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System Builder Marathon Q1 2015: Budget Gaming PC

CPU, Cooler, Motherboard And Graphics

Processor: Intel Core i3-4150

Time and again, we've seen Intel's Core i3 processors prove themselves in budget-oriented gaming builds. Although the fourth-gen Core i3-4150 cannot be overclocked, high per-clock performance and a respectable 3.5GHz operating frequency make this chip a worthy foundation on which to build an affordable PC. Its pair of Hyper-Threaded cores is capable of scheduling four threads at a time, putting it out in front of Intel's dual-core Pentium processors in our favorite AAA titles. However, priced $50 more, how well does it compete in terms of value with the unlocked Pentium G3258 we've used two quarters in a row?

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i3-4150

CPU Cooler: Intel Retail Boxed Heat Sink & Fan

Once we drop under Intel’s Core i5 family, only the enthusiast-friendly Pentium G3258 includes a copper slug-endowed heat sink. Instead, the Core i3’s familiar-looking cooler consists of a low-profile aluminum orb-style sink, a PWM-controlled fan and a push-pin mounting bracket.

Motherboard: ASRock H81M-HDS

An entry-level H81 Express-based motherboard represents the starting point when setting out to build an LGA 1150–based platform. Although these boards lack in overall connectivity and features compared to pricier options, they’ll usually sport all of the basics, including SATA 6Gb/s, rear USB 3.0 ports and a pair of PCI Express slots. We also retain dual-channel DDR3-1600 compatibility, but only across two modules. Although H81 Express natively supports USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, connectivity is often limited.

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's H81M-HDS

ASRock's H81M-HDS wasn’t the least-expensive option at our disposal, but it stands out from the crowd by also offering front-panel USB 3.0 support. Its four-phase power design is modest, though slightly beefier than the three phases found on our previous build’s MSI H81M-P33.

Graphics Card: Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R9 280 3GB

The Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R9 280 sports a Tahiti GPU running at up to 940MHz and mated to 3GB of 1250MHz GDDR5 on an aggregate 384-bit memory bus. Like our previous R9 270X, it requires a pair of six-pin power connectors.

Read Customer Reviews of Sapphire's Dual-X Radeon R9 280 3GB

  • cmi86
    Over all I like it. I am glad to see that you went with the superior R9 280 over the thoroughly underwhelming GTX 960, which I thought you may have felt obligated to include in the budget build. Only minor gripe I have is that I am sure you could have saved five dollars somewhere to get that SSD in there, case maybe ?
    Reply
  • TNT27
    ehh, id rather drop down to a regular 210 case, and get a better psu
    Reply
  • damric
    Should have used Windows 10 Preview instead of paying $100 for OS. It's an obvious choice for a cheap build.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    15365194 said:
    Should have used Windows 10 Preview instead of paying $100 for OS. It's an obvious choice for a cheap build.

    I disagree, eventually windows 10 preview will stop working when windows 10 is officially out. And for people viewing and building a duplicate rig off this post half to a year later, they would be out of luck.

    Nice computer! I personally would have chosen a gigabyte mobo instead.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I didn't like it. I can't help but think I'll get lots of downvotes, but it looks like a hodgepodge of throwaway parts. By that I mean every choice was an example of "settling" for less than what was probably wanted. On a tight budget, with limited or no future upgrade possibilities, maybe it is the best that can be done. Throw in some possible future upgrades though, and I would have made some sacrifices for the benefit of future growth. For example, I'd rather see a more competent mobo (e.g. to allow a data RAID1), PSU, and storage (i.e. including a SSD), and would have lowered the CPU and/or graphics card (depending on benchmarks) in order to get there. As good as most modern games look even on a mix of "high" and "medium" settings, this would create a system with much longer-lasting core components, and snappier "home-user" performance (because of the SSD). Future GPU and/or CPU upgrades in a year or so would keep the whole system humming right along.
    Reply
  • envy14tpe
    This is the best Budget Gaming PC I've seen on this site. Love the choices. Did not skimp and no overkill on one component while weak other components. For a build under $600 you could not have done better. This will max out 1080p gaming!
    Reply
  • MerryLane
    Why not buy an AIO cooler with these 100 dollars and overclock the hell out of the pentium?
    After all the i3 has only two cores too ... and no overclocking possible.

    I'm pretty sure that 50% overclocking is greater than 2 extra threads that give at best 30%.

    There are also great bundles everywhere, G3258 + motherboard for cheaper.

    The GTX 960 also seem more future proof than a 280 and barely more expansive.
    Reply
  • TNT27
    15366289 said:
    Why not buy an AIO cooler with these 100 dollars and overclock the hell out of the pentium?
    After all the i3 has only two cores too ... and no overclocking possible.

    I'm pretty sure that 50% overclocking is greater than 2 extra threads that give at best 30%.

    There are also great bundles everywhere, G3258 + motherboard for cheaper.

    The GTX 960 also seem more future proof than a 280 and barely more expansive.

    Are you serious in saying that you belive a gtx 960 is more future proof? The r9 280 is on par or better than the 960, and its cheaper. When overclocked the 280 can reach into gtx 770 territory. Its also go a wider bus, and a extra gig of vram= much better performance in higher resolutions, and newer games that are starting to use that gig of vram.
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    I've built with that case before, and it is really surprisingly good for it's cost. But I got it for $35 at my local computer parts store. Regular price. If you're paying $50 for it, you're mad.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    I don't see why SSDs are being considered a necessity. With Windows 8 and the fast startup you don't even need to worry about waiting a minute, and on a budget I don't see why it's worth the extra money just to calm one's impatience for 10 seconds of loading.
    Reply