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Build A Balanced AMD-Based Gaming PC On A Budget

A Small, Stylish Gaming PC On A Budget

Overall Price and Bottom Line

After adding the drives from the previous page, our Red Devil configuration ends up costing about $730. Even when you factor in shipping costs and not getting the best price on every component, should you buy everything from one place, that's still less than $800 for hardware. Not bad for a stylish-looking PC that delivers decent gaming performance.

Perhaps that isn't as impressive as we were hoping, though. After all, Paul Henningsen on our U.S. team built a system with a Haswell-based Core i3-4130, a GeForce GTX 770, and 8 GB of memory for $775 in System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $750 Gaming PC just a couple of months ago. Granted, Paul didn't enjoy the benefit of an SSD.

But we can make the story even more interesting by glancing over at our more barebones configuration. For just $415, we get good value in the form of a nice entry-level PC with reasonable gaming performance. That's where AMD's low-cost Athlon X4 750K appears best-suited, sitting in a well-equipped, yet affordable motherboard, complementing a mid-range graphics card. The performance-per-dollar proposition there simply can't be beat.

We didn’t forget about the operating system. Rather, we're choosing not to factor it into our pricing, similar to the System Builder Marathon. Many enthusiasts have old, but still valid Windows 7 or 8 licenses from previous machines.

If you find yourself biased to the lower-cost option, and can push the Athlon X4 750K to 4.5 GHz, there's always the option to splurge on a Radeon R9 270X or GeForce GTX 750 Ti.

More likely, you'll end up somewhere between our two extremes, trying to decide whether to spend money on looks, performance, or both. Whichever path you take, the destination is easily reachable for less than $800, even if you prioritize speed and aesthetics at the same time. Have fun, regardless!

ComponentsMinimum VersionPriceRed DevilPrice
Graphics CardAMD Radeon R7 260X$120AMD Radeon R9 270Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti$150
CPUAMD Athlon X4 750K$80AMD Athlon X4 750K$80
MotherboardSocket FM2 or FM2+$45Mini-ITX Socket FM2+$85
RAM8 GB DDR3-1600 Kit$60Avexir 8 GB DDR3-1600 LED Kit$75
CPU CoolerBundled cooler (overclockable to 3.8 GHz)---Raijintek Themis with AM2 Adapter$40
Thermal PasteNot Necessary---Gelid GC-Extreme$10
Power Supply Unit350 W, 80 PLUS Bronze$25Super Flower Golden Green 350 W 80 PLUS Gold$65
CaseCase with USB 3.0$25BitFenix Prodigy Red$80
Hard Drive1 TB Hard Drive (3.5")$601 TB Hard Drive (3.5")$60
Solid State DriveNone---120 GB SSD$65
Optical Disk DriveNone---DVD Drive$20
Total$415$730
  • esco_sid
    It does not make sense to spend $80 on a case for a budget entry system why all the focus on eye candy at additional cost ? for the money you can get better hardware such as fx-6300 setup with better graphics card that's what i would be worried about while on a budget.
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    The minimum version is a trully great budget build, while the Red Devil is more ITX luxury build. An SSD and $80 case on a gaming budget? ;p
    Reply
  • Zeh
    Nice article, but I guess it's really important for readers to understand that the extra stuff is completely optional and the main point is #415 gets you a very decent (if not Good) gaming PC.
    We have $315 spent on eye candy, SSD and a little bit more thermal headroom, which is 76% of the 'cheap' budget.

    Personally, I would only get the SSD. Maybe the MB with Wifi if I'm building something really small and would like to avoid cable clutter. Definately not gonna spend $50 on a bit more mhz, neither $55 on a case for cheap hardware,
    Reply
  • sparkyman215
    Error on page 4, paragraph 9: sticker -> stickler
    Reply
  • ddpruitt
    Now the trick is to benchmark both systems. Let's see if the "Bare Bones" build can keep up with the eye candy Red Devil build. I doubt there's a huge difference in performance, or perceptible noise levels. For a system that costs almost twice as much you might be able to be handle cost by going for functionality instead of looks. 240Gb SSD (or potentially more), better CPU or better GPU, though to each his own.

    For bonus points it would be nice to compare the budget build to a console in the same price range, but alas an Apples to Apples comparison isn't possible.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I really want to like articles like this. I lurk at the "budget" end of the spectrum myself, and some of the analysis on this one is really good, but I absolutely agree with Zeh; so much optional stuff was covered that it really distracted from what I expected to be the main point.
    I would have liked to have seen the bottom dollar build done first, followed by a discussion of what upgrades or enhancements might be substituted.
    Also, at least a few benchmarks are needed, if only to show that yes, this is a competent gamer, especially if "good" but less-than "UltraMaxOhWOW" settings are used.
    Reply
  • vertexx
    Nice article. This is definitely the way to present gaming system design, especially with graphics card selection based on CPU scaling. I really think the "Best Gaming CPU/GPUs for the $$" series could benefit from this approach. Instead of separating the CPU/GPU, you really want to look at the best combo's for the $$.

    I think you handled the "baseline" vs. "Red Devil" options well. The great thing about a budget build is not necessarily being a race to the bottom, but it's all about saving money so you can spend some on smart components that will add to the enjoyment of building and running the PC. With the case selection, that's a smart selection. Who wants to build a PC in a case that you're going to want to replace in 6 months? Perhaps you could have offered a cheaper alternative, but I like the choice to spend the extra $$ on the case.

    The only letdown I have is on memory scaling. There is a very long thread of debate in the Best CPUs for the $$ article about how strongly memory scaling impacts the 760K CPU because of its lack of L3 cache. The key seems to be that you also need to overclock NB freq. Because there are simply no reviews out there with a fully overclocked 760K platform, I was really hoping when I saw this article that the memory scaling would have been included.

    @Damric - if you're reading this article, perhaps you can chime in.

    Overall though, this is a great read! I can't wait to see a OC'd 760k vs. the upcoming OC'd Pentium in a budget shootout. If this is done, you really need to look at game selection and analyze games that optimize for more cores vs. the single-threaded performance in which the Pentium will excel.

    Reply
  • Bill Reinhardt
    Steam machine??
    Reply
  • Falcorion
    On the GPU selection page at the top it should read "Finding the Right GPU" not "Finding the Right CPU".

    Also, is there a reason we completely dismissed the r7 265?

    In fact it seems like you looked over a LOT of good value choices for a budget system.

    Tom's Hardware selections for a lot of their tests lately have had weird hardware choices....
    Reply
  • Falcorion
    Also, I wanted to add that your builder installed the PSU the wrong way, the fan should be facing the vent on the bottom, not the metal plate below the motherboard.
    Reply