Building An Intel-Based MicroATX Gaming PC On A Budget

Back in May, we published a story called Build A Balanced AMD-Based Gaming PC On A Budget, which showed you how to construct a low-cost system using AMD's Athlon X4 750K CPU and appropriately-quick graphics cards, all housed in an attractive case. After all, just because you kept an eye on your budget doesn't mean your gaming box needs to be ugly.

This time around, we wanted to do something similar on the Intel side, particularly in light of the good press its Pentium G3258 has been receiving. Our own coverage (Intel Pentium G3258 CPU Review: Haswell, Unlocked, For $75 and The Pentium G3258 Cheap Overclocking Experiment) shows that, even though the Pentium is a dual-core processor lacking Hyper-Threading technology, overclocked, it's still able to out-perform the quad-core Athlon in a great many workloads. It's cheaper, too, which we like.

Component vendor Deepcool has been offering to send us hardware for years, and we typically declined because the company's products weren't readily available in the U.S. More recently, however, it scored a spot on Newegg, and so the Steam Castle enclosure we're using today is something you can actually go out and buy. We thought we'd give the $100 enclosure a test run.

In addition, we have the company's Maelstrom 120 closed-loop liquid cooler. That one isn't available yet, though we're assured it will be soon.

The core of this DIY project is MSI's H97M-G43 motherboard, which sells for about $90, and Intel's overclocking-friendly, multiplier-unlocked Pentium G3258, available at $70 on Newegg.

We don’t blame you if you do a double-take: overclocking on a H97-based board? Yup. You've already seen us do this on an inexpensive H81-based platform using beta firmware. So we can't guarantee that Intel won’t kill this feature through some upcoming microcode update. But given the overwhelmingly-positive community response, we've only heard a token protest from the chip giant (and not even through official channels). 

Our overclock was an overwhelming success, peaking at 4.7 GHz through a massive voltage increase. This is neither reasonable nor practical, though, and we've trolled the G3258 user reviews, noticing a great many power users hitting ceilings around 4 GHz, too. As a result, we settled in on a 4.4 GHz clock rate, which requires very few changes in the BIOS and should be possible with most Pentiums.

Then we added a $160 MSI GeForce GTX 750 Ti Twin Frozr Gaming graphics card, completing our well-proportioned budget-oriented gaming machine. It has no trouble handling AAA titles. Just don't expect to run at the highest resolutions with overly taxing detail settings. Not everyone needs a high-end system and its associated price tag. With that in mind, we're happy to present this alternative to our previous AMD build, which should give you years of great performance, despite its conservative cost.

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  • Amdlova
    What i can say. Ugly. Prefer the bitfenix cage... all that cheap plastic...
  • Amdlova
    Promoted by DeepCool. and MSI.
  • bernie456
    Anyone in their right might is not going to spend $100 on the case in a budget build, let alone one as ugly as that one.
  • Ben Van Deventer
    It's not ugly, it's "steampunk"
  • TheMentalist
    AIO watercooler, $100 case, $150 SSD in a budget build? Nice joke.
  • pierrerock
    And this is why i would not buy a G3258 if i have to get a Z97 Board. I know H81 Boards can now overclock this CPU, but there is a lot of chances that this board would not have a bios recent enough for this CPU. and since you buy a G3258, there is little chance you have another LGA 1150 CPU in your sleeve to flash the bios.

    I would get a X4 760K with a better GPU instead of a G3258 with a more expensive motherboard...
  • Ethan Feinhaus
    The only problem I have with this is that you're trying to describe a budget system with a water cooler. When one is building a budget system, there's no reason to have a water cooler when the stock cooler would function well enough.
  • Nestor Turizo
    Noob question: Isnt a stock, on air i5 for 200 usd aprox. a better option than a cheap processor + fancy cooler for 200+ usd?
  • pierrerock
    1362037 said:
    Noob question: Isnt a stock, on air i5 for 200 usd aprox. a better option than a cheap processor + fancy cooler for 200+ usd?


