November 22nd 2016 Update: What’s new
1. New RAM recommendations: Replaced out of stock parts, lower price when possible
2. New motherboard for Tier 2: More reliable and better features
3. The Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 replaced the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti for Tier 2. For roughly $30 less, you get only slightly lower performance.
4. Added 5 new inexpensive case alternatives
Choose Your Gaming PC:
About Hardware Revolution’s Gaming PC Builds
This is 1 of 3 articles where I, Mathieu Bourgie, a computer hardware consultant with over 16 years of experience, recommend to you all the required parts, to help you build your Gaming PC.
We also have a guide for the Best Prebuilt Budget Gaming PCs if you don’t want to build a PC.
Is a Budget Gaming PC powerful enough for you?
That depends on the resolution of your monitor/HDTV and the games that you want to play.
There are two (2) recommended Budget Gaming PC levels of performance (Tier) in this article.
The recommended parts for each Tier are indicated by a number: 1 and 2, through the article.
– Tier 1 is what I recommend for gaming on a 720p HDTV or a monitor with a 1366 x 768 resolution.
– Tier 2 for gaming at 1600 x 900.
Want to play at Full HD/1080p, max details, 120+FPS, at 2560 x 1440 or Virtual Reality (VR)?
You’ll need a more powerful Gaming PC. See The Best Mid-range & High Performance Gaming PCs.
Want the best Gaming PC to play at 4K or on multiple monitors?
In that case, the Extreme Gaming PCs are what I recommend.
Need help picking the right level of performance for your Gaming PC?
Leave a comment at the end of the article. Give us details about the video game(s) that you want to play, the level of details that you want and the resolution of the monitor or HDTV that you’ll use.
Not interested in a Gaming PC?
Want an inexpensive PC for general use?
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 standard desktop PC and don’t intend to play video games, just buy everything except for the dedicated video card.
Things to keep in mind when reading this article:
My recommendations in this article are based on the prices that I saw on November 22nd 2016.
- This is a worldwide guide. If you live outside the USA, B&H offers worldwide shipping. In the USA, Amazon, Newegg and B&H offer the best prices and customer support.
- This list is based on the best prices for new parts from B&H, NewEgg and Amazon. No used, open box or refurbished parts are included. While you may be able to score a nice discount, those parts come with trade offs, such as unknown reliability, a limited return policy and a limited warranty. I want your PC to function without issues.
- Prices and availability often change. I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, but I only recommend to you parts that I would buy myself. Reliable and great performance for the price.
This table can be scrolled on a smartphone
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. Thousands of our readers, many of whom with no experience, built their own 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!
Get the ASRock A88M-G/3.1 Micro-ATX FM2+
About the ASRock A88M-G/3.1 Micro-ATX FM2+
This motherboard offers support for AMD’s FM2+ APUs and modern features at a great 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 for Tier 1: the APU and the RAM.
1. Low price for a reliable motherboard that supports AMD’s FM2+ APUs.
2. Four RAM slots, allowing you to upgrade all the way to 64GB (4x16GB).
One USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.1 Type A, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 on the back
High quality onboard audio: Realtek ALC1150 7.1 channels
3. VGA, DVI and HDMI video outputs
4. Eight SATA ports
1 x M.2 connector, supports type 2230/2242/2260/2280 M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen2 x4 (20 Gb/s)
5. USB 3.0 onboard header: This means that you can use USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case.
1. Two included SATA cables: You may need to buy more if you want more than one hard drive and one optical drive, if you get a SATA SSD, a hard drive and an optical drive for example.
2. Using the M.2 slot will disable the second PCI-Express 16x slot (which runs at 4x)
3. Poor placement of the PCI-Express 1x slot: It will be blocked by the video card. If you want to add a dedicated sound card, you’ll need a PCI sound card, unless you use the second PCI-Express 16x, unless you use a M.2 SSD.
Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.
Ports on the back: 1x USB-C 3.1, 1x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x PS/2, Gigabit LAN, HDMI, VGA and DVI outputs and 7.1 analog audio.
