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Is a sub $500 gaming pc possible? sub $400?

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February 14, 2012 6:43:20 PM

I have been doing a lot of research in order to build my first gaming pc (looking to play games like SWTOR, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 in addition to doing some modding), however I am by no means an expert when it comes to hardware specs and what pieces are compatible.
I am looking to spend no more than $500 ($400 if possible) on the tower as the OS (Windows 7) along with peripherals is an additional $130-$200 to my knowledge.
I have put together a list of some possible parts and their prices, although better/cheaper alternatives or cheaper prices for the same part would be great to know about! :wahoo: 

CPU:
Intel i3 2100 ($125) vs AMD FX Zambezi-4100 ($110) vs AMD Phenom II X4 960T Black Edition ($125)

Video Card:
EVGA GeForce GTX 550 TI ($140 - $20 rebate = $120) vs Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 ($135)

RAM:
Corsair Vengeance 4GB ($25) vs G.Skil Ripjaws 4GB ($25)

Motherboard:
ASUS M5A78L-M LX AM3+ Socket ($64!!) vs MSI 970A-G45 AMD 9 Series ($110) vs GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 Intel Z68 ($160)

Hard Drive:
Seagate Barracuda 500GB ($85)

Optical Drive:
Sony Optiarc 24x DVDRW Drive ($18)

Case:
NZXT M59 Gaming Mid Tower ($50) vs Cooler Master RC-430-KWN1 Elite 430 ($50) (Looks mean nothing to me, as long as parts fit into the case, as cheap as possible, then best cable management)

Power Supply:
Cooler Master Elite Series 460 Watts ($40) vs Corsair Builder Series CX600 (600W) ($50) vs Corsair CX500 ($50)

I don't know about the necessity of a sound card.

Also any peripherals (mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, headsets) would be appreciated, although I plan on going to best buy or something to get the cheapest mouse & keyboard I can and using my tv as a monitor if possible as I am living in a college dorm so once less monitor is good for both money and space.

Thanks a lot!

More about : 500 gaming 400

February 14, 2012 10:14:29 PM

This topic has been moved from the section Opinions and Experiences to section Systems by Pyree
February 14, 2012 10:34:03 PM

Definitely go with the i3, it outperforms even the Phenom II X6's and FX 8 cores in games, and I'd spend the extra $5 bucks on the i3 2120. Graphics I would go with the 6850, but also consider the 6790, it's a bit cheaper and only a bit worse. Case go with whichever you want, I don't know much about those :p . PSU The 460 watts would be fine for the current setup, but if you want to upgrade in the future 500 or 600 would be better. The MB doesn't need to be that expensive because the i3 can't overclock, unless you're readily planning on upgrading to the i5 2500K.
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February 14, 2012 11:01:54 PM

Check out my $400 gaming build in my signature. Very powerful for its price.
February 14, 2012 11:03:55 PM

samuelspark said:
Check out my $400 gaming build in my signature. Very powerful for its price.

The link doesn't work.
February 15, 2012 12:21:14 AM

OP, skim through this list of new build questions and answer anything you haven't already: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261222-31-build-advic...

How soon do you need it? If you wait March, new graphics cards will come out and the Radeon 6000 series will drop to clearance prices.

Do you have a Micro Center nearby?

There are a couple VERY important points at your budget:
1) You need to find great sales to improve from a so-so machine to a good gaming machine at that price point. Keep an eye on slickdeals.net. Are you opened to used parts?
2) If you're in college, Windows can be had for $30 regularly or usually free if you're enrolled in engineering classes.
3) You have to make some concessions like future SLI or overclocking.


Stick to Antec, Corsair, Seasonic, or XFX for the PSU. Cooler Master is not safe.


