IntroductionIn this article, which our team will regularly update, we will maintain a list of parts for a $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.
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, while 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 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.
|Budget Powerhouse Gaming PC|
|Processor:||AMD Ryzen 5 2600 3.4 GHz 6-Core 12-Thread Processor||$118|
|CPU Cooler:||AMD Wraith Stealth||Included free|
|Motherboard:||ASRock B450 PRO4||$90|
|System Memory:||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8 GB (2x 4GB) DDR4 3000 MHz||$45|
|OS Drive:||Crucial P1 1 TB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD||$96|
|Graphics Card:||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660 Super OC 6G||$240|
|Chassis:||Phanteks Eclipse P300||$60|
|Power Supply:||Corsair CX Series CX550M 80 PLUS Bronze 550 Watt||$70|
Not everyone will agree with the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 (review) being used here, but there is no better CPU for the cash because of the deep discounts it currently enjoys. The Ryzen 3600 is nearly $90 more. As for Intel options, your only real choice in this price segment would be the Core i5-9400F, which, when paired with a good quality entry-level motherboard, ends up about $30-$50 more expensive, and with the lack of Hyper-Threading, falls behind in multi-threaded workloads. If you plan to game, stream, have browser tabs open with guides, etc., the Ryzen CPU with its extra threads is going to handle those situations a bit better. However, if you prefer Intel, it is still a viable option that doesn't cost much more.
That said, the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 remains the value king here, and with the graphics card that has been selected, the performance difference will be a wash between the various processors since you'll be GPU limited most of the time anyway. However, If you have the extra cash, you can certainly switch to an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 or push for an Intel-based system using the Core i5-9600KF. Both of these will offer better performance but will increase the overall cost by around $100 to $130 since the Intel CPU will require an aftermarket cooler, and if you plan to overclock it, a Z370 motherboard. AMD does include a decent cooler with the Ryzen 5 2600, but if high temperatures or noise are a concern, spending an extra $30 to grab an aftermarket cooler like the FSP Windale 4 (review) is not a bad idea, either. It is an excellent entry-level cooler that performs better than the more popular Cooler Master Hyper 212X and similar derivatives while being far quieter.
To go with the AMD processor, we selected an ASRock B450 Pro4 motherboard. While inexpensive, it still has VRM heatsinks and a PCIe M.2 slot, and with AMD's dedication to Socket AM4, it is possible to upgrade this system to a Ryzen 3000 series processor for more cores/threads and higher clock speeds in the future. While cheaper motherboards are available, and this is a budget system build, we made the conscious decision not to cut corners by using the cheapest parts available. Instead, we decided to recommend the parts we would use. Going any cheaper on the motherboard means making quite a few sacrifices, such as no VRM heatsinks, which even with AMD's processors being very efficient, we don't recommend if you plan to upgrade down the road. As such, the ASRock B450 Pro4, while nowhere near a high-end offering, still delivers what is needed at an affordable price.
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 like the ASRock B365 Pro4 or other entry-level boards is fine. We would, however, recommend getting at least a VRM heatsink. If you do plan to overclock and spend the extra on the Intel Core i5-9600K or i5-9600KF, affordable options like the ASRock Z390 Pro4 are acceptable for the price. In general, it is worth noting that many of the more affordable motherboards may need a BIOS update to support these newer Intel chips.
In regards to system memory, we picked Corsair's Vengeance LPX 8 GB (2x 4 GB) DDR4 3000 MHz kit. It offers the right mix of speed and minimum capacity for a system today. It was also a conscious decision to pick a dual-channel kit, which can make quite the difference in regards to performance in some games and applications. That said, memory choice in this price range is more about speed and capacity for the dollar, so almost any similar kit will work just fine.
If you have a few extra dollars, it is worthwhile to jump to 16 GB of system memory. It is the first upgrade we would make, giving it priority over everything else for two reasons. First, it's the most affordable upgrade that makes a big difference in multitasking performance at the same time. Second, it prepares the system for future games as requirements slowly become more demanding. With that said, spending an extra $20 here will let you swap out to something like the Team Group T-FORCE VULCAN Z kits, of which you can find the 3000 MHz version for $60.