    Yeah a I5 would totally be better, but as for gaming, it would not push a 750 TI much more than a G3258 would. But you are right to think that a water cooling is not a good idea budget-wise
  • lp231
    Why isn't the total mentioned for this budget build? Also the price for the ram, aio cooler, optical drive are missing. I had to add those in by guessing the most acceptable price for those missing parts and total with what was price listed came out to almost $840. At that price, it's not a budget build. Budget build is suppose to be around $500 or less. $600 is consider a huge headroom.
    AIO $ 80, ODD $16 , RAM 8GB (2x4GB) $73
    Most of these budget build makes no sense when there is no strict budget cap. Next time when there is another budget build and there is something that just got to have it, but cost like $100 more, let's up the price cap and still call it a budget build!
  • Phillip Wager
    the 750ti is a joke of a graphics card unless you need to add a graphics card to somones dell or acer and they dont want to spend the extra money or hassle for a better power supply. if you are building a pc from the ground up you can get a r7 265 for the same money and it will be nearly twice as fast or even spend a couple more bucks for a 270 or 270x even better. you only need a 500 watt power supply for that which most people buying a new system will have at least that much power. i just find it really odd that toms would pick this graphics card when it only receives "honerable mention" on their graphics card for the money segment.
  • JackNaylorPE
    I'd have to call that build "Nebuchadnezzar" .... reminds me of Morpheus' ship in the Matrix movies
  • dovah-chan
    Could have said that it was a balanced intel build instead of a budget build. Kinda not very balanced either.... not sure how to feel other than wat.
  • iam2thecrowe
    Would have been better off forgoing the watercooling and ssd in favour of a haswell i3 and a better gpu.
  • Riemenschneider
    Quote:
    AIO watercooler, $100 case, $150 SSD in a budget build? Nice joke.

    exactly my first thoughts. I'd go with a Fractal Design Core 1000, an EKL Alpenfohn Sella, and just get a MX100 256GB instead of the HDD. If you really need more space, you can always get a big HDD later, or just buy an external USB 3.0 one, or use an NAS or cloud. Also a good 300W PSU should be more than enough for this system, even if you overclock to 4.5 GHz.
  • zero2dash
    I would never buy a computer case that looks like a cheap electric razor. Could just be me though...
  • Avus
    for a budget build, i won't use a $100USD case...
  • TheMentalist
    1755227 said:
    exactly my first thoughts. I'd go with a Fractal Design Core 1000, an EKL Alpenfohn Sella, and just get a MX100 256GB instead of the HDD. If you really need more space, you can always get a big HDD later, or just buy an external USB 3.0 one, or use an NAS or cloud. Also a good 300W PSU should be more than enough for this system, even if you overclock to 4.5 GHz.


    Yeah, but in a budget build I would use a HDD only. Games these days are about 20-40gigs. That's a lot. SSD's will only increase the loading times, nothing else, no graphical improvements. I would just go with a WB black and spend the saved money on a better CPU/GPU.

    And a 400-500W PSU would be the better way, since good 300W PSU's are hard to find everywhere. Plus if the graphics card gets pumped up, the power will too. The Seasonic S520II is the best budget PSU right now.
  • Baumy15
    for $801 dollars (aus) I got an
    G3258 $79
    MSI Z87M GAMING motherboard $179
    Kingston hyper x fury black $99
    western digital caviar blue $69
    2nd hand 500W psu $15
    2nd hand GTX 660 $140
    3 coolermaster sickleflow x green fans x3 $12 ($36)
    1 bitfenix spectre pro 200mm green $27
    gigabyte k7 force keyboard $59
    razer naga hex green $79
    and a generic cd rom $19

    this is a nice looking budget build and performs really well

    and if you where to buy a new GTX 660 it would be $199
    and a new 500 w psu it would be $49 so it would be $895

    and the G3250 can be overclocked to 4.5 on the stock cooler for me.

    I play watchdogs a lot high textures and ultra graphics setting and I get between 25-50 fps average is around 40fps

    this is a high performance budget build and stays really cool
  • Baumy15
    and this case is also a ripoff of the aerocool ds cube same internals just different panels and different exterior
  • Omar Rassi
    That's not a budget build. This is a budget build:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor ($59.99 @ Micro Center)
    Motherboard: Asus H81M-D PLUS Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($44.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Patriot Viper 3 Low Profile Blue 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($72.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Sandisk Ultra Plus 128GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($60.98 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Asus Radeon R9 280 3GB DirectCU II Video Card ($189.25 @ Newegg)
    Case: Silverstone PS09B MicroATX Mid Tower Case ($36.25 @ NCIX US)
    Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($29.99 @ Micro Center)
    Total: $494.44 (After rebates)
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-09-06 06:52 EDT-0400
  • zodiacfml
    with the motherboard at that orientation and available space, I would have taken the largest possible air cooler I could get for a reasonable price.
  • jardows
    Looking at this, I was thinking that I liked the internals of the case, but not so sure about the outside. Thanks Baumy15 for pointing out it is the same as the aerocool ds cube. I looked that up - about the same price, but I am not convinced of having the USB ports and other connectors on the top of the case.
  • Drejeck
    Quote:
    It's not ugly, it's "steampunk"

    It's not steampunk, it's an electric shaver.