Build a stunning Budget Gaming PC that you can be proud of!

| December 10, 2014 | (0)

Version 4.0 : Updated on December 10th 2014

Skip to the recommendations:
- Recommended parts summary (U.S.A.)
- Recommended parts in details (International Shipping + U.S.A.)

About Hardware Revolution’s Budget Gaming PCs

This is a comprehensive article where I help you build your own Gaming PC on a small budget. I recommend all the required parts and accessories, as well as assist you in the process.

Not interested in a Budget Gaming PC?
You may be interested in our other articles, such as other Do-It-Yourself Computer Systems, the Best Parts For Your Money and/or The Best Laptops For Your Money.

Is this Gaming PC powerful enough for my needs?

The following recommendations are ideal for most mainstream video games on a single monitor/HDTV with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p) or less.

However, if:

  1. You want to play the latest games with details set at maximum.
  2. Need 120+FPS for FPS and other fast paced games.
  3. Are going to play on a monitor that has a resolution higher than 1920 x 1080.
  4. Want to play on multiple monitors.

Read the Mainstream Gaming PCs and High-End Gaming PCs articles instead.

Want an inexpensive PC for friends, family or yourself?

All the motherboards in this guide have video outputs meaning that you can connect your monitor or HDTV directly to them, without needing a video card.

The CPUs have integrated graphic processors (GPUs) that allows you to use one, two or even three monitors at once (depending on the resolution).

So if you want to a ‘regular’ inexpensive PC and don’t intend to play video games, just don’t get the dedicated video card. You may want to get a less powerful power supply and might want to consider a smaller case.

Choose Your PC Performance (Tier):

I recommend the parts for three levels of performance (tiers) for the Budget Gaming PCs. :

How to identify which part is recommended for which Tier:

The Tiers are color coded AND indicated by numbers (1, 2 and 3):

Tier 1: $474

Pentium G3258, 8GB RAM, R9 270 2GB, 1TB HDD
While it is the least powerful Gaming PC that I recommend, it’s also the most powerful Gaming PC that you can get at this price! Ideal if you have a limited budget, that’s perfect if all you want to do is play at 1366 x 768, 720p or 1600×900 with medium/high settings, browse the Internet, watch some videos, listen to some music, do some Office work and the like.

Want to boost its performance with overclocking?
While it can be overclocked as it is, you’ll get the best overclocking results with an after-market CPU Cooler.

Tier 2: $677

Core i3-4160, 8GB RAM, R9 285 2GB, 1TB Hybrid HDD, USB 3.0 case
VS Tier 1: More powerful CPU, higher performance video card, higher performance Hybrid hard drive and case with USB 3.0 ports. Lowest Tier recommended for 1920 x 1080 gameplay.

Tier 3: $756

Core i5-4590, 8GB RAM, R9 285 2GB, 1TB Hybrid HDD, USB 3.0 case
VS Tier 2: Far more powerful Intel Core i5 quad-core CPU, ideal if you want your Gaming PC to handle newer games more easily, as well as run demanding programs such as audio/photo/video editing.

Need a Tier recommendation for a specific video game?

Ask us on the forums: Tell us about the video game, the level of details that you want (i.e. I just want to be able to play the game, medium, high or maximum details) and the resolution (e.g. 1920 x 1080. NOT the size) of the monitor (HDTVs: 720p or 1080p) that you’ll use.

Recommended Parts Summary:

Main recommendations, upgrades and alternatives:

1. Recommended Components are in Bold, with one or more colors/symbols for the Tier(s).
2. Suggested Alternatives and Upgrades are in Italic. You can upgrade as many parts as you want to, including parts from higher Tiers.
3. All Parts are interchangeable/compatible with each other, except for smaller Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX cases that don’t support larger Micro-ATX and ATX motherboards respectively and may not support some large after-market CPU Coolers. Ask us on the forums if you want us to double-check your build.
4. If this is your first build and if you just want a simple template to follow, stick to the recommended parts for a Tier.

Budget Gaming PCs Tiers:
Tier 1 (in Red): Unlocked Intel dual-core Pentium CPU; ready for overclocking
Tier 2 (in Fuchsia): Better CPU, video card, hard drive, motherboard and case
Tier 3 (in Dark Green): Tier 2 + Far more powerful Intel Core i5 quad-core CPU
Click on a component’s name (e.g. CPU) to jump to the detailed section of it.
Price
$474
$677
$756
CPU
Tier 1: Intel Pentium G3258 Dual-Core 3.2GHz Unlocked Multiplier
Tier 2: Intel Core i3-4160 Dual-Core+Hyper-Threading 3.6GHz LGA1150
Tier 3: Intel Core i5-4590 Quad-Core 3.3-3.7GHz Turbo LGA1150
Intel Core i5-4690 Quad-Core 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo LGA1150
Intel Core i5-4690K Quad-Core 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo LGA1150 Unlocked
Intel Core i7-4790 Quad-Core+Hyper-Threading 3.6-4.0GHz Turbo LGA1150
Intel Core i7-4790K Quad-Core+HT 4.0-4.4GHz Turbo LGA1150 Unlocked
-
$70
$120
$199
$224
$231
$305
$331
Motherboard
Mini-ITX: Smallest, 1 expansion slot, compatible with Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX and some ATX cases
ASRock H81M-ITX H81 SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0 ports, No USB 3.0 header
MSI B85I SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header, S/PDIF Out, good power delivery
Gigabyte GA-B85N Phoenix-WIFI Bluetooth Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps USB 3.0
ASUS H97I-PLUS good power delivery M.2 10Gbps USB 3.0
MSI H97I Bluetooth Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps USB 3.0 Header
ASRock Z97E-ITX/AC Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps, M.2, SATA Express
Micro-ATX: Smaller, 2-4 expansion slots, compatible with Micro-ATX/ATX cases
Tier 1: MSI H81M-P33 LGA1150 H81 Micro ATX
ASRock H81M-HDS H81 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header Micro ATX
Tier 2-3: Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 H81 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header
ASRock H97M Pro4 H97 4xDIMM RAID Better Audio Intel LAN Micro ATX
Gigabyte GA-H97M-D3H H97 4XDIMM, RAID, M.2 10Gb/s Micro ATX
Gigabyte GA-Z97M-D3H Z97 Micro ATX Supports “Devil’s Canyon”
ATX: Large, 4-8 expansion slots, compatible with ATX cases
ASRock B85 Anniversary SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z87X 3D good for OC CF 8x/8x
Gigabyte GA-H97-D3H H97 ATX 4xRAM slots M.2 10Gb/s
Gigabyte GA-Z97-D3H Z97 SATA Express/M.2
ASRock Z97 Extreme3 CF/SLI, Intel LAN, Optical S/PDIF
MSI Z97-G45 Gaming, CF/SLI, mSATA, great power components
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-
$60
$80
$98
$102
$110
$145

-
$45
$57
$63
$80
$89
$109
-
$65
$80
$93
$108
$120
$132
RAM (Memory)
All Tiers: Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1.5v CL9 DDR3 1600MHz
Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1.5v CL9 DDR3 1600MHz
-
$74
$148
Video Card
Tier 1: XFX R9 270 2GB Dual fans
Tier 2-3: XFX R9 285 2GB Dual fans
-
$150

$220
Storage
Hard drives:
Tier 1: Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III
Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III
Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA III
Seagate STBD6000100 6TB SATA III
Hybrid Hard Drives:
Tier 2-3: Seagate ST1000DX001 1 TB SATA III
Seagate ST2000DX001 2 TB SATA III
SSD (Solid State Drive):
Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD
Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 240GB SATA III SSD
Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 480GB SATA III SSD
Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 960GB SATA III SSD
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-

$54
$80
$101
$260
-
$71
$101
-
$67

$105
$202

$380
Optical Drive
All Tiers: ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner
Pioneer SATA Blu-Ray Reader + CD/DVD Burner
LG Black 16X SATA Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Burner
-
$22

$43
$59
Power Supply
Tier 1: EVGA 500W 80PLUS
Tier 2-3: EVGA 600W 80PLUS Bronze
EVGA SuperNOVA B2 750W 80PLUS Bronze Semi-Modular
EVGA SuperNOVA B2 850W 80PLUS Bronze Semi-Modular
-
$40
$57
$88
$97
Case
ATX cases: Compatible with ATX/Micro-ATX motherboards, some with Mini-ITX
Corsair Carbide 200R 2x120mm USB 3.0 x2
Rosewill R5 3x120mm USB 3.0 Fan Controller

Rosewill Challenger U3 USB 3.0 x2, 2 x 120mm, 1 x 140mm fans
NZXT Source 210 Black 1x120mm
NZXT Source 210 White 1x120mm
NZXT Source 210 White Elite 2x120mm
Rosewill Blackbone 2 x 120mm fans
Cooler Master Elite 430 2 x 120mm fans
Cooler Master HAF 912 2x120mm
NZXT Tempest 210 1x120mm
NZXT Guardian 921 3 x 120mm fans
Cooler Master Storm Enforcer, 1 x 120mm, 2 x 200mm
Cooler Master HAF 922 Red LEDs 1 x 120mm, 2 x 200mm
Corsair Carbide 400r 3x120mm
COUGAR Challenger Black 1x120mm 1x200mm
COUGAR Challenger Orange 1x120mm 1x200mm
COUGAR Evolution Black Window 2x120mm
NZXT Phantom 410 Black 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
NZXT Phantom 410 White 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
NZXT Phantom 410 Black Orange 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
NZXT Phantom 410 Gunmetal 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
NZXT Phantom 410 Red 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
Antec Three Hundred Two 1x140mm 1x120mm
Corsair Carbide Series 300R 1x140mm 1x120mm
Corsair Carbide 400R 3x120mm
COOLER MASTER HAF XB Cube 2x120mm
COOLER MASTER Storm Scout 2 Black 1x120mm
Antec P280 Sound proofing panels and foam 3x120mm
Fractal Design Define R4 Black 2x140mm
Fractal Design Define R4 Window Black 2x140mm
Fractal Design Define R4 White 2x140mm
Fractal Design Define R4 Window White 2x140mm
Fractal Design Define R4 Titanium 2x140mm
Fractal Design Define R4 Window Titanium 2x140mm
Corsair Carbide 500R Black 3x120mm 1x200mm
Corsair Carbide 500R White 3x120mm 1x200mm
Corsair Vengeance C70 Black 3x120mm
Corsair Obsidian 550D 3x120mm
NZXT H440 Mid Tower, Black with Red, 3x120mm+1x140mm
NZXT H440 Mid Tower, White with Black, 3x120mm+1x140mm
Antec Eleven Hundred V2 3x120mm
Micro-ATX cases: Compatible with Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX motherboards
Tier 1: Antec VSK-3000E
COUGAR Spike Micro-ATX 1x 120mm fan
Fractal Design Core 1000 1x120mm
Tier 2-3: Rosewill LINE-M Micro-ATX 2x USB 3.0 2x 120mm Fan
Thermaltake ARMOR A30i Black / Blue LEDs Fans
Thermaltake ARMOR A30i Red / Blue LEDs Fans
SilverStone SST-PS07B Micro-ATX USB 3.0 2x120mm
SilverStone SST-PS07W White Micro-ATX USB 3.0 2x120mm
Corsair Obsidian Series 350D
Corsair Obsidian Series 350D w/ Window
SilverStone TJ08B-E Micro-ATX USB3.0 1x180mm 1x120mm
Micro-ITX cases: Compatible only with Mini-ITX motherboards
Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
Cooler Master Elite 130
BitFenix Prodigy Black 2x120mm
BitFenix Prodigy White 2x120mm
BitFenix Prodigy Red 2x120mm
BitFenix Prodigy Orange 2x120mm
BitFenix Prodigy 2x120mm Black, Red, Blue, Green or Silver
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-

