$1K Windows Gaming Computer
August 26, 2011 2:02 AM   Subscribe

What is a good choice for a reliable light gaming computer for $1000?

Although we are a contented Mac household, we have one square peg who needs a Windows machine to play games (in addition to schoolwork). None of us, including the gamer, have any interest in the nuts and bolts side of computers, so we're pretty much looking for a reliable off-the-shelf machine we can buy and forget. The previous computer serving this role was a ThinkPad notebook computer which died this week. It had been reliable up until it's death and adequate but quite challenged by modern games.

The budget is ~$1000 and the replacement can be another notebook or it could be a desktop (though the price of the desktop would need to include a new monitor - - recommendations also welcome).
posted by fairmettle to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm gonna say that "reliable light gaming computer for $1,000" is an inherently contradictory set of terms. Odds are you can have two of the three; might I recommend recalibrating expectations accordingly? ; )
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:21 AM on August 26, 2011

I think DoctorFedora might be wrong, but it depends on what kinds of games your gamer is looking to play.

Oh wait, just noticed you need a monitor as well. Yeah that'll be tricky. What kinds of games, though? You might not need top of the line, I'm running Dragon Age 2 on a sub $500-from-last-year machine, albeit not at highest specs.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I dunno ... I would think that it's a great learning experience for a gamer who still does schoolwork to build his or her own machine (at least, it was for me - I built the machine I'm typing on after zero previous experience, and lots of fear and inhibition). There are great build recommendations over at Arstechnica.com (either the budget box or something closer to one of their "hot rod" box guides). Your square peg could build something much more powerful and than anything you could buy for $1000. It's really not that hard and is both pretty instructive and interesting. I'll add that if you go this route, get a guide for how to build one - again, it's not hard but a step-by-step is helpful - like this. It's pretty much like following a recipe).
posted by Auden at 3:51 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about BootCamp? Much less than $1000 to buy a Windows license, if you only need to play games you could reboot one of the Macs.
posted by anildash at 3:51 AM on August 26, 2011

Hmm. iMacs start around $1,200 and run Windows pretty well. I figure 512MB of video RAM would suggest reasonably powerful graphics hardware? Granted, I also bought myself a MacBook knowing that I would neither want to run Windows on it (though it does run really well) nor play games on it (which it can do reasonably well).
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:52 AM on August 26, 2011

For $1k, build it using parts from NewEgg. Personal experience: I put together a hexacore AMD machine with 8GB of RAM and a top-of-the-line ATI video card for $750 in March; you won't find anything near that from a retail vendor.
posted by ellF at 4:22 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

reliable off-the-shelf machine we can buy and forget

Get a console. Even the PS3, which is the most expensive of the bunch, is only $250. Granted, it won't run windows, but it'll definitely be cheap and reliable.
posted by valkyryn at 5:29 AM on August 26, 2011

i don't think get a console is a very good answer. how do you do your school work on a ps3?

A Gateway FX6840-15e Refurbished Desktop PC from TigerDirect will run you $650, leaving more than enough for a monitor as well.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:49 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you decide to follow the "build your own" advice above, I just quickly put together these from Newegg. Much better machine than you'd get for an all in one, and putting it together is not much more difficult than putting together a lego set these days. All at Newegg, and I think one is a shell-shocker deal, so might not last past noon EST today (the RAM, I believe). I can't vouch for the keyboard or monitor or case, but I've heard good things about Antec and the keyboard is just a standard microsoft one. And I put it together pretty quick, but I don't think I forgot anything.

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

MSI 870S-G46 AM3 AMD 870 SATA 6Gb/s ATX AMD Motherboard

SAPPHIRE 100328L Radeon HD 6770 1GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
$119.99 ($20 Mail in Rebate)

CORSAIR Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible

$94.99 ($10.00 Mail-in Rebate)

Microsoft J93-00001 Black USB Wired Slim Digital Media Keyboard 3000


Logitech G500 10 Buttons Dual-mode Scroll Wheel USB Wired Laser Gaming Mouse


G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL8D-8GBXM


AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor HDT90ZFBGRBOX


Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit - OEM

Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case


HANNspree By Hanns-G HF225DPB Black 21.5" Full HD WideScreen LCD Monitor w/Speakers


Grand Total: $974.18

And you get back $30 in Mail In Rebates, so $944.18
posted by Grither at 5:58 AM on August 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

I recently got a lenovo ideapad 570 for almost exactly $1000 from Lenovo's website (check the sales). It's my first Lenovo, so I can't vouch for it based on experience, but it seems to be running Starcraft II on high performance settings with no complaints.

You say a desktop is a possibility. I would assume that something like the $850 Dell XPS8300 would more than satisfy "light gaming." and you'd have $150 in your budget for a monitor.

This is assuming you need a new computer. If there are still enough Macs lying around, then yeah, I'd go with BootCamp.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2011

Grither's listed a pretty nice little setup there - I might even think of putting something like that together for myself. I've already got a case, monitor, etc. and all I need are the guts.

If you go that route, don't forget the DVD writer, and a WiFi Card if you need it (looks like the motherboard has wired LAN built in).

Also cables for the Hard Drive and DVD drive; usually they're not supplied with the drives nowadays.

And it is as easy as putting together a lego set. It's quite literally plug and play. The most complicated piece will probably be securing the motherboard in the case. Best thing about building your own is that you have a perfectly clean windows install. If you could find a comparable off-the-shelf system in your price range from a big box retailer, it's going to come loaded with gigabytes of crap you don't need, will never use, and will impact your enjoyability and performance.
posted by SquidLips at 11:26 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, good catch, I totally forgot any way for you to install Windows 7 in that build. Hah.

Bluray drive:
SAMSUNG Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Combo Model SH-B123L LightScribe Support - OEM

Or cheaper to keep you under $1k CD/DVD drive:
SONY Black 18X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA DVD-ROM Drive Model DDU1681S-0B - OEM
posted by Grither at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Grither: "I can't vouch for the keyboard or monitor or case, but I've heard good things about Antec"

I can vouch for the case. The Antec 300 is a perfectly serviceable, slightly ugly (but no-one seems to make particularly attractive PC cases except Apple) but sturdy case with lots of fan mounts. Don't bother sticking a fan on the mount over the CPU as it'll just rattle around.

On the plus side it has four useful fan mounts, two at the front by the hard drive cage, one at the rear and one on top, all 120mm except for the 140mm top one. The rear and top mounts are pre-populated with three-speed Antec fans; I have the speed selectors dangling out of the back of the case so on hot days I can turn both of them up to full. I've put cheapish motherboard-controlled fans in the front mounts and even on most summer days my three-hard drive, GTX560'd PC remains cool and actually pretty quiet. It can make a racket with the Antec fans turned up to full, though.

On the minus side the Antec fans have a tendency to fail to start as they get older if you leave them on the minimum setting. It's solvable by dangling the speed selectors out the back and just wanging them up to max and back down again.

Also, the case lacks the hard drive mounts of more expensive Antec cases (like the Sonata, P180, etc.) so you're basically screwing your drives directly into the case structure. Expect that "hundred ants dancing on a cymbal" hard drive access noise.

Finally, the power supply mounts at the bottom of the case, so make sure the PSU you get has long enough cables.

Overall, for the money, it's a decent case. If the hard drive noise bothers you and you only have one drive there's plenty of room up top in the 5 inch bays to string your HD up with, well, string. It can be pretty quiet if you don't buy super-cheap fans and leave the supplied ones on the lowest setting.

first day back at work after the long weekend, Chrome has loaded all my tabs from Friday, hence super-late reply
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:02 AM on August 30, 2011

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