Best parts to buy for building a $500 gaming PC

ViolentHero

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
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I'm thinking about building a gaming PC in the future. I hear it's possible to build one as low as $500. Instead of spending money on upcoming consoles like the Wii U, I'd spend money to build a good gaming PC. What kind of parts like graphic cards can you folks recommend me?
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors G3
May 28, 2005
8,118
994
Pennsylvania
You'll have to decide how you want to prioritize your purchases. If you want a good case, get a good case. I spent $35 on my case, and it was "good enough". Of course, you can spend $100 on a case. Either way, spend good money on your case and motherboard, as they're the hardest to swap out at a later date.

I'd go with a Gigabyte motherboard, anyone from Newegg with 4-5 star reviews should be good, but try to get the newer technology, so that it'll be more up-to-date for longer. I personally spend about $100-$120 on a previous generation high-end motherboard with all the bells and whistles.

Hard drive... pick your poison. Almost every company has good and bad drives, read reviews and try to avoid buying a HDD from a bad batch.

RAM... cheapest, unless you plan on overclocking it.

DVD drive... unless you have a specific need, the cheapest.

CPU... I always go AMD, because it's not that expensive and it's good enough. If I went Intel, I'd end up spending another $100 or so between the CPU and motherboard.

GPU... Budget $100.

When I built my computer, I spent about $300 at first, used an $18 CPU in a $100 Motherboard, spent $20 on 2gb of RAM and $80 on a HDD. Later on, I upgraded to more RAM and got a dedicated video card. And I upgraded to a tri-core CPU. The important thing was that the foundation was there for a strong computer - the motherboard.

If you want specifics let me know.
 
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Jethryn Freyman

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2007
2,329
2
Australia
One thing about CPUs, don't be fooled by AMD and their cheap quad/6/8 core parts, performance per MHz is really mediocre for some of them. Like 2GHz Sandy Bridge Core i5s can outperform 3GHz quad core AMD Athlon chips. Hurts for some games that are CPU bound and can't use lots of cores sometimes.

GPU: most important part, probably, try for a Radeon 6750 or 6770 if you can afford it.

Hard drive: 7,200 rpm drive, sucks but HDs are expensive at the moment.

Memory: 4GB of cheap stuff.
 
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Ov3rlord Falc0r

macrumors regular
Apr 29, 2009
164
0
I actually built my little brother a gaming computer for Christmas and spent just under $490 bucks! Its not the absolute greatest computer ever but it does play modern games on high/ultra with very playable frame rates...

Skyrim (everything ultra, even modded it a little for better graphics 1680x1050) : 50+ FPS

Battlefield 3 (ultra settings 1680x1050) : 35-45

Battlefield 3 (high settings 1680x1050) : 50+ FPS Little to no graphical difference save for some lighting and some textures. Still looks beautiful.

Metro 2033 (max settings with DX11 1680x1050) : 45+

Crysis 2 (All max settings with DX11 with graphics mods 1680x1050) : 30ish FPS (playable but eh)

Crysis 2 (one step under max with DX11 with graphics mods 1680x1050) : 45+ (much better)

Take into account that I got a couple of deals with it being around the holiday but there shouldn't be a reason you couldn't build a perfectly acceptable machine for 500. :)

PS...I didn't/don't have a case for it. I figured I would take that 30 bucks I would have spent on it and get the next jump up graphics card wise. I have it all screwed onto a 2 ft by 3 ft cardboard box 3 inches deep. It was a box my sisters laptop came in. It holds everything in place great, doesn't conduct electricity (no shorts), and saved $30 I could spend elsewhere. Not recommended if you're worried about damaging it. Mine sits on the top of bookshelf with one HDMI cord to the TV (i use wireless keyboard and mouse).
 
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Alaerian

Guest
Jan 6, 2005
1,928
0
A barstool, Innis & Gunn in hand
PS...I didn't/don't have a case for it. I figured I would take that 30 bucks I would have spent on it and get the next jump up graphics card wise. I have it all screwed onto a 2 ft by 3 ft cardboard box 3 inches deep. It was a box my sisters laptop came in. It holds everything in place great, doesn't conduct electricity (no shorts), and saved $30 I could spend elsewhere. Not recommended if you're worried about damaging it. Mine sits on the top of bookshelf with one HDMI cord to the TV (i use wireless keyboard and mouse).
I'm sorry, but PLEASE don't follow this guy, OP. Get yourself a real case.
 
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bokdol

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
886
24
VA
One thing about CPUs, don't be fooled by AMD and their cheap quad/6/8 core parts, performance per MHz is really mediocre for some of them. Like 2GHz Sandy Bridge Core i5s can outperform 3GHz quad core AMD Athlon chips. Hurts for some games that are CPU bound and can't use lots of cores sometimes.

with the release of the new zambezi chipset. i would argue that amd is catching up, still behind but catching, and is now a reasonable cpu to buy if you are looking budget.
 
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jared_kipe

macrumors 68030
Dec 8, 2003
2,967
1
Seattle
$500 is a little low, but I personally wouldn't build anything that wouldn't run Mac OS if you wanted to take the time to do so.

