How to easily build your Budget Gaming PC!

| September 1, 2015 | (0)

Click to skip to the:
Recommended parts summary (U.S.A. only)
Detailed recommendations (International Shipping + U.S.A.)

The BitFenix Neos, available in 10 colors, is the recommended case for Tier 2 and 3 of the Budget Gaming PCs.

The BitFenix Neos, available in 10 colors, is the recommended case for Tier 2 and 3 of the Budget Gaming PCs.

About Hardware Revolution’s Gaming PCs

This is one of three comprehensive articles where I recommend all the required parts and accessories, to help you build your Gaming PC.

Choose Your PC Performance (Tier):

Is a Budget Gaming PC powerful enough for you?

There are four recommended Budget Gaming PC levels of performance (Tier) in this article.

The Tiers and their recommended parts are indicated by their respective numbers (0.5, 1, 2 and 3) through the article.

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 you want to play the latest games with details set at maximum, need 120+FPS for FPS and other fast paced games, are going to play on a monitor that has a resolution higher than 1920 x 1080 or want to play on multiple monitors, then you’ll need a more capable Gaming PC, such as the ones that can be found in The Best Mid-range / High Performance Gaming PCs article or even better, the highest performance Gaming PCs that I recommend, that can be found in the Find out how you can build an extremely High-end Gaming PC that you can be proud of! article.

Need help picking the right level of performance for your gaming PC?

Leave a comment at the end of the article or 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.

Not interested in a Budget Gaming PC?

Want an inexpensive PC for friends, family or yourself?
All the PCs in this guide have integrated graphic processors (GPUs), with video outputs on the motherboard, meaning that you can connect your monitor or HDTV directly to them, without requiring a dedicated video card.

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

You may also 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.

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 AMD/Intel motherboards/CPUs, 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 0.5 (in Brown): AMD APU with powerful integrated graphic processor
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
$322
$421
$553
$673
APU/CPU
Tier 0.5: AMD A8 7600 APU(CPU+GPU) 2 modules/4 cores 3.1-3.8GHz FM2+
Tier 1: Intel Pentium G3258 Dual-Core 3.2GHz LGA1150 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
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$83
$70

$120
$200
$224
$232
$310
$340
Motherboard
AMD FM2+ motherboards: Only compatible with AMD FM2+ CPUs
Tier 0.5: ASUS A68HM-PLUS Micro-ATX FM2+
Intel LGA1150 motherboards: Only compatible with Intel LGA1150 CPUs
Mini-ITX: Smallest, 1 expansion slot, compatible with Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX and some ATX cases
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
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 1-2-3: 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
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

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$80
$98
$110
$151

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$59
$68
$93
$112
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$70
$90
$100
$118
$135
RAM (Memory)
Tier 0.5: Patriot 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1.5v CL11 DDR3 2133MHz
Tier 1-2-3: Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1.5v CL9 DDR3 1600MHz
Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1.5v CL9 DDR3 1600MHz
Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1.5v CL11 DDR3 2133MHz
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$53
$41
$78
$103
Video Card
Tier 0.5: Integrated in the APU: Radeon R7 384 GPU cores at 720MHz
Tier 1: Sapphire AMD R7 260X 2GB
Tier 2: EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2GB
Tier 3: EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 2GB SuperSC ACX 2.0+ Dual Fans
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Free
$120

$160
$200
Storage
Hard drives:
Tier 0.5-1: Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III
Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III
Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB 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 SSD Plus 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD
Sandisk SSD Plus 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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-

$51
$73
$90

$67
$93

$49
$75
$160

$339
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
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$21

