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Suggestions for the "good enough" budget gaming build

Last response: in Systems
July 21, 2012 8:18:04 PM

Hi all,

I've recently built my own budget gaming PC, which consists of the following:

CPU: i3 2100
MB: Gigabyte B75M-D3V mATX
GPU: Sapphire Radeon 6850
RAM: 1x4GB Kingston 1333Mhz
HDD: WD Caviar Blue 500GB
PSU: Corsair CX500
CASE: Thermaltake V3 Black Edition

After messing around with a few games, I find that the performance is really really satisfying, more than enough. The majority of modern games (Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, COD: Modern Warfare 3 etc) run flawlessly with this build. Rarely any dips below 30 FPS, most of the time running anywhere between 30 - 45 FPS... and all of this is at 1080p, max AA, max detail settings.

I decided that now I have a baseline to start off with... we could scale down on this build to produce an even less expensive gaming PC with results that are still satisfactory. So here we go!

I've played around with a few things, mainly scaled down the CPU to 2.4Ghz, disabled HT and lowered RAM speed to 1066Mhz... this is to simulate having a Celeron G530 (the cheapest of the SB line-up, in this case with 3MB L3 cache instead of 2MB) in place of the i3 2100. Fired up the games again (1080p, max AA, maxed out detail settings)... hardly any difference at all! If I was being really really critical, maybe 1 - 2 FPS dip, but that's about it! There you go, that's about $70 saved on the CPU!

For someone like me, I can hardly tell the difference between AA on and off... and I know that AA has quite a big impact on a game's FPS. Seeing as I'm getting 30 - 45 FPS in my games maxed out... I'm assuming, with AA disabled, its safe to stick with a Radeon 7750 / 6770 for our less expensive budget gaming build? That would save another $50 maybe?

By going with a power-friendly budget gaming build (Celeron G530, Radeon 7750 etc), we could save some more bucks on the PSU... we could go with a less expensive (but quality 80+ certified) 400W power supply, instead of the usual 500W. That would save another $30 maybe?

The board I chose above is of the B75 chipset, which typically adds SATA III 6Gbps for SSD and USB 3.0 to your average H61 board. By simply going with a H61 board, that's about $20 shaved off the motherboard.

Thermaltake V3 Black Edition / Antec 300 and all those other cases are nice to have... but do they add to your gaming performance? By going with just any case at all (nothing fancy) you could easily shave off about $30!

By doing all the above changes to the current build, you could save up to $200 off a budget gaming PC and still get satisfactory performance! I myself had no idea just how much "performance" I needed out of my machine for gaming, since my previous computer was an ancient Pentium 4 from 2004. I relied solely on the help and guidance of the good folks of Tom's Hardware, as well as this guy:

After finding out my current build is more than enough for my gaming needs... why throw in that extra $200 when its not needed?

I hope you guys find this helpful. I understand that not everyone has the same opinion as myself. Some people want the high performance of a high-end gaming rig and are prepared to pay the price... but for those of you looking to game without breaking the bank, I hope I may have been of some help to you.

CPU: Celeron G530
MB: H61 mATX
GPU: Radeon 7750
RAM: 1x4GB Kingston 1333Mhz
WD: 500GB
PSU: 400W 80+
CASE: Any cheap case

In conclusion, cutting a few corners in the build, without sacrificing much gaming performance... you could end up saving up to $200!
July 23, 2012 12:56:50 AM

First, I'd like to apologize for my lack of tact in the following paragraphs. It is not my intent to be rude, but I usually fail to put forth the necessary effort to avoid that perception. So here's a couple things that caught my attention:

You may want to mention where you are talking about building this as prices in the U.S. are best. Are we talking prices available through & Newegg? Are we talking pre-flood HDD prices? Because I'd have to recommend an $80 120GB SSD instead of an HDD 1TB HDD if we're talking post-flood.

If you go Multiplayer, BF3 will have trouble in some instances with the i3-2100 I hear. But, in general, if you are willing to accept 30fps, then a bundle can be saved on the build in plenty of places. As a reference, here's Deus Ex: HR CPU performance:
Some games are more bound by cores than clock speed--this one cares about clock speed. When going below an i3-2100 or an overclocked Phenom II x4, it becomes time to ask: what specific games am I designing this build for?

AA: Are you talking about maxed Deferred MSAA 4x on BF3? Or are you talking Ultra on Post AA? Because it'll load the GPU or CPU depending on which you use. Of course, no AA is what a lower-end (e.g. Celeron) build should use. Is there a reason we're not discussing GeForce? Because an overclocked GTX 460 V2 should top a 6770. I'll have to double check the 7750 performance, but it's my understanding that a 7750 is overpriced for its performance.

I only have one serious issue with your build and that's the PSU. I cannot, under any circumstances, recommend a PSU solely with the words "400W 80+". The manufacturer actually matters and I'd make a list in order of preference. Or, at the very least, post the Amps the +12V rail as a cheap 575W Logisys has less power than an Antec 380W and has a realistic likelihood of starting to smoke and smell like burning at some point.

Also, there are some "Addicts" on this forum who maintain webpages with their updated best value $400, $800, & $1500 gaming builds (or similar price points).

If at all possible, I believe in recycling parts for budget builds--that largely includes using old HDDs, cases, optical drives.
July 23, 2012 1:30:33 AM

It's hard for me to recommend a certain level of lower performance parts as they're not cost effective on price/performance.

CPU: I have to agree a cheaper motherboard and CPU are worth it until one can afford a CPU upgrade. For example, you could spend $60 on an H61 motherboard and $50 on a Celeron G530. Then the only major upgrade you'd need down the line is throwing that Celeron in the trash and replacing it with an i5-2500K in two years off of eBay for $95.

Mobo: But there's no reason to go cheaper on the motherboard than this $60 ASRock B75:
It's got USB 3.0 and one SATA III port. Although I'd pay $5 more for the ASRock with better voltage regulation. But that depends on being able to buy from Newegg.

Graphics: A Radeon 6870 is basically the most bang for your buck you're gonna find. Since those can go as low as $130, there's no reason to save $15 for a greatly diminished performance in a 7750.

RAM: A $25 4GB stick may save some money. But is it really worth it to save $10 over a $35 8GB (2x4GB) kit?

HDD: If a 500GB HDD costs $70 and a 120GB SSD costs $80, the SSD will impact how you feel about your computer in a more positive light. I'd reuse an old one if possible until 1TB drives drop under $60.

DVD: Reuse an old one--it's not worth money to buy one. I only use my DVD drive at home about twice a year. You can run everything, including Windows installations, off of USB.

PSU: $15 Corsair CX430. If you can't find this, you can get an Antec Neo Eco 620C for $30 sometimes and $35 frequently. Sometimes the very well reviewed OCZ StealthXStream II 600W (actually a 700W unit) is $30. If you can't get any of those specific deals (the last two support medium range SLI setups), then any Antec, Corsair, Seasonic, XFX, PC Power & Cooling, or Silverstone will do. If those aren't available, then OCZ...and anything after that really needs reviews. Some Thermaltake, FSP (Aurum Series), Gigabyte, Enermax, Kingwin, and other PSUs are solid--but all these brands also make lemons.

Case: Reuse an old one if possible. If not, a $20 case should do if it'll fit everything and you can upgrade to a solid one for $50 anytime.

Finding deals is especially important on a low price point. I'll assume that the buyer can get in on's typical monthly good prices. If you can find good combos, that will save even more.

But the bottom line is: where are you buying from? If you live near a Microcenter, that may change the pricing dynamic such that you should save for 2 more months before you build and thus get an i5-2500K build that will seem great for the next 2 years and solid through 2016. However, Micro Center and Newegg aren't always options, which changes everything.

There's also the consideration of used parts. I'd sell my two GTS 250's with an SLI connector for $50 to the right buyer. That will outperform anything shy of a GTX 460 1GB and I can have a satisfying BF3 experience with them. I've recently been using 160GB SATA I HDD's in some recent builds because I've pulled them from derelict computers at work for low-end Core 2 Duo builds--so things like that are really worth considering in sub $500 gaming builds.

Summary of Ideal Build:
CPU: $50 Celeron G530
Mobo: $60 ASRock B75
Graphics: $130 6870
RAM: $35 8GB (2x4GB) 1333MHz DDR3 (I know, the CPU can't support it)
HDD: $80 120GB SSD (Vertex 3 maybe?)
PSU: $15 Corsair CX430
TOTAL: $370

caveat: Do not play CPU-intensive games or pony up the cash for a $70 Sandy Bridge Pentium. Please make the jump for the Pentium for anyone seriously considering this.
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a b 4 Gaming
July 23, 2012 2:25:59 AM

Rarely any dips below 30 FPS, most of the time running anywhere between 30 - 45 FPS...

is good enough for you, ok cool but not for me. getting above 45+ fps makes game play so much faster and enjoyable to me. i swear its the difference between slo-mo replay and real time action during a football game.

what you proved is the gpu is more important than the cpu; not exactly an earth shaking revelation. i would not advise anyone cutting back on a gpu in a gaming rig period.

but thanks for your post.
July 23, 2012 3:18:12 AM

@looniam--I agree that about 45fps is my lower limit for it feeling smooth. I can take dips to 30fps, but I like a high 40's average at a minimum.
July 25, 2012 10:41:30 PM

OP, PM me if you come back and want to continue the discussion.