$60
$70
$60

$40
$40
$50
$45
$50
$60
$50
$70
$90
$100
$85
$90
$80
$90
$100
$90
$100
$100
$100
$60
$80
$85
$90
$100
$120
$100
$110
$110
$120
$110
$120
$130
$100
$130
$130
$120
$120
$85
-
$19
$37
$36
$40
$100
$109
$95
$84
$80
$103
$120
-
$50
$50
$65
$70
$85
$93
$70+

Cooling
CPU Cooler:
All Tiers: Stock Cooler Included with CPU
More quiet than stock: ZALMAN USA CNPS7000V-Al PQM
More quiet and better performance: Cooler Master Hyper TX3
Low-noise/great cooling performance: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
CPU Cooler for the smallest Micro-ATX cases:
COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 120mm

Case fans:
Double-check which size of fans your case accepts before ordering!
CFM: Airflow, higher is better.
dBA: Noise level, lower is better (+3 dBA is twice as noisy!)

120mm:

Masscool BLD-12025V1 Blue LEDs 60 CFM 23.5dBA
MassCool BLD-12025V1R Red LEDs 60 CFM 23.5dBA
Gelid FN-SX12-10 37 CFM 20dBA
Gelid FN-PX12-15 Up to 58 CFM 12-25.5dBA PWM
AeroCool Shark Black 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
AeroCool Shark Red LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
AeroCool Shark Blue LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
AeroCool Shark White LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
AeroCool Shark Green LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
COUGAR CF-V12HP Up to 70.5CFM Up to 17.9dBA PWM
Noctua NF-P12 12.6-17-19.8dBA 37-46-54CFM
Cougar Turbine CFT12SB4 60CFM 17.7dBA Pack of 4 fans – Black
Cougar Turbine CFT12S4 60CFM 17.7dBA Pack of 4 fans – Orange
140mm:
AeroCool Shark Black 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
AeroCool Shark Red LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
AeroCool Shark Blue LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
AeroCool Shark White LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
AeroCool Shark Green LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
COUGAR CF-V14H 140mm 70CFM/19.2dBA or 55CFM/16.4dBA
Noctua NF-A14 FLX 140mm 13.8/16.4/19.2dBA 52.2/60/68CFM
200mm:
Cooler Master MegaFlow 200mm Black or Blue LEDs or Red LEDs
Fan controllers:
Thermaltake Commander F5
NZXT SENTRY 2 Touchscreen Fan Controller
NZXT Sentry 3 Touchscreen Fan Controller
FrozenCPU Deluxe Multi Power Port – 12V / 7V / 5V
4-Pin Molex Fan controller
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Free

$13
$18
$35
-
$35
-
-
-
-
-
$7
$11
$7
$11
$15
$18
$18
$18
$18
$18
$18
$32
$30
-
$19
$20
$20
$19
$12
$13
$19
-
$16
-
$19
$24
$35
$15
$6
Sound
All Tiers: 5.1/7.1 sound card: Integrated on motherboard
ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 105dB SNR PCI Sound Card
ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 107dB SNR PCI Sound Card
ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 105dB SNR PCI-Express 1x Sound Card
ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 107dB SNR PCI-Express 1x Sound Card
Sound Blaster Z 7.1 116dB SNR PCI-Express 1x includes a Mic
ASUS Xonar U3 2.1 100dB SNR USB Sound Card
Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 100dB SNR USB Sound Card with Integrated Mic
ASUS Xonar U7 7.1 114dB SNR USB Sound Card
Speakers:
2.0 (2 satellites no sub-woofer)
Logitech Z-130 2.0 5W
Logitech Z200 2.0 10W
Creative Inspire T12 2.0 18W
Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II 2.0 32W
2.1 (2 satellites + sub-woofer):
Cyber Acoustics CA-3001RB 2.1 14W
Creative A250 2.1 9W
Cyber Acoustics CA-3602a 2.1 30W
Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 38W
GOgroove BassPULSE Glowing Blue or Red LED 2.1 20W
Logitech Z523 2.1 40W
5.1 (5 satellites + sub-woofer)
Logitech Z506 5.1 75W
Headphones/Earphones:
Open Design Headphones:
Koss KSC75 Clip on headphones
Koss PortaPro
Superlux HD668B
Grado iGrado
AKG K240
Audio Technica AUD ATHAD500X
Grado SR80e
Sennheiser HD558
Audio Technica ATH-AD700X
Sennheiser HD 598
Closed Design Headphones:
Koss UR-20
Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green)
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
Audio Technica ATH-A700
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White
Sennheiser HD25-1 II
In-Ear Headphones:
Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet
Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White
Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White)
Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black)
Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi with Mic
Bose SoundTrue
Yamaha EPH-100SL
Shure SE315-K (Black or White)
Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit
Bose QuietComfort 20i
Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red)
Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit
Microphone:
Zalman Zm-Mic1 Microphone
Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone
Headsets (Headphones + Microphone in one):
Yapster TM-YP100A
Koss SB-45
Sennheiser PC 151
ARCTIC Sound 5.1 Surround P531
SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors
Logitech 7.1 Surround G35
Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Wrath Wireless
Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930
Audio Technica ATHADG1 Open-Back Gaming Headset
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Free

$28
$47
$38
$54
$71
$35
$61
$90
-
-
$32
$45
$90
$90
-
$26
$35
$59
$70
$110
$210
-
$70
-
-
$14
$25
$42
$79
$99
$100
$150
$200
$249
$295
-
$15
$69
$99
$130
$159
$159
$200
-
$7
$15
$25
$25
$50
$100
$124
$199
$249
$299
$499
$549
-
$10
$49
-
$31
$50
$56
$49
$80
$95
$98
$105
$299
Network
All Tiers: Wired Ethernet 1Gbps: Integrated on motherboard
Want WiFi? See The Best WiFi Routers and Best WiFi Adapters article.
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Free

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Mouse and Keyboard
Mouse and Keyboard Combo:
Logitech MK120 Wired
Logitech MK270
CM Storm Devastator Wired – Red or Blue LED
CM Storm Devastator Wired – Green LED
Anker CB310 Wireless Water-Resistant and Quiet, DPI settings
AULA KILLING THE SOUL REHEAD, Wired, DPI settings, LED
Logitech Wave Mk550 Wireless
Beyondtek Z-767 Waterproof 7 Colors LED Wired, DPI settings
Logitech MK710 Wireless
Mouse:
E-3lue Cobra Wired EMS109BK 1600DPI, 4 Ad. DPI Levels
Anker Wireless Mouse, 5 Prog. Buttons, 3 Adj. DPI Levels, 2000 DPI
Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse
Anker Gaming Mouse, 7 Programmable Button, 4000 DPI, LEDs
Anker Gaming Laser Mouse 5000 DPI, 11 Progr. Button, Weights
Anker 8000 DPI Laser Gaming Mouse 9 Progr. Buttons Weights
Logitech G400s
SteelSeries Sensei Laser Gaming Mouse Raw Edition (Rubberized Black)
Logitech G700
Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse 12 Thumb Buttons
Logitech G9X Gaming Mouse Call of Duty Edition
Logitech G700s Rechargeable Gaming Mouse
Razer Naga Epic Rechargable Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse
Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse
Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball
Keyboard:
Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200
Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 (Black, Ink Gear or White Paisley)
Azio Large Print Tri-Color Backlit Keyboard
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Logitech Washable Keyboard K310
Logitech Wireless Keyboard K270 with Long-Range Wireless
Microsoft SideWinder X4
Razer Nostromo PC Gaming Keypad
SteelSeries 6Gv2 Mechanical Keyboard – Red Cherry MX Switches
CM Storm QuickFire TK Compact Mechanical CHERRY MX RED LED Backlit
Logitech G510s with Game Panel LCD Screen
Das Keyboard Model S Professional Mechanical Keyboard Cherry MX Brown
Das Keyboard Model S Professional Mechanical Keyboard Cherry MX Red
Logitech G710+ Mechanical Backlit Macro keys USB 2.0 pass-through
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$15
$20
$28
$30
$36
$40
$50
$50
$65
-
$8
$15
$25
$26
$40
$40
$40
$48
$68
$45
$75
$70
$97
$22
$40
-
$14
$20
$20
$33
$30
$31
$48
$57
$81
$81
$76
$135
$137
$120

Never built a PC before and need help? No problem.

You don’t have to be a Geek to build a PC!
Building a PC has never been easier. We have hundreds of readers who had no experience and who built their first PC with the help of Hardware Revolution. If they can do it, so can you!

Start by reading our “Building Your First PC?” article, which covers everything that you need to know to get started. We also have videos on how to build a PC and on how to install Windows/software a bit further down in the article.

