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First Computer Build-- Budget Gaming around $500

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Last response: in Systems
December 19, 2011 5:50:15 PM


I'm looking to make my first ever computer build, but I'm afraid I don't really know my way around all the ins and outs of the building process yet. As such, I thought that it might be best to start with the hardware suggested in the Tom's Hardware System Builder Marathons.

My budget is about $500, not including software, though I'm willing to go a smidgen above that if it would make a substantial difference. So far, I've been looking at the SBM builds from June and September, and I was wondering in anyone could give me some advice on tweaks that could be made, as well as good vendors for each part.

I don't tend to do much gaming with high-graphic settings, but I figured that if I aimed for the suggested (rather than minimum) requirements for current games (such as Skyrim or Battlefield 3), my computer would last me a while. I'm not sure if that's entirely possible at this price range, but I would like to get as close as possible.

SBM June 2011 Build
SBM September 2011 Build


Approximate Purchase Date: This week or next

Budget Range: $500 - $600

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Video Game Programming and Development (UDK and Blender, about), Playing Video Games, and Miscellaneous Surfing, Browsing, and Typing

Parts Not Required: Monitor, Keyboard, Speakers, Mouse

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: None, really, as long as the site is reputable

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: None

Overclocking: Probably Not

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe

Monitor Resolution: 1024x768 for now, probably larger once I need to update my monitor

Additional Comments: My main concerns are for processing strength and longevity; ideally, I would want my build to last me at least 5 years before it gets to be terribly slow. Because I've heard that overclocking can shorten component life or void warranties, I will probably not overclock; for that reason, I was wondering whether the June SBM build wouldn't be better for me as a base.


Because I'm new to this, I was also wondering if there are any other supplies I would need to complete my build, outside of antistatic precautionary measures, and a 64-bit copy of Windows 7.

Thanks to everyone for their help-- I can't wait to get going with this! :bounce: 

(Also, if this is the wrong subforum to ask this question, my apologies; please move this post to the appropriate place.)

More about : computer build budget gaming 500

December 19, 2011 6:04:11 PM

We really need a new SBM.

Go with the June basis but the hard drive will cost a lot more at the moment.
Phenom's are becoming increasingly rare/expensive so go Intel.

The mobo listed will also limit lifespan for the system. It has little scope for expansion and no SATA3 or USB3.

What is the best you can do on budget?
Hopefully one of the other guys will weigh in with some help as well.
December 19, 2011 7:42:18 PM

Probably $600 with rebates is about the most I could go on budget, I think, not including the software, though I'd rather stay closer to $500 unless there's a lot to be gained by going up.

As far as the motherboard, what is the significance of SATA3 and USB3 over their alternative? If the motherboard in the June build needs to be replaced, would this one below be better? I'm not really sure how to ensure that it would be compatible with the other parts, other than the LGA 1155 socket, so please correct me if I get off track in some way.
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December 20, 2011 5:45:46 PM

That's good.
Sata3 and USB3 are just faster connections and you can live without them at the moment. But good to have a couple of years down the line as older versions become obsolete/ newer becomes more prevalent.

Best solution

December 21, 2011 12:57:27 AM - $189.99
Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz (3.4GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I52400 - $85.99
ASRock H67M-GE (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - $24.99
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-4GBRL - $84.99
Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $17.99
SAMSUNG CD/DVD Burner 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 22X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 24X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM Black SATA Model SH-222AB - OEM - $49.99
COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $59.99 - $20MIR
CORSAIR Builder Series CX500 V2 500W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $109.99 - $20MIR
XFX HD-677X-ZNLC Radeon HD 6770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card

Total: $623.92 - $40MIR

i think an i5 is better for you if gaming is not your primary usage.
December 21, 2011 1:07:10 AM

For any gaming machine I recommend 8GB of RAM nowadays. not all games use it but I often like to have a web browser or other program running in the background when I play games so something is getting done while I waste time.

Increasing the memory is the only change I would make to the above build although I would have likes to have seen Llano at least mentioned as a possibility.