$49
$59
Power Supply
Tier 0.5: Antec Basiq BP350 350 Watt
Tier 1-2-3: Antec VP-450 80 Plus 450 Watts
Corsair CX 600 Watts 80 PLUS
Corsair CX 750 Watts Modular 80 PLUS Bronze
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$30
$35
$64
$75
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 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 5 available colors 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
Antec Three Hundred Two 1x140mm 1x120mm
Corsair Carbide Series 300R 1x140mm 1x120mm
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 various colors 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 0.5-1: Antec VSK-3000E
COUGAR Spike Micro-ATX 1x 120mm fan
Fractal Design Core 1000 1x120mm
Rosewill LINE-M Micro-ATX 2x USB 3.0 2x 120mm Fan
Tier 2-3: BitFenix Neos, available in 10 colors, with or without window
Thermaltake ARMOR A30i Black / 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 w/ Window
SilverStone TJ08B-E Micro-ATX USB3.0 1x180mm 1x120mm
Mini-ITX cases: Compatible only with Mini-ITX motherboards
Cooler Master Elite 130
BitFenix Prodigy: White, Orange, Purple, Red, Black or Green
Corsair Obsidian 250D
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$70
$70
$62

$40
$40
$50
$45
$50
$60
$70
$90
$104
$100
$90
$80
$90
$80
$65
$80
$100
$100
$105
$100
$80
$130
$140
$130
$159
$110
$110
$90

$24
$35
$35
$50
$50
$100
$79
$84
$110
$113

$48
$80
$85
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
Low clearance CPU Cooler for the smallest Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX cases:
59mm height: 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
$31

$31





$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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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 thousands 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 at the end of 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 0.5:

ASUS A68HM-PLUS Micro-ATX FM2+

- $59.99 at Amazon
- $59.99 at Newegg
- $57.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the ASUS A68HM-PLUS Micro-ATX FM2+:
This motherboard offers support for AMD’s FM2+ APUs at a great price, making it a good choice for Tier 0.5 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 APU and the RAM.

Pros:
1. Low price for a reliable motherboard that supports AMD’s FM2+ APUs.
2. USB 3.0 onboard header: This means that you can use USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case, if your case has them.

Cons:
1. Only two included SATA cables: You’ll need to buy more if you get more than one hard drive and one optical drive, if you get a SSD, a hard drive and an optical drive for example.
2. Only two RAM slots: Four is preferable if you want to add RAM in the future.
3. Only 4 SATA ports

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

Ports on the back: Two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two PS/2, Gigabit LAN, HDMI, VGA and DVI outputs and 3 (5.1) Channels audio.

Expansion slots: PCI-Express 3.0 16X, one PCI-Express 1x slot and one PCI slot

Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Two fan connectors (2x four pins), four SATA 6.0Gb/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.

Tier 1-2-3:

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

- $62.49 (Amazon)
$63.70 (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 Gigabyte GA-H81M-HD3 motherboard:
This motherboard offers an USB 3.0 header at a good price, making it a great choice for Tier 1, 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.
4. Reliable
5. Optical sound output

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 (7.1) Channels audio, as well as Optical sound output.

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.
Multiple video card support:
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.

Alternatives:

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

  • MSI B85I SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Header, S/PDIF Out, good power delivery: $79.99 at Newegg or $79.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – USB 3.0 header, higher quality power components (better for overclocking Pentium G3258), Optical S/PDIF Output, only two fan headers (One CPU Fan, one case fan), 3 years warranty.
  • $98.49 – Gigabyte GA-B85N Phoenix-WIFI Bluetooth Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps USB 3.0 Header – Filled with features at a very reasonable price! High-end fast 802.11ac WiFi (up to 866Mbps), Bluetooth 4.0, Optical S/PDIF Output and an USB 3.0 header.
  • MSI H97I Bluetooth Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps USB 3.0 Header: $109.99 at Newegg or $112.11 at B&H (International Shipping) – Similar to the Gigabyte GA-B85N Phoenix-WIFI, except that it’s based on a newer chipset (H97 vs B85) and this motherboard is available for international readers too ;)
  • ASRock Z97E-ITX/AC Wi-Fi 802.11ac 866Mbps, M.2, SATA Express: $144.99 at Amazon – An entry-level Z97-equipped motherboard, with a M.2 socket and SATA Express support, to be future proof with next-gen SSDs. 802.11ac WiFi support. Overclocking is fully supported thanks to the Z97 chipset, but the power delivery components are only good enough for a mild or average overclock.

