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System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC

Graphics Card and Hard Drive

Graphics Card : PNY VCG88512GXEB-FLB GeForce 8800 GT 512MB

A good chunk of the budget for any serious gaming box needs to go toward a powerful GPU. High-end video cards alone often cost more than our entire system, and some cutting-edge systems contain two or more of these cards. Our $500 machine isn’t going to challenge these systems, especially when it comes to maximum details, high resolutions, and high levels of FSAA. But thankfully, we have been seeing some incredible pricing on capable mainstream gaming cards for months that can indeed offer excellent gaming on a tight budget.

One such card is the AMD Radeon HD 4850. Although it was out of reach for this system, we can thank its arrival for lowering prices of other very good video cards such as the PNY 512 MB GeForce 8800 GT. It is a reference-clocked card with a single-slot cooler, and a fine choice for gaming on a limited budget.

Read Customer Reviews of PNY’s VCG88512GXEB-FLB GeForce 8800 GT 512MB

Let’s step back for a moment and consider it was just about one year ago when this first of a long line of G92 based cards broke onto the scene. It easily beat out the more expensive G80-based 640 MB 8800 GTS, and street prices were often well above the original suggested $250 retail price. Looking at current prices, the 8800 GT and its near identical twin the 9800 GT are available for just over $100, making either card an excellent buy for the budget-minded gamer.

Hard Drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3400620AS 400GB

Read Customer Reviews of Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.10 ST3400620AS 400GB

A budget of $500 didn’t force us to decide between performance and capacity in choosing a hard drive. This 400 GB Seagate has plenty of storage space for a gaming system and even most users’ needs. But it is also fast and quiet, and has a 16 MB cache buffer in addition to the added bonus of being backed by Seagate’s reliability and five-year warranty.

  • radguy
    Thanks for the article. I always enjoy these sbm builds you guys do. I guessed wrong again but actually think you guys picked a better choice. Nice to know build quality is still taken into consideration even at the 500 dollar range. Also just to mention this again next time noise and power consumption charts please.
    Reply
  • "The silicon hard drive grommets"

    That wouldn't dampen much noise.

    Try silicone hard drive grommets
    (They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    I wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only.

    Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
    Reply
  • xx12amanxx
    I would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    xX12amanXxI would have spent maybe 30$ on a cheapo case and put the 50$ toward's a hd4850! Most people building a 500$ pc are going to want maximun performance and not care what the case looks like.
    $30 for a case and PSU? Sounds like a build asking for trouble. I personally don't think $80 for a nice chassis and power supply is bad.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shOI wish you used the E5200 CPU for this build, current prices reflect a difference of $14 only. Also, in the future, would it be possible for you to have two builds for the $500 budget build. One based on Intel AND the other on AMD?
    Heya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    cangeliniHeya Slo! We're actually weighing the possibility of simply switching off each month on the $500 system since AMD has some very compelling hardware in that range.
    Well in this case, an AMD build might have allowed for a 4850. I look forward to seeing what you decide upon but I still think a monthly build of each platform at the $500 build is definitely something worthwhile.

    Transitioning month to month between the two usually does not allow for comparative annalist in your "Performance And Value, Dissected" write-ups
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Slomo4shO
    Gotcha. We'll discuss that as a possibility, then.
    Reply
  • lounge lizard
    I love the article and second the notion that it would be a great idea to run it every month. I for one am a firm believer of upgrading more consistently at a reasonable cost per component rather then just throwing $1500 at new machine.

    At some point it would be interesting if you guys could run an Upgrade Edition of the $500 system builder. Most people that have the courage and knowledge to overclock their new parts by over 50% (wow the E2180 rocks!)would almost definitely have components that they could and would want to swap between rigs.

    Again, great article.
    Reply
  • reasonablevoice
    king_edgar"The silicon hard drive grommets" That wouldn't dampen much noise.Try silicone hard drive grommets(They are usually silicon-oxygen based polymers)
    What the hell are you saying?
    Reply