It's been a while since we've done a true Cheap Bastard's gaming PC build -- our last one was our $506 Titanfall gaming computer back in February. This time we've done it a bit differently than before. My goal here is to build an entry-level gaming rig at the lowest price possible while offering plenty of room for upgrades. This build would be great for the gamer who plays games that do not require a great deal from the GPU. I included an FM2+ motherboard because it provides all the newer features missing from the dying AM3+ platform, like an onboard USB 3.0 header, and a newer Bolton chipset that makes it a more viable option than an older AM3+ motherboard.
In this $475 ultra-budget, cheap gaming PC build, we'll make component selections for building your own computer for lightweight gaming; a how-to video guide is included below, as is a list of upgrade options for those with a bit more cash to spend. If you've got some more money, we'd suggest checking out the $740 EverQuest PC (Intel) we posted recently.
So let's get to the build.
$475 DIY AMD Gaming Computer Build List - April, 2014
OS & Recommended Extras
How to Build a Gaming Computer - Step-by-Step Tutorial
AMD Athlon X4 760K CPU ($85): I decided to go with this CPU for many reasons. First of all, I wanted to be able to utilize an FM2+ motherboard in this build for a better motherboard selection compared to AM3+ motherboards, which haven't been refreshed in years. Especially not on the low-end. Next, the affordable Athlon X4 760K saves you money to lower overall entry price on this build or free up funding for other components - like the video card.
The Athlon X4 760K ships with a 3.8GHz Clock Speed and uses dual Piledriver modules with 4 threads. It is pretty much just an A10-6800K with the IGP disabled, lowering cost of the component. The lack of L3 cache is regrettable, but nothing that would be noticeable in a build of this price-point. For the price-to-performance ratio, it's one of the best CPU choices in its price bracket.
Why Not Kaveri?
The reason I decided to go with a Richland CPU over a Kaveri APU is simple: Richland outperforms Kaveri in pure CPU performance. The recent gains in Kaveri are almost exclusive to the IGP portion of the die (and a lot of the architecture isn't fully utilized on the software side yet), so since we're going to run graphics on a discrete video card in this build, the IGP will not be used in any worthwhile capacity anyway. That's money we can save by opting for a locked-down CPU over the full APU.
Kaveri dedicated 50% of the die to the IGP where Richland only dedicated 40% of the die to the IGP. This coupled with relatively uninteresting CPU architecture changes results in Richland pulling ahead in CPU performance.
Since the unit we chose is a 760K, it has unlocked multipliers to allow some level of overclocking support. If you'd like to venture into overclocking, we strongly suggest you pick up an aftermarket heatsink and ditch the hot stock cooler. Silverstone's Argon AR02 is on sale for only $28 and is one of the best budget coolers we've tested. Even if you don't plan on overclocking, purchasing this cooler (or similar) will allow the Athlon X4 760K to operate at lower temps and overall more efficiently.
EVGA GTX 750 Superclocked ($120): This is a relatively new arrival from NVIDIA aimed at budget gamers and those who need a low-TDP device. It is well-known that EVGA is one of the preferred brands of NVIDIA (often used in demo rigs for unveils).
Based on the first steps of Maxwell architecture, the GTX 750 is outfitted 512 CUDA cores and 1GB GDDR5 memory with a 5012MHz effective memory clock, delivering 25% more performance of equivalent previous generation GPUs. This model is factory overclocked to 1215MHz Base Clock/1294MHz Boost Clock, bringing it close to the performance of the 1GB GTX 750 Ti. You also get the common software that comes with more GTX video cards like GeForce Experience, PhysX support, TXAA Technology, and ShadowPlay. This video card will play most games at medium-to-highest settings (depending on the title) like LoL, WoW, BF4, SWTOR, and Titanfall (benchmarked on the Ti here). For games that require more from the GPU (like Crysis 3), it will play at medium settings depending on resolution.
If you can afford it, upgrading (below) would be a good choice; an extra 1GB of memory on the video card will have a big impact going forward in the games industry.
Have an extra $30? If you have $30 more to spend, you should pick up this MSI R7 265 OC'd video card. After NVIDIA released the 750 and 750Ti, AMD saw that their foothold in the budget video card sector was at risk. Just as when NVIDIA released the GTX 650 Ti boost in response to the HD 7850 last year, now AMD is doing the same in response to the 750. This MSI R7 265 is pretty much an R9 270 that is a slightly handicapped version. It boasts a 900MHz Core Clock with a 955MHz Boost Clock and 1024 Stream Processors; the memory spec rests at a normal 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit interface. Based on AMD's GCN architecture, it comes with an array of AMD proprietary technologies like App Acceleration, AMD ZeroCore, AMD HD3D technology, and Mantle to elevate your gaming experience. The R7 265 will play most games at high settings, the more demanding games like Crysis 3 and the upcoming Star Citizen at medium settings. It is truly worth the small price difference.
GeIL EVO Potenza 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM ($64): Here we have 2x4GB of 1600MHz RAM at what has rather unfortunately become the new "low" price. GeIL has thus far proven to be a reliable memory brand and gets great user reviews. 8GB will be more than enough for nearly any gaming build (and it looks nice with the heat spreaders).
MSI A88XM-E45 FM2+ Motherboard ($62): This board is loaded with AMD's new A88X (Bolton D4) chipset, which is the newest and best mainstream-class chipset AMD has to offer. You also get 4xDDR3 memory slots supporting up to 2133MHz memory natively, up to 64GB total RAM, 1xPCIe 3.0 x16 expansion slot, a PCIe 2.0 x16 (if used with multiple cards, it'll run at x4), 1xPCIe x1, and a PCI expansion slot. MSI's A88XM-E45 also has 8xSATA 6Gb/s (SATA III) connections. As far as audio, you get the somewhat standard Realtek ACC887 audio chipset with 7.1 audio channels; the I/O panel includes DVI, D-SUB, HDMI, two USB 2.0, four USB 3.0 ports, and two onboard USB 3.0 headers and four USB 2.0 headers. Some features offered with this motherboard are OC Genie 4, Click BIOS 4, and other UEFI elements for those a bit more intimidated by BIOS. For this price, you get a reasonable mATX motherboard to fit the small form factor case in this build.
Corsair CXM CX500M PSU ($35): It may be tempting to go with a cheaper PSU, but we never recommend cheaping out with a power supply. A PSU going bad can have cascading impact on the rest of the system's components. Nothing like that burnt capacitor smell to remind you that a good, quality power supply is worth paying a little more for.
Here I found a 500W modular PSU from Corsair; 500W will be enough to power this system in its current state, but if you're considering major overhauls (like a different video card), consult us below for assistance. This is modular and rated as 80 Plus Bronze, which would normally push it up to ~$60-$70, but an MIR and $15 instant promo code (EMCPFWB43) bring it down to $35.
WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($50): Once again we found a quality HDD with 1TB of storage for only $50. This would be a great storage option for any PC build. While not as fast as an SSD (and there are some good SSD sales now, see below), this Western Digital HDD is 7200RPM and comes with a 2-year warranty.
Crucial M500 240GB SSD ($120): We always suggest picking up a solid-state drive for faster data transfer rates that should, among other things, dramatically lower application loading times and boot Windows faster. The prices of SSDs have dropped significantly over the past two years, and this Crucial M500 is almost too good to pass up. For around 50 cents per GB, you get a starter OS SSD with room for a few games and core applications. You could forego the HDD and just purchase this instead if you do most of your work online (cloud storage) and can survive on 240GB. I recently purchased the 480GB version.
Xion XON-560_BK Case ($43): I love finding cases the most when doing builds. There's something simple about it, and yet the case is the one part where you get to showcase your style and taste outwardly. Some people like cases that are more subdued in design, others like their cases to be flashy and resemble spaceships (or certain 1980s cartoon robots...); I decided to go with a small form factor case that rests closer to the 'gamer' aesthetic for this one.
This Xion XON-560 is a smaller enclosure that provides many features we love in a gaming case. It provides plenty room for your components, good video card clearance up to 330mm, reasonable cable management options, and air flow / cooling that's good for our purposes. It comes with 2x120mm fans (front blue LED intake; rear 120mm exhaust) with the option to add another 120mm fan for $10 on the top, along with either 4x80mm or 1x200mm/220mm side intake fan. Unless you want your case to sound like a helicopter, I would suggest opting for the larger side fan option. Here is a blue LED 220mm fan for $10. This case also has an SSD shelf for up to three SSDs and up to three HDDs. There are four rear expansion slots and the front panel has 2xUSB 2.0 and 1xUSB 3.0 port (and standard 3.5mm jacks).
For $475, you get a great custom, DIY gaming PC build for the entry-level budget gamer. This build will play most games out at medium to highest settings, making it perfect for gamers who plays games like League of Legends, WoW, SWTOR, BF4, and Titanfall. This should give you a good idea of what you can do with a low budget in PC gaming and give you plenty of options for upgrades.
Please visit our forums for any questions or concerns or feel free to post a quick question below! Until next time!
- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann.