Hello, everyone! My name is Alvin (a.k.a. TheDramaLlama) and I’d like to poke fun at all the old… er, say hi to everyone here at TechREACTION.
For my first blog, I’m going to do a rough overview on budget PC building. No, not your run-of-the-mill budget PC building, I’m writing about college-kid’s-budget gaming PC building, since college kids like me belong to a fantastic little niche, filled with people in situations I like to describe as, “Mommy, I have no money but I love expensive things.”
However, I’m not going to go into too much detail, both because this is my first post, and also because there are plenty of sources for that kind of neck-deep technical stuff already. Instead, I’m going to go over the lessons I’ve learned in building my first budget gaming PC, a rather peckish $1,000 affair with which I am now 90% satisfied. The other 10%, of course, belongs to the group of people I like to describe as, “I’m filthy rich and want more more more more frames.” If only.
Anyway, let’s start off with the specifications of my rig.
For my monitor, I got a 25″ Hanns-G 2ms LCD at 1080p. Deals, deals, deals.
For my CPU, I got an AMD Phenom II X4 at 3.2Ghz. I have yet to overclock this, although I’ve been feeling the bottleneck lately and will probably aim for 3.8 once I get a nice new cooler. Although to be honest, the “stock” cooler included with the processor was surprisingly large and effective. (I promise I’ll have pictures for my next post.)
For my GPU, I got an XFX Radeon 5770. I’ve been having some driver issues with this card (see forum for details), so I’ve been unable to overclock it; however, I’ve heard good stories of >1Ghz overclocks, so I’m holding out for now. I’m also planning on another 5770 in the near future and some Crossfire goodness, if budget allows.
For my motherboard, I have the Gigabyte 790X AM3 USB3 SATA6. Quite a nice futureproof motherboard for about $150.
And for RAM, OCZ 2x2Gb DDR3-1600. Everything else is the usual.
My first piece of advice when looking for a budget rig is to never, ever, ever look at top-of-the-line parts. They will make you feel bad, and you will not be able to afford them. Instead, bump it down a notch. For example, instead of the Phenom II X6, show some love for an X4. Instead of an i7, grab yourself a nice, fat hunk of i5. AMD chips tend to be on the cheaper side as compared to Intel, although they’re naturally outperformed, as well. I would personally never pay more than $200 for a budget PC’s processor, but then again, it’s up to your budget.
My second piece of advice is to get the most expensive mid-range graphics card you can afford. Don’t even bother looking at the 5970, or even the 5870 for that matter; instead, go for a nice mid-range 5770. Keep in mind that the price margin between the 5770 and the 5850 is roughly 40% (i.e. the 5770 is 40% cheaper than the 5850), but, in a brilliant stroke of marketing genius by ATI, you sacrifice about the same amount of performance. I chose the 5770 because $150 fit my budget, but again, it’s up to you.
My third piece of advice is to get a good, futureproof motherboard. I’m not particularly familiar with Intel motherboards, so I won’t say much about them, but I’ve heard horror stories about socket compatibility with the newest i7 chips; make sure you do your research before you invest in a motherboard that will become incompatible with new chips in a year or two. A good idea is to invest in the top-of-the-line previous generation motherboard; they are usually relatively futureproof, as well as extensively tested and reliable.
My fourth piece of advice is to never skimp on essential components. You can skimp on a case if you’d like to, or get a cheap-ish power supply, or settle for value DDR3 RAM, but as far as your CPU and GPU are concerned, you should never go low-end. Remember, you’re building a budget gaming PC, not a budget bucket-o’-bolts. All the savings in the world won’t matter when you dent your tower with a sledgehammer fist out of frustration.
My last piece of advice is to wait for good deals. It’s not always financially prudent to order all of your parts at the same time, and certainly not from the same vendor; you’ll often find fantastic deals on parts from all over the place, and more often than not, it will be worth your time to order your parts piecemeal and hunt for deals. You’d be surprised at how much you could save just by building your rig over the span of a week or two instead of a single day.
Well, that’s all for me for now. If you’re a cash-strapped college student, I hope you found this first post somewhat useful; I doubt all you rich folks with i7s will find much to glean from this.
Till next time,