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Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.
To enter the giveaway, please check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
The $500 gaming rig has a long history here at Tom's Hardware. But, through a desire for more performance, plus combating a trend of price increases, we allowed our low System Builder Marathon (SBM) budget to creep up 50% above the one from a couple years ago. Most readers appreciated the performance and value squeezed from our March 2010 $750 SBM gaming PC, but many of you expressed an interest in once again seeing a true budget-oriented gaming build.
Given the shaky state of the economy, $500 was the starting point for this month’s budget gaming rig, and we knew right away that the resulting configuration would no doubt offer excellent bang for the buck, even while coming in $5 under budget. It features a three-core processor, after-market CPU cooler, a 500GB hard drive, and a trusty ol’ Radeon HD 4850 512MB graphics card. The value of the Radeon HD 4850 is and remains undeniable, earning it repeated appearances in our SBMs, as well as Don Woligroski’s monthly Best Graphics Card For The Money articles.
Of course, swapping in a Radeon HD 5750 would have matched (or even beaten) this performance level, while adding features and DirectX 11 support for our updated gaming suite. Unfortunately, available models were still priced relatively high in comparison. However, for roughly $10 more than a 1GB Radeon HD 5750, the PowerColor Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of GDDR5 could have offered the performance and features we desired, at a budget “stretching” we could justify. Through hefty sacrifices in storage space, stock cooling, processing cores, and enclosure design, each netting just a small savings, it would have been possible to squeeze this card into a true $500 build. But exercising flexibility within our budget allowed for an all-around much better machine.
$550 Gaming PC System Components
|CPU||AMD Athlon II X3 435||$75|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper TX3||$20|
|RAM||Crucial 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR3-1333 (PC3 10600) Model CTKIT12864BA1339||$58|
|Graphics||PowerColor AX5770 1GBD5-H Radeon HD 5770 1GB||$150|
|Hard Drive||Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7,200 RPM SATA 3.0 Gb/s||$55|
|Case||Cooler Master Elite 330 RC-330-KKN1-GP Black||$40|
|Power||Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus RS-500-PCAR-A3 500W||$40|
|Optical||Samsung Black 22X DVD Burner SATA Model SH-S223C||$22|
The above $545 total reflects the pricing of components we chose and purchased for this build. The processor is now cheaper, while the price of the CPU cooler, power supply, and graphics card has increased, making the total cost $13 higher if purchased today.