Expansion slots, from top to bottom: PCI-Express 3.0 16X (16x), one PCI-Express 1x slot, PCI-Express 3.0 16x (4x) and one PCI slot.
Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Four fan connectors (3 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin), M.2 PCI-Express 2.0 4x, eight SATA 6.0Gb/s, USB 3.0 header and two USB 2.0 headers.
Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, manual, screw for M.2 slot, CD with drivers/utilities and I/O backplate.
MSI H110M Gaming Micro-ATX LGA1151
About the MSI H110M Gaming motherboard:
This motherboard is reliable, affordable and supports everything you want, making it a great choice for Tier 2 of the Budget Gaming PCs.
Its low price allows you to invest your budget on the parts that matters the most for gaming performance: the video card and the CPU.
1. Low price for a reliable motherboard that supports Intel’s LGA1151 CPUs.
2. USB 3.1 (Gen1 5Gbps, same as USB 3.0) header, Eight USB ports in total: Six USB ports on the back, two from the header
3. Second 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 such as a sound card
4. Intel LAN: Reliable
5. Nice red LEDs on the corner of the motherboard, if you care about the look.
6. Three 4-pin fan headers
1. Only two included SATA cables: You’ll need to buy more if you get more than one hard drive and one optical drive.
2. Only two RAM slots: Four is preferable if you want to add RAM in the future.
3. Only 4 SATA ports
4. No RAID support.
Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.
Ports on the back: Four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two PS/2, Gigabit LAN, VGA/DVI/HDMI output and 8 Channels audio.
Expansion slots: PCI-Express 3.0 16X and two PCI-Express 2.0 1x slots
Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Three fan connectors (3x four pins), four SATA 6.0Gb/s, USB 3.1 (Gen1 5Gbps) header and two USB 2.0 headers.
Included in the box: Motherboard, two SATA cables, CD with drivers/utilities and I/O backplate.
AMD A8-7600 APU 2 modules/4 cores 3.1-3.8GHz FM2+ R7 Series Graphics 384 GPU cores 720MHz 65W
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.
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 1 Gaming PC.
Intel Core i3-6100 3.7GHz Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading Skylake LGA1151:
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 i3-6100 over the AMD FX-6300 because:
- The Intel Core i3-4360 (same frequency, but older and lower performance architecture than the Core i3-6100) outperforms the FX-6300 in most games and applications, thanks to its far higher single thread performance, according to AnandTech.
- The Core i3-4130 (300MHz slower,two generations behind) outperforms the FX-6350 (+400MHz/100MHz Base/Turbo frequencies) when it comes to gaming performance, according to Xbit Labs.
- 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. The i3-6100 power consumption is similar to the Core i3-4130
- The Intel LGA1151 platform offers more recent technology, such as PCI-Express 3.0, M.2 slot, DDR4 support and more.
- The Intel LGA1151 platform also 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.
More powerful alternatives:
Want to upgrade to a more powerful CPU?
Here’s something that 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 what matters the most when it comes to gaming performance.
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 a conside 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.
The best value upgrade would be the Intel Core i5-6500. It’s an Intel quad-core CPU that offer significantly higher performance and it is compatible with the rest of Tier 2.
Get the Intel Core i5-6500 LGA1151 from Amazon, B&H ($203.00) or Newegg ($204.99)
If you want an even more powerful CPU, see The Best CPUs, Processors and APUs For Your Money article for my recommendations for upgrades. You’ll want to pick a CPU that uses the LGA1151 socket for it to be compatible with the rest of Tier 2.
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.
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.
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 1, 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.
Geforce GTX 1050 2GB
Launched in October 2016, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 offers excellent performance for a video card at this price, especially when you consider its low power consumption.
Pretty much any model of the Geforce GTX 1050 will offer great performance. I recommended the least expensive one.
For the best gameplay experience, with smooth rendering and high frame rates, I recommend playing at a resolution up to 1600 x 900.