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.
  • 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 0.5:

AMD A8-7600 APU 2 modules/4 cores 3.1-3.8GHz FM2+ R7 Series Graphics 384 GPU cores 720MHz 65W

- $89.29 at Amazon
$87.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

The AMD A8-7600 is a 10 ‘compute core’ APU based on AMD’s Kaveri architecture.

It contains the CPU and the GPU (video card) in a single chip.

CPU:
The CPU portion of this APU has two modules / four cores, based on AMD’s Streamroller architecture, running at a normal 3.1GHz frequency, with a Turbo frequency up to 3.8GHz. Those make up for 4 ‘compute cores’.

From a CPU performance point of view, the AMD A8-7600 lags behind the Pentium G3258 in applications that are single-threaded, but will outperform the G3258 in applications that take advantage of multi-threading, even trading blows with the $120+ Core i3-4160 in multi-threaded applications.

The A8-7600, with its powerful integrated video card, offers great performance in applications that take advantage of the GPU to improve performance.

GPU (video card):
The GPU (video card) has six ‘compute cores’, based on AMD’s GCN 1.1 architecture, with 384 GPU cores, running at 720MHz.

This means that you do not need to buy a dedicated video card, as the video card is integrated in this APU.

See the video card section for more details on what you can expect from the GPU

Why not upgrade to an higher-end APU, such as the A8-7650K, A10-7700, A10-7800, A10-7850K or A10-7870K?
The A8-7650K and A10-7700 offer the same integrated video card performance, only slightly higher frequencies for the CPU part, but at an higher cost of course.

The A10-7800 and A10-7850K cost more, but only provide slightly better performance than the A8-7600 in video games, as you can see in this AnandTech’s review.

The A10-7870K cost too much to recommend: When you compare the cost of a Gaming PC with the A10-7870K, it’s too close to the cost of a Gaming PC with a far more powerful dedicated video card to be worth recommending.

Simply put, the A8-7600 offers the best balance of low cost and high performance, or in the other words, it offers the best bang for your buck, why is why I’m recommending it for the entry-level Tier 0.5 Gaming PC.

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?
Even if you don’t overclock it, with its highly efficient Haswell architecture and its 3.2GHz frequency, the G3258 will outperform the AMD A8-7600 in most cases where single-thread performance matters the most, although it will lag behind in applications that are optimized for multi-threading.

For gaming purposes, with a dedicated video card, the Intel G3258 (not overclocked) will outperform the the A8-7600 in most games, with the G3258 having the higher IPC advantage.

If you overclock the G3258, it will increase the gap between the G3258 and the A8-7600 in single-threaded performance and will allow the G3258 to catch up somewhat to the A8-7600 in applications that are optimized for multi-threading.

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:
The Pentium G3258 is 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 B&H – 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 0.5:

Integrated in the AMD A8-7600 APU:
Radeon R7 384 GPU cores at 720MHz

Integrated in the AMD A8-7600 APU, the R7 GPU offers 384 shader processors and uses the PC’s RAM as its memory (hence why I recommend higher frequency 2133MHz RAM for Tier 0.5).

The motherboard offers VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs.

Gaming performance wise, you can play most games, with decent graphic settings, at a resolution of 1280 x 800, 1366 x 768 or on a 720p HDTV. Nothing earth shattering, but considering the cost of Tier 0.5, that’s great value. If you want to play at an higher resolution, want more details and/or more performance, upgrade to an higher end Tier.

Tier 1:

Sapphire AMD R7 260X 2GB

– $119.99 at Amazon
XFX R7 260X 2GB – $125.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Radeon R7 260X vs Geforce 750

I’m recommending the R7 260X over the Geforce GTX 750 because it offers on average 10% higher performance, according to AnandTech’s review of the Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti.