Once you’re comfortable with the idea of building your own PC, simply pick a Tier and buy the recommended parts for it. When you get your parts, assemble your PC, install Windows and enjoy. Also, be proud of a job well done!

Recommendations in details:

Motherboard:

Motherboard form factors:
To ensure compatibility with your case, you need to know what’s the form factor of your motherboard. There are 3 form factors that I recommend or offer as alternatives in this article:

From the smallest to the largest:

  • Mini-ITX:
    Smallest, 1 expansion slot, compatible with Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX and some ATX cases
    Ideal if you want a small Gaming PC, with a single video card and have no other expansion cards to install. Keep in mind that working inside a Mini-ITX case can be more complicated, especially if you have large hands. Usually more expensive.
  • Micro-ATX:
    Smaller than ATX, larger than Mini-ITX.  2 to 4 expansion slots, compatible with Micro-ATX and pretty much any recent ATX case.

    A nice balance between size, expandability and cooling. Ideal if you want a video card with a PCI/PCI-E sound card or another expansion card or two video cards (with two PCI-Express 3.0 16X slots running at 8x/8x). Relatively easy to assemble a PC in it. Usually the least expensive.
  • ATX:
    Large, 4-8 expansion slots, compatible with ATX cases.
    Allows you to install many expansion cards, ideal for multiple video card setups, plenty of cooling (best for overclocking), easy to assemble a PC in it; you have plenty of space to work in it. Slightly more expensive than Micro-ATX, less than Mini-ITX.

Tier 1:

MSI H81M-P33 LGA1150 H81 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX

$44.99 at Newegg
$47.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Overclocking is not only supported on Z87 and Z97 equipped motherboard!
Overclocking the Intel Pentium G3258 CPU is officially only supported by Intel on the Intel Z87 and Z97 chipset-equipped motherboards, but the reality is that’s also also supported on some motherboards equipped with lower-end chipsets and older 8-series motherboards, but you may need to update the UEFI/BIOS to enable overclocking, which is a relatively easy process.

All the non-Z (not Z87 nor Z97 chipset equipped) motherboards that I recommend do support overclocking the Intel Pentiym G3258 CPU, according to this thread on AnandTech Forums. I do not recommend all the motherboards on that list, only the one that I recommend in this article, due to reasons such: Another motherboard is a better choice at the same price (due to more ports, better chipset, better customer reviews)

That said, I do NOT recommend overclocking an Intel Core i5 or i7 quad-core processor on lower-end motherboards. Those motherboards, equipped with 3-4 phases power delivery, aren’t designed to handle the power requirements of an overclocked quad-core Intel Core i5/i7 CPU, only the two core Pentium G3258. Get an higher-end motherboard (see our alternatives below) with better power delivery components if you want to overclock a K-series Core i5 or Core i7 CPU. You’ll get more options in the BIOS/UEFI, it will be safer, more reliable and you’ll get far better overclocking results.

Never overclocked and want a nice tutorial?
Check out this video on how to overclock the Pentium G3258 CPU. The motherboard in the video is the Gigabyte B85M-DS3H, so if you get a Gigabyte motherboard, your menu will be pretty much identical. If you get a motherboard from another manufacturer, the process is the same, just with with a menus that look different.

About the MSI H81M-P33 motherboard:
This motherboard offers basic overclocking support for the Pentium G3258 at an outstanding price, making it a good choice for Tier 1 of the Budget Gaming PCs.

Its low price allows you to invest your budget on the part that matters the most for gaming performance: the video card.

That said, it’s very limited when to comes to features. You get what you pay for in this case. If you want more features, you’ll have to spend more on a more expensive motherboard.

Pros:
1. Lowest price for a motherboard that supports overclocking the Intel Pentium G3258.
2. Six USB ports in total, two P/S2 ports.
3. Three fan headers: One for the CPU and two for case fans. Some low-end motherboards only have two fan headers, which complicates matter when you have two or more case fans.
4. PCI-Express 1x slot is far enough from the PCI-Express 16x slot to allow the installation of a large dual-slot video card and another expansion card.

Cons:
1. No USB 3.0 onboard header: This means that you can’t use USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case, if your case has them. The motherboard has two USB 3.0 ports on the back and support USB 2.0 on the front of the case.
2. Limited overclocking features: While this motherboard will allow you to overclock the Pentium G3258, it won’t have all the features for fine-tuning your overclock, that higher-end motherboards have.
3. Limited fan control: One of the system fan header (4-pin) allows you to drop voltage to 50%, but the other one (3-pin) has no control; the fan connected to it will always run at 100%.
4. PCI-Express 16x 2.0 instead of PCI-Express 16x 3.0: In thoery, that means 50% less bandwidth. In practice, it won’t affect your video card’s performance, PCI-Express 2.0 16X offers plenty enough bandwidth. Not the board’s fault, it’s a limitation of the H81 chipset.
5. Only two included SATA cables: You’ll need to buy more if you get more than one hard drive and one optical drive.
6. Only two RAM slots: Four is preferable if you want to add RAM in the future.
7. Only 4 SATA ports
8. No RAID support.
9. No paper manual is included with the motherboard, you have to get it online from MSI’s website.

If any of those cons are a deal breaker for you, simply upgrade to one of the alternatives suggested below.

Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.

Ports on the back: Two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two PS/2, Gigabit LAN, VGA and DVI outputs and 6 (5.1) Channels audio.

Expansion slots: PCI-Express 2.0 16X and one PCI-Express 1x slot

Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Three fan connectors (2x four pins, 1x three pins), two SATA 6.0Gb/s, two SATA 3.0Gb/s and two USB 2.0 headers.

Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, manual, CD with drivers/utilities and I/O backplate.

Tier 2-3:

Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 H81 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header

$62.49 (Amazon)
- $63.70 (BH – International Shipping)

About the Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 motherboard:
This motherboard offers an USB 3.0 header at a good price, making it a great choice for Tier 2 and 3 of the Budget Gaming PCs.

Its low price allows you to invest your budget on the part that matters the most for gaming performance: the video card.

Of course, you get SATA 6.0Gb/s III ports

That said, it’s very limited when to comes to features. You get what you pay for in this case. If you want more features, you’ll have to spend more on a more expensive motherboard.

Pros:
1. Low price
2. USB 3.0 header, Six USB 3.0 ports: Four on the back, two from the header
3. PCI-Express 1x slot is far enough from the PCI-Express 16x slot to allow the installation of a large dual-slot video card and another expansion card.

Cons:
1. Only two fan headers
2. Limited overclocking features: While this motherboard will allow you to overclock the Pentium G3258, it won’t have all the features for fine-tuning your overclock, that higher-end motherboards have.
3. PCI-Express 16x 2.0 instead of PCI-Express 16x 3.0: In thoery, that means 50% less bandwidth. In practice, it won’t affect your video card’s performance, PCI-Express 2.0 16X offers plenty enough bandwidth. Not the board’s fault, it’s a limitation of the H81 chipset.
4. Only two included SATA cables: You’ll need to buy more if you get more than one hard drive and one optical drive.
5. Only two RAM slots: Four is preferable if you want to add RAM in the future.
6. Only 4 SATA ports
7. No RAID support.

If any of those cons are a deal breaker for you, simply upgrade to one of the alternatives suggested below.

Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.

Ports on the back: Two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one PS/2, Gigabit LAN, VGA, Displayport and DVI outputs and 6 (5.1) Channels audio.

Expansion slots: PCI-Express 2.0 16X, two PCI and one PCI-Express 1x slot

Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Two fan connectors (2x four pins, 1x three pins), two SATA 6.0Gb/s, two SATA 3.0Gb/s, USB 3.0 header and two USB 2.0 headers.

Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, manual, CD with drivers/utilities and I/O backplate.

Features to look for in alternatives:

- Four RAM slots: Even if you only get two RAM sticks right now, having two additional RAM slots can be useful when you’ll want to add to add RAM in the future.
- 9 series chipset: Will be compatible with Intel’s next generation of Core CPUs, codename “Broadwell”.
- Multiple video card support:
If you ever want to upgrade to a dual video card setup at some point in the future (make sure to upgrade your CPU first), get a motherboard with Z87 or Z97 chipset: Hxx chipsets don’t support SLI, nor proper 8x/8x bandwidth splitting between the main PCI-Express 16x slots that is crucial for performance with multiple video card setups (SLI/Crossfire).
- High-quality power delivery for overclocking a Core i5 or Core i7 K series CPU:
Get an higher motherboard with better power delivery components if you want to overclock a K-series Core i5 or Core i7 CPU. You’ll get more options in the BIOS/UEFI, it will be safer, more reliable and you’ll get far better overclocking results anyway.

My recommendations:

Make sure to pick the right form factor (ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX) to match your case and your desires.
Mini-ITX motherboards:

Micro-ATX alternatives:

ATX alternatives:

  • ASRock B85 Anniversary SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header: $64.99 at Newegg – Entry-level ATX motherboard, with an USB 3.0 header.
  • $79.99 - BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z87X 3D good for OC CF 8x/8x – Based on the older Z87 chipset but don’t be fooled by this: It is a great motherboard capable of top-notch overclocking at an outstanding price. VS the Z97 chipset, all you lose is M.2 and SATA Express support, two things that don’t matter for most users. Considering its price, it’s most likely being liquidated, so takes advantage of its very low price while you can!
  • Gigabyte GA-H97-D3H H97 ATX 4xRAM M.2 10Gb/s: $92.99 at Amazon (USA) or $96.95 at B&H (International Shipping) – Similar to the alternative above, except that this one comes with in the larger ATX form-factor. This means that you get additional expansion slots, as well as a M.2 10Gb/s slot.
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97-D3H Z97 ATX, supports overclocking(Devil’s Canyon), SATA Express/M.2: $107.99 at Newegg or $109.90 at B&H (International Shipping) - If you want an ATX form factor motherboard that supports Intel’s “Devil’s Canyon” CPUs (Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K) which are optimized for overclocking, as well as Intel’s future 5th generation of Core i CPUs, codename “Broadwell”, the Gigabyte GA-Z97M-D3H is an excellent choice!
  • ASRock Z97 Extreme3 Good power delivery, Intel LAN, Optical S/PDIF Output: $119.99 at Newegg
  • MSI Z97-G45 Gaming, CF/SLI, mSATA, great power components: $131.99 at Newegg or $140.73 at B&H (International Shipping)

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CPU:

Tier 1:

Intel Pentium G3258 Dual-Core 3.2GHz Unlocked Multiplier:

$69.99 at Amazon
$76.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

Unlocked multiplier for $70:

The Pentium G3258 is a quite unique Intel CPU, seeing as it’s a fully unlocked CPU (meaning that you can overclock it!) at a much lower price than we’re used to see from Intel in the last few years.