While it is somewhat capable of running older games with high details at 1920 x 1080 and newer games will run at 1920 x 1080 and some will hit 60 FPS, you may want to lower levels of details depending on how demanding the game is, to get acceptable frame rates.
See our Mid-range and High-End Gaming PC Builds if you want to play at 1920×1080/Full HD with 120+FPS and maximum visual quality settings.
More powerful alternatives:
Want to upgrade to a more powerful video card?
See The Best Video Cards For Gaming article for my recommendations for upgrades.
Why do I recommend different RAM kits at Amazon, B&H and Newegg?
Prices and available products vary depending on the vendor. I simply recommended reliable kits that offer great performance at a low price. Performance is the same for all three kits.
Is it worth it to upgrade to 16GB of RAM?
Cost wise, it’s not that expensive of an upgrade, so I’d say yes. That said, if you want better performance in video games, than you’re better off picking a higher Tier or a faster CPU and/or video card.
Do you like to run demanding programs (Photo, video or 3D editing, etc.), run more programs at once (multitask), leave your PC open for a long time between restarts and want to be able to run the latest games and/or programs for many years with higher performance? If you said yes, then I recommend upgrading to 16GB of RAM. Note that you don’t need to change any other part if you choose 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB.
8GB (2x4GB) Dual-Channel Kit DDR3 2133MHz
Why DDR3 2133MHz?
The Tier 1 Gaming PC video card is integrated in the APU (CPU+GPU), so it uses the system RAM. In this specific case, higher performance memory does significantly improve gaming performance. That said, beyond 2133MHz, you get diminishing performance improvement with higher frequency RAM.
DDR3 because the Tier 1 CPU and motherboard support only DDR3.
Recommended alternative 16GB kits of DDR3 2133MHz RAM:
8GB (2x4GB) Dual-Channel Kit DDR4 2400MHz
Why DDR4 2400MHz?
The recommended motherboard for Tier 2 only supports DDR4, like most motherboards running Intel LGA1151 CPUs.
Why not recommend higher frequency RAM?
1- Not supported by the motherboard (Z170 chipset required, more expensive)
2- More expensive, forcing you to cut somewhere else to fit in your budget.
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 entry-level RAM, an entry-level motherboard and a more powerful video card and CPU. You’ll get far more performance by spending the same amount of money on a better CPU and video card than on slightly better RAM and on a motherboard to support it.
Maximum amount of RAM:
Double-check your motherboard specifications to see what is the maximum amount of RAM that it supports.
RAM Heatsinks height and aftermarket 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.
- 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.
- Tall RAM heatsinks can get in the way of larger aftermarket CPU Coolers, preventing their installation.
So if you ever decide to upgrade your CPU Cooler, you don’t have to worry about that.
RAM may require manual configuration within the UEFI/BIOS to reach its full potential
By default, some RAM kits will boot at lower frequencies than they are rated for. This is not unusual and 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. 1.35v) and timings (a series of numbers, such as 15-15-15-35). Refer to your motherboard manual and your RAM specifications for more information.
Seagate ST1000DM010 1TB 7200rpm
The Seagate ST1000DM010 1TB hard drive is affordable, offers 1TB of storage capacity, great performance for a standard 7200rpm hard drive, and most importantly, it’s reliable.
Do you want more storage capacity and/or better performance?
Same drive as above, but with 2TB of storage capacity: Seagate ST2000DM006 2TB 7200rpm from Amazon, B&H ($76.99) or Newegg ($69.99)
Same drive as above, but with 3TB of storage capacity: Seagate ST3000DM008 3TB 7200rpm from Amazon, B&H ($89.99) or Newegg ($89.99)
Do you want more performance, but at an affordable price?
Get a Hybrid Hard Drive? (Also known as ‘Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD)’ )
It combines a hard drive with a flash memory chip, similar to the ones used in SSDs.
- This boost performance versus a traditional hard drive by caching the most frequently used files, so that when there are requests for those files, they are read from the much higher performance flash memory instead of being read from the disk.
