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Best gaming computer for under $500?

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August 10, 2009 7:50:48 PM

I'm on an obviously small budget, mostly because 90% of the time I use my computer for simple tasks (e-mail, web surfing, Word, etc.). However, I do like to play Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), so I'd like my computer to be as graphics-friendly as possible for the budget. So, I have three questions:

1) I've never built a computer before, but I wouldn't mind trying. I know it's normally cheaper to build your own, but for my budget - and considering that I'll have to buy 64-bit Vista w/ the upgrade to Windows 7 - I can't see how buying the components (especially the OS) will be cheaper than buying a pre-built computer. Do you think it would be possible to buy Vista/7 and the necessary components & get a computer that would be substantially better than an off-the-shelf one for $500?

2) Most of the computers I've been looking at have an Athlon II X2 dual-core or an Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 (all with 4 GB). I know most people would say that quad core is generally better than dual core, but it seems like for my needs and budget, a quad core would be overkill, & I might as well get the highest-speed dual core I can get. LOTRO isn't designed for quad core, & I doubt I'll get any other games or programs that are designed for quad cores. So, I'm leaning towards the dual core. Good idea?

3) Video cards - I assume I want a dedicated card instead of integrated graphics. Most in this range come with the Nvidia 9400GT/9500GT (either 512MB or 1GB), or the Radeon HD 4550 (512MB), both of which seem to be okay for LOTRO. Is there another card in the same price range that would be better?

More about : gaming computer 500

a b à CPUs
August 10, 2009 8:09:44 PM

If you are a student, check with your Uni's tech department and see if they can give you student pricing or at least bulk pricing.

If not, well, you are in a pickle, that OS cost is going to eat a huge chunk out of your budget... maybe linux with wine is not a bad option, or the yarrrrrrrrrrr route...


with the money saved, you can most likely go with a 4850 or above.
August 10, 2009 8:40:42 PM

COOLER MASTER Elite RC-310-BWN1-GP Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119203

XFX HD-485X-YDFC Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150337

PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS420X 420W ATX12V 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817703017

ECS IC780M-A AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
+
AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor Model HDZ550WFGIBOX - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.230049

OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2P10664GK - Retail
+
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.231710

total with shipping (for me) = $493.80

and use Windows 7 RC for now since its free until next year....

...also add $20 for a cd drive....
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August 10, 2009 9:31:31 PM

Thanks for the replies. The OS does seem to be the key. I've been thinking about Ubuntu, but the two main programs I want to use (aside from e-mail and the web) are Word and LOTRO, both of which would require Windows.

I don't have much problem giving up Word for OpenOffice.org's Writer, but everything I've read about playing LOTRO (or many other games) using Linux is fraught with difficulty, and the performance can suffer. I will definitely try out Linux with the new computer, but I really need to start with Windows 7. I know I can use the Windows 7 RC until next June (or whenever it expires), but I'll still need Windows after that (for a variety of other reasons not mentioned here).

So, assuming I need to have Windows, am I right about getting a dual core over a quad core? Can I do better than the video cards mentioned above?
August 10, 2009 10:56:15 PM

well the video card I posted should be more than enough for LOTRO...you could probably even scale it down a bit...I'm pretty those MMO's are made to played on any sort or rig...not everyone who plays those games are hardcore pc gamers and dont know much about PCs...

I would definitely recommend using windows 7 for now, and by the time you have to upgrade and actually purchase windows 7, you'll have funds for it...

Going quad core would be nice if you multitask a lot, or do photo/video editing with your rig...but that dual core i posted also is able to OC very well and has a chance on unlocking the other two cores
August 11, 2009 1:34:02 AM

Giiven your price constraint your best bet, and I can't believe I'm writing this, is to go with an OEM (HP or Dell). They can deliver a base system to you for less than you can build it yourself. The system will come with an OS which is a cost that never shows up on these homebrew lists and pushes them north of 600 dollars. You'll also have a warranty and some limited support.

Specifically what you want is a dual core CPU and at least 3 gigs of ram (for win 32). Go for a core 2 duo as a floor. Don't worry too much about maxing out ram at the moment--it's a really cheap upgrade (and cheaper all time)--what an OEM charges to go from 3 to 4 gigs is too much.

Purchase an aftermarket graphics card from Newegg that doesn't draw too much power for the OEM power supply (a 4670 might work-they work in Dell Inspirons with a 300 watt PSU even though a 400 watt is recommended) and you'll have a machine for playing LOTRO with quite sufficient graphics for under 500 dollars. You may even be able to to run the game with the integrated graphics when you 1st get the machine to see how it works.