It’s a 3.2GHz dual-core CPU with no Hyper-Threading, based on the Haswell architecture. At stock frequencies, it’s a fine CPU for its price, but where it really shines is its performance when you overclock it.

With the basic motherboard and the included Intel CPU Cooler, both recommended for Tier 1, you should be able to overclock the Pentium G3258 to 3.8-4.0GHz.

With a better motherboard and good after-market CPU Cooler, as recommended for Tier 2, 4.3-4.5GHz should be reachable.

What if I don’t want to overclock it?
In the same price range, we have the AMD Athlon X4 760K that’s available for $78. Even if you don’t overclock it, with its highly efficient Haswell architecture and its 3.2GHz frequency, the G3258 can hold its own against the AMD Athlon II X4 760K.

Needless to say, if you overclock it, it has no problem outpacing its main competitor in its price range, the AMD Athlon X4 760K.

But really, it would almost be a shame not to take advantage of its overclocking potential! Done properly, overclocking is perfectly safe for your PC’s reliability.

More power efficient:
On top of outperforming the AMD competition, the Pentium G3258 is also more power efficient, consuming less power at idle and load than its competitors. Of course, if you overclock it, it will consume more power.

Easy to upgrade:
Best of all? You can upgrade to an higher-end Intel LGA1150 Core i3, i5 or i7 CPU down the road if you wish to get more CPU performance. It’s an easy upgrade, simply swap the CPUs.

Tier 2:

Intel Core i3-4160 Dual-Core+Hyper-Threading 3.6GHz LGA1150:

- $119.99 (Amazon)
- $124.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

VS the Competition:
AMD’s closest priced CPU is the FX-6300 ($110, Six-Core, 3.5GHz/4.1GHz Turbo).

I picked the Intel Core i3-4150 over the AMD FX-6300 because:

  1. The Intel Core i3-4330 (slightly slower (-100MHz) than the Core i3-4160) outperforms the FX-6300 in most games and trade blows, losing and winning depending on the application, thanks to its higher single thread performance, according to AnandTech.
  2. The Core i3-4130 (200MHz slower) outperforms the FX-6350 (+400MHz/100MHz Base/Turbo frequencies) when it comes to gaming performance, according to Xbit Labs.
  3. The Core i3-4130 has a far lower power consumption: 16W less at idle and 105W less at load! Lower power consumption = Lower utility bill, not requiring a more powerful power supply (saving money), less heat and less noise.
  4. The Intel LGA1150 platform offers more interesting upgrade options with the more powerful Core i5 and i7 series of CPU. With the AMD AM3+ platform, you’re limited to slightly more powerful FX-83xx CPUs that are no match for Intel’s Core i5/i7 CPUs.

Tier 3:

Intel Core i5-4590 Quad-Core 3.3-3.7GHz LGA1150:

- Core i5-4590: $198.99 (Amazon)
- Core i5-4570 (3.2-3.6GHz): $199.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

V.S. AMD FX-8350:
Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance (a domain where Intel dominates AMD) so when it comes to gaming performance, AMD’s FX-8350 is no match for Intel’s Core i5-4570. On top of that, the Fx-8350 consumes roughly 85W more power at load than the Core i5-4570, a considerable difference.

While its 8 cores might make it seem like an attractive option for heavy multi-threaded programs, even then, the Core i5-4590 competes with it thanks to its far higher IPC and far higher single-thread performance.

In the end, the Core i5-4570 is just a better choice  for gaming, hence why I’m recommending it for Tier 3 of the Budget Gaming PCs.

More powerful alternatives:

Want to upgrade to a more powerful CPU?

Here’s something you should know first: For gaming performance, you’re better off upgrading your video card first.

Only when you get to mainstream and high-end video cards is it worth it to get a more powerful CPU to avoid limiting the video card performance. Basically, that’s the case when you reach the performance level of Mainstream Gaming PCs.

In the case of a Budget Gaming PC, it is not worth upgrading the CPU solely for the goal of increasing video game performance, as the video card is the most important factor in that case.

Why should you consider a more powerful CPU?

There are three good reasons:
1. You want higher CPU performance for everyday tasks and want your PC to be more responsive.
2. You use your PC for other demanding tasks, such as audio, photo or video editing. In that case, upgrading to an Intel Core i5 would be wise and a Core i7 is the best.
3. You want to make your Gaming PC more future-proof and plan on upgrading your video card in the future, so that it runs smoothly for many years to come. For gaming performance, stick to the Intel Core i5, the Core i7 won’t give you additional performance there.

Here’s my recommendations for upgrades. Note that they are fully compatible with the rest of Tier 1-2-3 builds, no changes are required. Unless you want to overclock your CPU, in which case scroll down a bit to see what you need.

- $223.99 - Intel Core i5-4690 Quad-Core 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo LGA1150 – This is a quad-core 3.5-3.9GHz Intel “Haswell Refresh” CPU. Only worth it if you have absolutely no intention of overclocking, otherwise get the Core i5-4690K.
- Intel Core i5-4690K Quad-Core 3.5-3.9GHz Turbo LGA1150 Unlocked: $230.99 at Amazon or $230.99 at B&H – Unlocked for overclocking.
- $304.99 - Intel Core i7-4790 Quad-Core+Hyper-Threading 3.6-4.0GHz Turbo LGA1150 – This is a quad-core + Hyper-Threading 3.6-4.0GHz Intel “Haswell Refresh” CPU. Only worth it if you have absolutely no intention of overclocking, otherwise get the Core i7-4790K.
- Intel Core i7-4790K Quad-Core+Hyper-Threading 4.0-4.4GHz Turbo LGA1150 Unlocked: $330.99 at Amazon or $330.99 at BH – Unlocked for overclocking. This is the most powerful Intel “Haswell Refresh” CPU, with four cores + Hyper-Threading running at 4.0 – 4.4GHz .

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Video Card:

A few important recommendations and notes regarding video cards:

  • Get the latest version of the video card drivers directly from AMD or Nvidia. That way, you’ll be sure to get the latest bug fixes as well as the best performance possible from your video card(s).
  • Most video cards require one or two PCI-Express 6 or 8 pin power connector(s) to be plugged into them to function properly. Make sure that your power supply comes equipped with enough 6 and/or 8 pin connectors for your video cards. Of course, I double-checked that already for the recommendations in this article, I simply mention it if you decide to modify a build to your own taste.

Tier 1:

XFX R9 270 2GB Dual fans R9270ACDFC

- $149.99 at Amazon
- $149.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why do I recommend this model from XFX?

- Lifetime warranty if you register with XFX within 30 days.
- It has a large heatsink with heatpipes and two fans to keep it cool.
- Two larger fans are better than a smaller single fan: They don’t have to rotate as quickly to generate as much airflow and therefore are less noisy.
- Currently has the lowest price on all R9 270: $149.99

What games and what settings can this video card handle?

The R7 270 2GB is a lower-end mainstream video card for gaming, so don’t expect it to run all the latest video games with maxed out details at 1920 x 1080 (1080p Full HD).

Realistically, if you want to max out settings in most games, go with a monitor that has a resolution of 1600 x 900. A 720p HDTV would be fine too.

1920 x 1080 (1080p / Full HD) will be playable if you don’t mind turning down visual quality settings, more or less depending on the game, as far as low for the newest most demanding games. If you want to play at 1080p with high settings with all games, I recommend upgrading to a more powerful Tier. Tier 2 and Tier 3 have a more powerful video card as well as a vastly more powerful CPU for Tier 3.

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Tier 2-3:

XFX Radeon R9 285 2GB Dual fan

- $219.99 (Amazon)
- $235.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Based on AMD’s latest architecture, “Tonga”, the R9 285 offers the best performance at the $200 price point.

Why do I recommend this model from XFX?

- Lifetime warranty if you register with XFX within 30 days.
- It has a large heatsink with heatpipes and two fans to keep it cool.
- Two larger fans are better than a smaller single fan: They don’t have to rotate as quickly to generate as much airflow and therefore are less noisy.
VS the competition:

Nvidia offers the Geforce GTX 760 around the same price as the R9 285. Unfortunately for them, as you can see in this TechReport’s review of the Radeon R9 285, the R9 285 offers better performance than the GTX 760.. While it’s an highly efficient video card that requires no additional power connector, its performance is no where close to the R9 270.

The Radeon R7 285 is capable of handling most games at 1920 x 1080, with details at medium/high/maximum depending on the game.

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Monitor recommendations:

– 1600 x 900 monitor (Ideal for Tier 1):
1. ASUS VS207D-P 19.5″ 2ms: $100.86 (Amazon) or $92.24 (B&H – International Shipping)
Inexpensive and fast 2ms response time, ideal for FPS games. VGA only, which makes no difference in quality unless you have a defective cable. Don’t believe the hype that DVI or HDMI results in higher quality, it makes no perceivable difference at that resolution.
2. HP Pavilion 20xi 20″ 7ms IPS: $79.99 (Amazon) or $119.00 (B&H – International Shipping)
Slower 7ms response time, but IPS panel, meaning better color accuracy, better viewing angles, darker blacks, better image quality overall basically. VGA and DVI.