- This is all done automatically, you have nothing to do to gain the additional performance, but it also means that you have no control over it.
- It also means that when the required file(s) isn’t in the cache, it is read from the hard drive, with the standard performance of a 7,200rpm hard drive.
Overall, you get faster boot times and faster program/game launch for the applications that you use often.
All of this at a very reasonable price when compared to the price of a comparably sized SSD or a small SSD + HDD combo. It’s also much simpler to use compared to managing a small SSD and a HDD.
I recommend the Seagate Firecuda hybrid hard drive, but only the 1TB and 2TB models that run at 7200rpm. The 4TB model from Seagate and WD run at a lower speed, resulting in lower performance.
– Get the Seagate 1TB Solid State Hybrid Drive ST1000DX002 from Amazon, B&H ($79.00) or Newegg ($79.00)
– Get the Seagate 2TB Solid State Hybrid Drive ST2000DX002 from Amazon, B&H ($104.99) or Newegg ($104.99)
Do you want an higher performance SSD?
Solid State Drives
SSDs dramatically improve storage performance. SSDs are for you if you want:
- Much faster OS boot, Shutdown, Sleep and Hibernation
- Much faster program and game loading, meaning that you don’t have to wait as long for your program or your game to load.
- A system that feels more responsive.
An option, if you want very high performance without spending too much:
Get a 240-256GB SSD to store Windows and your favorite (or most demanding) games, with the rest of your media/games on the hard drive.
Click here to visit The Best SSDs (Solid State Drives) For Your Money article for our latest SSD recommendations.
Do you need to buy additional SATA cables?
Note that you may need an additional SATA cable if you buy a SATA SSD along with a hard drive and an optical drive, because the recommended motherboards only include two SATA cables. I recommend 18″ SATA cables: Click to see the price on Amazon or $3.69 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
ASUS SATA 24X DVD Burner
‘Wait, an optical drive in 2016?‘ I hear you say.
Sure, why not? I believe that having the ability to listen to audio CDs and watch DVDs, rip CDs and DVDs (double-check the laws in your country) as well as burn CDs and DVDs, is worth $20 in my opinion.
Don’t want a DVD drive and/or want to save $20?
The DVD drive also allows you to easily use the less expensive OEM version of Windows, which only comes on a DVD.
You can buy the OEM version of Windows, on a DVD, and use its CD/product key code to use the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, which can be used to install Windows 10 Home from an USB flash drive, of at least 4GB.
Need SATA cables?
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 SATA SSD, another hard drive or another optical drive.
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: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $58.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) or $58.99 at Newegg 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 16 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.
Double-check your case dimensions to ensure that your computer will fit where you’ll want it to be!
SilverStone PS08B Micro-ATX
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 one of the most inexpensive Micro-ATX case that offers front USB 3.0 ports through the USB 3.0 header on your motherboard.
It is a decent, quality case that does the job. Its low price allows you to invest your money on the parts that matter for performance.
Don’t like it? Just pick another case.
- Cooling wise, this case includes one 120mm front case fan. You can also add an additional 80mm or 92mm case fan (in the back) if you wish to.
Features wise, you get:
- 120mm front fan with dust filter
- 2x USB 3.0 (internal header), Audio out, MIC in at the front.
- The inside of the case is painted in black
- An hole on the back panel, to easily install after-market CPU Cooler without having to remove the motherboard from the case.
Looking for a different case? Here are some inexpensive alternatives that you might like.
BitFenix Neos ATX from Amazon, B&H ($49.99) or Newegg ($51.99)
BitFenix Neos Window ATX from Amazon, B&H ($59.99) or Newegg ($53.99)
Deepcool Tesseract Window from Amazon, B&H ($39.99) or Newegg ($31.99)
Corsair Carbide 88R from Amazon, B&H ($59.99) or Newegg ($49.99)
Corsair Carbide 100R from Amazon, B&H ($49.99) or Newegg ($49.99)
Corsair Carbide 100R Silent from Amazon, B&H ($59.99) or Newegg ($59.99)
Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 from Amazon, B&H ($59.99) or Newegg ($39.98)
Corsair Carbide SPEC-02 from Amazon, B&H ($59.99) or Newegg ($54.99)
If you want to check for a case with a different look, more case fans, a smaller or bigger form-factor, an handle and/or other features, I suggest that you look for a case that you’d like at Amazon, B&H (Worldwide shipping) or Newegg.
Here’s what to check for compatibility:
1. Video card length clearance, for Tier 2: The video card for Tier 2 is 5.7″ or 145mm long.
2. Compatible motherboard form factor: Micro-ATX. If you use a different motherboard than the recommended one, make sure the its form factor (ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX) is compatible with the case that you choose.
3. CPU Cooler height clearance (if you want to get an after-market CPU Cooler).
4. At least one case fan.
Leave a comment at the end of the article if you have doubts about whether a case is compatible or not with your build.
Tier 1 and 2
EVGA 430W 80+:
Thanks to the highly efficient recommended parts, neither Tiers of the Budget Gaming PCs 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 recommending the high-quality EVGA 430W.
It is an affordable power supply considering its quality. It includes a 3 years warranty.
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 Watts Output (including overhead) are in Bold.
- Tier 1: 204W/300W with the AMD A8-7600 and the integrated Radeon R7.
- Tier 2: 264W/375W with the Intel Core i3-6100 and the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti.
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.
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.
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.
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: 1. Lower performance 2. May causes a system shutdown, losing all data that was unsaved. 3. 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.
Low-noise/great cooling performance: Cooler Master TX3
The Cooler Master TX3 offers far greater cooling performance and much lower noise compared to the cooler included with the CPU.
You can add a second 92mm 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 TX3?
Follow this tutorial, where they compare different methods to figure out the best one.
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 AMD and 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 stock 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.
Considering the low power consumption of the components, the Budget Gaming PCs will do just fine with a single fan, which is included with the case.
If you find it too noisy, you may want to replace the case fan. Here’s what you need to know.
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.
- 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.
Size: Double-check what fan size(s) your case support!
Most cases nowadays support 80mm, 92mm, 120mm and/or 140mm case fans. Find out which size(s) and how many fans your case supports.
All this information is available on the product page of the case, under specifications/details.
Here’s what I recommend:
1. A good balance between enough airflow and low-noise (preferably below 20-25dBA).
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.
Corsair, Scythe, be quiet!, Cougar and Noctua all make excellent case fans.
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.
- NZXT SENTRY 2 Touchscreen Fan Controller: Amazon or $34.89 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- NZXT Sentry 3 Touchscreen Fan Controller: Amazon or $33.25 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- $14.99 – FrozenCPU Deluxe Multi Power Port – 12V / 7V / 5V – This a board with four 12V 3pin fan headers, four 7V 3pin fan headers and four 5V 3pin fan headers. 12V will let your fan(s) run at full speed, 7V at lower speeds and 5V at even lower speeds. Note that not all fans can start with 5V. The underside of this board has a sticky material, allowing you to stick it somewhere in your case. Practical if you don’t have a free 5.25″ drive bay and if you want to see the speed of your fans once and forget about them.
- $5.95 – 4-Pin Molex Fan controller – This fan controller allows you to control the speed of a 4-pin Molex fan. While there is only a single connection, most 4-pin Molex fans can be daisy-chainned.
8 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 DS 7.1 107dB SNR PCI Sound Card:
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:
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 107dB SNR PCI-Express 1x Sound Card:
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
USB Sound cards:
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.
Speakers, Headphones, Earphones, :
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 good 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:
- Logitech Z-130 2.0 5W: Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Logitech Z200 2.0 10W: Click here to see the price at Amazon or $24.99 at B&H – (Worldwide Shipping)
- Creative Inspire T12 2.0 18W: Click here to see the price at Amazon
2.1 speakers: 2 satellites and a sub-woofer:
- Cyber Acoustics CA-3001RB 2.1 14W: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $28.95 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Creative A250 2.1 9W
- Cyber Acoustics CA-3602a 2.1 30W: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $42.95 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 38W
- GOgroove BassPULSE Glowing Blue LED 2.1 20W: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $54.99 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Logitech Z523 2.1 40W
5.1 speakers: 5 satellites and a sub-woofer:
- Logitech Z506 5.1 75W: Click here to see the price on Amazon
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.
- Koss KSC75 Clip on headphones: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $12.44 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Koss PortaPro: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $31.92 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Superlux HD668B
- AKG K240: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $69.99 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica AUD ATHAD500X: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $129.95 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Grado SR80e: $99.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Sennheiser HD558: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $109.95 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica ATH-AD700X: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $179.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Sennheiser HD 598: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $149.98 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
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.
- Koss UR-20: Click here to see the price on Amazon) or $19.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Panasonic RP-HTX7 (In Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink or Green): Click here to see the price on Amazon or $39.99 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M30x: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $69.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $99.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Audio Technica ATH-A700: Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Audio Technica ATH-M50x Black, Brown or White: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $169.00 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
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.
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.
- Panasonic RPHJE120K Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Silver or Violet – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Panasonic RPTCM125K Black, Blue, Pink, Purple or White: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $14.50 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Wood + White) – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Symphonized NRG Premium with Mic (Red + Black) – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi with Mic – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Yamaha EPH-100SL: $78.81 (Amazon) or $133.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE315-K (Black or White): Click here to see the price on Amazon or $169.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE315-K (Black or White) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $198.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE535-V (Bronze, Clear or Red): Click here to see the price on Amazon or $449.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
- Shure SE535-V (Bronze) with Mic & Remote Cable Kit: $478.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
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 ge), 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: Click here to see the price on Amazon / $5.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) 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: Click here to see the price on Amazon / $49.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) which offers excellent sound quality for less than $50.
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.
- Yapster TM-YP100A – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Koss SB-45: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $23.99 (B&H – Worldwide shipping)
- Sennheiser PC 151: Click here to see the price on Amazon / $42.91 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- SteelSeries Siberia V2 Available in 9 colors: Click here to see the price on Amazon or $89.99+ (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
- Logitech 7.1 Surround G35 – Click here to see the price on Amazon
- Logitech Wireless 7.1 Surround G930 – Click here to see the price on Amazon
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.
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 B&H to compare yourself a variety of different keyboards and mice. Take the time to find the one that fits your preferences.
Note that you need to install the 64-bit version, as 32-bit systems are limited to 4GB of memory, which is not enough.
There are two versions that are available:
The OEM (System Builder) version allows you to use your Windows copy only on the computer on which you first install it. It cannot be transferred or you can’t do a major upgrade to your computer, such as a motherboard change.
The Full retail version allows you to install your Windows 10 on another computer (it can only be used on one computer at a time) or to upgrade your PC as much as you’d like.
2. Windows 10 Full retail version, USB Flash Drive 64-Bit
Click here to see the price on Amazon or $119.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
For the best gaming performance, I recommend Windows 10.
It includes DirectX 12, it boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7 and 8 as well as uses less resources.
Visually, it is a big improvement over Windows 8.1
Microsoft has been optimizing Windows 10 to improve performance. If you want the best performance, especially with Intel’s Skylake or future processors from Intel and AMD, Windows 10 is the way to go.
Launched on July 29th 2015, Windows 10 is Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system.
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.
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.
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:
- Arstechnica Outstanding Guide for Hardware (Building the PC)
- Arstechnica Outstanding Guide for Software (EFI/BIOS, Windows, etc.)
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.
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 the latest video games at a 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution at their maximum graphic settings, or for VR, head over to our Mainstream/High-End Gaming PCs article.
If you’re looking for a Gaming PC that can handle all of the latest video games maxed out at a 1440p, 4K at 120/144Hz, or for the ultimate VR experience or to play video games on a multiple monitor setup or to play games in 3D, head over to our Extreme High-End Gaming PCs article.
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