E-sports and PC gaming is getting bigger than ever. We agree with Tripwire that PC gaming is in a second golden age only this time we see it going places it’s never been before. If you’re looking to join in the fun, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Building a PC is easy and affordable if you know what parts are compatible. In this post, I’ll give you my thoughts about a few different parts to help you build a gaming rig from as low as $200 up to around $250.
Why go Cheap?
There are a lot of reasons. First of all, I remember not having a dime to my name as a kid. My brothers and I put every dime we had into upgrading the computer our parent’s bought in order to be able to play classics like Master of Orion. For those kids being able to play is more important than the resolution and the settings.
A second good reason is for those in foreign countries who live in less money and in areas where PC components are more expensive. As someone who lived in Brazil for a few years of my life, I know just how expensive it can be.
What will this be able to play?
More than you might think. If you’re willing to tweak settings it’ll play many games on medium settings in 1080p and even today’s most demanding games in 720p.
A Good and Cheap $250 PC Build for 2015 – The Parts and Why:
No Dedicated Graphics Card:
We’ll be using one of AMD’s APUs in this build in order to fit within the budget. These Accelerated processing units have low range processing power with moderate graphical performance built into the chip that’s above that of integrated graphics found in your average CPU. I built a $150 gaming PC with a less expensive A4-7300 but this build will feature the Kaveri A8-7600 which comes in at around $20 to $25 more.
A4-7300 vs A8-7600
What you get for that extra $20 is quite a lot. For graphics you get AMD’s R7 instead of HD 8470D graphics and while the processing power is similar in single-threaded performance, the A8-7600 gives you an additional two cores.
If that weren’t enough, going with a Kaveri, rather than Richland APU, gives you computer cores which bridge the gap between CPU and GPU cores through HSA or the Heterogeneous System Architecture. This allows the CPU and GPU to share workloads thus accelerating the workload considerably.
A8 7600 Benchmarks:
For $75 More:
I can’t even suggest this build without saying that for around $75 more you can upgrade to a dedicated CPU and graphics card that will seriously improve your graphical and CPU performance. I’d suggest Intel’s anniversary edition Pentium G3258 or the Athlon X4 850k along with a 750Ti, R7 260X, or R7 360. Still, as $75 represents around 30% of our overall budget, I definitely understand those who would rather spend that on games or elsewhere.
For memory, you’re going to want to use a dual-channel configuration here. Using a single channel configuration will have a huge affect on your rig’s overall FPS. You can either go for 2×2 for around $30 or 2×4 for $40 to $50. I highly suggest you go ahead and go for the 2×4 configuration. I was able to find some Corsair Vengeance ram on sale here for a good price. Just go with something that’s from a known manufacturer, cheap, and 1600MHz or better.
For Storage try to find something cheap and with a high capacity. Going with 7200 RPM will make it faster to boot and for other programs but won’t necessarily make it faster in game. It also won’t have an affect on your in-game FPS. Since we only have a $30 budget for this, get whatever is the best deal or try to borrow something from an old PC.
Power Supplies Under $25
The budget for your power supply is around $25. There’s only a few power supplies in this category I’d even consider. If you don’t have anything cheap and of a decent quality in your area, you’ll have to pay up for something better. Cheap power supplies I like are the Antec Earthwatt, VP-450, or the EVGA 80 Plus 430 or 500 watt series. While the EVGA series doesn’t have the best capacitors I’ve ever seen, it’s definitely good enough for this build.
Your motherboard probably won’t have USB 3.0 headers here. While you’ll certainly be able to get this out of the back of the case, you’ll want to keep in mind compatibility. Only a few Micro/Mini cases fall within the $20 to $25 price range we have set for this build. The Xion Performance mATX and Rosewill FBM-02 are both options I’ve tested. I prefer the Xion. The front of it has a brushed metal finish that looks good in just about any environment and the case itself simply feels sturdier than other options at this price point. The included front blue LED fan is also a plus.
Other options are cheap mid-tower cases like Thermaltake’s VL80001W2Z or the HEC Enterprise case. If you go with something that has USB 3.0 ports in the front, consider using a USB 3.0 to 2.0 cable so that you can have some functionality with them.
The PC gaming golden age has just begun. Certainly there are many kids out there that could start their PC gaming careers with a machine just like this one. It would be great for competing in huge titles like CSGO or league of legends and they’d begin to amass their gaming library without fear that eventually they’d lose compatibility.