The Weekly Dracus #12: Budget Gaming Build V1

Hey guys!

So I was chatting around with some friends the other day, when the discussion shifted to how one of them had bought so many games on the last Steam sale, however they did not have the proper PC to play most of them – and they were not too keen on saving too much to buy one either.

So I went ahead and asked them if they have any specific graphical quality demands from their games, to which they responded: “As long as it’s playable, it’s fine.”
In that spirit, I took the time of assembling a small parts list for a budget gaming PC, that can simply run at least 95% of current games in the market, at least at the lowest settings, at a playable framerate (minimum 30 frames per second).

So, considering the above requirements, here is the parts list I put together:

Okay, most of us are so used to seeing all those Core i5s and i7s and GTX 1070s and all that fancy jazz for a “proper gaming PC” that we might be a little surprised/astonished/disgusted at the parts in the above build.

It is true  that, while these parts will not “kill” most games (i.e. we will most probably not get maxed out  graphics at 60fps or above for demanding titles), for people who are looking for a budget PC and already possess some basic components (monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers), this build is one of the most attractive choices.

Time to explain the parts choices though, so let’s get down to it.

CPU First and foremost, I shall explain the choice of CPU: the  i3 6100. This is the entry level model in the 6th generation Skylake family, part of which is also the sought-after i5 6600K and the enthusiast i7 6700K CPU.
The i3 6100 has two physical enabled cores, augmented by Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, thus allowing for 4 threads overall and it operates at a base clock of 3.7GHz.
It offers excellent single-core performance, and in gaming specifically the performance difference between this CPU and an i5 6600K, in games with few physics calculations, is minimal (e.g. Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3) and is usually no more than 5%.
Considering the above, and the price of ~$100, the i3 6100 makes for an excellent CPU choice for tackling games, although it may not be as effective in tasks like archive compression and video encoding (it still performs adequately, though).
ALTERNATIVE: PENTIUM G4400 In case of extreme budget limits, you could replace the i3 6100 with Pentium G4400. It costs a meager ~$60, and in gaming, it offers nearly identical performance to the i3, and terrifyingly similar performance to even an i5 6600K, in games that do not demand extreme calculations (e.g. physics), such as The Witcher 3 or Dark Souls 3.
Do note that one downside to this otherwise unbelievable gaming processor, is the drastically reduced performance in tasks such as archive compression, video editing, and other similar tasks, when compared to the multicore i5 and i7 processors.
WHY NOT AMD (YET)? Okay. We are talking about budget PCs here, and we have not even mentioned AMD processors. To be honest, and while I sincerely respect AMDs products, it has just not been going that well for them. For the same money, we would get a quite power-consuming, and easily heating CPU, that would possibly require overclocking and an aftermarket cooler for it to catch up with the i3’s performance.
A friend of mine has a similar setup to this one with an AMD CPU (an overclocked AMD FX 6350), but he already says he is choking it in overclocking to perform well and jokes about having to use a room fan to cool it in the summer. I’m not too much of a fan of this, especially when it comes to recommending PC parts to beginners.
If you absolutely want to get an AMD processor though, I recommend you wait until Ryzen CPUs come out in a few weeks, as of writing this thread.
Even with Ryzen though, it would be wise to wait for some benchmarks, to make sure it’s not all a blown out marketing tactic by AMD.

MOTHERBOARD The motherboard is nothing specific, really. Just the absolute barebone board that supports the CPU and GPU, with no additional features and trinkets (e.g. “enhanced sound” or features that enable extreme overclocking). In other words, it just works, and that is good enough. Nothing more, nothing less.

RAM Modern games suchas Battlefield 1 have come to require at least 16GB of memory in their specifications. This holds true, but mostly for higher quality settings. From experience, few games will even touch 5 or 6 gigabytes, and when they do, only momentarily (due to a specific scene in a game). Considering this, 8GB of RAM is cheap enough, and carries incredible performance/value ratio, which means you’ll get a pretty damn good bang for your buck from buying this part.

HDD Storage in the past few years, has been becoming exponentially larger, and cheaper, making 4TB hard drives recently somewhat affordable (well, until the recent Taiwan HDD crisis due to flooding, which destroyed a great stock of HDDs, skyrocketing their price). How much storage you actually need is really up to each user. On average, a few games, and some files such as music and movies (not talking about dozens of games of course, or a myriad of movie files) should cram together pretty well in 1TB of storage. This HDD by Western Digital offers 1TB of storage at a fantastic price of $50, with no catches whatsoever (no “green” or “eco” mode, or any trinkets like that). It’s a pure 1TB of value. Addionally, SSDs do not increase performance in gaming, other than reduced loading times for games/apps, however this is obviously not a priority, when for the same ~$50 you can barely get 120GB of SSD storage, which is rather insufficient for even the least demanding of users.

