How I built a budget gaming PC for under $400

I had a goal this past year to build a budget gaming PC. Obviously everyone has different budget constraints, but my goal was to keep it under $400 which I was able to accomplish.

Here were my other goals for this system:
  1. Something with plenty of storage, but not overkill
  2. Decent boot times since it likely wouldn't be powered on 24/7
  3. Decent gaming experience without an expensive GPU
  4. Something I could also rely on for working from home

After lots of research to accomplish these goals for cheap, I decided to build an AMD box. AMD vs Intel is an age-old battle that I honestly don't care for.. I've mostly used Intel my whole life, but I can tell you that I'm quite satisfied with my AMD's performance. Most people can agree that AMD is an excellent choice for boxes on a budget.

When researching how to get decent gaming performance without throwing my whole budget at a GPU, I discovered the AMD APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). I took a chance on this CPU with an integrated GPU and have been pleasantly surprised! So on to the system specs..

CPUAMD A10 6800k$129.99
MemoryG.Skill Ripjaw X 8GB$84.99
MoboMSI A78m-E35$59.99

Hard DriveSeagate Hybrid Drive ST1000DX001 1TB$96
CaseAntech Mini P1800
PSUThermaltake TR2 TR-600$24.99 (with rebate)

I also had a 10% off coupon from Newegg that I applied to my mobo/memory purchase taking an additional $15 off the price. All in all, this system only set me back ~$380

Now to be fair, I did get an excellent computer case for free. It was an item a friend of mine had laying around collecting dust that he donated to my cause. However if you were to buy a new case, a quality one would certainly put you over the $400 mark.

Of my 4 goals listed above, the first two were solved by getting the Seagate SSHD. This 1TB harddrive is plenty of space for storing a good number of games, and the small SSD portion of the drive allows for incredibly fast boot times. All in all a great deal for a budget system.

Goal #3 was met by the magic of the APU. You can find all sorts of benchmarks and reviews of the AMD APU series, but my experience has been nothing but positive. The first game I loaded up and played was Batman: Arkham Asylum which I was able to play at max settings without any hindrance at full 1080p. The entire game was an absolute joy to play (especially for a Batman nerd like myself).

Moving on to Arkham City, well, I had to lower the resolution to a windowed 1600 x 900. This still allowed for high settings to be applied, so it looks great. For hard core gamers, this is a deal breaker. But hey, if you're hard core you're probably not interested in a budget gaming rig. For me, this is perfectly acceptable. Same video config needed for Injustice: Gods Among Us. Portal and Portal 2 can both be played with high settings, no issues.

One important note of caution: these kinds of results are possible due to the memory I specifically picked out. The memory is 8GB clocked at 2133Mhz. If you want to game on an APU, you must (MUST) get the fastest RAM you can afford. 2133 is what my mobo supports and what kept the memory reasonably priced. The RAM you decide to get will make or break your choice to use the APU.

Looks a little light in there, but it does the trick! The box has plenty of room for expanding in the future. I plan to get a full on SSD and another TB or two of spinning disk drives. Plus there's enough room for a large GPU if I ever decide it's worth dumping money into.

And there you have it. Simple yet satisfying! You can find me on Steam under the username phiredrop >> Add me on Steam <<

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