My Hypothetical and completely achievable build:
CPU: $99 i3-2100

Graphics: $200 Radeon 6950 2GB for sale on this forum

RAM: $0 8GB 1333MHz included w/ mobo below

Motherboard: $55 (free shipping) Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3-B3 (crossfire compatible) for sale by Beaversqueeezer w/ RAM on this forum

Hard Drive: $30 Find a used one for really cheap and upgrade in six months after the flood prices go away. That, or check out some of the HDDs people are selling in Classifieds here. You could probably find a $50 500GB. Slickdeals.net has a lot of HDD deals.

Optical Drive: $0 What's an optical drive for? PM me if you need any tips on how to install Windows from a flash stick. Steam and all your other applications don't use physical media.

Case: $30 Thermaltake V3 w/ free shipping: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... with decent airflow

Power Supply: $16 Corsair CX430 V2 when it goes on sale w/ the $20 rebate =15%
But that really can only handle up to a 6870 on graphics. With the 6950, go with a $40 Antec 620C (after rebate, when on sale) or the $65 Corsair TX650 V2 on sale right now: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
That'll handle crossfiring. Corsair has a lot of sales on Newegg right now.

TOTAL: $455 w/ a $40 PSU

If you have a Micro Center nearby, it's a whole different ball game though.
February 15, 2012 2:15:24 AM

I am going to wait until march seeing as the prices should drop, also That's the next time I am home from college and there is a Micro center 5 minutes from my house.

I looked into over clocking and I am not sure how beneficial it is. If it can seriously change my gaming experience without harming my computer then than I would definitely consider doing it. Also I do not know how to over clock. I did see that it can shorten the life span of a cpu.
As for SLI, I looked into and if I am not mistaking it means having 2 video cards which sounds very useful. I think it is something I would do in the future if I were to buy a new video card down the road.

I also wanted to stay away from used parts if possible.

As for an optical drive vs just using Steam I know SWTOR is currently not available on steam and Mass Effect 3 will not be either.

I think this may the set up I go with:

CPU: intel i3 2120 $113 at 1stchoicememory.com (not sure on reliability) $128 at newegg.com

Graphics: either Radeon 6790 1GB $115 at newegg.com or Radeon 6950 $240 this forum $200 at micro center

Motherboard: Biostar H61MGC $50 at newegg.com or Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3-B3 w/ 8GB of RAM recommended above $55 this forum. not sure how I feel about used parts though

Memory: Corsair Vengeance 4GB $25 at newegg.com or 8GB $0 on this forum recommended above. Not sure how I feel about used parts though.

Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 500GB $80 at newegg.com

Case: Thermaltake V3 recommended above $45 at newegg.com. Also considering a cheap $20 case, I am not sure how important investing in a case is.

Power Supply: Antec VP-450 450W $40 newegg.com

Total: cheapest option $423 most expensive option $608

I am not able to spend $608 so if I go with the Radeon 6950 I will most likely go for the motherboard available on this forum w/ the 8GB of RAM which hinestly sounds like a great deal, just worried about buying used parts, and maybe the cheaper case.
This option: $508 to $573 still a bit expensive for me but I spoke to some co-workers in my school's OIT and I may be able to get Windows free, even a discount gives me more to spend on parts.
February 15, 2012 2:52:19 AM

SLI/Crossfire = multiple NVidia (GeForce) cards/multiple AMD (Radeon) cards
It may be handy, but often goes unused. The point being that some motherboard support Crossfire through 16x and 4x PCI-e slots. Others support both Crossfire & SLI through 8x and 8x PCI-e slots. And others support neither or may even support tri-crossfire/sli. So read the motherboard details. Don't forget USB 3.0. PCI-e 3.0 is essentially completely useless.

Overclocking--I, and most other enthusiasts, are BIG fans of it. It can provide huge performance boosts. You can overclock various components of your machine, but the focus is typically the CPU and GPU (graphics).

Many recent CPUs can gain in excess of 25% performance through overclocking. However, with Intel's Sandy Bridge line, only the CPUs with a "K" suffix allow appreciable overclocking.