Don't consider Linux, I like Linux a lot but it's completely wrong for your stated goal of playing LOTRO. You must figure the cost of a Windows OS into any build--you can buy it later but you'll have to wrestle with an in place upgrade and maybe pay a retail premium. You'll get it much cheaper through an OEM, plus, they all include a free upgrade to Win 7 now.

Pay careful attention to the lists people give you for home builds. You need a complete system and they tend to miss key parts for the simple reason that hobbyist, like myself, have them laying around already. For instance, the above list misses a DVD drive (how will you install your OS without it?). It also doesn't have an OS figured into the cost.

Also with regards to the 4850--it's a great value card but it requires a higher rated PSU than the one suggested. It will most likely work, PC Power and Cooling is a great brand, but if you go the home built route, you really want to increase your budget and stretch for at least a 500 watt PSU (from Corsair or PC Power and Cooling).

Now, if you have a computer that you are willing to cannibalize for drives and stuff the equation is much different and you can get a lot more for your 500 dollars.
August 11, 2009 1:48:25 AM

Well first of all, at the end of my post, i said add $20 or so for a dvd drive...

second, the build I proposed will certainly outclass any oem build with a simple 4670 drop in...if the user doesnt want to go through the trouble of putting it together, then thats a different story...it is true that usually the more you spend on a rig, the more you will save by building it yourself, but here you can still end up with a more powerful rig...

and if your worried that the psu i posted isnt good enough for the 4850, there are tons of other options for him...i just put that one up because that a really well known brand at a decent price...thats all...

if the OP solely desires to play LOTRO, and if he happens to find a really good OEM deal, then I would probably also agree to go ahead and do the 4670 drop in...
a c 101 à CPUs
August 11, 2009 1:59:50 AM

Quote:
However, I do like to play Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), so I'd like my computer to be as graphics-friendly as possible for the budget.
Did you check the system recommendations to play that game? Intel P4 2.8 GHz and an ATI Radeon 850.

Any decent pre-built system with a low-end video card will run it just fine. It isn't more demanding than online games my 10 year old son and his friends play. Anything lower than a P4 2.8 is too slow, but they don't complain when using systems that meet or exceed those recommendations. A Radeon 4670 or 4770 would work very well.
August 11, 2009 2:23:29 AM

ahslan said:
Well first of all, at the end of my post, i said add $20 or so for a dvd drive...

second, the build I proposed will certainly outclass any oem build with a simple 4670 drop in...if the user doesnt want to go through the trouble of putting it together, then thats a different story...it is true that usually the more you spend on a rig, the more you will save by building it yourself, but here you can still end up with a more powerful rig...

and if your worried that the psu i posted isnt good enough for the 4850, there are tons of other options for him...i just put that one up because that a really well known brand at a decent price...thats all...

if the OP solely desires to play LOTRO, and if he happens to find a really good OEM deal, then I would probably also agree to go ahead and do the 4670 drop in...


I totally agree that your system outclasses any oem build. And I see the cd mentioned at the end, missed that, sorry.

I just don't get the sense from the poster that he's comfortable enough with building his own system--and there are always hidden costs--shipping for instance: I love Newegg but you can die the death of a thousand cuts with their shipping if you're not careful.

I think it's really hard to come in under 500 dollars (not impossible, just difficult) with a good system that's worth the hassle if you're not experienced. If he's got a buddy that's computer savvy and willing to help he him for a day I'd say go for it but if not there's nothing wrong with opening a box, pulling out a complete system, and having it work, especially given his goal.
August 11, 2009 2:30:20 AM

^True that...i just wanted to let the OP know what he could get for around $500...hey, we all started building computers somewhere...i remember my first rig was around $600
a c 451 à CPUs
August 11, 2009 2:37:15 AM

Do you have anything from your current PC that you could possibly reuse for the new rig like HDD or DVD drive? What are the specs of your current rig? I agree about Win7 RC. That is what I am currently using.

a c 451 à CPUs
August 11, 2009 2:56:29 AM

habitat87 said:
Quote:
second, the build I proposed will certainly outclass any oem build with a simple 4670 drop in...if the user doesnt want to go through the trouble of putting it together, then thats a different story...it is true that usually the more you spend on a rig, the more you will save by building it yourself, but here you can still end up with a more powerful rig...


Quote:
II totally agree that your system outclasses any oem build. And I see the cd mentioned at the end, missed that, sorry.


Don't some prebuilds come with a quality board such as Asus? ECS... Seriously...


