Version 3.9.1 : Updated on November 8th 2013
What’s new in Version 3.9.1:
- New main motherboard recommendation for Tier 0.5 and 0.75: The GIGABYTE GA-F2A88XM-D3H. The previously recommended ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M was a great choice at $70, but with its current higher price ($88), the GIGABYTE GA-F2A88XM-D3H is a better choice because it’s more reliable and because it’s based on the newer A88X chipset and features the FM2+ socket, meaning that it’s ready to accept the future AMD Kaveri APUs that are expect in Q1 2014. It also brings PCI-Express 3.0 support
- New main motherboard recommendation for Tier 1 and 2: The GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3P. The previously recommended ASRock 960GM/U3S3 didn’t support onboard USB 3.0 and only supported CPUs with TDP up to 95W, greatly limiting CPUs upgrade to more powerful models. This is no longer a problem with the new recommendation.
- The case recommendation for Tier 1 and 2 has been upgraded to the newer model which has front USB 3.0 connections that connects to the USB 3.0 header of the new motherboard recommendation for Tier 1-2.
- Tier 1 and 2 can now be upgraded to two more powerful CPUs, the FX-6350 and the FX-8320, thanks to the new motherboard main recommendation which supports 125W CPUs.
- New alternative video card: The Radeon R9 270X, at the $210 price point.
- New pre-built PC alternative recommendation for Tier 0.5
- Prices has been updated.
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About Hardware Revolution’s Budget Gaming Computers:
Performance and reliability at a low-cost
With their low-cost, our Budget DIY(Do-It Yourself) Gaming Computers feature parts that were hand-picked to offer the maximum bang for your buck, or in other terms: to offer the best performance possible at a given price, while fitting within your budget.
However, these low-cost PCs are still designed with reliability in mind. They feature a safe, reliable power supply and a case with good cooling abilities, so that your PC will last you many years and to ensure that it will not overheat.
Instead of having several articles that each cover one specific build, there are Tiers, allowing you to pick one of several systems at broader price points.
The Tiers are color coded as such:
Tier 0.5: (Identified by a Red color): $395
This is our lowest cost Tier that’s perfect if all you want to do is play at 1366 x 768 or 720p with medium/high settings, older games, browse the Internet, watch some videos, listen to some music, do some Office work and the like, on a reliable and relatively quiet PC that doesn’t consume much power. With an after-market CPU Cooler, which is suggested in this guide, Tier 0.5 can be safely overclocked to reach even higher performance, despite its rock bottom price for a Gaming PC!
You don’t want to build Tier 0.5 and you would rather just buy a pre-built Gaming PC? The HP Pavilion P6-2350, $479.95 at B&H (International shipping) offers a Gaming PC performance that’s slowly lower than Tier 0.5, thanks to its AMD A8-5600K APU. It also comes with 8GB of RAM and a large 1TB hard drive. At its price, it’s a good deal for a pre-built PC.
Of course, keep in mind that you can build Tier 0.5 for less money or get higher performance at a similar price with Tier 0.75. Nonetheless, if building a PC isn’t an option or if you live outside the USA, the HP Pavilion P6-2350 is an option to consider.
Tier 0.75 (Identified by a Fuchsia color): $460
This is our lowest cost Gaming PC with a dedicated video card. It is fine for older games or more modern games at a low or medium resolution (1600 x 900 or 720p HDTVs). 1920 x 1080 should be playable too, although with lower graphic settings. While it can be overclocked as it is, you’ll get the best overclocking results with an after-market CPU Cooler and an upgraded power supply.
Tier 1 (Identified by a Green color): $540
Great entry-level gaming machine, perfect for gaming at a 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1080 (although with possibly lower graphic settings). While it can be overclocked as it is, you’ll get the best overclocking results with an upgraded motherboard, an after-market CPU Cooler and an upgraded power supply.
Tier 2 (Identified by an Orange color): $665
This Tier can handle most games at high/max settings at 1920 x 1080/1080p. While it can be overclocked as it is, you’ll get the best overclocking results with an upgraded motherboard, an after-market CPU Cooler and especially an upgraded power supply.
Need a Tier recommendation for a specific video game?
Ask us on the forums: Tell us about the video game, the level of details that you want (i.e. I just want to be able to play the game, medium, high or maximum details) and the resolution (e.g. 1920 x 1080. NOT the size) of the monitor (HDTVs: 720p or 1080p) that you’ll use.
Main recommendations, upgrades and alternatives:
1. Recommended Components are in Bold, with one or more colors/symbols for the Tier(s).
2. Suggested Alternatives and Upgrades are in Italic. You can upgrade as many parts as you want to, including parts from higher Tiers.
3. All Parts are interchangeable/compatible with each other, except for smaller Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX cases that don’t support larger Micro-ATX and ATX motherboards respectively and may not support some large after-market CPU Coolers. Ask us on the forums if you want us to double-check your build.
4. If this is your first build and if you just want a simple template to follow, stick to the recommended parts for a Tier.
Compatible only with AMD socket FM2/FM2+ APUs and CPUs, not AMD Llano APUs (FM1) nor AMD AM3 CPUs, nor Intel CPUs.
This motherboard offers AMD FM2 Trinity/Richland APU and CPU support.
This motherboard is equipped with the new FM2+ socket, which means that it will be compatible with AMD’s future APU, Kaveri (rumored to launch in Q1 2014).
It’s equipped with USB 3.0 ports and an USB 3.0 header (for the case front USB 3.0 ports), nothing short of eight SATA 6.0Gb/s ports, solid capacitors for long-term reliability and it comes with a three year warranty.
It comes with VGA, DVI and HDMI video outputs.
It’s also a great choice for overclocking the APU or CPU. If you intend to overclock, do consider getting an after-market CPU Cooler to keep temperatures down in order to improve your overclocking results.
Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.
Ports on the back: Four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0, one PS/2, VGA, DVI, HDMI, Gigabit LAN, Optical Digital Audio Output and 6 Channels audio on the back.
Expansion slots: On the board itself, you have two PCI-Express 3.0 16X (16x, 4x), one PCI-Express 1x and one PCI slot.
Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Three fan connectors (All four pins), eight SATA 6.0Gb/s, one USB 3.0 header, two USB 2.0 headers, LPT, COM and TPM headers.
Included in the box: Motherboard, four SATA cables, manual, CD with drivers/utilities and I/O backplate.