GPU The GPU is the lifeblood, the very core of a gaming PC. While other components such as the CPU and RAM also play quite an important role, a weaker GPU will have a much greater impact on performance than a weaker CPU or less RAM.
The RX 480 has 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM, a base clock of 1120MHz and a boost clock of 1266MHz, utilizing 2304 stream processors, and uses the 14nm fabrication node, for great power efficiency and improved heat output.
It is ideal for 1080p gaming, tackling certain games even at the maximum settings at 60fps, and also carries great performance/value ratio, proven countless times by a myriad of benchmarks all around the web.
I did not opt for cheaper GPUs, such as the RX 470 / GTX 1050Ti or the RX 460 / GTX 1050, because while these models are cheaper, they are also disproportionally less powerful, and are targetted towards specific games/genres, such as MOBAs for the RX 460, and mediocre 1080p performance for the RX 470.
I did not choose the 8GB version of the RX 480, because, while games are indeed more demanding nowadays for VRAM, there is absolutely no way a single game can take up more than 4GB, definitely not when running at 1080p, and definitely not when it’s not a VR game. At best, only a few games with extremely demanding texture settings will push the 4GB threshold, which is the reason for this choice.
WHAT ABOUT GTX 1060 OR GTX 1050Ti? Regarding the GTX 1050Ti, I already dismissed it as a candidate, for the same reasons as the RX 470.
As for the GTX 1060, I really can’t find any extremely serious reason why not to choose it, but I’ll try to convince you anyway: First of all, we shall dismiss the 6GB version of the GTX 1060, for the same reason we dismissed the 8GB version of the RX 480. Now, for the GTX 1060 3GB… The GTX 1060 3GB offers only slightly better performance than the RX 480 4GB, and usually comes at a quite greater price, although some $180 models came up recently. Additionally, the 3GB of VRAM, is perhaps a little concerning. I did say games are not that demanding of VRAM at 1080p, but let’s not start reducing our standards. 3GB vs 4GB might not seem much, but sometimes… it can be. Certain games can touch even the 2.5GB mark on higher settings, and that is concerning, especially if you are running other VRAM demanding tasks in the background (e.g. a Full HD YouTube music video). It is better to have some leeway, than choking the card when you try to perform a demanding task, on top of playing a game.
That still doesn’t fully rule out the GTX 1060 3GB as a potential candidate, though. For example, it offers a bit better heat output than the RX 480, as tradition has it with nVidia cards.
The RX 480 is only my personal choice. If you do wish to get a GTX 1060, go ahead. It won’t make much of a difference, and some models are not even $20 more expensive than the RX 480. It’s up to you on this one.

CASE Nothing too extreme, nothing too fancy – and yet it’s fully functional, and rather good looking: The NZXT S340. The S340 offers ample working space to fit and cable-manage our components, is slick and sturdy (steel makes up more than 90% of the materials of the chassis) and all of this in overall a very high quality build. Plus, it’s only $65. Amazing.

PSU The most vital part of every computer is the power supply. A bad power supply can, in the worst case, kill the entire system. This is a rare case, of course. But this doesn’t mean that an underpowered power supply cannot cause problems, such as freezes or unexpected shutdowns under load. That is why we must pick a power supply that is powerful enough to support all of our components, but at the same time not be overkill or extremely low quality.
That being said, I present you the EVGA SuperNOVA G2 550W power supply. 550W, more than enough to house all of our components with ample wattage to spare, absolutely outstanding build quality, 80+ Gold efficiency, 7 year warranty (EVGA offers amazing support), all for $80. Even in budget builds, we must pay attention to which PSU we choose. And this one is well-chosen.

That concludes this parts list analysis for an ultra budget <$600 budget build. Bear in mind that, while I did try to offer clear enough explanations for the parts I chose, as well as alternatives to them, not everyone might agree with me – and that is quite the point. This build is to help people who want in on some gaming, better productivity and increased performance in their computing experience, at a small cost.
If you guys have any opinions about my choices or anything related to this build or budget PC building, do share!

Thanks for reading. See you in the next issue!

– Dracus

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