IntroductionIn this article, which our team will regularly update, we will maintain a list of parts for a roughly $700 budget system build that focuses on value for money without sacrificing quality, features, and support. Whenever possible, it is also our goal to recommend parts we have personally used or reviewed. Still, considering how much choice exists in the market today, that is not always doable. Regardless, our goal here is to provide the community with a solid foundation from which to build a custom PC. Of course, this includes those just getting started in the world of PC gaming, or perhaps you want a new workstation for work at home.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, prices and availability are a bit spotty in some areas. So rather than using US retailers, we have gone with EU retailers because their prices are far more stable, and the selection is quite a bit better. Prices in Europe can roughly be considered the same as in the USA in euros as, generally speaking, $1 without tax equals €1 after VAT.
With that out of the way, It should be noted that certain items will not be included in these build guides. First and foremost, we do not cover the cost of an operating system. How you obtain a Windows 10 license is up to you, be it a retail key, OEM key, or from a key reseller. Each alternative varies wildly in price. A retail key is far more expensive, while keys from resellers, although cheap, are considered sketchy by some. You also have the option of using Linux. Thus, the final decision is yours to make.
The same goes for the mouse, keyboard, speakers, or other accessories. These are very much up to personal taste, so we will not attempt to recommend a one-size-fits-all solution here, as these are probably not the best choices for what you need. Instead, we would recommend reading our reviews on various offerings for an informed decision on which PC peripherals best suit you.
If you feel lost, do hit us up in the forums or the comments section for this article.
System ConfigurationThe "budget gaming build" is, as the name suggests, a bang for the buck configuration that is tailored to get you into PC gaming without breaking the bank and leaving your wallet empty. It is best suited for 1080p and 1440p gaming. If you want to lower the price further, you can likely find quality used parts on the web, if you're comfortable with that route. You can also hunt for the best-possible deals via mail-in rebates or coupons. That said, we will focus on delivering a base configuration you can buy today with reliable parts that are covered by a warranty for some peace of mind.
|$700 Budget Gaming PC (June 2020)|
|Processor:||AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF 3.2 GHz 6-Core 12-Thread Processor||€121|
|CPU Cooler:||AMD Wraith Stealth||included for free|
|Motherboard:||ASRock B450M Pro 4||€82|
|System Memory:||Team Group T-Force Vulcan Z 2x 8 GB (16 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz kit||€65|
|OS Drive:||Crucial P1 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD||€120|
|Graphics Card:||Palit GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER 6 GB GamingPro OC||€237|
|Chassis:||Phanteks Eclipse P300||€60|
|Power Supply:||be quiet! Pure Power 11 400W 80 PLUS Gold (400W)||€55|
Our choice of CPU remains unchanged for this update because the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is essentially a Ryzen 2600 for a good deal less. It delivers performance on par with the Ryzen 5 2600 but saves you €20. It also comes with a bundled CPU cooler, which, while not fantastic, at least lets you get the system up and running. While it is true that the Ryzen 5 3600 is a faster processor, it also retails for €170, which is roughly €50 more. The only other options in this price range would be to opt for the Ryzen 3100 or 3300X, which are slightly cheaper and more expensive, respectively. However, with that said, you will be going from 6c/12t down to 4c/8t. Now, realistically, this doesn't matter all that much for the majority of games right now, but with new consoles coming soon and the boost in CPU processing power, the extra cores will likely prove useful going forward.
At the budget end of the spectrum, AMD is still a better value at this moment. Intel options are available, including the i3-10100 or i5-10400, but you would end up spending around €135 for the i3-10100 or €178 for the i5-10400. Another option for the blue camp is the i5-9400, but at €174, it is also priced above the AMD offerings. So while there are a lot of options in terms of CPUs, they are all priced a bit out of this particular budget, and that includes AMD's Ryzen 5 3600.
It's also worth mentioning that the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF does come with a stock cooler; however, if you want to keep noise and temperatures down, spending a few bucks on a cooler like the ID-Cooling SE224XT Basic (review) or any other entry-level tower cooler may be a worthwhile investment.