R7 250X vs R7 260 vs R7 260X:

– The R7 250X: 640 shader processors, 40 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/4500MHz for the core and memory respectively. 1GB VRAM
– The R7 260: 768 shader processors, 48 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/6000MHz for the core and memory respectively. 1GB VRAM
– The R7 260X: 896 shader processors, 56 texture units. Frequencies of 1100MHz/6500MHz for the core and memory respectively. 2GB VRAM

Avoid Radeon R7 260X models with only 1GB of memory
The R7 260X is powerful enough to take advantage of 2GB of memory. Recent video games use more than 1GB of memory. Considering the small price difference between 1GB and 2GB models, you’re making a better choice by going with the 2GB model.

Avoid Radeon R7 360:
Part of AMD’s new 300 series of video cards, the R7 360 is available for $110. That said, its GPU only has 768 stream processors, compared to 896 for the R7 260X. The R7 360 is pretty much a rebadged R7 260, with slightly higher frequencies on the core and memory.

The R7 360 is a good card, just not at this price when competing with the older, but faster R7 260X.

What games and what settings can this video card handle?

The R7 260X 2GB is an entry-level 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 1366 x 768 or 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 higher settings and/or newer 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:

Nvidia Geforce GTX 950 2GB

- $159.99 at Newegg
- $159.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Launched in August 2015, the GTX 950 is a cut-down version of the Geforce GTX 960, offering most of its performance with a 20% lower price.

AMD offers the R7 270 at the $150 price point, but it’s no match for the more powerful GTX 950, which also consumes less power than the R7 270.

It’s capable of running older games with high details at 1920 x 1080 and newer games will run smoothly at resolutions up to 1600 x 900 smoothly. Newer games will be playable at 1920 x 1080 too, you might just need to turn down the graphic settings to get acceptable frame rates.

Tier 3:

EVGA Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB Dual fan

- $209.99 (Amazon)
- $199.99 (Newegg)
- $214.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

If you want to play most games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with high/max details, the Geforce GTX 960 is an excellent choice.

AMD used to offer the now discontinued R9 280X around the same price, but its availability is limited, making the prices fluctuate higher than the GTX 960. The GTX 960 cost less, consumes less power, emits less heat and noise and is readily available.

Why do I recommend the EVGA Geforce GTX 960 ACX2.0 SuperSC?

1- EVGA reliability and customer support are the best in the industry. If you happen to have any problem with your card, you can rely on them to get useful answers in a timely manner.
2- This particular card runs at higher frequencies than the reference Geforce GTX 960 and most non-reference GTX 960, resulting in higher performance.
3- Double bearing fans, meaning it has a longer lifespan and is less likely to fail early like cheaper sleeve fans.
4- If the GPU runs at 60C or less, the fans will shut down and your video card is silent. Of course, if the GPU runs above 60C, the fans will start again automatically. This is not exclusive to EVGA video cards but it’s a nice feature to have.
5- EVGA makes some of the most reliable video cards in the industry.

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Monitor recommendations:

- 1366 x 768 monitor (Ideal for Tier 0.5):
1. ASUS VS197D-P 18.5″ 5ms: $83.99 at Amazon or em>$83.99 at BH (International Shipping)
Inexpensive and good 5ms response time. 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.

- 1600 x 900 monitor (Ideal for Tier 1 or 2):
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: $118.00 (Amazon) or $118.00 (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 $113.20 (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 $159.00 at B&H (International Shipping) – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles. VGA, DVI and HDMI.
3. ASUS VN247H-P 24″ TN Full HD 1080p 1ms: $167.99 at Amazon (USA) or $167.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – Ultra-low 1ms response time, ideal for FPS games.
4. HP Pavilion 27xw 27″ 7ms IPS Full HD 1080p: $209.00 at Amazon or $209.00 at BH (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):

Tier 0.5:

Patriot 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1.5v CL11 DDR3 2133MHz

- $65.00 at Amazon
– $65.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why higher frequency RAM for Tier 0.5?
The integrated video card in the AMD APU uses the RAM as its memory. In this case, higher frequency RAM will improve performance in video games, hence why I recommend 2133MHz RAM.

