Gaming Upgrade Kit stub

$437 Cheap Bastard's Budget Gaming PC Build - March, 2012

Posted on March 24, 2012

These budget gaming PC builds get a lot of interest, it seems -- and for good reason! Learning how to build a gaming PC is exceedingly easy, and these budget builds, or in this case, the Cheap Bastard's build, make great first systems and will still play most games on high settings, with a few medium setting games thrown in the mix. Have no fear! We at GN are here to help you build a powerful system at low cost. Just remember to comment below with any questions whatsoever, or post in our hardware forums for extensive help.


If you have a little extra cash lying around, we've also listed a few good alternatives to each part. This build is aimed for the gamer who has around $450 to spend, so if you have another $100 in your pocket, check out the $550 Budget Gaming PC Bulldozer Build.

We put this build together trying to find the lowest pre-rebate cost possible, and I think we did a great job. Check out the parts!


Budget Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Total
Video CardEVGA GTX 550 Ti$130-$20 MIR, free shipping$110
CPUAMD X3 450 Rana CPU$78Free Shipping$78
Memory4GB Patriot Gamer 2 Memory$25Free Shipping$25
MotherboardASRock M3A770DE Motherboard$60-$60
Power SupplyThermaltake 430W PSU$42-$12 MIR, Free Shipping$30
Hard Drive500GB Seagate 7200RPM HDD$86-$10, Free Shipping$76
Optical DriveSony Optical Drive$18Free Shipping$18
CaseRosewill Redbone Case$40-$40


Optional Add-ons (pick and choose as budget allows)

Add-on Parts ListNamePriceRebates/etc.Combined Total
Operating System
Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium$100Free Shipping$537
Extra Fan
120mm Red LED Fan$8Free Shipping$544

Video Card:

Being on a budget means you have to get the best parts at the lowest price. It is true that the 6850 outperforms the GTX 550 Ti, as our price-to-performance chart will testify, but the 550 Ti remains a solid card at its easygoing price. EVGA seems to be nVidia's card of choice, and this video card delivers: With a solid 1GB of GDDR5 memory and 192-bit memory interface, you should have no problem running most of your favorite games at mid-to-high settings. You can check out our GPU dictionary for help understanding the terminology - but in short, the card stands its ground firmly, threatened only if you have some extra cash.

Have an extra $20? You should pick up the Sapphire 6850; it outperforms the 550 Ti by around 25% across the board, but the 550ti will be fine if you cannot afford the upgrade.


Ahhhhh, the tri-core CPU. This has been our go-to sub-$500 budget CPU for a while now, although our Intel i3-2120 build performs incredibly, if you can afford it. For the unfamiliar with how X3 CPUs work, AMD disables the fourth core of the Phenom II and repackages it as the Athlon II X3 to get rid of excess inventory. This is a wonderful thing: by purchasing this, given the right motherboard, you have a chance to enter yourself into the Core Lotto! Most motherboards have features that allow you to unlock the cores in many processors. Some call it UCC, some call it ACC, but either way it's named, it just unlocks the true potential of this chip. Some unlocked cores are unstable and volatile, but haven't caused any serious (from what we've experienced), residual damage - simply re-lock the core if it doesn't work out.

For the price, even three cores is a deal. Seeing how most games only utilize up to two threads simultaneously anyway, letting the video card do the heavy-lifting, this CPU will be plenty for our budget.

Have more money? Look at our other builds and find one in your range - a CPU upgrade would be best complimented by a different system.


Not since Mel Gibson portrayed farmer Benjamin Martin in the film of the same name has a Patriot been so badass. What you have here is the 4GB of 1333MHz equivalent of American Braveheart killing evil English actors.

Although 8GB is quite affordable these days, it's simply not required at this -- or most -- budgets. Some games require 2GB of RAM, and many recommend 2-4GB, but few utilize that much (Large Address Aware issues are also abound, rendering more memory effectively useless for gaming). Still, more memory will help with development tasks or heavy browsing while gaming.

This memory will work out great with our components and only costs $25. A steal.

Have $20 more? G.Skill's Ripjaws series is affordable and performs admirably - for $47, you get 8GB of 1600MHz RAM.


ASRock's MA3A770DE had been one of our favorite motherboards on a budget, but sadly, it went out of stock and disappeared for what seemed like eternity. It's back with a vengeance. A budgeted vengeance, of course - and one with plastic guns instead of real ones - but it's back nonetheless. We had to grab it fast before it sells out again. I have to admit I am not a big fan of the color scheme, but it has all you need in a budget motherboard -- beggers can't be choosers, apparently.

Have an extra $30? Consider an upgrade - ASUS' M5A97 AM3+ board is compatible with the rest of the build and worthy of its own shrine. It's an amazing board, so if you can afford it, spring for it. Remember: Motherboards are you backbone - a strong one is upgradeable for years.

Power Supply:

Thermaltake has a real deal on the TR2 W0070RUC for you today: A 430W power supply -- plenty for the low draw and budgetary components of this system -- for the a frightening $30 after rebates. We looked into the PSU - it's definitely not somewhere you should skimp, that's for sure - and surprisingly, the price doesn't necessarily reflect its performance. It's had solid reviews and runs stable for most users - more than the average PSU, anyway - and has enough power for this rig.

The system we are putting together will only demand around 350W, so this power supply will work out great. If you plan on making changes to this build - including the ones we've listed above, like the video card - please post below so we can make sure you have a strong enough power supply for your system.

Hard Drive:

As most of you know, HDD prices are currently insane (due to factory flooding) and will remain that way for a while. We had a fun time finding the best HDD for a reasonable price - and by fun, I mean agonizing. Barely managing to get a 500GB hard drive at 7200rpm for $75, we'll be able to load it up with Windows and plenty of games to last through the prices. You can always buy another, cheaper drive at a later date.

If you have a hard drive from an older system you can salvage, by all means, please do. This way you save money or you can upgrade another component instead. Prices are still about 2x what they should be, but in the very least, this 500GB, 7200RPM drive is great for our gaming needs.

A good option here would be a SSD, but it's not necessarily mindful of the budget. The prices of solid state drives are dropping, and now's as good a time as any to add one. The Mushkin Chronos 60GB is only $80 right now, but the CPU and GPU should be swapped out before adding any fancy drives. If you want to better understand how SSDs funtion, consult the SSD Dictionary.

Use this code at checkout for an instant $10 discount: 63468-1211.

Optical Drive:

Here we have a Sony DVD burner for $18. That about says it all. In the same way as your hard drive, if you have an older optical drive from another system, then slap it in this build. Optical drive technology hasn't changed in years, so even if you have a system from four years ago - as long as it's using SATA - you should be good to go.

Regardless, this one does what it's supposed to: reads and writes discs.


This is the one part of the build you will see the most, so we want it to look good. The fittingly-named Redbone is a nice looking case at a great price. This mid-tower has enough room for all your parts, including your video card, though it only comes with two fans. We do advise you to add at least one more 120mm fan to keep your system cool and running smooth, but it's not an imminent upgrade and can be put off 'til later, if it's better for the bank. If the red/black look isn't your style, then the Blackbone is pretty much the same case with a blue/black scheme.

These budget builds are always fun to do, and I think we found some solid components for only $435. We can customize this build in many ways to fit your taste - just post any comments or questions below or head over to our forums.

-Mika Mann