-wise) going forward?
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