How to build a budget gaming PC?
August 24, 2007 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me build a really mediocre gaming PC!

I've finally got the resources to sink a bunch of cash into a somewhat up-to-date PC for gaming. However, I don't want/need to spend enough money to get me to the top of the gaming curve - I don't mind waiting a while before I can play modern games like Bioshock. I'm happy to stay back where the relatively cheap, but still nice games are - specifically I want to be able to play Half-Life 2 at a decent res/detail, but I don't need to max it out necessarily. The most recent game my now-defunct rig could (just about) play was Battlefield 1942, so it seems like there's plenty of great games to get through that were released between that and HL2 (and there's plenty of pre-BF1942 games I haven't got around to as well). My aim is to go for maximum cost-efficiency!

I've got a monitor, keyboard/mouse, printer/scanner and speakers, two DVD/RW drives, and I'll also have a ~300GB external HDD, but not much else I can add. Ideally I'd like to spend less than ~£200, but that's somewhat flexible. It would be good if the PC was pretty quiet. Bonus points if it'd be easy to upgrade it in the future. I can probably put the thing together myself (I've got a friend who can help if necessary). I live in London, UK.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Drexen to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there any way you can buy a used PC from someone who is into gaming and always has to have the latest and greatest? That might be cheaper, and you could put your stuff in that.

Otherwise, what kind of graphics card do you have? That can make a big difference when you're playing FPSes.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:51 AM on August 24, 2007


Hi Comrade_Robot - I don't currently have a (working) graphics card or any other components than the ones I listed - that's probably the main thing I need advice on, actually: which one will give me just enough performance without breaking the bank. It seems the components I need recommendations for are:

Case
Motherboard
CPU
RAM
Graphics-card
Sound card?
Cooling?

And a good source to buy them from, preferably without having to buy new peripherals.

I don't know many people who are into gaming, but I will be making enquiries with those who do. However I'd like it to last a long time so I'd prefer to buy new if I can.
posted by Drexen at 7:20 AM on August 24, 2007


I'd build a budget gaming PC by buying a cheap-ish Dell or other premade brand and tossing in a decent video card and 2 gigs of ram. This is most likely your cheapst option.

If I was building my own I would probably go this route:

1. Athlon X2 processor, say a 3600. This runs 60 dollars nowadays. Or move up to a 4400 for a little more.

2. A compatible motherboard. Doesnt really matter much as we're not interested in onboard video. Say 60 dollars.

3. Nvidia 7600 GS video card. This can be had for under 150 dollars nowadays. If that's too expensive then this 7600GT is 75 dollars after rebate.

4. 500w power supply and a decent case.

This should be around your 400 dollar limit. Maybe a tad over when you toss in 2 gigs of ram.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:24 AM on August 24, 2007


I suggest the guides at Sharky's. Give a look at the Value Gamer's System Buying Guide. There are also ones for High-end and Extreme.

Doing it for ~£200 is tight. You'll need a case, CPU, motherboard, RAM and video card to get something up.

Likely costs:

~£25 RAM (1 GB)
~£50-100 Video Card
~£50-75 Barebones Case & Mobo
~£50-100 CPU

That based on US prices translated to pounds...

Cheers.
posted by Argyle at 7:25 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whoops, "Nvidia 7600 GS video card" should have been 7900GS.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2007


This is what I got in February:

AMD ATHLON 64 3800+ bundled w/ motherboard and 1 gig of RAM for $245.86

ASUS GeForce 256MB PCI-E for $88

Case/power supply/fans for about $30
posted by dagnyscott at 7:34 AM on August 24, 2007


I used the guides at Ars Technica to build a low-end gaming box. They have several guides at different price points, and good duscussions about the cost/performance tradeoffs for each component. You'll probably want the Budget Box.

Good luck!
posted by Hermes32 at 7:57 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hermes32: "You'll probably want the Budget Box."

That list looks pretty much perfect! Taking out the components I already have, it comes to about £240 + shipping, which is workable for me -- in any case, it's a good benchmark to work from and compare other possible configurations with, along with everyone else's suggestions. Thanks, guys!
posted by Drexen at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2007


Just as a datapoint, I have a machine with an X850 PCI-E and it'll run HL2's HDR demo level just peachy, so if that's your pinnacle requirement then the aprox $70 USD x1650 should be more than fine for you.
posted by phearlez at 9:05 AM on August 24, 2007


Build around the cheapest dual-core processor available (probably AMD), pair with a nice nforce6100 motherboard; get 2GB of DDR2 for ~$60; for graphics, look at the GeForce 8600 or 8800 series, whatever fits into your budget after taking care of the processor, motherboard, and RAM. Unless you get a great deal on a 7950GT, don't bother with the (DX9-only) 7-series cards.

If you've already got a case, power supply, hard drive, etc, $400 is generally enough to buy into the upper-middle class (at least) of gaming. Unless prices are very different, £200 ought to be suffiecient.

If possible, locate a site such as Ben's Bargains that caters to your geography.
posted by unmake at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2007


The ars budget box looks pretty good. But I would at least consider getting an intel E2140 (the cheapest C2D) and over-clocking it. The E2140 isn't quite as fast as the 3600+, but they tend to over-clock really easily even with stock cooling.
posted by markr at 4:45 PM on August 24, 2007


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