Also worth mentioning is that the i3 downgrade mentioned by the above poster has merit because no game is bottle necked by an i3 when running even at the maximum settings the Radeon 6770 is capable of. I wouldn't do it but it is a considerable option.
December 22, 2011 5:00:01 AM

Hi again guys! Thanks for all your help and recommendations!

After thinking it over a bit, I think I may bump my budget up a bit, with the idea of building something with higher-end parts that will last me a while longer. At the same time, I think that I probably don't need too much more than I was looking at before, as long as the computer can do the kinds of things I'm looking for, such as video game development and video gaming in general. Sorry to have changed up my question after everyone has already given input.

I think what I'm looking at now is a mid-range gaming computer about $800, including the OS, miscellaneous supplies, and probably shipping. What do you guys think of this tentative shopping list? I don't currently have any specific computer-build tools, but from the tutorials I've looked at, it looks like all I'd really need are some antistatic precautions and maybe some thermal paste (though it may come with the CPU or motherboard as well), so I've included those on there.


ASRock P67 PRO3 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

Intel Core i5-2500 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I52500
$210 ($195 before Xmas)

Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model 996776

XFX HD-677X-ZNLC Radeon HD 6770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card

Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Antec EarthWatts EA-650 GREEN 650W ATX12V v2.3 SLI Ready CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply


Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit - OEM

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM

Antistatic Wrist-Strap

Antistatic Mat


The main thing I'm feeling tentative about at this point is the PSU; I've heard that it's better to go over than under, and 650 watts seemed like a good place, though it may be too much, or even too little. Do you think that the one I've picked is a good one for this build?

Also, I noticed that the mail-in rebates on NewEgg all expire at the end of the year, so I'm trying not to count on getting them, though if it works out it would be pretty nice.

As I was looking everything over, I have also come across several small, miscellaneous, first-time questions that I thought I probably ought to ask before ordering:

First, are the stock fans and heatsink packaged with the i5 Core good enough for what they do? I'm not really too bothered by fan noise generally, so from what I've heard they should be fine, I think.

For the graphics card, will my older monitor cable be able to connect with the graphics card I'm looking at? I think the connection type is VGA, but I'm not entirely sure that's the right name for it. Also, will the graphics card's PCI 2.1 connection match with the motherboard's 2.0 port? And it may be a silly question, but just to make sure, AMD graphics cards are compatible with Intel motherboards, right?

Have I picked out a good case? I was trying to find something that was sturdy without being extravagant, and the one drunkducki suggested seemed like a good fit. At the same time, I am a bit concerned that the motherboard might not fit, but from the specifications on NewEgg, it looks like I should be fine...

I was also wondering whether I should pick up some plastic ties for cable management, and whether it's necessary to get an internal case speaker for my motherboard.


Thanks again for all your help, everyone-- I really appreciate being able to ask all these questions from people with more experience than me! I am a bit nervous, but I'm also excited to be doing this, and looking forward to the final build!
December 22, 2011 7:33:56 PM

The processor is not overclockable so standard HS & Fan is fine.

Try this psu - more than enough power for this system:

Don't buy:
Thermal paste - stock cooler has it pre-applied
Anti-Static wristband - earth yourself on case or central heating radiator
Anti-Static mat - As above

Don't build this on anything like carpet that produces static.

$41 dollar saving. Put that towards i5 2500k (Overclockable) or better GPU

Oh, you may need DVI to VGA adapter for GPU, such as:

My XFX card came without one.
January 7, 2012 2:10:03 PM

Thanks so much for all your advice, everyone! All the parts arrived, the build went great, and my new computer is working wonderfully! I really appreciate all of your advice!

If I might ask one last question, I was stress testing the computer with Prime95 and RealTemp, and I was wondering what the max temperature should probably be to make sure the build doesn't overheat. From what I could find, the i5 2500 CPU I got can reach about 70 degrees Celsius at most, and that was about how high the 10-minute Prime95 test I ran took it. Is this cool enough?
January 17, 2012 1:23:33 AM

Best answer selected by antonman92.