How to Build a Good $400 Gaming System (as of 2/6/11)

I keep getting requests from people trying to build a budget gaming system on what they should purchase. Having built 20 or more in the last year, I've learned a lot about Cost versus Performance, so I simply offer my experience for those who are interested.

Keep in mind, that since technology is always moving and pricing is always changing, this advice is time stamped since as of tomorrow this may not be the best way to go. Do some of your own research. It never hurts.

Finally, based on what I know this would be the system I'd build for a friend to guarantee good quality and excellent performance (and later upgradeability):

Case and PSU: http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=CS2008BK&cat=CAS = $50 (Logisys Iconic SOHO2 with PSU for pcie GPU)
Mobo: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128458 = $65 (This is AMD's latest chipset and best quality mobo manufacturer)
CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103920 = $75 (3 cores is plenty!)
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227559 = $35 (OCZ makes awesome RAM.)
GPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161338 = $100 (This is better than even I own.)
Hard Drive: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136319 = $65 (best 7200rpm drive you can get)
DVD Drive: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106289 = $16 (free shipping before Tuesday)

TOTAL = $406.00
(If you have more money, I'd buy an OCZ 80GB SSD for $150 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227685 to really watch this system scream.)

Note: With the above Iconic case where the psu is mounted on the bottom, you will probably need a 4-pin extension cable and even a 24-pin extension cable.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812201019&cm_re=4-pin_extension-_-12-201-019-_-Product
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812170007&cm_re=24-pin_extension-_-12-170-007-_-Product

ANY questions, please feel free to comment or contact me. Thanks. :D
20 answers Last reply
More about build good gaming system
  1. If you have the extra money for the build above the first thing to do IS TO THROW OUT THE POS PSU in that build before it kills of the other $350 off investment!
  2. If they list the specs of the PSU correctly it is not even powerful enough to drive the HD5770
    # Power Supply Output:
    # +3.3V/28A
    # +12V/16A
    # -12V/0.8A
    # +5V/36A
    # -5V/0.5A
    # +5VSB/2A
  3. Whoa, talk about an old school PSU! Red flags all over the place with those specs!

    As rolli59 posted, that PSU is not able to do much more than power a motherboard and CPU, and possibly an entry level video card.
  4. Lol
    You might as well list the site im using, 450$ build is much better than that XD Maybe? Critiques?
  5. Why did they put so much amperage on the +3.3V and +5V rails, it barely makes sense except perhaps for a server board (more than 1 CPU and multiple HDDs)?

    If you want something cheap, you could rather try this combo (Destroyer case with 3 fans and Rosewill 500W PSU). Still not a great PSU, but probably more reliable than the one suggested.

    You could probably also save an extra 15$ by getting a 500GB HDD instead of the 640GB.

    As much as I like SSDs, I wouldn't even start suggesting it for systems under 800$ (unless a no gamer build) as there would be far more valuable places to invest. For this particular build, I would put the extra 150$ toward switching the case to a Rosewill Destroyer (50$, the cost of your case+PSU combol so 0$ difference to budget) and some entry-level Antec PSU like the BP550 (65$, extra 65$ on the budget). Switch to the AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz (100$, extra 27$). Get this HIS Radeon HD 6850 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget) or this MSI GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget). All that for an extra 152$ that would certainly make it a much more enjoyable gaming experience than a SSD.
  6. Will that board support a GTX 460?
  7. stuwags said:
    Will that board support a GTX 460?
    It has a PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slot so I don't see why it wouldn't.
  8. Zenthar said:
    Why did they put so much amperage on the +3.3V and +5V rails, it barely makes sense except perhaps for a server board (more than 1 CPU and multiple HDDs)?

    If you want something cheap, you could rather try this combo (Destroyer case with 3 fans and Rosewill 500W PSU). Still not a great PSU, but probably more reliable than the one suggested.

    You could probably also save an extra 15$ by getting a 500GB HDD instead of the 640GB.

    As much as I like SSDs, I wouldn't even start suggesting it for systems under 800$ (unless a no gamer build) as there would be far more valuable places to invest. For this particular build, I would put the extra 150$ toward switching the case to a Rosewill Destroyer (50$, the cost of your case+PSU combol so 0$ difference to budget) and some entry-level Antec PSU like the BP550 (65$, extra 65$ on the budget). Switch to the AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz (100$, extra 27$). Get this HIS Radeon HD 6850 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget) or this MSI GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget). All that for an extra 152$ that would certainly make it a much more enjoyable gaming experience than a SSD.


    That's a great idea that I will consider for the next posting. I highly value people's opinion, so we can provide other readers with the best value for their money.

    I also recognize that many hate generic PSU's but, in the 15 years of building pc's, I have never seen one fail.