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 2133MHz kit instead, you don’t need to change any other part.

Patriot 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1.5v CL11 DDR3 2133MHz: $120.00 at Amazon or $120.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

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

Tier 1-2-3:

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.

Crucial 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1.5v DDR3 1600MHz: $147.99 at Amazon (USA) or $149.00 at B&H (International Shipping) – If you want 16GB of RAM to further future-proof your PC or multi-task intensively with demanding programs, this is an affordable and reliable 16GB kit of DDR3 1600MHz RAM.

That said, if you better performance in video games than you’re better off picking a higher Tier rather than 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.

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

- $50.97 at Amazon
$50.97 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Seagate ST1000DM003 1TB hard drive is affordable, offers top-notch performance and reliability for a 7,200rpm hard drive.

Hard Drive alternatives:

  1. Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III: $76.65 at Amazon (USA) or $76.65 at B&H (International Shipping) – Double the storage capacity.
  2. Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA III: $94 at Amazon (USA) or $94 at B&H (International Shipping) – Three times the capacity.

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

- $72.00 at Amazon
- $72.00 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: $92.99 at Amazon (USA) or $94.22 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.

  1. Sandisk SSD Plus 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD: $44.99 at Amazon or $45.70 at B&H (International Shipping)
  2. Sandisk SSD Plus 2.5″ 240GB SATA III SSD: $74.99 at Amazon or $75.99 at B&H (International Shipping)
  3. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 480GB SATA III SSD: $159.94 (Amazon) or $159.94 at B&H (International Shipping)
  4. Sandisk Ultra II 2.5″ 960GB SATA III SSD: $319.49 (Amazon) or $319.49 at B&H (International Shipping)

Why the Sandisk SSD Plus and Ultra II SSD?
Both are inexpensive, yet offers great performance for the price. They are entry-level SSDs, meaning that there are higher-performance SSDs available, but even an entry-level SSD is much faster than a traditional rotating mechanical hard drive.

Do you need to buy additional SATA cables?
Note that you may need an additional SATA cable if you buy a SSD along with a hard drive and an optical drive, as most motherboards only include two SATA cables. I recommend 18″ SATA cables: $3.24 at Amazon (USA) or $3.69 at B&H (International Shipping)

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Optical Drive:

All Tiers:

ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner

- $20.79 at Amazon
$21.75 at B&H (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: $3.24 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: $48.99 at Amazon (USA) or $47.99 at B&H (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: $58.99 at Amazon (USA) or $58.95 at B&H (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 15 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 7/8/8.1/10 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 my 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 0.5-1:

Antec VSK3000E

- $23.99 (Amazon)
$25.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Notes:
1- 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.
2. This case only has the slower USB 2.0 ports on the front. The motherboard has USB 3.0 port on the back, but if you want USB 3.0 ports on the front of your case, upgrade your case.
This is a basic 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:

BitFenix Neos, available in ten colors, with or without window

$49.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

The BitFenix Neos is excellent value for your money:
Available in ten different color configurations, with or without a side windows.

Includes two 120mm fans, two front USB 3.0 ports through an USB 3.0 header, all of that for $50!

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.

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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.).

Leave a comment at the end of the article or ask us on the forums if you have a doubt about whether a case is compatible or not with your build.

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

USA:

From B&H (International Shipping):

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.
USA:

From B&H (International Shipping):

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

Only compatible with Mini-ITX motherboards:

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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 0.5: 204W/250W with the AMD A8-7600 and the  integrated Radeon R7.
  • Tier 1: 346W/400W with the Intel Pentium G3258 overclocked to 4.2GHz/1.35v and the R7 260X.
  • Tier 2: 309W/400W with the Intel Core i3-4160 and the Geforce GTX 950.
  • Tier 3: 337W/400W with the Intel Core i5-4590 and the Geforce GTX 960.