Alternative motherboards for Tier 0.5 and 0.75:
- $110 – ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ FM2+ SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX - If you want a larger ATX form factor motherboard, this one is equipped with the new FM2+ socket, which means that it will be compatible with AMD’s future APU, Kaveri (rumored to launch in Q1 2014). It also offers PCI-Express 3.0 support.
- $100 – ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ FM2+ SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX – If you want a smaller Mini-ITX form factor motherboard, to use in a small Mini-ITX case, this one is equipped with the new FM2+ socket, which means that it will be compatible with AMD’s future APU, Kaveri (rumored to launch in Q1 2014). It also offers PCI-Express 3.0 support.
Compatible only with AMD AM3+ CPUs, not AMD APUs nor Intel CPUs.
This motherboard offers AMD AM3+ support at a great price ($65), making it an excellent choice for the higher Tiers of the Budget Gaming PCs that are equipped with AMD AM3+ CPUs.
It supports CPUs with TDPs up to 125W, allowing you to upgrade to higher performance CPUs such as the FX-6350 or FX-8320.
It is also perfectly capable of handling overclocking.
Ports, expansion slots, features, what’s included in the box, etc.
Ports on the back: Eight USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one PS/2, Gigabit LAN and 8 Channels audio on the back.
Expansion slots: On the board itself, you have two PCI-Express 2.0 16X (16x, 4x), three PCI-Express 1x slot and two PCI slot.
Other connectors/features on the motherboard: Four fan connectors (Two four pins, two three pins), six 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.
Regarding “Richland”, the new 3rd generation of AMD’s APUs:
Richland: Slight boost in CPU and GPU performance vs previous gen Trinity, higher-end APUs are worth considering
Richland is the codename for the newer architecture of the Ax-6xxx series APUs, which replaces up the Trinity Ax-5xxx series APUs. Richland is more an evolution of Trinity, rather than a completely new architecture.
From an architecture point of view there’s hardly any differences between Trinity and Richland. The biggest difference is that Richland runs at slightly higher frequencies for the processor and GPU cores. There’s also reportedly some tuning to help Richland reach higher Turbo Core speeds more often.
That said, with discounted prices on the older Trinity A8-5600K and A10-5800K, you’d be wise to consider them over the newer, more expensive Richland APUs. Keep in mind that those APUs are K variants, with unlocked multipliers to make overclocking easier.
High-end APU at a reasonable price:
The AMD A10-5800K is based on the 2nd generation of AMD APUs, Trinity, and features the Radeon HD 7660D onboard GPU. In other words, it’s a CPU and a video card on a single chip, so you don’t need a discrete video card for Tier 0.5.
CPU wise, it competes with the Intel Core i3 CPU, outperforming in multi-threaded cases but getting outperformed in single-threaded performance.
For the AMD A10-5800K integrated video card performance and what you can expect of it, see the video card Tier 0.5 section.
Unlocked and ready to be overclocked:
Being an AMD “K” series processor, it is fully unlocked and can easily overclocked. However, for maximum overclocking potential, I recommend getting the alternative after-market CPU Cooler.
If you overclock it, I recommend overclocking the GPU (video card) cores, as they will give a bigger performance boost in games vs overclocking the CPU cores.
To avoid: Richland 3rd generation APUs, at their current prices:
Richland is the codename for AMD’s 3rd generation of APUs. It is only a minor refresh to Trinity (2nd gen) and as such, it does not bring much of a performance boost.
The $104 – A8-6600K is not that bad of an option, its CPU performance is roughly similar to the A10-5800K, but its GPU is not as powerful due to having less cores than the A10-5800K.
The $135 A10-6800K is not a great choice, as it offers only very slightly higher performance than the $110 A10-5800K, while costing quite a bit more. To avoid until its price goes down, or if you can’t find the A10-5800K.
In the same price range, we have the Intel Pentium G3220 that’s available for $70.
While the G3220 is highly efficient, its performance simply cannot match the X4 750K, as the X4 750K is a quad-core CPU, while the G3220 is limited to two cores.
With more and more games taking advantage of more than two cores, you’d be ill-advised to consider anything less than a quad-core CPU nowadays.
Note that this CPU has no integrated video card, so you require a dedicated video card. This is not a problem since you want a dedicated video card anyway.
Unlocked and ready to be overclocked:
Being an AMD “K” series processor, it is fully unlocked and can easily overclocked. However, for maximum overclocking potential, I recommend upgrading the motherboard to the recommended alternative for overclocking and I recommend getting the alternative after-market CPU Cooler.
VS the Competition:
Intel’s closest priced CPU is the Core i3-3220 ($119, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading 3.3GHz no Turbo).
I picked the AMD FX-6300 over the Intel Core i3-3220 because:
- The FX-6300 outperforms the Core i3-3220 in gaming and most applications.
- The AMD FX-6300 is fully unlocked for overclocking. The Intel Core i3-3220 is fully locked and cannot be overclocked.
Unlocked and ready to be overclocked:
Being an AMD “K” series processor, it is fully unlocked and can easily overclocked. However, for maximum overclocking potential, I recommend getting the alternative after-market CPU Cooler.
More powerful alternatives:
Want to upgrade to a more powerful CPU? Here are my two recommendations. Note that both are fully compatible with the rest of Tier 1-2 builds, no changes are required.
- $140 – AMD FX-6350 Six-Core 3.9-4.2GHz AM3+ Unlocked: Basically a faster version of the FX-6300.
- $160 – AMD FX-8320 Eight-Core 3.5-4.0GHz AM3+ Unlocked: Now, this is AMD’s eight core CPU, running at 3.5 to 4.0GHz (Turbo).
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.
- Looking for a monitor recommendation? Scroll down to right after Tier 2′s recommendation for some monitor recommendations.
Free – Radeon HD 7660D – Integrated
The Radeon HD 7660D is the integrated video card featured on the AMD A10-5800K APU.
What games can this video card handle?
The Radeon 7660D is capable of handling the vast majority of games at 1366 x 768 or 720p with high or maximum graphic settings and at 1600 x 900 with medium/high settings, although you might have to lower details for the most demanding games.
The recommended motherboard has VGA, DVI and HDMI video outputs.
Replacing the previously recommended Radeon HD 7790 is the Radeon HD 7770.
Thanks to price cuts on the Radeon HD 7770 and in order to keep the overall price of Tier 0.75 down, Tier 0.75 recommendation gets a slight downgrade from the Radeon HD 7790 to the Radeon HD 7770.
Mind you, for gaming at 1600 x 900, a Radeon HD 7770 is powerful enough to handle most modern games at high settings.
What games can this video card handle?