To go with the AMD processor, we selected an ASRock B450M PRO 4 motherboard. While it doesn't have WiFi like the previous selection, it's at least available at a reasonable price. Sure, far cheaper options are available. However, this board, like the selection for our last build, at the very least has a basic VRM heatsink, which is exposed because there are no plastic covers. This means airflow from the CPU cooler, chassis exhaust fan, etc., should provide some extra cooling for the VRM. The motherboard also has a couple of M.2 slots for SSDs. AMD's support of AM4 motherboards and their older chipsets means future upgrades are also possible here. Other options in the same price range include the Gigabyte B450 AORUS M and ASUS TUF B450M-Plus Gaming.
AMD just launched their B550 chipset, and multiple B550 motherboards are currently available, but pricing remains a bit high on these to where they are roughly €50 more expensive for the most affordable options. Now, the company does have their A520 chipset in the works, but we don't have any actual details on its capabilities, so while it's likely the most affordable option, it may not be as feature-rich as a B450 motherboard.
As noted above, if you decide to go with an Intel system at this price point, you will need a comparable motherboard. If you don't plan to overclock, going with something with the B365 chipset for the Intel Core i5-9400 is a valid option. But if you plan to go with a 10th generation processor, your only option in this price range would be the B460 chipset. If that is the route you plan to take, we recommend getting a motherboard with at least a VRM heatsink.
In regards to system memory, we selected Team Group's T-Force Vulcan Z 2x 8 GB (16 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz kit. Cost-effective and with a neutral design and relatively low-profile heatsinks, it likely won't conflict with the majority of CPU coolers you pick if you are upgrading from stock. It is worth keeping in mind that while nice heatsinks might be appealing visually, your first goal should still be capacity and speed. Going with 8 GB of fancy-looking 2666 MHz memory will not serve you as well as picking a 16 GB kit at 3000 MHz or more that may be on the ugly side. So again, focus on kits with adequate capacity and speed before going for looks. For Ryzen processors the sweet spot most users should have no trouble getting stable tends to be between 3200 MHz and 3600 MHz.
SSDs are essentially mandatory now. Loading games on an HDD takes ages, and no one wants to sit around and waste time on that when they could be gaming. There is also the fact that the next generation of game consoles will also use SSDs, so if you are opting for a clunky HDD as your OS drive, you will likely be very unhappy with your system's performance at the end of the day. Thus, it is SSD or bust.
For this build, there were only a couple of affordable NVMe options at the time, so we went with the Crucial P1 1 TB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD. It offers solid performance numbers and is a QLC NAND flash drive. While QLC NAND isn't really a problem, it typically does not have the write durability of MLC or TLC drives, but for a gaming system, it will be just fine. That said, NAND prices have been slowly climbing, and with COVID-19 causing major disruptions, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for other solid NVMe drives, such as the Sabrent Rocket Q, TeamGroup MP34, Intel 660p series, or even Corsair's MP510. If you are willing to spend a bit more, other options include the XPG SX8200 Pro, which is a higher-performance SSD that can be found on sale on a fairly regular basis, or the ADATA Falcon 1 TB, which we reviewed and has only just recently been released.
If you absolutely need to save money, you can also save a few bucks by going with a 2.5" SATA SSD instead. In the grand scheme of things, you will not notice the difference between a SATA or NVMe SSD in regular consumer workloads and day to day tasks. A SATA SSD like the entry-level Crucial BX500 will allow you to keep the same 1 TB capacity while saving you around €20, and your OS and games will still boot quickly as well. It just doesn't offer the same level of raw performance. So if money is tight, this is a valid option to save a few bucks.
For the graphics card, we selected the Palit GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER 6 GB GamingPro OC. The dual-fan cooler will keep temperatures down, and while not the quietest cooler, as noted in our review, it still performs quite well and earned our Highly Recommended and Great Value awards. That having been said, any GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER will offer enough performance to play today's AAA titles at 60+ FPS with 1080p High/Ultra settings without running into any problems. Many games are in fact playable at 1440p with some headroom to spare, but as pricing remains rather chaotic, make sure to look for the best value since nearly all GeForce GTX 1660 Super cards perform similarly. The only thing to watch out for is how good the cooler is and how loud it can get—while performance may be similar, no one wants to listen to a leaf blower of a graphics card, either.
For the power supply, we opted for an 80 PLUS Gold model from be quiet! because of input from the TechPowerUp community. The Pure Power 11 400 W power supply may not allow for high-end graphics cards or insanely overclocked systems. However, in this particular price bracket, it is a reliable option with an attractive five-year warranty. Sure, it is not modular or even semi-modular, as we would prefer, but does the job, and unlike a generic Chinese unit for €15, it won't destroy your system.
It should also be noted that be quiet!'s Pure Power 11 lineup uses the same base FSP platform with some revisions as the Pure Power 10 series. So while there are minor differences, they can be interchanged for this build. Now, having said that, power supplies have also seen chaotic pricing in the US, with availability being quite spotty. As such, if this unit isn't available, keep an eye out for other options, like the previously recommended Corsair CX 550M, which remains a solid budget modular PSU. At the same time, another option is the Cooler Master MWE Bronze V2 450 W.
If none of these power supplies fit your needs, keep an eye out for deals and various sales as it is possible to score higher-tiered power supplies from time to time at these prices. COVID-19 has just made that process a bit more complicated. However, stick with reliable brands either way and look up reviews on the unit you're thinking about because the quality of power supplies can vary wildly, and if you have questions, seeking answers on our forums is a quick way to get some solid recommendations, especially if you list off the etailers/retailers you can buy from.
For the case, we stuck with the Phanteks Eclipse P300 (review). It offers enough space for most entry-level air coolers of up to 160 mm in height. When it comes to liquid-cooler support, the chassis can fit a 240 mm or 280 mm radiator in the front without giving up its clean design. Build quality is good, and working with the chassis is quite easy. The only downside at this price range is the lack of fans, with the Eclipse P300 only coming with a single 120 mm exhaust fan. However, for a build of this nature, that won't be a problem. It goes without saying, but since case selection tends to be up to personal taste, you can also opt for a wide range of other options in the same price range. Just make sure whatever you select fits your personal needs.
Other options in this price range include the NZXT H510 or Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3, among so many more. You will be more limited by price than choice when it comes to the chassis, but there are plenty of options to pick from, so it's well worth searching for something that truly suits your style. Just make sure it can handle your part selection by keeping things like GPU length, CPU cooler height, etc., in mind.
ConclusionNow, again, while this build may seem more focused on our European readers, the driving factor is that the numerical price difference in US dollars vs. euros is quite minimal, so what you see here is fairly similar regardless of location. With that out of the way, the system hasn't changed much from previous builds, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause problems and certain components continue to rise in price slowly. Newer CPUs and motherboards have been released, but availability is spotty, and pricing hasn't fully stabilized on them yet, either. As such, we stuck with the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF for now. While AMD does have some stellar entry-level offerings in the Ryzen 3 3100 and 3300X, the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is basically a Ryzen 2600 in disguise (look for that 12 nm designation vs. the 14 nm of the original Ryzen 5 1600), and while it doesn't win in terms of single-threaded tasks, it still does quite well compared to the newer quad-core parts. In multi-threaded tests, it has a lot more grunt. Thus, it delivers a nice balance with a bit of headroom to spare.
That said, this system can be upgraded to something like the Ryzen 7 3700 later on down the road for a bit of a performance uplift should games truly start making use of eight cores with the rise of new consoles. However, with the current level of GPU performance in this build, the Ryzen 1600 AF is a good fit. If you really want a bit more oomph, we suggest going with a Ryzen 3600. However, as noted earlier, spending that bit of extra does open up more possibilities, be it AMD or Intel.
As far as storage goes, while SSD prices are continuing to climb, they are still affordable enough that going for a larger capacity SSD makes more sense than going with a smaller SSD + HDD combo. Also, with our recommended SSD being an M.2 drive, case internals are easier to keep tidy as there are fewer wires and cables to be managed. This also leaves plenty of room for future storage expansion via the addition of SATA HDDs or SSDs if you need them.
Wrapping up, if you find yourself with a few dollars more to spend, we recommend grabbing an aftermarket CPU cooler for €25–€35 for the reduction in noise and increase in clock stability since temperature affects the CPU's boosted clock speed. After that, look into an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 for the 10% boost it gives in gaming performance on average. Another good option would be the addition of some extra fans to go with the aftermarket heatsink for improved overall system airflow. That said, these are simply suggestions. The most important thing is getting a system that fits your personal needs, and thus, this article serves as a jumping-off point to help you get started with building your very own PC.
Agree or disagree with our recommendations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!