    Anyone have better advice on an economical GPU for around $100? I listed the HIS card since it is at an incredible deal right now.
  9. Zenthar said:
    Why did they put so much amperage on the +3.3V and +5V rails, it barely makes sense except perhaps for a server board (more than 1 CPU and multiple HDDs)?

    If you want something cheap, you could rather try this combo (Destroyer case with 3 fans and Rosewill 500W PSU). Still not a great PSU, but probably more reliable than the one suggested.

    You could probably also save an extra 15$ by getting a 500GB HDD instead of the 640GB.

    As much as I like SSDs, I wouldn't even start suggesting it for systems under 800$ (unless a no gamer build) as there would be far more valuable places to invest. For this particular build, I would put the extra 150$ toward switching the case to a Rosewill Destroyer (50$, the cost of your case+PSU combol so 0$ difference to budget) and some entry-level Antec PSU like the BP550 (65$, extra 65$ on the budget). Switch to the AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz (100$, extra 27$). Get this HIS Radeon HD 6850 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget) or this MSI GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB (160$, +60$ on budget). All that for an extra 152$ that would certainly make it a much more enjoyable gaming experience than a SSD.


    I also agree that the quad core Athlon would be nice. However, my attempt is to provide readers with a $400 system. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to purchase a smaller hard drive for less money and then buy the Athlon IIx4. Thoughts???
  10. rolli59 said:
    If you have the extra money for the build above the first thing to do IS TO THROW OUT THE POS PSU in that build before it kills of the other $350 off investment!


    Please understand that most PSU manufacturers simply purchase them from China and attach their own label. Except for high end PSU's, I have found them to all be of the same build and quality. And, Logisys, is no joke. They do make good products, so I wouldn't bash the supplied PSU unless you've tried their brand before. I have utilized over 3 in builds and found them all to work just fine. However, you are correct that we may need a larger PSU.
  11. ahthurungnone said:
    I also agree that the quad core Athlon would be nice. However, my attempt is to provide readers with a $400 system. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to purchase a smaller hard drive for less money and then buy the Athlon IIx4. Thoughts???
    I do not question your initial choices, building a very low budget gaming PC is hard, I was merely suggesting alternatives to the SSD.
  12. ahthurungnone said:
    Please understand that most PSU manufacturers simply purchase them from China and attach their own label. Except for high end PSU's, I have found them to all be of the same build and quality. And, Logisys, is no joke. They do make good products, so I wouldn't bash the supplied PSU unless you've tried their brand before. I have utilized over 3 in builds and found them all to work just fine. However, you are correct that we may need a larger PSU.


    We are not bashing the PSU because it is a Logisys, but it is obviously build as an old style PSU with the way the specs read, and if you use it to power a modern PC with even a mid range GPU you risk blowing the whole rig, as it only has 16 amps on the 12v rail, at best it will just not work correctly, with the GPU throttling.
  13. Someone else recommended a combo deal on a Corsair system, so I will recommend that in the next post.
  14. WD blue's are horribly priced HD's.

    A 500gb 7200.12 is only $38 right now and is better performing and a better value.
    a 1tb 7200.12 is $55
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148395&cm_re=7200.12_500-_-22-148-395-_-Product

    His isn't a good GPu maker. This Sapphire one is same price after promo code and rebates.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102873&cm_re=5770-_-14-102-873-_-Product

    As mentioned already, that PSU is horrendous for the build.

    OCZ ram is not good quality these days, it's down right crap right now. Half their stuff doesn't even perform to advertised specs. In fact, OCZ is quitting the RAM business altogether.
  15. 15 years building, and you still can't suggest quality parts, without asking.

    FAIL.
  16. daship said:
    15 years building, and you still can't suggest quality parts, without asking.

    FAIL.
    Everybody on this thread critiqued the build, not the OP, why couldn't you keep it that way?
  17. daship said:
    15 years building, and you still can't suggest quality parts, without asking.

    FAIL.


    The only fail is the PSU, maybe RAM. Rest is nitpicking. There are plenty of IT professionals I know who'd come up with something much worse.

    OP is trying to provide some advice to help others, no need to personally attack him for that.
  18. I'm sorry if I've offended everyone. I just feel sorry for people who are led to believe they need some $1000+ system just to play games. I tend to build computers for people which cost much less and everyone is very satisfied.

    Please forgive me if I overlook some components. I made an updated post with many of the recommendations you all have recommended. So, thank you for your advice.
  19. No offense taken apart from one person criticizing the wrong thing! Came a cross a great PSU for that build as long as the MIR holds CX430 for $25 after MIR http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139017
  20. That IS an excellent PSU. Thanks.
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