This card is capable of handling the vast majority of games at 1600 x 900, although you might have to lower details for the most demanding games.
Significantly more powerful alternative for $27 more:
If you’ve got some money left in your budget to spend, the $122 – Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 1GB is an excellent upgrade to the Radeon HD 7770.
While their respective names may make you think that the 7790 is a mild improvement over the 7770, the reality is that the 7790 offers a solid performance upgrade over the 7770, according to AnandTech.
The newly launched AMD R7 260X is a slightly faster version of the Radeon HD 7790, with 2GB of VRAM. It would be an interesting choice, if it wasn’t for the current selling prices of ~$140-150, which is too close to the far more potent Radeon HD 7850 2GB.
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The Radeon HD 7850 2GB offers a nice performance boost over the 7790 and is more future-proof, thanks to its 2GB of video memory.
VS the competition:
At the end of March, Nvidia launched the Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB, a more potent version of the GTX 650 Ti (which is a more potent version of the GTX 650).
Performance wise, the Radeon HD 7850 2GB offers on average 5 to 8% higher FPS versus the Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost, according to AnandTech.
It consumes less power, which helps reduce noise as well.
It also comes with two free video games:
You get to choose two games from the following eight:
- Deus Ex Human Revolution
- DiRT 3
- DiRT Showdown
- DMC Devil May Cry
- Far Cry 3
- Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
- Hitman Absolution
- Sleeping Dogs
The Radeon HD 7850 2GB is capable of handling most games at 1920 x 1080, although you might have to lower details in more recent and more demanding games.
Prices and my recommendations:
Finally, current Amazon prices on the Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost and on the current Amazon prices on the Radeon HD 7850 2GB show the Radeon HD 7850 being slightly less expensive at this point in time (October 22nd).
The Radeon HD 7850 2GB offers higher performance, consumes less power, emits less noise and includes two free games versus the Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost. The Radeon HD 7850 2GB simply is the logical recommendation at this price point. Unless you can find the Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB for $15+ less than the Radeon HD 7850 2GB, you have no reason to pick the GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB over the Radeon HD 7850 2GB.
More powerful alternative for $30 more
If you’ve got some money left in your budget to spend, the $180 – Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 GHz OC 2GB is an excellent upgrade to the Radeon HD 7850.
While their respective names may make you think that the 7870 is a mild improvement over the 7850, the reality is that the 7870 offers a solid performance upgrade over the 7850, according to AnandTech.
Even more powerful alternative
If you want something more powerful than the 7870, without spending $260 for the Geforce GTX 760, the $210 – MSI Radeon R9 270X 2GB is a great choice.
The Radeon R9 270X is basically a Radeon HD 7870 on steroids, with higher frequencies.
- The Radeon HD 7870 recommended above has a Core clock of 1050MHz and a memory frequency of 4800MHz.
- This particular MSI R9 270X Gaming has a core clock of 1030MHz, a Boost clock of 1120MHz and a memory frequency of 5600MHz.
So for $30 more, the new R9 270X offers a nice performance boost over the old Radeon HD 7870 2GB.
Replacing the previously recommended Geforce GTX 660 Ti 2GB is the Geforce GTX 760 2GB
At the $250 price point, the Geforce GTX 760 trade blows with the Radeon HD 7950 Boost.
While performance between the two is similar, the Geforce GTX 760 uses less power and thus tends to be more quiet than the Radeon HD 7950 Boost, hence why I recommend the Geforce GTX 760.
This particular Geforce GTX 760 from MSI comes factory overclocked and comes with a dual-fan cooling system to keep it cool and quiet.
What games can this video card handle?
This card is capable of handling pretty much any game at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with maximum visual quality, although you might have to scale back details in the most demanding games.
Need a monitor recommendation?
No problem, here are a few recommendations:
- 1440 x 900 monitor (Ideal for Tier 0.5):
$108 – Asus VS198D-P 5ms 19″
or, if you want a matte finish, an USB hub and a 3 years warranty:
$120 – Dell UltraSharp 1909W Matte USB Hub
- 1600 x 900 monitor (Ideal for Tier 0.75):
$90 – AOC e2050Swd 20″ 5ms
$100 – Acer S201HL 20″ 5ms LED
or, if you want a faster 2ms response time and a HDMI input:
$130 – Samsung B350 S20B350H 20″ 2ms HDMI LED-Lit
- 1920 x 1080 monitor (Ideal for Tier 1 or 2):
$140 – Acer H226HQL bid 21.5″ 5ms IPS Full HD 1080p – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles.
$140 – Dell S2340M 293M3-IPS-LED 23″ 5ms IPS 1080p – Similar to the Acer above, but it’s a larger 23″ monitor.
$150 – ASUS VS239H-P 23″ Full HD 1080p IPS 5ms – IPS panel for great color reproduction and great viewing angles.
$185 – ASUS VN247H-P 24″ Full HD 1080p 1ms – Ultra-low 1ms response time, ideal for FPS games.
Just keep in mind that an higher screen resolution is more demanding on the video card. This is why I recommend a lower resolution monitor for lower Tier, so that performance in video games remains great.
With memory prices going up lately, DDR3 1866MHz is pretty much the same price as DDR3 1600MHz.
In the case of Tier 0.5, AMD Trinity APUs performance under video games dramatically increase when using DDR3 1866MHz RAM versus slower RAM, which makes sense considering that the integrated video card relies on the system RAM for storing data.
As for Tier 0.75, 1 and 2, faster RAM at pretty much the same price as slower RAM just makes sense.
Is it worth it to get more than 4GB of RAM?
Most current games and applications don’t take advantage of more than 4GB on their own yet. However, 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 2-3 years, than I’d highly consider getting more than 4GB of RAM.
You’ll get more performance in some games/programs already, your PC will be more responsive when you have several applications open at once and you won’t have to worry about upgrading a few years down the road.
Maximum amount of RAM: Motherboards in this guide that supports two sticks of RAM can be equipped with up to 8GB (2 x 4GB) of RAM and the motherboards that support four sticks of RAM, can be equipped with 16GB (4x4GB) of RAM.
Higher quantity alternatives:
- $85 – G.Skill 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866MHz – Our recommendation if you’d rather have a 8GB kit of DDR3 1866MHz RAM, in order to future-proof your build or if you run demanding programs that use a lot of RAM.
- $160 – G.Skill 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1866MHz – If you want even more RAM to further future-proof your PC or multi-task intensively with demanding programs, this is an affordable and reliable 16GB kit of DDR3 1866MHz 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.
- 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.