- 1920 x 1080 monitor (Ideal for Tier 2 or 3):
1. Acer S220HQL 21.5″ 5ms TN Full HD 1080p: $99.99 (Amazon) or $116.06 (B&H – International Shipping) – Inexpensive, slim, VGA and DVI inputs. 5ms response time. TN panel, so expect limited viewing angles and average color accuracy.
2. Acer H236HL bid 23″ 5ms IPS Full HD 1080p: $129.99 (Amazon) or $149.00 at B&H (International Shipping) – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles. VGA, DVI and HDMI.
3. LG 24MB35D-B 24″ 5ms IPS Full HD 1080p: $166.46 (Amazon) or $164.70 (B&H – International Shipping) – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles. VGA and DVI.
4. ASUS VN247H-P 24″ TN Full HD 1080p 1ms: $164.30 at Amazon (USA) or $165.91 at B&H (International Shipping) – Ultra-low 1ms response time, ideal for FPS games.
5. HP Pavilion 25xi 25″ 7ms IPS Full HD 1080p: $179.00 (Amazon) or $183.47 (B&H – International Shipping) – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles. VGA, DVI and HDMI.
6. HP Pavilion 27xi 27″ 7ms IPS Full HD 1080p: $237.73 (Amazon) or $237.73 (B&H – International Shipping) – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles. VGA, DVI and HDMI.

What about higher resolution and/or multiple monitors?

A higher screen resolution is more demanding on the video card. The rest of your PC (mostly the CPU) also has to keep up, to not bottleneck your video card performance.

This is why you’ll need a more powerful Gaming PC for higher resolutions, in which case I recommend that you check out our Mainstream Gaming PCs article. For multiple monitors gaming, check out our High-End Gaming PCs article.

RAM (Memory):

All Tiers:

Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1.5v DDR3 1600MHz CL9

- $74.22 at Amazon (USA)
- $74.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why I’m recommending this kit:
Low price, but highly reliable: There are some kits that are a few dollars less expensive. Problem is, they aren’t as reliable. RAM issues can be frustrating, resulting in system crashes/freezes/BSODs, and a difficult to identify at times.

Crucial is one of the best brands for reliability. This kit has been on the market for over two years, it just works reliably, as it should.

Why not recommend higher frequency RAM?
1- Entry-level motherboards don’t support RAM frequencies higher than 1600MHz.
2- More expensive, forcing you to cut somewhere else to fit in your budget.
3- You’ll get at best a 1-3% performance improvement going from 1600MHz to 1866MHz.

Simply put: It can worth it when you get a more powerful Gaming PC, but for a Budget Gaming PC, you’re better off with 1600MHz RAM, an entry-level motherboard and a more powerful video card and CPU. You’ll get far more performance by spending your money on a better CPU and video card than on slightly better RAM and on a motherboard to support it.

Is it worth it to get more than 8GB of RAM?
If you like to run multiple programs at once (multitask), leave your PC open for a long time between restarts, want to run the latest games and/or programs and want higher performance or if you intend on keeping this Gaming PC for more than a few years, than you might want to consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM. Just pick the recommended 16GB kit instead, you don’t need to change any other part.

That said, if you better performance in video games than you’re better off picking a higher Tier will give rather getting more than 8GB of RAM.

Maximum amount of RAM:
Motherboards in this guide that supports two sticks of RAM can be equipped with up to 16GB (2 x 8GB) of RAM and the motherboards that support four sticks of RAM, can be equipped with up to 32GB (4x8GB) of RAM.

Higher RAM quantity alternatives:

Heatsinks and CPU cooler clearance:
Every kit that I recommend in this guide feature either no heatsinks or small heatsinks that don’t raise too much above the RAM sticks.

Why?

  1. Because RAM heatsinks barely make any difference when it comes to RAM temperatures. Besides, even if you overclock it/raise the voltage (at your own risk), RAM temperatures aren’t a problem as long as you have decent airflow in your case.
  2. Tall RAM heatsinks can get in the way of larger aftermarket CPU Coolers, preventing you from installing your aftermarket CPU Cooler!

Important note:

RAM may require manual configuration within the BIOS to reach its full potential

By default, some RAM kits will boot at lower frequencies than they are rated for. This is perfectly normal, it does not mean that your RAM is defective.

You simply have to go within the BIOS/UEFI (The first thing that you see when your PC starts) and enable the enhanced performance profile (XMP, DOCP, EOCP), for your RAM to function at its rated speed.

You can also adjust the RAM settings manually, such as frequency (In MHz, usually linked to the CPU, look for a CPU:RAM ratio), voltage (e.g. 1.50v) and timings (a series of numbers, such as 9-9-9-24). Refer to your motherboard manual and your RAM specifications for more information.

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Storage:

Tier 1:

Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III

- $53.99 at Amazon
- $53.99 at BH (International Shipping)

The Seagate ST1000DM003 1TB hard drive is available for $54 and while it’s affordable, it also offers top-notch performance and reliability for a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Hard Drive alternatives:

  1. Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III: $79.99 at Amazon (USA) or $79.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – Double the storage capacity for $30 more.
  2. Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA III: $101 at Amazon (USA) or $103 at B&H (International Shipping) – Twice the price gets you three times the capacity.
  3. Seagate STBD6000100 6TB SATA III: $260 at Amazon (USA) or $260 at B&H (International Shipping) – Even higher capacity, but at a steep price. Consider getting two 3TB hard drives to save money.

Avoid the 4TB model (STBD4000400), as it spins more slowly (5,900rpm vs 7,200rpm), resulting in lower performance.

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Tier 2-3:

Seagate ST1000DX001 1 TB SATA III

- $71.00 at Amazon
- $71.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

Hybrid Hard Drives:
Are you looking for a faster storage solution than a hard drive, but can’t afford a SSD, at least not one with a large enough storage capacity for your needs?

A hybrid hard drive is the solution that I recommend to you!

It basically combines a 1TB or a 2TB hard drive with a 8GB SSD-like cache system, which puts into cache Windows (for faster boot-up speed, nearly as fast as a SSD) as well as often used programs/games. This is all done automatically, you have nothing to do to gain the benefits of the cache, but it also means that you have no control over it. Also note that when the files/program/game aren’t cached, performance is similar to a 7,200rpm hard drive. Still, you get faster boot times and faster program/game launch for the apps that you use often, at a reasonable price.

If you like the idea but would like a larger capacity, there’s a 2TB model that’s also available:

  1. Seagate ST2000DX001 2 TB SATA III: $101.05 at Amazon (USA) or $101.05 at B&H (International Shipping)

Avoid the 4TB model (ST4000DX001), as it spins more slowly (5,900rpm vs 7,200rpm), resulting in lower performance.

Solid State Drives
SSDs dramatically improve storage performance. SSDs are for you if you want:

  1. Much faster OS boot, Shutdown, Sleep and Hibernation
  2. Much faster program and game loading, meaning that you don’t have to wait as long for your program or your game to load.
  3. A system that feels more responsive.

Ideally, what you want to do is get a SSD to store Windows and your favorite (or most demanding) games, with the rest of your media/games on the hard drive.

Here are my recommendations, in order of price and storage capacity. Note that the Crucial MX100 and the Samsung 840 EVO both offer great performance and top-notch reliability at great prices.

  1. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD: $67 (Amazon) or $67 at B&H (International Shipping)
  2. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 240GB SATA III SSD: $105 (Amazon) or $107.23 at B&H (International Shipping)
  3. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 480GB SATA III SSD: $202 (Amazon) or $202.12 at B&H (International Shipping)
  4. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 960GB SATA III SSD: $379.99 (Amazon) or $379.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why the Sandisk Ultra II SSD?
It’s inexpensive, yet offers great performance for the price. The Crucial MX100 is slightly less expensive, but the performance of the 120GB and 240GB model is quite lower than the Ultra II. The Samsung 840 offers slightly higher peak performance, but at an higher cost. The Ultra II strikes a nice balance between price and performance, which is why I’m recommending it.

Do you need to buy additional SATA cables?
Note that you may need an additional SATA cable if you buy a SSD, as most motherboards only include two SATA cables. I recommend 18″ SATA cables: $3.15 at Amazon (USA) or $3.69 at B&H (International Shipping)

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Optical Drive:

All Tiers:

ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner

$21.29 at Amazon
- $19.99 at BH (International Shipping)

This drive is able to read and burn CDs and DVDs. Relatively silent (it obviously makes some noise when reading/burning at high speed), compatible with all major formats including DVD-RAM.

The motherboards for all Tiers includes two SATA cables, of which one will be used for the hard drive and one for this DVD Burner, so you don’t need an additional cable, unless you decide to add a SSD, another hard drive or another optical drive.

If you need additional SATA cables, I recommend 18″ SATA cables: $3.26 at Amazon (USA) or $3.69 at B&H (International Shipping)

Upgrade for Blu-Ray playback:
If you’d like to watch BluRay movies or TV shows, then the Pioneer SATA Blu-Ray Reader + CD/DVD Burner: $42.89 at Amazon (USA) or $44.99 at BH (International Shipping) is what you want. Note that it cannot burn Blu-ray disks, only CDs and DVDs.

Upgrade for Blu-Ray playback and burning:
If you’d like to watch BluRay movies or TV shows AND want the ability to burn Blu-Ray disks as well, then the LG Black 16X SATA Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Burner: $59.39 at Amazon (USA) or $59.95 at BH (International Shipping) is what you want.

Required software for Blu-Ray playback:

As far as I know, you still require a specific software to playback Blu-Ray disks on a PC.

Based on various reviews and feedback on various forums, PowerDVD 14 is the software that I recommend to you. You’ll want at least the professional version for Blu-ray playback and the Ultra version for 3D Blu-Ray playback.

It is fully compatible with Windows 7/8 and shouldn’t give you any problems.

Need blank disks and cases?
No problem. Here are my recommendations, that I recommend because they are both affordable and highly reliable.

Need disk sleeves and cases? Here are our recommendations:

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Case:

Double-check your case dimensions to ensure that it will fit where you’ll want it to be!

I recommend or offer as alternatives three types of cases, in order from smallest to largest:
- Mini-ITX: Ideal if you want a smaller PC, supports Mini-ITX motherboard and a single expansion card.
- Micro-ATX: Half way between Mini-ITX and ATX, supports Micro-ATX and most of the time, Mini-ITX motherboards, with up to 4 expansion slots.
- ATX: Note that there are mid-tower and full-size towers. Largest size, double-check dimensions to makes sure that it will fit where you intend to put it. Up to 8-9 expansion slots.

Tier 1:

Antec VSK3000E

$19.34 (Amazon)
- $27.09 (BH – International Shipping)

Note that this Micro-ATX case does NOT support alternative motherboards with the larger ATX form-factor. If you want an ATX motherboard, pick a larger ATX case that supports ATX motherboards.

This is an inexpensive case, so do expect flimsy panels and some rough edges. That said, as long as you’re careful with it, it will do the job and won’t cost you much. Don’t like it? Just upgrade to Tier’s 2-3 case or one of the alternative cases recommended below.

  • Cooling wise, this case includes one 92mm rear case fan. You can also add an additional 92mm case fan (in the front) if you wish to.

Features wise, you get:

  1. Plenty of ventilation holes, so your parts won’t starve for fresh air.
  2. 2x USB 2.0 (internal header), Audio out, MIC in at the front.

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Tier 2-3:

Rosewill LINE-M 2xUSB 3.0, 2x 120mm Fans

$39.84 (Amazon)

The Rosewill Line-M is excellent value for your money:
Two 120mm fans and two front USB 3.0 ports through an USB 3.0 header for $40!

Features wise, you get:

  1. The inside of the case is painted in black
  2. An hole on the back panel, to easily install after-market CPU Cooler without having to remove the motherboard from the case.
  3. Various holes and space to route and hide your wires.
  4. 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Audio out and MIC in the front of the case.

Unfortunately, it is not available from BH, who ships internationally.

If you’re building Tier 2 or 3 and need a case from B&H, check our ATX and/or Micro-ATX alternative cases recommendations below.

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Recommended alternatives:

If you a want with a different look, more case fans, a smaller form-factor, an handle (LAN parties anyone?) and/or other features (e.g. fan controller, USB 3.0 front ports, etc.), take a look at my list of other recommended cases.

What to check for compatibility:
1. Video card length clearance,
2. CPU Cooler height clearance (if you get an after-market CPU Cooler)
3. Compatible motherboard form factors (ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX, etc.).

Ask us on the forums if you have a doubt about whether a case is compatible or not with your build.

Alternatives available in the USA:

ATX cases alternatives: Compatible with ATX, Micro-ATX and some of them are also compatible with Mini-ITX motherboards:

Micro-ATX cases (Only compatible with Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards)

Note that some of them may not support larger after-market CPU Coolers, so pick a smaller CPU Cooler (see the cooling section for our recommendations) and preferably ask us on the forums to double-check your build to ensure that everything is compatible and will fit.

Mini-ITX cases (Only compatible with Mini-ATX motherboards)

Only compatible with Mini-ITX motherboards:

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Alternatives available from B&H (International Shipping):

ATX:

Micro-ATX:

Mini-ITX:

Power Supply Unit (PSU):

Power Requirements, per Tier:

Based on my experience, my research and the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator (with the settings that I describe below), it is estimated that this system will require at load (peak power), the following amount of Watts from the PSU:

The minimum requirements are in Italic, while my recommendations for a PSU (including overhead) are in Bold.

  • Tier 1: 417W/500W with the Intel Pentium G3258 overclocked to 4.2GHz/1.35v and the R7 270 2GB.
  • Tier 2: 463W/550W with the Intel Core i3-4150 and the Radeon R9 285.
  • Tier 3: 494W/600W with the Intel Core i5-4590 and the Radeon R9 285.

Minimum requirements vs my recommendations: Give your power supply plenty of overhead!:
You could match a 500W PSU with a PC that requires 480W and at first it would work just fine, but that would be unwise. Your PSU will run too close to its limit, close to full capacity all the time and that will reduce its lifespan, increase its chance of failure, increase its heat output and its noise output.

Also keep in mind that as years go by, a power supply components age and the PSU loses some of its output capacity every year.

Do not underestimate the importance of a high-quality power supply
The components in your PC run on DC power and your power supply is responsible for converting AC power into DC power. Your PC’s components depend on the power supply to deliver stable, low-noise, reliable power within specific values to run without fault, as well to protect them from power surges, power fluctuations and other electrical dangers.

See our article: Warning: 6 Surefire Ways of Blowing Up Your Computer Due to an Inadequate Power Supply.

How to calculate how powerful of a power supply you need:

If you decide to upgrade the CPU or video card to something else than what I recommend for a Tier, I recommend using the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator to help you figure out your needs.

Here are the settings that I use and recommend:

  • CPU, 90% TDP.
  • Video Card, none if integrated
  • Two sticks of DDR3
  • One regular SATA hard drive, add a Flash SSD if you get a SSD.
  • 1 DVD-RW/DVD+RW Drive
  • 4 USB Devices
  • 4 x 120mm regular fans
  • System Load: 90%. Realistically, your PC components will never all be pulling 100% of their peak requirements at the same time.
  • Capacitor Aging: 30%. As years go by, a power supply age and it loses a bit of its output capacity. 30% ensures stability 8+ hours per day for 5-10 years. If you decide to let your PC run 24/7 or if you overclock, select 40%. Remember: A PSU that can’t keep up with the power requirements will most definitely cause reliability issues.

Keep in mind that if you want to upgrade to more powerful and more demanding PC components, it could be wise to pick a more powerful PSU to begin with, so that you don’t have to worry about it when you decide to upgrade your CPU, video card, etc.

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Recommendations:

Tier 1

EVGA 500W 80PLUS:

- $39.99 (Amazon)
- $39.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Thanks to the highly efficient Intel CPU and its integrated video card, Tier 0.5 of The Budget Gaming PCs doesn’t require a very powerful power supply.

That said, the power supply is one of the most important components when it comes to the stability and reliability of a PC.

This is why I’m not cutting corners here, by making a recommendation for a fairly high-quality EVGA 500W power supply.

Mind you, at $39.99, it is a very affordable power supply considering its quality.

It is capable of delivering up to 500W, but more importantly, 40A on the 12V lines, the most important lines for a power supply in a modern PC.

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Tier 2-3:

EVGA 600W 80 PLUS Bronze:

- $56.99 (Amazon)
- $59.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Tier 2 and 3, with their more powerful CPUs and video card, require more power and this is why I recommend the EVGA 600W 80 PLUS Bronze for those three Tiers.

Thanks to its 80 PLUS Bronze, it’s even more efficient than Tier’s 1 recommendation.

Upgrades:

  1. $79.99 – EVGA SuperNOVA B2 750W 80PLUS Bronze Semi-Modular – If you want a PSU capable of handling an higher-end CPU with overclocking, and/or simply a higher end video card. Semi-modular.
  2. EVGA SuperNOVA B2 850W 80PLUS Bronze Semi-Modular: $96.74 (Amazon) or $108.49 (B&H – International Shipping) – Capable of handling most dual video cards setups or a high-end CPU and high-end video card that are heavily overclocked. Semi-modular.

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Cooling:

There are four things to worry about when it comes to cooling your PC:
Are you overlocking?
CPU Cooling
Video Card Cooling
Case airflow: The airflow in your case helps dissipate the heat from your entire system.

CPU Cooler: Included with the CPU – Free

Use the CPU Cooler that is included with your CPU.
The CPU cooler that is included with your CPU is perfectly capable of keeping your processor at safe temperatures for many years of usage. Unless you live in an area of the world with particularly warm weather (40C/100F or more), you don’t need an after-market CPU Cooler.

That said, you may want one an after-market CPU Cooler for many reasons:

The recommended case includes one or several cooling fans as well to help you keep your system cool.

3 reasons to upgrade your CPU Cooler:

1. To improve the reliability of your PC and the longevity of your CPU: If your CPU overheats, it will automatically shutdown to avoid damage. This: A- Causes a system shutdown, losing all data that was unsaved. B- Can potentially damage your CPU.
2. Improved overclocking results: Overclocking greatly increases the power consumption of your CPU, even more so if you raise your CPU voltage, and thus the heat that has to be dissipated by the CPU Cooler. A better CPU Cooler will have no problem handling the additional heat and won’t get in the way of your CPU overclock.
3. To lower noise, as the stock cooler can get noisy at times, especially during prolonged work sessions, in a warm room or if you overclock.

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Alternative:

More quiet than stock:

The $12.99 (B&H – International Shipping) ZALMAN USA CNPS7000V-Al PQM is a great alternative to the included CPU Cooler, if you want something that’s more quiet without spending much.

More quiet and better performance:

The $17.99 (B&H – International Shipping) Cooler Master Hyper TX3 offers better cooling performance than the stock cooler and is also more quiet. A good choice to overclock the Pentium G3258 of Tier 1.

Low-noise/great cooling performance: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO:

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan (RR-212E-20PK-R2)- $34.29 at Amazon (USA)
- $34.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO offers far greater cooling performance and much lower noise compared to the cooler included with the CPU.

You can add a second 120mm fan to improve performance, the cooler comes with the necessary hardware to mount a second fan. Make sure that they push/pull air in the same direction for optimal results. I usually recommend aiming that airflow at an exhaust fan at the back or top of your case, to help exhaust the hot air coming from your CPU.

Need help figuring out how to put the Thermal Compound with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo?

Follow this tutorial, where they compare different methods to figure out the best one.

Micro-ATX

  • COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 120mm: $34 at Amazon (USA) or $36.50 at B&H (International Shipping) – Recommended if you want an after-market CPU Cooler with a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX case. Note that the Mini-ITX Bitfenix Prodigy cases support the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, so use that instead for those cases.

Thermal compound:
All the recommended after-market CPU Coolers include thermal compounds which are pretty good, so no need to spend more money on a tube of thermal compound.

The Intel CPU Cooler comes with thermal compound that does the job, but it’s far from the best. That said, it’s already on the bottom of the CPU Cooler, so it’s as easy as it gets installation wise. Is it worth it to get better thermal compound for the Intel CPU Cooler? Nope. Spend your money on a better CPU Cooler instead, it’s a far better investment when it comes to results.

What matters the most for performance is not so much which thermal compound that you use, but rather that you apply it in its optimal way, recommended by the manufacturer.
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Case Fans:

The differences between Molex, 3-pin and 4-pin with PWM fans:

  • Molex: Connects to your power supply via a Molex power plug. Fan speed monitoring and PWM are not possible with Molex fans. Incompatible with most fan controllers.
  • 3-pin: Connects to the motherboard using a 3-pin plug. Fits on 4-pin connectors too. Fan speed monitoring available, but PWM is not possible. The best choice to use with a fan controller.
  • 4-pin: Connects to the motherboard using a 4-pin plug. Fan speed monitoring and PWM are available. Can fit on 3 pins connectors, but you lose the PWM function.

What is PWM?
PWM stands for Pulse-Width Modulation. This function allows your motherboard to automatically control the speed of the fan, depending on the CPU load. In other words, it spins slowly and is quiet when your PC is idle but spins up and creates more airflow when your PC is working hard. You can usually change the speed settings in the BIOS/UEFI or through a program on Windows.

Do you really need many powerful High-RPM fans?

Do you think a 120mm Delta fan with a 5200 RPM RPM and an Air Flow of 240.96 CFM sound cool? (pun intended) Sounds Powerful?
Here’s what you’re forgetting: The noise level for that fan is 62 dBA. That is very LOUD! You do not want that much noise sitting next to you for many hours, every day.

A Gaming PC does not have to sound like a jet engine. Even if you overclock!
Unless:
A- You’re attempting to overclock your PC to the bleeding edge.
B- Want as much airflow to lower temperatures as much as possible.
C- That additional noise is not a problem for you.

…you don’t want powerful and noisy fans! Most computers don’t need such fans. As a matter of a fact, the vast majority of computer builds, even relatively powerful Mainstream Gaming PCs will do just fine with a few (2-3) good quality low-noise (below 20dBA) fans.

Even if you’re overclocking to the bleeding edge, that’s no excuse. Just get a fan controller so that you can run the fans at lower speed when your PC is idle, in order to reduce the noise.

If you want more airflow for overclocking, you can get fans that are just a bit faster, without too much noise. In my opinion, 30-40dBA is a reasonable noise range if you don’t mind more noise for higher fan performance.

If you do mind noise, try to stay below 20dBA.

Size: Double-check what fan size(s) your case support!
Most cases nowadays support 120mm fans. 140mm is getting more and more common on newer cases. Some, but not all cases support 200mm fans.

You can find which size(s) and how many fans your case supports. Note that all recommended cases include case fans. All this information is available on the product page for your (future) case, under specifications/details.

Here’s what I recommend:

1. A good balance between enough airflow and low-noise (preferably below 20dBA).
As I explained above, you don’t need noisy fans in to provide enough airflow for your PC.

2. Solid bearings so that your fan lasts many years without any problem.
One high-quality $10 to 20 fan that lasts 5 years is less expensive than a cheap $5 fan that breaks every year or two. Especially if you consider the annoyance of replacing the fan and your lost time.

High-quality fans have high quality bearings that are more reliable, will last longer and will make less noise and less vibration to produce the same amount of airflow versus a cheaper fan.

120mm fans:

140mm fans

200mm fans

Fan controller:

Fan controllers allow you to control the speed of your computer fan(s). That way, you can reduce their speed and lower the noise when your PC is idle, while keeping the option of speeding up their speed and increasing airflow for long gaming sessions and/or overclocking.

Note that a few cases already come with a fan controller.

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Sound:

5.1 channels sound card: Integrated on the motherboard

Integrated with the motherboard, this sound card will handle many different sound setups, including headphones, a microphone and more.

While integrated audio on a PC used to be absolutely horrible 10-15 years ago, it has gotten much better in the last five years, thanks to improved audio chipsets, higher quality electrical components and better EMI shielding. This is why I have no trouble recommending integrated audio on a Budget Gaming PC.

Dedicated sound cards:

Want better sound quality for your music and video games? Nothing like a dedicated sound card then.

PCI Sound cards:

PCI sound cards tend to cost less than PCI-Express sound cards. However, PCI slots are less and less available on motherboards, being slowly but surely replaced by PCI-Express slots only. When/if you change motherboard in the future (to upgrade your PC), motherboards available then are even less likely to offer a PCI slot. Keep that in mind.

ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 105dB SNR PCI Sound Card:
$27.74 ($10 MIR available – Amazon)
$28.64 (B&H – International Shipping)

ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 107dB SNR PCI Sound Card:
- $46.99 (Amazon)
- $49.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

PCI-Express 1x Sound cards:

As long as your motherboard has a PCI-Express 1x slot above the top PCI-Express 16x slot (which you want to use with the video card), or a PCI-Express slot (any speed) lower down on the motherboard, you can install a PCI-Express 1x sound card. Yes, you can install a PCI-Express 1x sound card in a larger slot, such as PCI-Express 4x, 8x or 16x.

ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 105dB SNR PCI-Express 1x Sound Card:
$35 (Amazon)

ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 107dB SNR PCI-Express 1x Sound Card:
$53.99 (Amazon)

Sound Blaster Z 7.1 116dB SNR PCI-Express 1x includes a Mic
$70.64 (Amazon)
$89.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

USB Sound cards:

For Mini-ITX motherboards, which has no space for a sound card, an USB sound card is your only choice if you want a dedicated sound card.

One of the biggest advantages of USB sound cards is that you can swap them from one computer to another, with plug&play functionality (once the drivers have been installed, of course).

On the flip side, PCI and PCI-Express sound cards offer clearer sound at similar or lower prices.

ASUS Xonar U3 2.1 100dB SNR USB Sound Card:
- $34.95 ($10 MIR available – Amazon)
- $34.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 100dB SNR USB Sound Card with Integrated Mic:
- $60.54 (Amazon)
- $79.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

ASUS Xonar U7 7.1 114dB SNR USB Sound Card:
- $89.65 (Amazon)
- $89.65 (B&H – International Shipping)

Speakers:

While I do not include speakers in the Tiers budgets, seeing as you may already own some or simply do not want any, here are some recommendations for great speakers at various price points:

Note that the power output is in RMS Watts, a more accurate measurement.

2.0 speakers: 2 satellites and no sub-woofer:

2.1 speakers: 2 satellites and a sub-woofer:

5.1 speakers: 5 satellites and a sub-woofer:

Headphones/Earphones

I do not include headphones nor earphones in the Tiers budgets, seeing as you may already own a pair or simply do not want any.

Also keep in mind that sound quality is subjective, so while these are some great recommendations, in my opinion, at their respective price points, those recommendations are based on my own research, not yours. I do recommend that you do your own research, to figure out the best headphones for your needs, based on the type of music that you listen to and the games that you play.

Double-check the cable length, it might be too short for your needs. Consider that you might need an extension cable. You’ll want a female to male 3.5mm audio cable. This is an analog cable, so this is where spending a bit more for a quality cable will make a difference in quality.

Open Design Headphones:
As the name implies, an open hear headphone means that it doesn’t cover or seal off the ear from hearing outside noises.
Pros: Enough airflow to keep your ears cool. On average lighter than closed design headphones. Resonance is significantly reduced providing better audio quality and a better audio experience.
Cons: You hear outside noises, so they can’t be used in noisy environments. They leak out sound, so they provide no privacy and can bother people that are close to you.

Closed Design Headphones:
These are the opposite of open design headphones. These headsets usually have larger ear cups that isolate the user’s ears from his surroundings and its design is typically meant to block out outside sounds.

Pros: 1- Closed ear cups that seal off the ear from the outside world so you can expect sounds not to leak in and out of the headphones.
2- You can enjoy exclusive audio entertainment particularly in a typically noisy environment.

Cons: 1- Due to the closed ear design, airflow is greatly minimized or prevented, producing more resonance and this can negatively affect the quality of sound.
2- Due to how they isolate you from outside noise, it makes you more vulnerable to accidents.

  1. Koss UR-20: $15 (Amazon) or $19 (Amazon)
  2. Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green): $39.99 (Amazon) or $49.95 (Amazon)
  3. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x: $59.99 (Amazon) or $69 (Amazon)
  4. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: $99.99 (Amazon) or $99.99 (Amazon)
  5. Audio Technica ATH-A700: $149.99 (Amazon) or $179.00 (Amazon)
  6. Audio Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White: $149.99 (Amazon) or $169.00 (Amazon)
  7. Sennheiser HD25-1 II: $199.95 (Amazon) or $199.95 (Amazon)

In-Ear Headphones:
Simply put, these are headphones that you insert straight into your ear, to create a seal between the headphones and your ears.

Some come with an integrated microphone that is often compatible with smartphones.

Important:
Make sure to take your time to properly test the different size of included tips, to find the ones that best fit your ears. This will make all the difference between a poor sounding pair and a good sounding one.

  1. $7.19 - Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet
  2. Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White: $12 (Amazon) or $12 (Amazon)
  3. $25 - Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White)
  4. $25 - Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black)
  5. Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi with Mic
  6. Bose SoundTrue: $129.95 (Amazon) or $129.95 (Amazon)
  7. Yamaha EPH-100SL: $129.95 (Amazon) or $129.95 (Amazon)
  8. Shure SE315-K (Black or White): $199.99 (Amazon) or $199.99 (Amazon)
  9. Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $249.98 (BH – International Shipping)
  10. Bose QuietComfort 20i: $299.99 (Amazon) or $299.99 (Amazon)
  11. Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red): $499.99 (Amazon) or $499.99 (Amazon)
  12. Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $548.99 (Amazon)

Microphone:

Personally, I recommend going for a pair of headphone with this dedicated microphone versus going with a headset that has a microphone, for two reasons:
1- The sound quality is on average superior with a dedicated pair of headphones and a dedicated microphone vs a headset at comparable price points.
2- If the microphone on the headset breaks down (and they do more often than not, with years of usage), you’ll be stuck without your headset if you get it replaced, or either getting a new headset ($$) or a separated microphone. If either the headphones or the microphone breaks down, you still have the other part that you don’t have to replace.

If you want a dedicated microphone, to talk to your teammates online or for any other purpose, I recommend the Zalman Zm-Mic1 Microphone: $9 (Amazon) / $9.75 (Amazon) which is an excellent low-cost option with perfectly fine audio quality and build quality. Three mini clips on the microphone cable help you latch the cable onto the headphone cable.

Want a high quality USB desktop microphone for broadcasts such as podcasts, or to record music, on a budget? I recommend the Snowball USB Microphone: $49.99 (Amazon) / $42.59 (Amazon) which offers excellent sound quality for less than $50.

Headsets:

Headsets are basically headphones with an integrated microphone.

If you go with an headset, make sure to check them all out, since they vary considerably in design.

