Maybe you are a student or someone who just simply doesn’t have a big budget to spend on PC gaming. You listen to all your friends talk about an awesome Dota 2 game they played last night and you want to join in. Whether you are new to PC gaming or you wish to upgrade your current computer, we’ve written this guide to help you build your very own cheap gaming computer.
PC gaming has received a recent resurgence in popularity. It seems developers are once again paying more attention to the PC gaming market. From the multitude of charming indie games to blockbuster triple A titles, there seems to be a new game being released every week.
There’s no reason why you can’t join in on the fun of exclusive PC titles such as League of Legends, Sim City, Diablo III and StarCraft II. You can experience all the joys of PC gaming with a cheap gaming computer.
One of the many benefits of PC gaming is the ability to customize your own hardware and software. Just like how a drag racer is built to move as fast as possible in a straight line, you can customize your own hardware to maximize gaming performance while saving money.
Cheap Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad
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How many times have you heard the expression, “you get what you pay for”? This saying still holds true in PC gaming, but there’s somewhat an exception as well. The current generation gaming consoles are now almost a decade old, both the PS3 and XBOX 360 were released in 2005. A lot of new games are multi-platform, meaning they are developed for PC, PS3 and the XBOX 360. Now if gaming consoles are running on hardware that is almost 10 years old, and PC gaming hardware hasn’t stopped progressing, it means you can run most modern games without spending too much money.
Game developers aren’t stupid, they know their audience, they know that not everyone can afford an expensive gaming PC. If you’ve ever used Steam, you may have been asked to participate in a hardware survey, this helps developers gauge the average PC specs so they can better develop their games for current PC users.
Another advantage that PC gaming has over console gaming is the ability to customize the performance of your games. You can tell your games to run at a lower resolution and use lower settings to squeeze out every bit of performance from your computer. This is a useful technique that allows your computer to keep up with the performance demands of some resource heavy games.
Smart game development combined with customizable game settings means you can still enjoy new video games with a cheap gaming computer without sacrificing performance and the size of your wallet.
The processor is the engine that drives your entire computer. There are only two names you should look at when considering CPUs: Intel and AMD. At the moment, Intel make better CPUs overall, they are faster and consume less power, but they are more expensive then their AMD counterparts.
If you can afford it, the Intel i7-3770K is the best CPU right now for gaming. But since a lot of you reading this article will most likely are look to buy a cheap gaming computer, we will also list some more affordable options.
If you are looking to buy an Intel processor, make sure you are buying an Ivy Bridge CPU. The new Intel Ivy Bridge processors begin with a 3 in the model number (eg. i7-3770K, i5-3570K). The Intel i5-3570K is a very good option for a cheap gaming computer, it will provide you all the processing power you need for current and future games. The 3570K goes for about $210 – $220.
If you need to reduce your spending even further you can go for the i5-3470 which retails for $180 – $190. We recommend that you have at least a quad-core for a gaming PC, anything less will most likely not be able to cope with future games. If the Intel cores are a bit expensive for your liking, you should consider building an AMD computer.
Whether you are a young professional or a young student we understand you don’t have a big budget for a computer. AMD products really suit the gamer who wants a cheap gaming computer, they are by no means a bad product, it’s just that Intel have the lead in the market at the moment.
AMD products excel in the pricing and value for dollar categories. For $180 you can purchase yourself a 8 core (that’s right an eight core) processor. The AMD FX – 8350 is a great CPU that will give you exhilarating performance at an affordable price. If you want to lower the price, you should look at the FX – 4300 and FX – 4170, these are AMD’s best quad core processors that can be bought for around $120, the FX – 4170 is slightly faster, running at 4.2GHz compared to the FX – 4300’s 3.8 GHz.
Graphics Card (GPU)
Everybody loves good graphics in a video game. Remember the first time you swam around in the waters of Crysis, then you suddenly dived under the surface. The underwater view looked so real, it made you feel like you were floating on a tropical beach.
The demand for better graphics in games means that graphics are becoming more and more complex. To have the best visual experience while still maintaining high playability, you need a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU). To make sure your graphics card can run new games, you should look up benchmarks for your graphics card. This will show you an estimate of the performance you can expect.