- Tall RAM heatsinks can get in the way of larger aftermarket CPU Coolers, preventing you from installing your aftermarket CPU Cooler!
RAM can require manual configuration within the BIOS to reach its full potential or function properly!
By default, most 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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Tier 0.5, 0.75, Tier 1 and Tier 2:
The Seagate ST500DM002 500 GB hard drive is available for $57 and while it’s affordable, it also offers top-notch performance and is reliable.
Hard Drive alternatives:
- $63 – Seagate ST1000DM003 1 TB SATA III – For only $11 more you can double your capacity and get one of the best performing and most reliable 7200RPM drives on the market.
- $87 – Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB SATA III – For only $25 more you get can four times the capacity and get one of the best performing and most reliable 7200RPM drives on the market.
- $120 – Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB SATA III – A bit more than twice the price gives you six times the capacity.
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.
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.
Note that you’ll need an additional SATA cable if you buy a SSD, as most motherboards only include two SATA cables. I recommend this one: $3- 18″ SATA Cable w/Locking Latch
Here are my recommendations, in order of storage capacity and price:
- $64 – Kingston V300 2.5″ 64GB SATA III SSD – 64GB is a great choice for a boot drive with a few games.
- $100 – Samsung 840 EVO 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD – A high performance, reliable 120GB SSD.
- $175 – Samsung 840 EVO 2.5″ 250GB SATA III SSD – A high performance, reliable 250GB SSD.
- $340 – Samsung 840 EVO 2.5″ 500GB SATA III SSD – A high performance, reliable 500GB SSD.
- $494 – Samsung 840 EVO 2.5″ 750GB SATA III SSD – A high performance, reliable 750GB SSD.
- $596 – Samsung 840 EVO 2.5″ 1TB SATA III SSD – A high performance, reliable 1TB SSD.
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, we recommend this SATA cable: $3- 18″ SATA Cable w/Locking Latch
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 $57 – Pioneer Black 15X SATA Blu-Ray/CD/DVD Burner is what you want.
Regarding 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 13 3D Ultra is the software that I recommend to you. You’ll want at least the professional version for Blu-ray playback and the Ultra version for 3D Blu-Ray playback.
It is fully compatible with Windows 7/8 and shouldn’t give you any problems.
Need blank disks and cases?
No problem. Here are my recommendations, that I recommend because they are both affordable and highly reliable.
- $28 – JVC Taiyo Yuden 100-Disc 52X CDR CD-R 80min 700MB
- $13 – Verbatim 4.7GB 16x DVD-R 50-Disc Spindle
- $21 – Verbatim 4.7GB 16x DVD-R 100-Disc Spindle
- $55 – Verbatim DVD+R DL 8.5 GB 8x Double Layer 50 Disc
- $25 – Verbatim 25GB 6x Blu-Ray BD-R 25-Disc Spindle
- $60 – Verbatim 25GB 6x Blu-Ray BD-R 50-Disc Spindle
- $36 – HP Blu-Ray BD-R 6X 50GB Dual Layer 10-Disc
- $79 – DIGISTOR Blu-Ray BD-R 6X 50GB Dual Layer 25-Disc
- $134 – Verbatim Blu-Ray BD-R 6X 50GB Dual Layer 100-Disc
Need disk sleeves and cases? Here are our recommendations:
- $4 – 100 White Paper CD Sleeves with Window & Flap
- $5 – 100 Black Paper CD Sleeves with Window & Flap
- $8 – 100 Multi-color Paper CD Sleeves with Window & Flap
- $22 – 50 Standard Clear Disk Jewel Case
- $21 – 100 Slim Clear Disk Jewel Case
- $12 – Verbatim 50 Slim Multi-color Disk Jewel Case
- $12 – 25 Double Slimline Disk Jewel Cases
Note that this Micro-ATX case does NOT support alternative motherboards with the larger ATX form-factor. If you want an ATX motherboard, pick an ATX case.
- Cooling wise, this case includes two 120mm case fan, enough to keep Tier 0.5, 0.75 and 1 properly cooled. You can also add two additional 120mm case fans (on the side) if you wish to.
Features wise, you get:
- Plenty of ventilation holes, so your parts won’t starve for fresh air.
- 2x USB 3.0 (internal header), 2x USB 2.0, Audio out, MIC in at the front.
- Various holes and space to route and hide your wires.
Recommended in the past with the USB 2.0 ports, the Rosewill Challenger is updated to the Rosewill Challenger U3, the newer version with front USB 3.0 ports that connects to the motherboard USB 3.0 header. Just like before, it’s a low-cost ($50) case that features excellent cooling thanks to three included fans.
- Cooling wise, this case includes two 120mm and one 140mm case fans, ensuring proper cooling for your Gaming PC. You can add up to two 120mm fans, on the side of the case, if you want to.
Features wise, you get:
- 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.
- Various holes and space to route and hide your wires.
- 2x USB 3.0, E-SATA, Audio out and MIC in the front of the case.
- Five internal 3.5″ drive bays with ssupport for one 2.5″ drive (e.g. SSDs and laptop hard drives).
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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.
The vast majority of them are compatible with any Tier, although it’s always good to check the video card length clearance, CPU Cooler height clearance and the accepted motherboard form factors (ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX, etc.).
Of course, there are many other cases available on the market, so feel free to look at other options if you’re looking for something different.