  1. $13 – Yapster TM-YP100A
  2. Koss SB-45: $24.45 (Amazon) or $26.99 (Amazon)
  3. Sennheiser PC 151: $43.00 (Amazon) / $43.00 (Amazon)
  4. ARCTIC Sound 5.1 Surround P531 : $39.99 (Amazon)
  5. SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors: $69.99 (Amazon) or $89.99 (Amazon)
  6. Logitech 7.1 Surround G35
  7. Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Wrath Wireless
  8. Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930
  9. Audio Technica ATHADG1 Open-Back Gaming Headset – $299.00 at Amazon

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Network:

Ethernet RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN: Integrated on the motherboard

Integrated with the motherboard, this network adapter will allow you to access your local network and Internet, by connecting a Cat5-e cable from your modem/router to your PC.

If you need a cable, or a longer cable than what you have, to connect your PC to your modem, measure the distance between the modem/router and your PC. Consider that you may want to move your equipment at some point in the future. Order whichever length you need of CAT-5e cable. Don’t waste your money on a CAT6 cable, it will make no difference in speed.

WiFi: Need a WiFi router and/or adapter?

See our article on The Best WiFi Routers, Best WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapters.

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Mouse and Keyboard:

Note that the cost of a keyboard and mouse isn’t included in the Tiers total, because you may already have a keyboard and also because it’s next to impossible to recommend a single mouse and keyboard that would please everyone.

There’s simply too many variables that are to quantify, such as comfort, ease of use, personal preferences, etc.

So if you want a keyboard and/or mouse, I recommend a variety of different keyboards and mice. Take the time to find the one that fits your preferences.

Here are our recommendations, in order of price:

Mouse and keyboard combo:

Mouse:

Keyboard:

Recommended Operating System (OS):

The operating system cost, if there’s one, is not included in the total cost. The two reasons for this are:

  1. The budget only considers hardware.
    There are free alternatives such as Linux. Linux, as an OS and the gaming experience on Linux
  2. You may be able re-use a previous license, upgrade from a previous version of Windows or go with an open-source OS such as Linux.

Note that you’ll need a 64-bit version OS, as 32-bit is limited to 4GB of memory for the entire system, which is not enough now, nor in the future if you decide to upgrade. Remember that you’ll have 4GB of RAM or more, along with a dedicated video that also has memory (1GB or 2GB). 64-bit drivers are widely available for pretty much any devices nowadays.

Windows 8.1

Released one year ago, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system. While it uses the same core as Windows Vista and Windows 7, visually it is a departure from these two OS, using colourful tiles and a look often referred to as “Metro”.

Windows 8 was recently updated to 8.1, which gives you the option to boot to the classic desktop look by default and brings back the “start” button, although it only brings you to the metro live tiles start screen. It is also possible to bring back the “classic” start button and menu by installing third parties apps. Search has also been improved.

The vast majority of applications that ran on Windows Vista and 7 should have no problem running on Windows 8.1. Most programs that runs on XP should work on Windows 8.1 too, but there are some exceptions.

For more information on Windows 8.1, there are countless reviews of it available online that will do a better job than I can at fully describing what’s new.

Let’s address the obvious question: Should you use Windows 8.1 or 7 for your gaming PC?

While some might not like change, Windows 8.1 is no where as bad as it may seem. Sure, it forces you to re-learn how to do some things, but if you give yourself some time to learn the new functions, new shortcuts and such, you’ll feel at home sooner than later.

Windows 8.1 boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7. File transfers are also quicker. W8.1 uses less resources than Windows 7.

AMD recently announced that with their latest drivers and Windows 8.1, video game performance on their APUs has increased by 8.5%.

Windows 8 has been out for a year and 8.1 just came out, meaning that most bugs have been fixed by now.

From a performance point of view, Windows 8.1 is easy to recommend. From an usability point of view, it is a departure from the previous versions of Windows and I understand that not everyone is comfortable with learning how to use a new OS. If you’re willing to put in some time to learn how to use Windows 8.1, it can certainly be a worthwhile experience. If not, Windows 7 is a perfectly fine alternative that will run smoothly on your PC.

If you’re interested in Windows 8.1, there are two versions that are available:

Highly recommended: Windows 8 books
If you’re going to use Windows 8.1 for the first time, you may feel a bit lost at first. Here are two books to help you navigate and use Windows 8.1 to its full potential.

For beginners, I recommend Windows 8.1 For Dummies.

For more advanced users, I recommend Windows 8 Inside Out.

Windows 7

Windows 7 will be supported (read: updated) by Microsoft until 2020, so if you prefer to avoid/skip Windows 8.1, Windows 7 is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Three Available Versions:

  1. Windows 7 Home Premium: The basic edition, with all the looks, most of the functionality and DirectX 11.
  2. Windows 7 Professional: If you want the virtual XP mode, you’ll need at least the Professional edition. Also required if you want to backup to a network, using the built-in backup mode in Windows. Also good to know: You’ll need at least the pro version to take advantage of Remote Desktop Connection.
  3. Windows 7 Ultimate: To help protect data on your PC and portable storage devices against loss or theft with BitLocker and to work and switch between 35 languages.

OEM Versions:

  1. Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM SP1: $99.99 at Amazon (USA) or $99.99 at B&H (International Shipping)
  2. Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM SP1: $125.35 at Amazon (USA) or $129.99 at B&H (International Shipping)
  3. Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit OEM SP1: $164.61 at Amazon (USA) or $169.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Important note regarding secure boot:
Note that to boot to Windows 7, you need to disable secure boot in the BIOS/UEFI menu, as secure boot is only supported by Windows 8/8.1.

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Linux

Linux is gaining more and more support as a Gaming OS and while many games still only run on Windows, there are a growing selection of titles that are available for Linux or that can run on Linux with some work.

Wine is an application that allows you to run Windows programs on Linux, including games of course. The Wine Application Database has a list of the games that run smoothly or with minimal/minor issues through Wine.

Crossover: Run the most popular Windows games/programs on Linux

Crossover allows you to play popular games, such as WoW, Diablo III, Starcraft II, Skyrim, Civ 5, Guild Wars, Portal 2, Rift, Team Fortress 2 and more on Linux.

Open source games and source ports are also a good way to play games on Linux.

Steam is more Linux friendly than ever, with many games that have been or will be ported to run on Linux.

There are a large variety of distributions (variants) of Linux, each with its pros and cons. Ubuntu is the most popular and arguably the most supported. For more information on other distribution of Linux and their latest version, visit Distrowatch.com,

If you need assistance with Linux, LinuxQuestions.org is a good place to start.

While Linux does not offer the wide compatibility of Windows with video games, gaming on Linux is still possible, through projects such as Wine, . For more on the topic of Linux Gaming, I invite you to read this excellent article from AnandTech: Linux Gaming: Are we there yet?

What about Word processing, Excel and other Windows-based programs that you need? Linux, being an open platform, has many free alternatives for you. For Word/Excel and such, try LibreOffice.
Cost: Free

Conclusion

What do you think of the latest version of the Budget Gaming PCs? Let me know if you have any suggestion to improve this article or your opinion on it by leaving a comment below. Additionally, if a part goes out of stock, let me know.

Don’t agree with my choices? Have a better idea?

Feel free to leave a comment. There’s always place for improvement and after some research I may change the part according to your suggestion.

Building this PC?

If you build this system, I invite you to share your experience on how well it runs: What applications do you use, what type of work do you do, how well does this PC performs, is there anything that slows it down? Your feedback will help other people make an informed decision on what to buy for their own needs.

Do you need a guide on how to build a computer, need help or do you have some questions?

Computer Builds FAQs:
I often get questions such as:
- Who are you to tell me which parts to choose?
- Can you suggest me a step by step guide to build a computer?
- Why should I build a PC instead of buying one in a store?
- And many more…

1. You will find the answers to all of these questions and more in this article: FAQ: How to Build Your Own Computer
2. Is this your first build? Here are 10 Quick Tips for 1st Time Builders to get you started.
3. Newly built computer won’t start? I invite you to read Help me: Why won’t my newly assembled PC start or boot?
4. Visit our forums here, where you can join our helpful community and ask questions

Recommended step-by-step guides to build your PC:

Newegg TV has three great videos on how to build your PC. The first covers choosing your parts, which we help you with in this article, so I chose not to include it. The second one, below, shows you in detail how to assemble your PC. The 3rd one shows you how to install Windows and software.

If you prefer a text version with pictures, here are two great guides by ArsTechnica, the first one covering the assembling and the second one covering Windows and software:

  1. Arstechnica Outstanding Guide for Hardware (Building the PC)
  2. Arstechnica Outstanding Guide for Software (EFI/BIOS, Windows, etc.)

Free Assistance

If you have any question(s) about the build, simply head over to the forums and our community will be there to assist you.

No worries, there are no stupid questions here on Hardware Revolution. We all started from scratch and learned through our mistakes. We”ll just help you make sure to avoid those mistakes ;)

If you want to have your final build double-checked and get my opinion on it before ordering, or for anything else, don’t be shy, just post a thread on the forums.

Build your Gaming PC today!

Why should you?
For the same price, you’ll get more performance out of your custom PC, or you’ll save money while getting the same performance compared to a retail PC. Not to mention that retail PCs come with tons of bloatware and limited warranties. Why settle for less?

Stop relying on HP, Dell and other companies:
Build your own custom PC today.
It’s easier than you think!

This Build includes all the parts/cables that you need and it was double-checked to ensure compatibility. Simply order your parts, set aside some time, grab a screwdriver and build your own personal PC. No worries, we’ll (the HR community) be there to assist you if you have questions or need help.

Then you’ll be able to say, “See that computer over there? Yeah, I built that.” Talk about being proud of a job well done.

Want or need a more powerful Gaming PC? No problem.

If you’re looking for a Gaming PC that boots and launch games/applications faster thanks to a SSD (Solid State Drive) and that can handle most of the latest video games at a 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution at their maximum graphic settings, head over to our Mainstream Gaming PCs article.

If you’re looking for a Gaming PC that can handle all of the latest video games maxed out at a 1080p (1920 x 1080) on a 120Hz monitor or to play video games on a multiple monitor setup or to play games in 3D, head over to our High-End Gaming PCs article.

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Category: Gaming PC

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .