With low cost and little effort, you can build your own gaming desktop computer and it will be a BEAST, at a fraction of the cost of buying a brand new computer package from a store like Best Buy. Building the computer itself is a lot easier than you think. Once you open up the motherboard you’ll see what I mean. Everything is very clearly labeled and color coded. If you’ve ever installed RAM, a hard drive or a graphics card, you can build the whole machine from scratch and save money. Here are the basics. You want a good processor with a matching motherboard socket, compatible RAM, and a graphics card to support it. Below I have listed very up to date compatible parts for each gaming system. And some affordable systems that are already built.
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AMD Budget Build Parts List
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- CPU: AMD FX-8300 8 Core [view]
- Mobo: Gigabyte AM3+ Socket [view]
- GFX Card: GTX 1050 Gaming Edition [view]
- Memory: 8GB Gaming RAM [view]
- Hard Drive: 1TB SATA III 7200RPM [view]
- Power Supply: 450W PSU [view]
- Gaming Case: [view] [better options]
AMD Beefy Upgrades
- CPU: AMD FX-8350 4Ghz 8 Core [price]
- GFX: GTX 1060 Mini 3GB [price]
- Gaming RAM: 16GB Memory [price]
- Hard Drive: 250GB SSD [price]
This $500(floats around this price, click total to see current price) gaming computer build is brought to you by none other than the low cost AMD FX-8300 gaming processor. With a powerful eight core AMD CPU and the newest loaded cheap graphics card, this value build will handle better than a NextGen Console(think XBOX One / PS4) and it will give you the ability to have a computer for other things like Photoshop, web design, browsing and more. While it’s not the most powerful gaming PC, it’s got super bang for its buck and will run games looking better than a PS4 or XBOX One while lasting a long time. Of course you have the ability to upgrade any parts you see fit depending on your budget. Prices may fluctuate because it is the internet but the basic price floats at under $500 for this cheap build. Powerful gaming at a low cost.
The 8 core processor is going to be a huge step up for the price and the GTX 1060 is leaps and bounds more powerful and should be acquired if you have the funds. The same can be said about the SSD. You really shouldn’t have an OS installed on anything other than an Solid State Drive these days. These 3 upgrades will make this cheap gaming computer an actual powerhouse ready for all of today’s top games.
CPU: AMD FX-8350 8-Core Gaming AM3+ Processor
AMD’s premier high performance gaming processor with a whopping 8 cores. It does come with a heat-sink and will provide excellent frame rates at a low cost. Several people have asked why we went with the AMD over the Intel i3. When it comes to the FX-8350 vs the Intel i3 you immediately note that the AMD has 6 cores giving it the advantage to the Intel processor. Newer games and future games take advantage of more cores. Such as Battlefield 4+, Crysis and upcoming games. The AMD is also overclockable while the i3 is not. And it’s cheaper and this is a budget build.
Motherboard: Gigabyte AM3+ SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0
This Gigabyte Mobo is made with the AM3+ Socket for the AMD FX-8350 mentioned above and is suited for your gaming needs, allowing for up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM(next part below). It also has USB 3.0 Ports and built in Ethernet LAN Ports. It’s all you need for a base gaming system.
Video GFX Card: Brand New GTX 1050 Gaming Edition
The brand new ultimate mid range budget GFX Card. The GTX 1050 is the newest release low price range graphics card that can still play games like GTA V, Far Cry 3, Witcher 3, etc all on Ultra settings at 1080P and still get up to and over 60FPS. If you’re trying to run 4k you’ll need the Power Build below.
It has HDMI, DVIand a Display port so it’s thoroughly prepared for any monitor setup and will support up to 3 High Definition monitors. It is brand new and often out of stock due to popularity and having the best cost per performance statistics. If it is out of stock I suggest you buy it and the other components for this build now because they sell out as well. Luckily Amazon tells you when it will be back and it’s usually only a few days. This is a very popular PC build and may require waiting a few days for a part or two. Luckily they replenish this part often.
RAM: 8GB Gaming RAM
8GB of DDR3 is a good cheap duel channel set of RAM. You should never need more but I myself have 24GB because why not?
Hard Drive: Fast SATA 7200RPM
Internal Hard Drive from the ultimate drive manufacture. It runs at a max 7200RPM. If you can afford it, I would get this and the SSD mentioned below in Power Computer Upgrades for the OS Drive though.
Power Supply: 450W PSU NOT GENERIC
There are cheaper PSU’s out there but when it comes to this, it’s best to go with a known trusted gaming brand. The generic brands have been reported to burn out and fry motherboards.
Game Computer Case: Cheap mid tower and good looking
A good cheap computer gaming case. Mid range ATX so you have plenty of room to work inside, front USB ports and several fans. However if you can spare in the budget and want a better looking case, look below in the computer upgrades for more case options. Some are much cooler. I got the 500R as pictured below with my cat.
I did not include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc because I assume you already have one but if you do not, keep reading as they are all below in the Peripherals section of the article.
Budget Build Summary
With a powerful Six Core AMD processor and a loaded Graphics Card you’ll surely be saving a lot of money over top tier gaming computer prebuilt systems. All you have to do is put it together yourself and believe it or not, that’s the really easy part. You almost need no instructions but the motherboard does have all of the instructions included. The plugs, ports, connectors, etc are all clearly labeled and all you have to do is screw it in and match colors and what not.
How To Build A Gaming Computer On A Budget
Note: Some of these parts have mail in rebate offers so don’t forget to do those to save even more money! Also sometimes prices fluctuate and sometimes parts are out of stock due to high popularity of these specific builds but they will always be around the target price as I check it and update constantly to bring you the best power for value system.
Intel Power Build Parts List
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- CPU: Intel i5 6500 3.2GHz Skylake [view]
- Mobo: Gaming H170 LGA 1151 Socket [view]
- GFX Card: 4GB GTX 1060 Mini 3GB [view]
- Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM [view]
- Hard Drive: 1 Terabyte SATA 7200RPM [view]
- Power Supply: 450W PSU [view]
- Computer Case: [view] [better options]
i7 Beefy Upgrades
- i7 6700k Skylake 4Ghz [current price]
- GTX 1070 FTW Super GFX Card [current price]
- 250GB SSD [current price]
- CPU Fan: Needed for i7 [current price]
This desktop build generally runs under $800 and utilizes the brand new workhorse 6th Generation Intel i5 Skylake processor. It is all you need to run any current game on a 1080p HD monitor at ultra max settings. It can even run most games on a 1440p HD monitor! You can go above and beyond and spend more but then it’s only for bragging rights. This Intel i5 will blow the AMD desktop above away and only cost a little more. Keep in mind with this powerful desktop you can still easily upgrade it later. The motherboard LGA 1151 Socket can also fit the i7 Processor.
This specific desktop will also handle many other heavy task like video editing, Photoshop, large file processing and so on.
This is actually my build but the difference is I have an SSD Drive with my 1TB HDD. You can read more on that later. Oh and I went overkill and have 24GB of Memory. Why? The 8GB worked fine but why not?
An SSD is honestly the best possible upgrade you can get for a gaming computer. Why? Well I won’t go into details here but I have a full article on the SSD advantage here.
Most of you already know the SSD Upgrade and would like to know which drive to buy. The 250GB Evo is the prime medium. I personally have the 500GB but you may be fine with a 250GB as it will host Windows and many applications and games. Even if you get the 250GB SSD you can still get the 2nd 1TB magnetic disc hard drive for all of your storage and downloads.
The i7 upgrade is not mandatory for gaming, however with more and more games utilizing it’s multi threading quad core processing, it may be a good time to just get the i7 and be ready for the next wave of games. Plus if you’re going to do heavy stuff like video editing and processing, you should.
Processor: Intel Quad Core i5-6500 3.2GHz Skylake CPU
The brand new industry busting 6th gen i5 with the Skylake chipset is the best choice for a Power Build under $800 dollars. The i5 passes benchmarks with flying colors continuously and for it’s price, it’s all you need. It’s a LGA 1151 Socket and will work perfectly with the motherboard and graphics card paired. It kills benchmark tests when faced with the AMD.
This specific i5 is often out of stock due to high popularity so you may have to order it now and wait a few days. It’s worth it. If you’re wondering why we’re not recommending the i7 for this build, it’s because you honestly do not need it for gaming. The hyper threading will not give you a performance boost for modern games.
Motherboard: LGA 1151 H170 Chipset PCI-E 3.0 DDR4
This Gigabyte H170 board supports the LGA 1151 socket and fits perfectly with the i5 Series Processors. You can also put a i7 in it or upgrade later. It’s a great board. If you decide to get another motherboard be sure to get LGA 1151 for this processor.
GFX Card: GeForce GTX 1060 Mini 3GB GDDR5 VS R9 480 4GB
You’ve probably already heard about this card or had your eyes on it. Well, you were right, this is the card you want for this build. You’ll be able to run the current generation of games on ultra and get at least 65FPS but usually higher. If you look around, you’ll see many advocating for the R9 480 but why? Well, I kind of feel it is a covert advertising campaign in the form of forum users. Trickery. Almost every benchmark you’ve come across was using the GTX 1060 against the R9 480 shows the GTX 1060 being the better card.
RAM: 16GB DDR4 Gaming RAM
16 Gigs is going all out but you can upgrade this to 32GB if you want. Seriously, you won’t be able to tell the difference between 16GB and 32GB when gaming but if you’re like me, you’re going to go for 32GB of RAM anyway. Yeah, overkill.
Hard Drive: Fast 1 Terabyte 7200rpm
Same idea as before, internal drive but if you can afford it get the 250GB SSD for the OS installation. It is mentioned below in the Computer Upgrades. An SSD can be the single biggest boost to speed for your computer.
PSU: Non Generic 450w PSU
A known and trusted name brand power supply unit with 450w, more than enough to run this beast. If you plan on adding a 2nd video card you would have to get a bigger PSU.
Computer Tower: Perfect ATX Gaming Case
I personally spent more and went with the 500R pictured below but this case here is so cheap and has all that you need. It’s a super budget gaming case and really helps you put more money into things like the GFX Card and Random Access Memory. I have included more options below for you if you’d rather spend money on a case and get something you like.
Intel i5 Build Summary
This cheap power PC build packs a lot of power for it’s low under $800 price range. If there was one thing I would change about it, is I would get an SSD Drive for the main OS Partition. The Solid State Drive will surely increase performance immensely. My Windows installation boots up in under 10 seconds with the SSD installed. This computer will kill existing pre-builds that can cost well over $1,000 and for only around $800 and a little assembly you get the best money can buy. It will run any of today’s games on Ultra and look amazing. It’s pretty much what you’ve been waiting for.
Gaming Computer Parts List Guide
CPU aka Computer Processor Unit Intel Core i5 – Skylake Quad-Core Processor: The i5 is still the leading powerhouse when it comes to gaming processors. It is even a much better choice over the i7 if you’re trying to save money. More information on that below. But for now, our top recommendation is the i5 by Intel. Just be sure to get the right sized motherboard. Intel uses a number system such as Socket LGA 1151, get a mobo that also says Socket LGA 1151. These important numbers are usually very clear in the model number description. All of the parts we recommended above do match as you’ll notice in the parts titles.
Cheaper AMD Core Processor: If you’re really on a budget, the AMD is a good solid choice and many people do choose to go with an AMD Core CPU over the Intel. You just have to make sure to get the right motherboard which is easy because they are designated by a number system that matches up. For instance an AMD might says Socket AM3+ so you get a mobo that says Socket AM3+ and you’re good.
RAM aka Random Access Memory 8GB Memory: Any system running 8GB of DDR3 PC Memory should be fine in today’s world, so if you’re on a budget, just get 8GB of some gaming RAM such as Vengeance Corsair. The good thing about RAM is you can always upgrade it later. Even if you go with 4GB, an upgrade is cheap and easy.
16GB Memory: But if you want to be sure you have a maximum memory setup, 16GB of high performance RAM couldn’t hurt. I personally have 32GB, just because I can. But 16 Gig will be fine for you and even 8GB.
There are 2 main manufactures of graphics cards on the market today. AMD and Nvidia. There are quite a few players in this field from EVGA, MSI, Radeon, Sapphire, Gigabyte, ASUS and more. They each stick to one of the GPU’s or the other for their GFX lines as you’ll notice.
Mid Range GFX Card: I don’t list a low range video card because you really don’t want to go there for gaming. But a good mid range card can start at 4GB of GDDR5 Memory. The current market killer is the EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SuperSC listed in the $800(ish) Power Build above. For it’s price at this time, it doesn’t get much better than that.
High End Video Card: For some, mid range is not enough. Maybe you want to ultra 4k game. If you must, the GTX 980 is a beast and can be used for 4k Gaming. It is listed in i7 Build above.
First, a case or chassis that will have enough room for your hardware components and enough fans and air flow to keep your computer running cool. And a few LED fans to look cool couldn’t hurt.
I went personally with the Corsair 500R (actual photos) even though I recommend smaller cheaper cases above. This is if you have the extra money in your gaming budget.
To save money, if you want to give up some space / features, you can get one the cases above in the budget or power build.
If you have the money to spend then stick with the Corsair 500R that I got because it has a lot more room, the 2 front ports are USB 3.0 and the fans included are LED. It also has a lot more air flow due to the size and vents. That can save you money because you don’t have to buy a special water cooled unit or extra heat sinks. Mine runs cool on all fronts. Sure it’s big but I want it to look big and powerful. Because it is.
Why the more expensive case?
(2) Front USB 3.0 ports
Front headphones and mic jack
(2) Front intake 120mm LED fans included
(1) Rear exhaust 120mm fan included
(1) Side huge 200mm gigantic LED fan included
You would think this computer case sounds like a hover jet taking off but it is the quietest computer I have ever owned. Really, it’s a whisper.
And the LED fans turn off and on via a switch on the front so you won’t have to worry about the glowing spaceship in the corner at night.
As for heat, this thing is kind of like having an air conditioner in my room. It runs so cool.
But really, just look at all the room in this case. Lots of room for upgrades in the future. However you may not need or want this big of a case so feel free to go smaller and cheaper to save money and room. This is more than you need. But it makes it a lot easier to fiddle around in if you want to upgrade more later. The biggest plus for me is the USB 3.0 in front.
As you can see this computer case is beefed up and has a lot of room.
With the 200mm LED fan, it looks pretty awesome and even my kitty loves this case(or just attacking my feet).
Intel Vs AMD Gaming Processor
Of course you’re going to want a good fast computer processor. This is the heart of your desktop computer.
I did a lot of research on this topic because you have the newer more expensive Intel Core i7 or the workhorse sturdy cheaper Intel Core i5 Quad-Core Processor
What I found out was that in the long run for a gaming PC the Intel Core i5 is perfect. And what a surprise, the best seller on Amazon.
Intel i5 vs i7 you ask?
It turns out the added benefit for the i7 is hyper threading and most video games do not use that technology yet so it’s the same having an i5 but a lot more expensive. You would only get the i7 if you had money to throw away. For gaming, for now, the i5 is superior at it’s lower price range.
Read more about it here if you’d like.
AMD vs. Intel
Now the problem is you have the cheaper AMD and the slightly more expensive Intel i5. Which is better for gaming? Pros and Cons?
The AMD performs better by ever so little on multi thread events(almost not noticeable) but the Intel i5 kills it for gaming by far on single threaded benchmark and consumes a lot less power. So I guess it’s an easy decision, if you have the money you go with the i5 for gaming.
Intel i5 is the remaining champion when it comes to frames per second on high end games and it can not be touched by the AMD.
Best Gaming Graphics Card?
This was another topic I did a LOT of research on. The reason is the price ranges from $100 to $1,000 from low end to high end.
Now clearly I didn’t think I needed to spend a grand on the GFX card alone but I also didn’t want to save too much money and under perform.
I wanted a high frame rate while playing my games on ultra or high graphics and that’s what I got.
I wanted to get the BEST value for around $200.
But I had to do a lot of research, reading reviews, pros, cons, price comparison and checking out benchmark test results.
I came up with the best value for a mid ranged graphics card to be the GeForce mentioned above in the Power Build. I actually update this regularly as new models come out and price breaks hit. This GPU is great!
Best Gaming RAM?
You can beef everything up but if you skimp out on the Random Access Memory you’re just shorting yourself.
I went with 16GB of DDR3 RAM by Corsair(now I’ve upgraded to 32GB) because they had a sweet deal and have been a long standing champion in the gaming RAM field. Another easy clear winner.
This is an area you can save money and go more budget build by getting the Vengeance 8GB set instead. 8 Gigs should actually perform fine for all games.
This isn’t your typical 2 sticks of janky RAM. These bad boys are performance rated and have built in heat sinks as you can see. They look like friggen battle Dinosaurs!
One thing you must keep in mind when buying RAM is that you must have Windows 64bit to use more than 4GB of RAM. Windows 32bit build will not support more than 4 gigs. I remember the day I learned that at work, long ago when 4GB of RAM was still a lot. I decided to upgrade my memory to 8GB and it only registered like 3.74GB in the system properties. Turns out I was on Windows 32bit.
You Should Get A SSD For Gaming
Wow how times have changed.
With the new SSD hard drive technology you no longer have to get a huge magnetic disk hard drive running at 7200RPM to host your Operating System files.
You can get an SSD (Solid State Drive) which is more like a flash drive for pretty cheap these days. These things have no moving parts so they write almost instantly speeding up over all everything by far.
No moving parts means nearly instant data transfer.
You don’t need a huge SSD hard drive, just enough to host all of your operating system files. I recommend the 250GB SSD with a 1TB HDD for extra storage. The reason this is good is because the Windows OS is hosted on the SSD and all essential task are immediate and you can even boot your computer in a few seconds. Going to sleep and resuming is almost as quick as moving your mouse to stop your screen saver.
I went with a 250GB SSD for my operating system and an old school Terabyte SATA for everything else. Not including my backup system.
Do not skip out on the SSD option. Trust me, it is unreal how fast it is.
Honestly, this was a hard one because there are so many options out there that range from dirt cheap to expensive.
I read a lot and finally just went with the trusted known brand. They seem to be doing very well in the build your own computer industry.
But it fit in the ATX case easily, looks good is bottom mounted and silent.
I did not want to pick a cheap knock off because I read many people experiencing problems with cheap power supplies and I figure it’s better safe than sorry. However, if you’re trying to save money at every corner, you’re going to have to get the generic brand. If you have extra money, I suggest the modular model so you can have less wires in your case.
Gaming Motherboard! The Mobo Hardest part!
So this was the hardest part for me. Too many options.
All I knew was it had to fit in an ATX case and be compatible with the Intel LGA 1151 socket for the Intel i5 I got. If you go with the AMD it is the AM3+ Socket. Either way, as explained above it’s pretty easy to match the parts when you know that information.
Simple enough, so I started with those parameters and ended up with a motherboard made with a few features I needed such as USB 3.0, PCIe, enough slots, etc. It also has some neat tools to overclock, monitor your CPU, heat and fan speed. Fun!
This is not a “must” but honestly it’s such an added bonus with back lit keys, extra programmable buttons and macros.
A lot of games require great deals of pressing the same buttons over and over or you get in a routine and just don’t want to press the same combo every time. With the programmable macros you can just press one key and have the whole script play out. Plus the whole back lit keys are really cool and the weight of it all feels great.
Gaming Computer Built Right
So there you have it, they key components to building a gaming computer that is ready to handle today’s games right now. Building a machine with this kind of power will outperform the XBOX One or Playstation 4 NextGen Consoles by far.
You’ll notice I did not include a DVD / BluRay drive. Pretty much all games are downloads these days and I already have like 3 externals and assume you do too. If you must get a drive, I mentioned a few above.
If you’re worried about the actual construction of the computer components, I would say don’t. If you have any hardware experience such as upgrading your memory, swapping hard drives, installing a DVD burner or even a new fan, then you will be able to assemble the computer from the ground up with no problem. The connectors and pins are all labeled, everything is clear if you have half a brain. Especially if you get the Corsair Case I recommended. It has a lot of room to move around in.
Do I even need Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound?
All processors above do come with thermal paste pre-applied to the heat sinks so the answer is no, it is not required. These cooling systems work fine and are built to operate at normal temperatures out of the box. The manufacturers would not ship units with non-functioning cooling methods. However enthusiast will say you do need something such as Arctic Silver 5. This is only true if you plan on reseating a CPU or switching one out and reapplying the paste. Today’s CPU’s operate at a much cooler temperature by default so this paste to me, is a thing of the past. I use stock cooling paste and my computer operates at below average temperatures for the i5.
Anti-Static Wrist Strap, Do I Need One?
Because you’re going to be working directly with sensitive electronics, it is recommended that you stay grounded by wearing an anti-static wrist wrap. If you feel you can do it by holding onto something yourself, go for it. I do not wear one when working on computers or building them. I just keep one hand(or part of my arm) on the metal part of the case and ground myself. After that it is not likely that I will be building up static. I just make sure not to rub my feet around on the ground. I’m building a computer here, not trying to shock a co-worker.
Windows 10 USB Stick
Not everyone already has access to Microsoft Windows so you may need to buy it. This version comes on a USB stick because who needs / wants a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray drive these days? It is 64bit which is required to use more than 4GB of RAM. Windows 10 USB Install.