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 Utilization: 90% TDP.
  • Video Card, none if integrated
  • Two sticks of DDR3 4GB
  • One regular SATA hard drive.
  • 1 DVD-RW/DVD+RW Drive
  • 4 USB 3.0
  • 4 x 120mm regular fans
  • Computer Utilization: 16 hours a day

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 0.5

Antec Basiq BP350 350 Watt:

- $29.99 at Amazon
- $29.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Thanks to the highly efficient AMD APU 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 an high-quality Antec Basiq 350W power supply.

Mind you, at $29.99, it is a very affordable power supply considering its quality.

It is capable of delivering up to 350W, but more importantly, 23A on the 12V lines, the most important lines for a power supply in a modern PC.

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Tier 1-2-3:

Antec VP-450 80 Plus 450 Watts:

- $34.71 at Amazon
- $34.71 at B&H (International Shipping)

Tier 1, 2 and 3, with their more powerful CPUs and video card, require more power and this is why I recommend the Antec VP-450 for those three Tiers.

It is capable of delivering up to 450W, but more importantly, 36A on the 12V lines, the most important lines for a power supply in a modern PC.

Upgrades:

  1. Corsair Builder Series CX 600 Watt 80 PLUS: $64.29 at Amazon or $64.40 at B&H (International Shipping) – If you want a PSU capable of handling most higher-end CPU with overclocking and a higher end video card.
  2. Corsair CX 750 Watts Modular 80 PLUS Bronze – $74.99 at Amazon – Capable of handling a high-end CPU and high-end video card that are heavily overclocked. Modular. Also available from B&H (International Shipping), but in the non-modular version, for $89.90.

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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), without air conditioning, you don’t need an after-market CPU Cooler.

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

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 slowdown and eventually shutdown to avoid damage. This: A- Lower performance B- may causes a system shutdown, losing all data that was unsaved. C- 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 $18.75 (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)- $31.05 at Amazon (USA)
$31.05 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: $30.61 at Amazon (USA) or $35.53 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 speakers, 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). This means that you can switch the sound card from your Gaming PC to your laptop, for example.

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

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 (B&H – 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 that you visit Amazon, Newegg and/or B&H to compare yourself a variety of different keyboards and mice. Take the time to find the one that fits your preferences.

I’ll be publishing an article on the best keyboards and mice in September.

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.
  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.

Let’s address the obvious question:
Should you use Windows 10, 8.1 or 7 for your gaming PC?

I recommend Windows 10.

It includes DirectX 12, it boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7 and 8. It’s the latest version of Windows and is a big improvement over Windows 8.1.

Windows 10

Launched on July 29th 2015, Windows 10 is Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system.

Simply put, the Start Menu is back, you get DirectX 12, the search function is improved, it boots faster, using it is a lot simpler than Windows 8.

It basically improved on what Windows 7 offered.

For more details on Windows 10, I recommend that you find a review of it online.

If you’re interested in Windows 10, there are two versions that are available:
The DVD versions are currently less expensive:

The USB versions are currently more expensive, but may be more convenient for you:

Windows 8.1

Released in October 2013, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s second most recent 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 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.

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

Windows 7

Windows 7 will be getting security updates from Microsoft until 2020, so if you prefer to avoid/skip Windows 10 and 8.1, Windows 7 is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Two Available Versions:

  1. Windows 7 Home Premium: The basic edition, with all the looks, most of the functionality and DirectX 11. Limited to a maximum of 16GB of RAM.
  2. Windows 7 Professional: If you want the virtual XP mode,  if you want to backup to a network (using the built-in backup mode in Windows) or need Remote Desktop Connection, you’ll need the Professional edition. Same goes if youwant more than 16GB of RAM.

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)

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 as well as run Windows applications 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 .