GPU overclocking potential varies greatly with product line. I've had multiple graphics cards improve framerates by over 25% with a stable OC. To put this performance jump into perspective, I got my GTX 460 768MB overclocked to give roughly (slightly higher) the same performance as my stock GTX 470. This requires a lucky draw on the card though, as some only provide a little bit of headroom.

Overclocking is only dangerous if you allow your components to overheat or if you choose settings that apply excessive voltage. If you monitor your temps and use safe voltages, you will not damage your components (or void your warranties, usually). If you are interested in overclocking in the future, just start a thread here whenever you feel like it. Feel free to PM me.

I understand your preference for new parts. I'm working on developing a stockpile of parts, so a few used ones doesn't hurt my collection.

SWTOR is available online through Origin by EA. Mass Effect 3 will be as well. Anyhow, a DVD drive is $17 on Newegg if you get one with free shipping when there's a sale. Clearly, it's nothing imperative so you can put the optical drive on the back burner.

CPU: $99.99 i3-2100 @ Micro Center

GPU: $120 6850's are better than the 6790 if you get them on sale. But I'd say a 6870 for $140 is worth the price bump. Read up on Micro-stuttering if you plan on crossfiring less than a 6950: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-geforce-stut...
You should spend roughly 1/3 of your budget on graphics if it's a gaming computer.

Motherboard: Micro Center has had a lot of buy an i3-2100, get the mobo free promotions. There aren't any currently that I can find, but hopefully I'm wrong. Check back in March when Micro Center gets new ads.

RAM: $40 8GB (2x4GB) 1600CL9 Wait for a Newegg Sale

HDD: No good options. They're all HUGE ripoffs right now. Maybe an SSD? What are you currently using for an HDD? You know, you can use a laptop HDD?

Case: You want a bottom mounting PSU and enough space to fit graphics cards. Fans and airflow matter some--less if you don't overclock. I highly recommend the $30 (after coupon & rebate) Thermaltake V3 over any $20 case I've seen.

PSU: Get the Corsair CX430 when it does on sale for $16 some time in the next couple weeks. It's as good as the Antec VP-450 and will let you spend more money on graphics.

OS: Windows is free for most engineering students.

TOTAL: I don't know, but it won't matter until March anyhow. Start picking up deals as they come along. Look at slickdeals.net at least once a day.

Make sure you're already on the Newegg.com and maybe TigerDirect.com email lists.
February 15, 2012 10:44:42 PM

Almost certainly the best case you'll find for $40: http://slickdeals.net/f/3952486-Rosewill-GEAR-X3-Gaming...

USB 3.0, removable fan filters, bottom mounting PSU, tool-less. I'll admit it's not the prettiest case ever, but it'll fit any graphics card and a Hyper 212+ (120mm fan) CPU cooler. It's worth picking up parts now as good sales come along. Keep an eye out for a great HDD price;.
February 15, 2012 11:03:33 PM

ramjr13 said:
I have been doing a lot of research in order to build my first gaming pc (looking to play games like SWTOR, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 in addition to doing some modding), however I am by no means an expert when it comes to hardware specs and what pieces are compatible.
I am looking to spend no more than $500 ($400 if possible) on the tower as the OS (Windows 7) along with peripherals is an additional $130-$200 to my knowledge.
I have put together a list of some possible parts and their prices, although better/cheaper alternatives or cheaper prices for the same part would be great to know about! :wahoo: 

CPU:
Intel i3 2100 ($125) vs AMD FX Zambezi-4100 ($110) vs AMD Phenom II X4 960T Black Edition ($125)

Video Card:
EVGA GeForce GTX 550 TI ($140 - $20 rebate = $120) vs Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 ($135)

RAM:
Corsair Vengeance 4GB ($25) vs G.Skil Ripjaws 4GB ($25)

Motherboard:
ASUS M5A78L-M LX AM3+ Socket ($64!!) vs MSI 970A-G45 AMD 9 Series ($110) vs GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 Intel Z68 ($160)

Hard Drive:
Seagate Barracuda 500GB ($85)

Optical Drive:
Sony Optiarc 24x DVDRW Drive ($18)

Case:
NZXT M59 Gaming Mid Tower ($50) vs Cooler Master RC-430-KWN1 Elite 430 ($50) (Looks mean nothing to me, as long as parts fit into the case, as cheap as possible, then best cable management)

Power Supply:
Cooler Master Elite Series 460 Watts ($40) vs Corsair Builder Series CX600 (600W) ($50) vs Corsair CX500 ($50)

I don't know about the necessity of a sound card.