Since we are on the topic of cheap gaming computers, we will show you the best value for money graphics cards. The Radeon HD 7850 has been a very popular choice for many years and still remains one of the best value for money graphics cards. You can find a Radeon HD 7850 for $150 – $160. Another popular choice is the GeForce GTX 650, the cheapest GTX 650 can be bought for under $100, however it offers considerable worse performance than the Radeon HD 7850.
If you are able to spend a little bit more, you can purchase the the GeForce GTX 660 and Radeon HD 7870 for a little over $200.
Have you ever tried to run multiple programs at the same time and things start slowing down and freezing? The amount of memory affects how well your computer copes with multitasking. Gaming isn’t an overly RAM heavy activity, but you should aim for 8GB of RAM. 4GB is the minimum, but 8GB will ensure you don’t run into any memory issues. Make sure you buy DDR3 RAM, don’t worry too much about the speed of the RAM. The difference between 1333 MHz and 1600 MHz is so small it doesn’t really matter (unless you plan to overclock your PC).
You can easily find 8GB of RAM for less than $100.
The motherboard connects every piece of you computer together, and also has some essential parts that run your computer. A lot of PC owners usually don’t know much about the motherboard, and they simply buy the motherboard that has all the features and hardware they want.
The simple rule of buying a motherboard board is to determine your budget and determine what you want out of your motherboard. Do you want SLI capabilities (dual graphics cards), an integrated network card, etc.
Make sure the motherboard you want to buy supports all your components of your cheap gaming computer, most importantly the CPU and GPU.
Are you constantly monitoring how many gigs of hard drive space you have left after installing all your games and other files you have on your computer? If you are one of the people that need a lot of hard drive space you should consider buying one or more 1 TB hard drives. A terabyte (TB) is plenty of space, and with new games being over 10GB you will need all the space you can get if you expect to play a lot of different games.
If you can afford it, you can look into a SSD drive. This is a new style of hard drive that decreases loading times, you can use it for your operating system and games that you play frequently. This will decrease the amount of time you spend twiddling your thumbs waiting for you PC to boot and your games to load. However, SSDs aren’t cheap and also have limited storage space, so they are mostly used for applications and your OS that you use often.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
The PSU supplies power to your computer and is actually one of the most important pieces of hardware for your PC. If you afford it, you should buy a PSU from a reputable company. There are many horror stories of a failing PSU destroying computers. The PSU’s job is to supply power to your computer and to prevent electrical surges/damages to the components of your computer.
The most important thing to look for in a PSU, is the power requirements of your computer. The GPU is the component that will consume the most power, you should look the minimum requirements of your GPU and other parts to buy a PSU that can supply enough power to run your computer. If you don’t have enough power, your computer may run a lot slower or not run at all.
Case and Fan
The case and fan usually come together, unless you want additional cooling (eg. For overclocking), the stock fan that comes with the case will keep your computer nice and cool. Make sure your case is big enough to hold all the parts you want and has enough slots for all the different components you will setup.
If you are willing to spend a little more, you can make your computer look like a bad-ass. There are a lot of stylish cases that can make your cheap gaming computer look like it cost a fortune.
How to Put Together Your Own Cheap Gaming Computer
It is completely feasible for you to buy all the parts and put the computer together yourself. There are a lot of guides and videos that teach you how to build a computer. However if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you can always place a custom order to have it assembled by professionals.
Where to Shop For Your Cheap Gaming Computer
A big part of getting a quality gaming computer for a low price is your ability to shop and find bargains. We recommend using TigerDirect, as they offer competitive prices and the option to receive rebates for your purchases. You can purchase all the parts we’ve mentioned in previous sections from TigerDirect.
If you are still confused about how to shop for a cheap gaming computer, TigerDirect has these great “barebone kits” that contain everything you need. These kits may not include a graphics card so you may have to buy the graphics card separately. These barebone kits ship the items as separate parts so you will need to assemble the computer yourself or ask a professional to do it for you.
Check out these amazing kits to get you started on your own cheap gaming computer:
- Intel i5-3570K kit for $512.99 (after rebate)
- AMD FX – 4300 with Radeon HD 6570 kit for $508.99 (after rebate)
- AMD FX – 4300 with GeForce GTX 650 kit for $529.99 (after rebate)
Thanks for reading, and we hope you are able to build the perfect cheap gaming computer that will provide you with PC gaming entertainment for years to come.