They may come from those manufacturers but they are low end boards at best.
August 11, 2009 6:49:38 AM

Thanks again for the suggestions - I had looked at Newegg and a few other sites, but I hadn't tried HP or Dell yet. I found the following at Dell:

Dell Inspiron 546
Phenom X4 9750
4 GB RAM
640 GB hard drive
Integrated ATI Radeon HD3200 Graphics
64 bit Windows Vista Home Premium
$429 + tax, free shipping

All in all, I don't think that's too bad, as it leaves me $70 for a graphics card & a wifi card and I'll still get under $500.

As for graphics - I also found a GeForce 9500GT 1 GB on Newegg for $40 - I know that some people have used that on LOTRO with good success. On the other hand, I can get a 4670 1 GB for $65 or a 9800GT for $75, so one of those might be the best setup if it works with the Dell.
August 11, 2009 7:10:53 AM

I'd recommend the 9800gt for an add in card, it's quite powerful still, and uses very little power. Something like 8-9amps if i remember correctly. So it will most likely work on the included low wattage PSU of the Dell.
a c 451 à CPUs
August 11, 2009 7:37:23 AM

Personally I would avoid any Phenom 1 based CPU with the exception of maybe the 7750 dual core. For most games even an old athlon X2 was a better buy than the x3 and x4 Phenom 1's. Try looking into Ph II and Athlon II based CPU's. Also 1gb ram on a 9500gt? The card cannot even take advantage of that much ram. This 9600gso is while not a super fast card, is a much better buy. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Still the system listed above is a much better deal. Here is what I would go with for a DIY build if you do not want to mess with Win 7 RC. I even was able to get a video card in there that is faster than the 9500gt you were considering. :) 

COOLER MASTER Sileo 500:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ECS BLACK SERIES A780GM-A , AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor 2.9GHz, CORSAIR XMS2 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800, Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAJS 500GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee - OEM, POWERCOLOR AX4650 512MD2 Radeon HD 4650 512MB:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
August 11, 2009 7:41:52 AM

I do need a whole setup with an OS, all I have are the keyboard and 17" LCD (both of which I had plugged into my old laptop) and a copy of Word, so I'm pretty much starting from scratch. So yeah, I wouldn't mind trying to build a PC, which I've never done before (all I've ever done is add memory to my laptop). From the little I've read so far, it doesn't sound like adding a graphics or wifi card will be too difficult, so at least I can start with that, and build a more dedicated gaming PC down the road if I decide I really want to.
a c 451 à CPUs
August 11, 2009 7:53:36 AM

dproberts said:
I do need a whole setup with an OS, all I have are the keyboard and 17" LCD (both of which I had plugged into my old laptop) and a copy of Word, so I'm pretty much starting from scratch. So yeah, I wouldn't mind trying to build a PC, which I've never done before (all I've ever done is add memory to my laptop). From the little I've read so far, it doesn't sound like adding a graphics or wifi card will be too difficult, so at least I can start with that, and build a more dedicated gaming PC down the road if I decide I really want to.


My post above will give you a better system with room for upgrades than the OEM you were considering. ;)  It came out to $495 shipped with $45 in MIR, so $450 after MIR.

Edit: oops forgot to add the DVD drive.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Takes you a bit over budget before MIR but not by a whole lot.
a b à CPUs
August 11, 2009 1:00:17 PM

But that is no OS, like I said, if you can find alternative ways of securing a cheap OS....


a c 451 à CPUs
August 12, 2009 3:15:07 AM

theholylancer said:
But that is no OS, like I said, if you can find alternative ways of securing a cheap OS....



I think you need to reread my post of the bulk of the system.. The video card was a combo with vista home premium x64 with win7 upgrade voucher. ;) 
a b à CPUs
August 12, 2009 12:40:22 PM

o lol sorry, but atm that combo is gone, didn't know then bundled OS with a gfx rofl
August 12, 2009 4:33:34 PM

ahslan said:
well the video card I posted should be more than enough for LOTRO...you could probably even scale it down a bit...I'm pretty those MMO's are made to played on any sort or rig...not everyone who plays those games are hardcore pc gamers and dont know much about PCs...


You are right.... it will play okay on DX9 with a less expensive card. So it depends on how low you are willing to accept the graphics quality. But if you want DX10 benefits you will need a better card.

NOTE: LOTRO takes a lot more horsepower than many other MMO's if you turn on the DX10 features and set all the graphics on their highest settings. (Once you play with DX10 you can't go back to DX9 graphics in that particular game. )
August 12, 2009 4:37:22 PM

^Damn...just realized how many words I skipped....that must have been hard to read....sry about that...
a c 451 à CPUs
August 12, 2009 6:49:48 PM

theholylancer said:
o lol sorry, but atm that combo is gone, didn't know then bundled OS with a gfx rofl



Yea I see that. Well you now can get it with the case. Same combo discount. :D 
a b à CPUs
August 12, 2009 7:19:37 PM

This is as close as I could get and still use high quality components inside:

Rosewill Wind Ryder RZLS142A-P BK Dual 120mm Cooling Fans and Mesh Design Front Panel Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $29.99

AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor 2.8GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders w/ Tech Guarantee - OEM (Includes free Windows 7 updrade coupon)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $155.98 (CPU + OS combo)

GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $119.98 (motherboard + RAM combo)

Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $49.99

SAPPHIRE 100256HDMI Radeon HD 4670 1GB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $69.99

SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 22X DVD-R 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner LightScribe Support - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $28.99

CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $49.99 - $20.00 MIR

Total - $504.91 - $20 MIR
August 13, 2009 1:21:01 AM

Well, I've made my decision - I used one of the previous poster's suggestions and bought a Dell. I found a refurb model 530, with a 2.5 GHz E5200 processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, and Vista Home Premium for $299 shipped. I can add 2 more GB of RAM and a video card and still have the whole thing under $400, which is a good $100 under my original budget.

For video cards, Newegg has the 4670 mentioned previously for $65, or maybe a 9600 GSO for $40. I'll have to see what this little Dell can handle, since it only has a 300W power supply.

I know it's not much of a computer for gaming, but it's not bad for under $400, and it will be a pretty big leap over my previous laptop (1.59 GHz proc, 1.5 GB of RAM, and integrated graphics).
August 13, 2009 3:54:46 AM

I had heard that the E52oo could be overclocked to a stable 3.0 GHz pretty easily, without too many changes, & then higher if I want to really push it. As a beginner at this stuff, it's nice to know I have a decent system to start with, but room for improvement once I figure stuff out (like overclocking).
a c 451 à CPUs
August 13, 2009 4:17:59 AM

There are some 9800gt's out there that do not require external power and should work fine with your dell. Dell tends to underrate their PSU's
March 1, 2010 5:43:53 PM

Hey guys,

Sorry to revive an old thread, but I'm looking to do the exact same thing now myself. I have about $500 to spend and have no computer skills, so I would like something pre-built. I would be ok dropping in a new graphics card, I just don't want to run into PSU problems.

Would something like this:

http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?prodid=114975...

With an ATI 4670 or even a 5750 drop in be a good bet for Lotro and basic computer needs? Would I need a psu upgrade for either?

-eric
August 17, 2010 6:38:47 AM

Hi. I've been having the same problem that you're having. Looking for a decent computer for a low price. I have been doing my research on newegg for the past 2 weeks or so trying to save every last dollar I could while getting the parts I wanted. This build I made is a bunch of combo deals for lower prices. Heres what the computer is in short. AMD Dual-Core 3.0ghz cpu, 9800gt video, 4gb ddr3, 500w psu. This will probably play most newer games with little to no problem. Anyways heres the links to the stuff. You can look through all the combos and what not and pick and choose what you will think will fit your needs. But from the sound of it it doesnt seem like you need a top of the line everything in your computer(as most people dont.)

CASE + 500gb HD : (awesome gaming case + hd) http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... 62.98

VIDEO CARD + CPU : ZOTAC 9800 GT + AMD ATHLONx2 250 REGOR 3.0ghz http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... 62.98

MOBO + CD DRIVE : BIOSTAR A770E3 AMD 770 + LG22x DVD BURNER
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... 62.98

PSU + RAM : OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W + OCZ Special Ops Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... 138.98

EVERYTHING PLUS SHIPPING CAME OUT TO BE $423.52. I hope this helps. GL!
August 17, 2010 6:46:53 AM

oops i just read that you are going with the refurb dell. Sounds straight as long as you upgrade some parts. anyways GL!
December 24, 2010 1:05:04 AM

Hello,

I recently picked up a computer for my son from C's List for 378$.

It had (bear with me I'm not big into computers):
-4 gigs of ram
-quad core processor
-I'm told it came with a new ATI(?) graphics card.
-I snagged a wireless mouse and WoW keyboard (My son loves WoW, I don't know why he can't like Camaro's or girls but whatever)
-Newer HD screen.

I watched the fella I bought it from play some scifi shooter game (He said it was a good one to judge quality) on the highest quality level and it ran smoothly and it looked quite impressive, even to me.

I just wanted to pass the info on to other fathers looking to make their little nerds dreams with out breaking the bank :)  .

Reguards,

Dave
!