Also any peripherals (mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, headsets) would be appreciated, although I plan on going to best buy or something to get the cheapest mouse & keyboard I can and using my tv as a monitor if possible as I am living in a college dorm so once less monitor is good for both money and space.

Thanks a lot!



The i5 2500K CPU is only $179.00 in Micro Center(in store only)
The Biostar TZ68A+RCH is only $109.99 in Micro Center
Check out their website and see for your self.
February 15, 2012 11:17:31 PM

aqe040466 said:
The i5 2500K CPU is only $179.00 in Micro Center(in store only)
The Biostar TZ68A+RCH is only $109.99 in Micro Center
Check out their website and see for your self.
I'm not sure what point you're making. Did you read the rest of the thread (since you quoted the OP's original post, not his revised build)? Are you trying to say he should spend $290 on the CPU+mobo (and recommending a Biostar?) on a $400 GAMING build? Please explain because obviously my above explanation wouldn't make any sense.
February 18, 2012 10:52:28 PM

Found a BIOSTAR TH67+ LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard for $55 after rebate on newegg. Thinking about picking it up now for my build.

Also found aPowerUp G54-8019 Executive ATX Mid-Tower Case for $15 @ Tiger Direct, and a 600W OCZ ModXStream for $40 after $25 rebate + $10 off promo coade on @ newegg. On slickdeals it also says that it comes w/ a $15 gift card to use at newegg

I am just wondering if these are good for a gaming build. If so , I think I will definitely get these.

Here are the likns to each part:

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

Case:
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?SID=u0t38137...
February 19, 2012 12:40:29 AM

ramjr13 said:
Found a BIOSTAR TH67+ LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard for $55 after rebate on newegg. Thinking about picking it up now for my build.

Also found aPowerUp G54-8019 Executive ATX Mid-Tower Case for $15 @ Tiger Direct, and a 600W OCZ ModXStream for $40 after $25 rebate + $10 off promo coade on @ newegg. On slickdeals it also says that it comes w/ a $15 gift card to use at newegg

I am just wondering if these are good for a gaming build. If so , I think I will definitely get these.

Here are the likns to each part:

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

Case:
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?SID=u0t38137...



You got the right choice, go ahead and build it ASAP, b4 they change the prices.
February 20, 2012 10:01:51 PM

There's no reason to buy that mobo. $55 isn't too special for H67/H61 after rebate. There are regularly boards for $65 w/ $10 rebates. Besides, it's Biostar. My preference is Asus->Gigabyte->ASRock->MSI->EVGA->Biostar. And I probably wouldn't buy any other brands.

Besides, Micro Center has sold i3-2100's for $99 w/ $50 off the mobo. That would make it a $5 motherboard. They've also done free mobo w/ i3 purchase. So you'd actually be throwing $50 out the window on a budget-concious build.

PSU: I don't recommend OCZ ModXStream. But if it's $25 including gift card and rebates, I can't tell you not to buy it. It's not actually bad, just lower end than I typically recommend. It'll handle any single video card and dual lower-end cards. You should be looking into the single stronger card option.

Case: That's a GREAT PRICE for a SUPER CHEAP case, if shipping is free. I still recommend the $35 Thermaltake V3 or the $40 Rosewill I posted earlier would be great. It has much better airflow, actually will make you happy with what your computer looks like, bottom mounted PSU, tool-less design, the Rosewill has USB 3.0, fits all larger video cards, and will be useful in 4 years on your next build too.
!