In today's world, it is SSD or bust even for entry-level systems. No one wants to wait for ages on Windows to load and be the last one in when playing online games with friends or deal with texture and asset pop-in on titles that stream in assets in the background as you play. As such, we selected Crucial's P1 1 TB NVMe SSD. No, it's not a fancy solution with a shiny heatsink or the fastest on the market in terms of speeds, but as noted in our review, what it does offer is a solid 5-year warranty and robust performance. That having been said, it is a large-capacity SSD, so there is no need for mechanical storage—at least not immediately. Considering the ease with which more storage can be added later quite cheaply, the Crucial P1 1 TB should prove more than adequate for your initial needs.
Other options for the SSD include Team Group MP34 1 TB, which comes in at a similar price point and uses TLC instead of QLC, which could matter if you regularly have to write a lot of data at high speeds. Other options exist, such as the Intel 660p series or even Corsair's MP510. There's plenty of robust options to pick from, so if you prefer a particular brand, you're likely to find a comparable option available.
For the graphics card, we opted for the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660 Super OC 6G. It offers enough performance to play today's AAA titles at 60+ FPS at 1080p Ultra settings with no problems. Many games are in fact playable at 1440p with headroom to spare. In the few where frame rates do dip, dropping a few settings to "medium" or "high" should quickly get your frame rates up above 60 FPS.
That said, our reviews show that most of the GeForce GTX 1660 Super cards perform just fine with acceptable noise levels and framerates. If you need to save money, GTX 1660 non-Super cards may soon see price reductions. Performance would be a bit lower, of course, but you could still save a few bucks while getting an excellent gaming experience. Another alternative could be AMD's upcoming Radeon RX 5500 Series, which has been announced, but for which performance numbers and pricing is unknown yet.
For the power supply, we went with the Corsair CX-M series 550-watt model (600 W review), which, while only an 80 Plus Bronze model, is still semi-modular and has the benefit of being widely accepted as a solid entry-level offering. It is also the right size for this system with the typical total power draw under load being near 50% of the unit's maximum output, which has it operate at peak efficiency when you are tossing grenades and blasting away foes.
Other options exist on the market, and many of these go on sale from time to time. However, at this price point, the CX550M is a reliable entry-level option that tends to have a stable price point. It is, of course, always worthwhile to keep an eye out for better deals. Just keep in mind that the power supply is the real heart of the system, so going super cheap should be avoided because if the power supply fails, it has a chance to kill the entire system. As such, it is worthwhile to stick with reliable brands and look up reviews on the units you're thinking of buying because the quality of power supplies can vary wildly.
For the case, we went 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. That said, 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 (review), Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 5, and so many more. You will be more limited by price than choice when it comes to a chassis, but there are plenty of options to pick from, so it's well worth it to search 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.
ConclusionIn conclusion, with this or a similar system configuration, you can expect solid productivity performance, a sense of snappiness when multitasking, and Full HD gaming without spending a ton of money. Again, while not everyone will agree with the choice of an AMD Ryzen 2600 in the face of their latest releases, its deep discount makes it the most attractive option available.
Due to the massive price cuts in SSDs over the last few years, there was no reason to pick a smaller SSD + HDD combo; instead, going with a single large-capacity SSD simplifies things immensely. You get an incredible level of performance along with enough space not to micromanage it or constantly swap games in and out just to play the next big title. Also, with the SSD being an M.2 drive, the case internals are kept nice and tidy. Thus, plenty of room for future storage expansion is available via the addition of SATA HDDs or SSDs.
The system even makes for a solid base for future performance upgrades. For example, you could grab a used Ryzen 3900X, which has 12 cores/24 threads, in the future should you need more performance. The power supply also provides enough overhead for a future graphics card upgrade.
Of course, if you happen to find yourself with a bit more to spend, we suggest opting for the swap to an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 for the boost it gives in gaming performance, while also delivering further performance boosts for multi-threaded workloads at a cost increase of about $90. Bumping the system from 8 GB of DDR4 to 16 GB of DDR4 is also a good idea and where we would start personally, considering doubling the system memory is the most affordable upgrade at $20-$30. However, these are simply suggestions. The most important thing is getting a system that fits your personal needs.
Agree or disagree with our recommendations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!