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:
- $30 – NZXT GAMMA Classic 1 x 120mm fan
- $35 – NZXT Source 210 Black 1x120mm
- $40 – NZXT Source 210 White 1x120mm
- $50 – NZXT Source 210 White Elite 2x120mm
- $45 – Rosewill Blackbone 3 x 120mm fans
- $40 – Cooler Master Elite 430 2 x 120mm fans
- $50 – COUGAR AF-2 Black & Army Green 1x120mm
- $62 – Cooler Master HAF 912 2x120mm
- $60 – Rosewill Line Glow USB 3.0 4x120mm
- $70 – NZXT Apollo 2 x 120mm fans
- $50 – NZXT M59 2 x 120mm fans
- $45 – NZXT Tempest 210 1x120mm
- $60 – NZXT Tempest 410 2x120mm
- $70 – NZXT Guardian 921 3 x 120mm fans
- $70 – NZXT Vulcan 2 x 120mm, 1 x 200mm fans + handle
- $70 – NZXT Lexa S 3 x 120mm, 1 x 140mm
- $70 – Cooler Master Storm Scout 1 x 120mm, 2 x 140mm
- $80 – Cooler Master Storm Enforcer, 1 x 120mm, 2 x 200mm
- $100 – Cooler Master HAF 922 Red LEDs 1 x 120mm, 2 x 200mm
- $100 – NZXT H2 H2-001-BK Black 3x120mm
- $90 – SILVERSTONE Precision PS06B-W 1x180mm 1x120mm
- $98 – Corsair Carbide 400r 3x120mm
- $76 – COUGAR Challenger Black 1x120mm 1x200mm
- $81 – COUGAR Challenger Orange 1x120mm 1x200mm
- $110 – COUGAR Evolution Black Window 2x120mm
- $95 – COUGAR Evolution White Window 2x120mm
- $100 – Fractal Design Define Mini Micro-ATX 2 x 120mm fans
- $100 – NZXT Phantom 410 Black 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
- $100 – NZXT Phantom 410 White 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
- $100 – NZXT Phantom 410 Black Orange 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
- $100 – NZXT Phantom 410 Gunmetal 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
- $100 – NZXT Phantom 410 Red 1x140mm + 2x120mm fans
- $100 – Antec Eleven Hundred 1 x200mm + 1x120mm fans
- $60 – Antec Three Hundred Illusion 3x120mm 1x140mm fans
- $75 – Antec Three Hundred Two 1x140mm 1x120mm
- $120 – Corsair Vengeance C70 Black 3x120mm
- $80 – Corsair Carbide Series 300R 1x140mm 1x120mm
- $98 – Corsair Carbide 400R 3x120mm
- $100 – COOLER MASTER HAF XB Cube 2x120mm
- $100 – COOLER MASTER Storm Scout 2 Black 1x120mm
- $110 – Antec P280 Sound proofing panels and foam 3x120mm
- $80 – Fractal Design Define R4 Black 2x140mm
- $110 – Fractal Design Define R4 Window Black 2x140mm
- $110 – Fractal Design Define R4 White 2x140mm
- $120 – Fractal Design Define R4 Window White 2x140mm
- $110 – Fractal Design Define R4 Titanium 2x140mm
- $120 – Fractal Design Define R4 Window Titanium 2x140mm
- $119 – Corsair Carbide 500R Black 3x120mm 1x200mm
- $100 – Corsair Carbide 500R White 3x120mm 1x200mm
- $100 – LIAN LI PC-7HX 1x120mm 2x140mm Aluminum
- $130 – Corsair Vengeance C70 Black 3x120mm
- $120 – COOLER MASTER HAF XM 1x140mm 2x200mm
- $130 – Corsair Obsidian 550D 3x120mm
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.
- $35 – COUGAR Spike Micro-ATX 1x 120mm fan
- $36 – Fractal Design Core 1000 1x120mm
- $70 – NZXT Crafted Series Vulcan Micro-ATX 2x120mm
- $75 – SilverStone SST-PS07B Micro-ATX USB 3.0 2x120mm
- $84 – SilverStone SST-PS07W White Micro-ATX USB 3.0 2x120mm
- $80 – Corsair Obsidian Series 350D
- $100 – Corsair Obsidian Series 350D w/ Window
- $100 – Fractal Design Define Mini Micro-ATX USB3.0 2x120mm
- $109 – Thermaltake A30 Micro-ATX USB 3.0 1x230mm 1x90mm 2x60mm
- $100 – SilverStone TJ08B-E Micro-ATX USB3.0 1x180mm 1x120mm
- $123 – LIAN LI PC-A04B Aluminum Micro-ATX USB3.0 3x120mm
- $100 – Fractal Design Arc Mini Micro-ATX USB 3.0 3x120mm fan contr.
Mini-ITX cases (Only compatible with Mini-ATX motherboards) :
(Only compatible with Mini-ATX motherboards)
I only recommend the BitFenix Prodigy case if you intend to build a Mini-ITX Gaming PC because it’s simply unmatched when it comes to the possibilities that it offers for a small footprint Gaming PC. It’s the easiest and most convenient Mini-ITX case to work with. Here are the specific reasons that I recommend it for:
- Mostly tool-free installation
- Filtered air intakes to keep dust to a minimum
- You can install a PSU with a length of up to 160mm. Note that if you use a modular PSU, that 160mm must include the extra length for the connectors. See my specific recommendations for this case in the PSU section.
- You can install a fairly tall tower type CPU Cooler, with a maximum CPU Cooler height of 175mm.
- You can install a dual-slot video card with a length up to 310mm (pretty much the vast majority of video cards), if you do not mind removing the top HDD cage, which is not a problem unless you want more than two 3.5″ hard drives.
- *You can install a 240mm water cooling radiator in the top, allowing you to use All-in-One Water Cooling kits if you want to. However, if you do so, you cannot install an optical drive.
- Handles allowing you to easily carry it to LAN parties and the like.
The BitFenix Prodigy is available in six (6) colors. The Blue and Green version come with a side panel window, but you can buy a side panel window for the other color models if you want to. BitFenix also allows you to change the front panel of your case to get one with a different look/color and also offers LEDs of various lengths and various colors. See this Newegg page for the available side panels, front panels and LEDs strips.
- $90 – BitFenix Prodigy Black 2x120mm
- $80 – BitFenix Prodigy White 2x120mm
- $90 – BitFenix Prodigy Red 2x120mm
- $90 – BitFenix Prodigy Orange 2x120mm
- $100 – BitFenix Prodigy Blue with Side Panel Window 2x120mm
- $90 – BitFenix Prodigy Green with Side Panel Window 2x120mm
Tiers 0.5-0.75 and 1:
The Budget Gaming PCs parts are fairly energy efficient and don’t feature very power hungry components, so you don’t need a power supply that’s very powerful.
However, the power supply is one of the most important components when it comes to the stability and reliability of a PC.
This is why I’m not cutting corners here, by making a recommendation for a fairly high-quality Antec 450W power supply.
Mind you, at $35, it is a very affordable power supply considering its quality.
It is capable of delivering up to 450W, but more importantly, 30A on the 12V lines, the most important lines for a power supply in a modern PC.
Note that if you intend on overclocking Tier 0.5, it can be overclocked with the Antec VP-450 without any problem. For overclocking Tier 0.75 and Tier 1, I recommend upgrading to Tier’s 2 power supply.
Tier 2, with the more powerful Geforce GTX 760, requires more power and this is why I recommend the Silversone Strider 500W 80 PLUS for it.
Also recommended for Tier 0.75 or Tier 1 if you want to overclock.
This power supply is also an excellent choice for lower Tiers, if you want a more efficient power supply.
