It’s a tough time to be a PC builder or a PC gamer. In case you haven’t noticed, midrange-to-high-end graphics cards are selling for hundreds more than their MSRPs—if you can find them in stock at all. And other high-end components are surprisingly expensive, as well, due to demands from cryptocurrency mining (among other factors). As much as we hate to admit it, we haven't seen a grimmer time to build a high-end gaming PC for decades.
That makes Fortnite the right game at the right time for our ongoing "pricey PC hardware" crisis. It runs well on midrange (and even low-end) hardware, and it’s quickly becoming the most popular PC game in recent memory, breaking records left and right, garnering coverage all over mainstream media. It's even getting NBA players hopelessly addicted in their off-hours.
Given Fortnite’s seemingly ever-increasing popularity, and the fact that it runs well on affordable parts, it’s also the perfect excuse for us to work up a budget PC-build story--and contest--around. We all need a bit of relief from dreaming about $1,000-plus graphics cards and what (if any) relief might come from future cards expected later this year (but probably won’t).
So, we set the Tom's Hardware community to one of the tasks it does best: working out ways to build affordable PCs. In this case, we asked our forum members to part out their best budget builds specifically for Fortnite. We gave them a $500 budget (Windows license aside), told them we’d give extra consideration for builds that come in well under that bar, and set them loose on PCPartpicker.
A week later, we had over 60 submissions, some sliding under the $300 mark. Below you’ll find our top three picks of the bunch, along with a detailed parts list so you can build your own.
Beware The BIOS!
Keep in mind, though, that there is a, how shall we put it, "complication" with some of these builds. Namely: You may need to find a way to update the BIOS of an older motherboard in order to to install a newer CPU. AMD has a solution for this problem in its Raven Ridge Boot Kit (which has you mail away for a loaner chip to accomplish the update). But our winning build doesn’t require any BIOS updates, to boot. That’s one of the big reasons it’s a winner.
On the AMD side, motherboards are just coming online as we write this that are marked “Ryzen 2000 Ready,” which means their BIOS has been flashed at the factory to support 2018-era AMD chips. And we suspect that new mainstream Intel 300-series chipsets will arrive sometime soon; boards based on these should provide affordable alternatives to the complications of pairing a newer CPU with a previous-generation motherboard.
While board-complication issues are likely to improve soon, they were tough to avoid at the time we tasked our community to put these builds together. So keep that in mind, and plan accordingly, if you’re parting out one of the builds below for your next budget PC.
Below, you'll find our three favorite Fortnite PC-build submissions, along with links to all the parts, should you want to build one of these budget gaming boxes yourself and jump into battle.
Best Budget Fortnite PC Builds: Our Top Three Picks...
|Row 0 - Cell 0||"Big Things Come In Small Packages"||"Raven Ridge Hybrid"||"Sheer Affordability"|
|Case||Thermaltake Core V21 MicroATX Mini||Thermaltake Versa H21 Window ATX||DIYPC Zondda-O ATX|
|Cooling||✗||Cryorig H7 49.0 CFM||✗|
|CPU||Intel Pentium G4560||AMD Ryzen 5 2400G||AMD Ryzen 5 2400G|
|Graphics||MSI GeForce GTX 1050 2GB||✗||✗|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3200||G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3200||G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR4-2800|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-B250M-DS3H||ASRock AB350M-HDV||ASRock AB350M-HDV|
|PSU||SeaSonic S12II 520W||Corsair CX (2017) 450W||Corsair CX (2017) 450W|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB||Seagate 500GB 5400RPM Hybrid||Hitachi 1TB 7200RPM|
BEST OVERALL BUILD: "Big Things Come In Small Packages"
(Built By: g-unit1111)
Thoughts From The Builder: "On a $500 budget, you have to make some sacrifices, but you can still get a good system. I have come to embrace small form factor builds--especially Mini-ITX and MicroATX. And the nice thing is that you don't have to compromise on looks, since there are some very nice cases that fit the $500 budget.
I originally wanted to do a Ryzen 1200 build, but it couldn't be done and still get quality components under $500. So with that, the Pentium G was chosen because, for the price, it can't be beat. And even in a game like Fortnite, you definitely need some graphics horsepower. The GTX 1050 is the best GPU for a budget that small."
Kudos From The Editors: We like this build for a number of reasons, but it stands out primarily as one of the only submissions we received that doesn’t kick up a potential BIOS bother. The B250 motherboard natively supports the dual-core, four-thread Kaby Lake Pentium CPU, so you should have no problems on that front--just drop in the chip and go. The case, board, and graphics card are also all compact, making for a space-saving system.
RUNNER-UP: The "Raven Ridge Hybrid" Build
(Built By: drinkingcola86)
Thoughts From The Builder: "My focus was on finding a board that would allow overclocking, better cooling for the CPU/GPU, and high speed ram within the 8GB range. I was trying to find a small SSD for the price range, but couldn't within the budget, which pushed me toward the SSHD from Seagate for faster load times and quicker boot times. The case was the cheapest case with OK air flow and extra expansion for more fans. The power supply was based on reviews, allowance for overclocking on the CPU/GPU, and an 80+ Bronze rating. The reason for the APU was that it allows playing Fortnite at 1080p/medium quality with decent frame rates at stock settings."
Kudos From The Editors: This was a well-balanced build with a hybrid hard drive. Opting for AMD’s recent “Raven Ridge” Ryzen 5 processor with Vega graphics means there’s no need for a dedicated graphics card. And we know from our testing that the chip handles games that are more demanding than Fortnite, so you won’t miss a dedicated GPU here.
While we applaud the fact that this build comes in about $54 under budget, keep in mind that the motherboard will require a BIOS update before it accepts the second-generation Ryzen chip chosen here. So you’ll either have to have on hand a 1000-series Ryzen chip to perform the update, or be prepared to mail away for AMD’s previously mentioned Boot Kit.(Note that you might be able to find a near variant of the ASRock board chosen that comes "Ryzen-2000 ready," eliminating the need to use the Boot Kit, and for close to the same money. So keep an eye on the specific board listings at your retailer of choice.)
RUNNER-UP: The "Sheer Affordability" Build
(Built By: ScrewySqrl)
Thoughts From The Builder: "Basically, for this build I wanted the maximum performance for the least cost, and to be competitive with the cost of buying a console. The Ryzen 2400G offered the best GPU and CPU I could get inside of this tight of a budget, and it should be able to do at least medium settings, rather than low. I'd much rather have its 4-core/8-thread over a Pentium’s 2-core/4-threads. Eight GB [of RAM] is minimal, but enough for Fortnite, with high speed for better performance. The power supply is a solidly reliable one that won't be pushed by the power this system uses, while the disk-based HDD and cheap case save costs without sacrificing performance. The HDD means only slower load times, not fewer frames per second."
Kudos From The Editors: ScrewySqrl’s build has the same BIOS issue as the previous build, so you’ll need an older Ryzen chip to update the motherboard BIOS or go the AMD Boot Kit route. (Or again: Opt for a slightly different motherboard.) But it’s hard to fault a build that edges in at under $400, while still delivering enough muscle to run Fortnite.
In an ideal world, we’d like dual-channel memory to better push AMD’s integrated Vega graphics. And if we had that $100 left over, we’d personally spend at least some of it on an SSD boot drive. But again, this is a sub-$400 gaming PC in an age where you can easily spend thousands. We’re not complaining—much, anyway.
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