- $65 – SilverStone 600W 80 PLUS – Ideal for overclocking Tier 0.75, 1 or 2.
- $75 – SilverStone ST50F-P 500W 80PLUS BRONZE Modular – A more efficient power supply as well as a modular one to reduce cable mess. If you’re going to use a Mini-ITX motherboard/case, I highly recommend getting the set of shorter PSU cables below, so that you don’t have way too long cables in your smaller case.
- $20 – SilverStone PP05 Set of Short Cables for PSU – A set of shorter cables for the SilverStone ST50F-P power supplies, ideal for Mini-ITX cases.
How to calculate power consumption:
I recommend using the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator. Here are the settings that I used:
- CPU depending on the Tier, 90% TDP.
- Video Cards depends on the Tier, None if integrated
- Two sticks sticks of DDR3
- One regular SATA drive
- 1 DVD-RW/DVD+RW Drive
- 4 USB Devices
- 4 x 120mm regular fans
- System Load: 90%
- Capacitor Aging: 20%
A quick note about the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator:
While this is the main tool that I use to estimate power consumption, do note that sometimes, I’ll do some additional research on my own to verify these numbers. This is why you may notice that the numbers that I give below may or may not match what the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator gives you. In doubt, stick with my numbers or ask us on the forums.
Give your power supply some overhead:
While you can match a 650W PSU with a 630W requirement, it is good practice to add about 75-100W of overhead, so that your PSU doesn’t run at full capacity all the time, as that will reduce its lifespan, increase its chance of failure, increase its heat output and its noise output.
Estimated Power Consumption, per Tier:
According to the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator, with the settings that I described above, it is estimated that this system will require at load (peak usage), the following numbers. The minimum requirements are in Italic, while my recommendations (including overhead) are in Bold:
- 277W/350W with the AMD A10-5800K with the integrated Radeon HD 7660D (Tier 0.5). Can be overclocked without upgrading the PSU.
- 320W/400W with the AMD Athlon X4 750K and the Radeon HD 7770 (Tier 0.75). Upgrading the PSU is recommended for overclocking.
- 337W/450W with the AMD FX-6300 and the Radeon HD 7850 2GB (Tier 1). Upgrading the PSU is recommended for overclocking.
- 420W/500W with the AMD FX-6300 and the Geforce GTX 760 (Tier 2). Upgrading the PSU is recommended for overclocking.
To save on costs, I recommend using the cooler included with the CPU.
While there are better coolers, the one that is included is good enough to keep the CPU at safe temperatures.
The recommended case includes one or several cooling fans as well to help you keep your system cool.
However, here are two reasons why you may choose to upgrade your CPU Cooler:
- To keep your CPU temperatures lower, which improves the reliability of your PC and the longevity of your CPU.
- To lower noise, as the stock cooler can get noisy at times, especially during prolonged work sessions, or in a warm room.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is the improved version of the Hyper 212 Plus and now that it’s only a few dollars more than the 212 Plus, it offers the a better bang for your buck, offering great cooling performance and much lower noise compared to the stock cooler, for only $31.
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.
All recommended CPU Coolers include thermal compounds which are pretty good, so no need to spend more money on a tube of thermal compound.
- $30 – COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 120mm – Recommended if you want an after-market CPU Cooler with a Micro-ATX case. Note that the Bitfenix Prodigy cases support the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, so use that instead for those cases.
On the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, you can add a second 120mm fan to improve performance.
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? 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!
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.
Cheap fans are equipped with Sleeve bearings, which tend to be noisy and usually fail after 6 to 18 months, in most cases. Avoid sleeve bearings fans. High-quality fans have high quality bearings that is more reliable, will last longer and will make less noise and less vibration to produce the same amount of airflow versus a cheaper fan.
- $7 – Masscool BLD-12025V1 Blue LEDs 60 CFM 23.5dBA
- $11 – MassCool BLD-12025V1R Red LEDs 60 CFM 23.5dBA
- $7 – Gelid FN-SX12-10 37 CFM 20dBA
- $11 – Gelid FN-PX12-15 Up to 58 CFM 12-25.5dBA PWM
- $15 – AeroCool Shark Black 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
- $18 – AeroCool Shark Red LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
- $18 – AeroCool Shark Blue LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
- $18 – AeroCool Shark White LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
- $18 – AeroCool Shark Green LEDs 32.5/82.6CFM 12.6/26.5dBA
- $18 – COUGAR CF-V12HP Up to 70.5CFM Up to 17.9dBA PWM
- $18 – Noctua NF-P12 12.6-17-19.8dBA 37-46-54CFM
- $32 – Cougar Turbine CFT12SB4 60CFM 17.7dBA Pack of 4 fans – Black
- $30 – Cougar Turbine CFT12S4 60CFM 17.7dBA Pack of 4 fans – Orange
- $19 – AeroCool Shark Black 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
- $20 – AeroCool Shark Red LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
- $20 – AeroCool Shark Blue LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
- $19 – AeroCool Shark White LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
- $12 – AeroCool Shark Green LEDs 50/96.5CFM 14.5/29.6dBA
- $13 – COUGAR CF-V14H 140mm 70CFM/19.2dBA or 55CFM/16.4dBA
- $19 – Noctua NF-A14 FLX 140mm 13.8/16.4/19.2dBA 52.2/60/68CFM
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 some cases already come with a fan controller.
- $43 – Lamptron FC2 6 Fan Controller, 45W per channel – This is a reliable fan controller that can handle up to six (6) fans or even more if you use fan y-cable splitters. Fits in a 5.25″ drive bay. No fancy LCD touchscreens, because those just fail too often.
- $15 – 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.
- $6 – 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.
5.1 channels sound card: Integrated on the motherboard
Integrated with the motherboard, this sound card will handle many different sound setups, including headphones, a microphone and more.
While integrated audio on a PC used to be absolutely horrible, it has gotten much better in the last few years, thus why I have no trouble recommending it.
However, if you do want better sound quality, all the recommended and alternative motherboards (except the Mini-ITX motherboards, see the USB sound card recommendation below instead) have space for a sound card. If you have a PCI-Express 1x slot above the top PCI-Express 16x slot (used for video card) or a second/third PCI-Express 16x at the bottom of the motherboard, pick the PCI-Express 1x sound card, otherwise pick the PCI sound card.
I recommend the $27 – ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 PCI Sound Card
$37 – ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 PCI-Express 1x Sound Card
For Mini-ITX motherboards, which has no space for a sound card, if you want a better sound card, simply get the $40 – ASUS Xonar U3 USB Sound Card w/ Headphone Amplifier which is a USB sound card.
All three sound cards are equipped with an headphone amplifier, with three settings in the control panel, which will bring out the best out of your headphones and 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:
- $32 – Logitech X-140 2.0 5W
- $45 – Creative Inspire T12 2.0 18W
- $90 – Creative Gigaworks T20 Series II 2.0 28W
2.1 speakers: 2 satellites and a sub-woofer:
- $26 – Creative A220 2.1 9W
- $35 – Logitech Z313 2.1 25W
- $59- Logitech Z323 2.1 30W
- $70 – Logitech Z523 2.1 40W
- $110 – Logitech Z623 2.1 200W
- $210 – Corsair SP2500 2.1 232W
5.1 speakers: 5 satellites and a sub-woofer:
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.
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.
- $16 – Koss KSC75 Clip on headphones
- $36 – Koss PortaPro
- $46 – Superlux HD668B
- $79 – Grado SR-60i
- $99 – Grado SR-80i
- $100 – Audio Technica ATH-AD700
- $150 – Sennheiser HD558
- $200 – Grado SR225i
- $249 – Sennheiser HD 598
- $295 – Grado SR325is
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.
- $17 – Koss UR-20
- $29 – Panasonic RP-HTX7 (Available in Black, Blue, Red, White, Cream, Pink and Green) – I’ve used these headphones for a few days and let me tell this: For $30, they are a steal. They sound more like $60-$80 headphones in my opinion. Best of all? You have seven colors to pick from!
- $59 – Audio-Technica ATH-M30
- $90 – Shure SRH440
- $130 – Audio Technica ATH-A700
- $159 – Audio Technica ATH-M50S (Straight Cable) – There’s also the $159 – Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (Coiled Cable), non-S version, which comes with a coiled cable. I personally ordered myself a pair of the ATH-M50 some time ago and I love them, they sound better than any other ~$100 headphones that I tried before and isolate fairly well from the outside noise. They are tight at first, so you need to “flex” them a bit. Of course, as in with any good pair of headphones/earphones/speakers, having a good source of source makes all the difference in the world. I use them on the laptop with an ASUS Xonar U3 and they are a great combo. A good buy at $160, a steal when on special.
- $200 – Sennheiser HD25-1 II
Simply put, these are headphones that you insert straight into your ear, to create a seal between the headphones and your ears.
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.
- $19 – Sony MDREX58V EX Black, Blue, Red, Silver, Violet or White
- $35 – Sony MDRXB60EX/GLD Gold Extra Bass
- $60 – Logitech Ultimate Ears 600
- $100 – Bose IE2
- $129 – Yamaha EPH-100SL
- $199 – Shure SE315-K
- $499 – Shure SE535-V Bronze or Clear
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…), 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 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 $19 – Plantronics AUDIO 300 Desktop 3.5mm Microphone which is an excellent low-cost option with perfectly fine audio quality and build quality (Well, unless you have an habit of throwing your microphone around after losing a game… ).
If you prefer a USB desktop microphone, go with the Akiro Kinobo Desktop USB Microphone
However, if you do high quality broadcasts such as podcasts, or you record music I recommend the $65 – Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone which gives excellent sound quality for only $65.
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.
- $13 – Yapster TM-YP100A
- $31 – Koss SB-45
- $50 – Sennheiser PC 151
- $56- Razer Moray Plus
- $49 – ARCTIC Sound P531
- $80 – SteelSeries Siberia V2
- $95 – Logitech G35
- $98 – Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Wrath Wireless
- $105 – Logitech G930
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, using a standard LAN (RJ-45) cable.
If a LAN network is not an option or if a wireless network is preferable for you, know this before you use wireless for a Gaming PC:
The problem with wireless is that:
- It’s not as reliable as LAN, with signals dropping out, interference and the like.
- It induces additional latency compared to LAN, which is the last thing that you want when you’re playing online, especially with first-person shooters.
In short, for reliability and getting a low ping, LAN is simply superior (and cheaper!).
If you understand that and still want to go with wireless, here are my suggestions:
I recommend two adapters:
1- If you want a fast adapter without spending a fortune, I’d consider the $19 – Rosewill 802.11b/g/n 300Mbps Wireless USB2.0 5dBi Antenna, which connects in a USB 2.0 port. It comes with a base, so that you can move it away from the PC for better reception and a 5dBi external antenna to improve reception further more. It support 802.11b/g/n, with transfer rates up to 300Mbps.
2- A great upgrade is the $36 – TRENDnet TEW-684UB Dual Band 802.11b/g/n 450Mbps USB2.0 which offers better range and better throughput at 450Mbps
Recommended wireless routers:
Need a wireless router too? No problem. Here are my recommendations, in an ascending order of performance and price:
- $20 – TP-Link WL TL-WR841N 300Mbps – A great basic no-frill fairly reliable 300Mbps router.
- $48 – TP-LINK TL-WR1043ND 300Mbps USB – Similar to the one above, but with an extra antenna and a USB port, to share a printer, storage, etc.
- $95 – ASUS RT-N56U Dual-Band 600Mbps – High-performance dual-band router, with great looks too!
Note that the cost of a keyboard and mouse isn’t included in the Tiers total, because you may already have a keyboard and also because it’s next to impossible to recommend a single mouse and keyboard that would please everyone.
There’s simply too many variables that are to quantify, such as comfort, ease of use, personal preferences, etc.
So if you want a keyboard and/or mouse, I recommend a variety of different keyboards and mice. Take the time to find the one that fits your preferences.
Here are our recommendations, in order of price:
- $8 – E-3lue Cobra Wired EMS109BK 1600DPI, 4 Adjustable DPI Levels
- $15 – Anker Wireless Mouse, 5 Programmable Buttons, 3 Adjustable DPI Levels, 2000 DPI
- $25 – Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse
- $26 – Anker Gaming Mouse, 7 Programmable Button, 4000 DPI, LEDs
- $40 – Anker Gaming Laser Mouse 5000 DPI, 11 Programmable Button, Weight Tuning Cartridges
- $40 – Anker 8000 DPI Laser Gaming Mouse 9 Programmable Buttons Weight Tuning Cartridges
- $40 – Logitech G400s
- $48 – SteelSeries Sensei Laser Gaming Mouse Raw Edition (Rubberized Black)
- $68 – Logitech G700
- $45 – Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse 12 Thumb Buttons
- $75 – Logitech G9X Gaming Mouse Call of Duty Edition
- $70 – Logitech G700s Rechargeable Gaming Mouse
- $97 – Razer Naga Epic Rechargable Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse
- $22 – Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse
- $40 – Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball
- $14 – Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200
- $20 – Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 (Black, Ink Gear or White Paisley)
- $20 – Azio Large Print Tri-Color Backlit Keyboard
- $33 – Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
- $30 – Logitech Washable Keyboard K310
- $31 – Logitech Wireless Keyboard K270 with Long-Range Wireless
- $48 – Microsoft SideWinder X4
- $57 – Razer Nostromo PC Gaming Keypad
- $81 – SteelSeries 6Gv2 Mechanical Keyboard – Red Cherry MX Switches
- $81 – CM Storm QuickFire TK Compact Mechanical CHERRY MX RED LED Backlit
- $76 – Logitech G510s with Game Panel LCD Screen
- $135 – Das Keyboard Model S Professional Mechanical Keyboard Cherry MX Brown
- $137 – Das Keyboard Model S Professional Mechanical Keyboard Cherry MX Red
- $120 – Logitech G710+ Mechanical Backlit Macro keys USB 2.0 pass-through
Recommended operating systems:
The operating system cost, if there’s one, is not included in the total cost. The two reasons for this are:
- The budget only considers hardware.
- You may be able re-use a previous license, upgrade from a previous version of Windows or go with an open-source OS such as Linux.
Note that you’ll need a 64-bit version OS, as 32-bit is limited to 4GB of memory for the entire system, which is not enough now, nor in the future if you decide to upgrade. Remember that you’ll have 4GB of RAM or more, along with a dedicated video that also has memory (1GB or 2GB). 64-bit drivers are widely available for pretty much any devices nowadays.
Released one year ago, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s latest version of the popular Windows operating system. While it uses the same core as Windows Vista and Windows 7, visually it is a departure from these two OS, using colourful tiles and a look often referred to as “Metro”.
Windows 8 was recently updated to 8.1, which gives you the option to boot to the classic desktop look by default and brings back the “start” button, although it only brings you to the metro live tiles start screen. It is also possible to bring back the “classic” start button and menu by installing third parties apps. Search has also been improved.
The vast majority of applications that ran on Windows Vista and 7 should have no problem running on Windows 8.1. Most programs that runs on XP should work on Windows 8.1 too, but there are some exceptions.
For more information on Windows 8.1, there are countless reviews of it available online that will do a better job than I can at fully describing what’s new.
Let’s address the obvious question: Should you use Windows 8.1 or 7 for your gaming PC?
While some might not like change, Windows 8.1 is no where as bad as it may seem. Sure, it forces you to re-learn how to do some things, but if you give yourself some time to learn the new functions, new shortcuts and such, you’ll feel at home sooner than later.
Windows 8.1 boots and shutdowns faster than Windows 7. File transfers are also quicker. W8.1 uses less resources than Windows 7.
AMD recently announced that with their latest drivers and Windows 8.1, video game performance on their APUs has increased by 8.5%.
Windows 8 has been out for a year and 8.1 just came out, meaning that most bugs have been fixed by now.
From a performance point of view, Windows 8.1 is easy to recommend. From an usability point of view, it is a departure from the previous versions of Windows and I understand that not everyone is comfortable with learning how to use a new OS. If you’re willing to put in some time to learn how to use Windows 8.1, it can certainly be a worthwhile experience. If not, Windows 7 is a perfectly fine alternative that will run smoothly on your PC.
If you’re interested in Windows 8.1, there are three versions that are available:
- $100 – Windows 8.1 System Builder DVD 64-Bit
- $160 – Windows 8.1 Pro System Builder DVD 64-Bit
- $79 – Windows 8 Pro Upgrade from XP, Vista or W7 – Use only if you have a license of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 to upgrade. Windows 8.1 is available as a free download/upgrade to Windows 8 users.
Highly recommended: Windows 8 books
If you’re going to use Windows 8.1 for the first time, you may feel a bit lost at first. Here are two books to help you navigate and use Windows 8.1 to its full potential.
For beginners, I recommend Windows 8.1 For Dummies.
For more advanced users, I recommend Windows 8 Inside Out.
Windows 7 will supported (read: updated) by Microsoft until 2020, so if you prefer to avoid/skip Windows 8.1, Windows 7 is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Three Available Versions:
- Windows 7 Home Premium: The basic edition, with all the looks, most of the functionality and DirectX 11.
- Windows 7 Professional: If you want the virtual XP mode, you’ll need at least the Professional edition. Also required if you want to backup to a network, using the built-in backup mode in Windows. Also good to know: You’ll need at least the pro version to take advantage of Remote Desktop Connection.
- Windows 7 Ultimate: To help protect data on your PC and portable storage devices against loss or theft with BitLocker and to work and switch between 35 languages.
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM SP1 – $89
- Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM SP1 – $139
- Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit OEM SP1 – $180
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Retail – $210
- Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Retail – $266
- Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Retail – $330
OEM vs Retail:
The OEM version allows you to only install it once on a computer. You cannot transfer the license to another computer in the future and you do not receive support from Microsoft. It’s the same type of license you get when you get Windows on a desktop or laptop that you buy from Dell, HP and such. It’s less expensive, but gives less flexibility. Ideal if you intend on keeping your computer for many years.
The Retail version is the full version, which allows you to transfer the license to another computer in the future and you can call Microsoft if you need any form of support. Ideal if you intend on upgrading/changing your computer down the road.
Other than that, you get the same features on both, only the license differs. The price between the two differs obviously.
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.
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 allows you to play popular games, such as WoW, Diablo III, Starcraft II, Skyrim, Civ 5, Guild Wars, Portal 2, Rift, Team Fortress 2 and more on Linux.
Open source games and source ports are also a good way to play games on Linux.
Steam is more Linux friendly than ever, with many games that have been or will be ported to run on Linux.
There are a large variety of distributions (variants) of Linux, each with its pros and cons. Ubuntu is the most popular and arguably the most supported. For more information on other distribution of Linux and their latest version, visit Distrowatch.com,
If you need assistance with Linux, LinuxQuestions.org is a good place to start.
While Linux does not offer the wide compatibility of Windows with video games, gaming on Linux is still possible, through projects such as Wine, . For more on the topic of Linux Gaming, I invite you to read this excellent article from AnandTech: Linux Gaming: Are we there yet?
What about Word processing, Excel and other Windows-based programs that you need? Linux, being an open platform, has many free alternatives for you. For Word/Excel and such, try LibreOffice.
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 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