That means Intel CPU and somewhat specific Motherboard/graphics combos.
Here are some builds you can look at and price out. Keep in mind you can mix and match, like taking most of the CustoMac Budget build and putting in the Graphics card from the Pro build. (Rad 6850 or 6870 for example)
http://tonymacx86.blogspot.com/search/label/CustoMac
 
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ViolentHero

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
61
0
I actually built my little brother a gaming computer for Christmas and spent just under $490 bucks! Its not the absolute greatest computer ever but it does play modern games on high/ultra with very playable frame rates...

Skyrim (everything ultra, even modded it a little for better graphics 1680x1050) : 50+ FPS

Battlefield 3 (ultra settings 1680x1050) : 35-45

Battlefield 3 (high settings 1680x1050) : 50+ FPS Little to no graphical difference save for some lighting and some textures. Still looks beautiful.

Metro 2033 (max settings with DX11 1680x1050) : 45+

Crysis 2 (All max settings with DX11 with graphics mods 1680x1050) : 30ish FPS (playable but eh)

Crysis 2 (one step under max with DX11 with graphics mods 1680x1050) : 45+ (much better)

Take into account that I got a couple of deals with it being around the holiday but there shouldn't be a reason you couldn't build a perfectly acceptable machine for 500. :)
Interesting, what parts are you using?
 
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Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
22,164
581
Finland
Motherboard: ASRock 880GM-LE AM3 - $55
Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8GHz - $95
Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6850 (Sapphire) - $150
Memory: Crucial 2x2GB DDR3 1333MHz - $19
Storage: Hitachi 500GB 7200rpm - $80
Power supply: Thermaltake TR2 430W - $46
Optical drive: Samsung DVD-ROM - $14
Case: Rosewill Blackbone - $40

Total: $498.92

$500 doesn't buy miracles but AMD 6850 is a great GPU, which is what matters in gaming. The CPU is decent and you can always OC it. Otherwise, those parts are decent but not necessarily the fastest or highest quality.
 
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LeandrodaFL

macrumors 6502a
Apr 6, 2011
962
1
The fact that you can build a gaming PC for $500 doesnt mean it will be a good one. As a matter of fact, it will be horrible. Even assuming you want to invest $500 solely on CPU, motherboard, memory and graphics, any build today will be way worse than a $300 PS4, perhaps even the Wii U.

Anyways, in the PC world, you get what you pay for, so:

CPU: $200'
mobo $100
memory $50
graphics $150-$200

and thats a really budget option. Some graphics are $500
 
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Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
22,164
581
Finland
The fact that you can build a gaming PC for $500 doesnt mean it will be a good one. As a matter of fact, it will be horrible. Even assuming you want to invest $500 solely on CPU, motherboard, memory and graphics, any build today will be way worse than a $300 PS4, perhaps even the Wii U.0
Quite meaningless to refer to something that does not even exist yet. The hardware you buy today will be obsolete in a few years anyway. A couple of months and it's no longer "current gen". $500 can build a low-end gaming rig, like the build I posted above. I have AMD 6850 and it plays all games fine, most at high/ultra settings.
 
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Ov3rlord Falc0r

macrumors regular
Apr 29, 2009
164
0
Interesting, what parts are you using?
Hey, I'm using an AMD A6-3650 on a Gigabyte mono with 2 pci-e express slots (for another video card addition later). I've got a 6850 and 4gb of Patriot memory.

One word on the processor tho. The A6-3650 is a quad-core AMD processor with integrated graphics (6350) on board. It is NOT the most powerful card in existence but it does hang in there pretty well. Comes stock at 2.6 but on the stock heatsink and fan I've managed to overclock it to 3.4 with no increase in voltage. Running Prime 95 for 24 hours temp never exceeded 54* C.
 
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jimmychap

macrumors newbie
Jun 22, 2013
1
0
i need a tad bit of assistance

I also need a little bit of help building a gaming pc, I'm not super advanced with some of the skills needed to put together a pc but i'm trying to learn all I can. I found this video on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXcY8LYJuT4 because people say you can learn to do anything by watching a video on youtube. I was curious what some of you more advanced people thought of the video and if it's a good source for me to use or not? Any feedback would be great, thanks!
 
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bokdol

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
886
24
VA
well he talks a lot. but he does not show any build. most of the part when you put things together will fit like Legos. as long as you get the right parts. I think the part that most people have issues with is the heat sink and putting the right amount of heat paste on before putting on the heat sink. also get some ties to help with cable management.
 
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lunaoso

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2012
1,332
53
Boston, MA
well he talks a lot. but he does not show any build. most of the part when you put things together will fit like Legos. as long as you get the right parts. I think the part that most people have issues with is the heat sink and putting the right amount of heat paste on before putting on the heat sink. also get some ties to help with cable management.
A decent amount of processors come with a little thermal paste sticker thing on the bottom of the fan anyway, so that makes it easier as well. That's if you use the default cooler.
 
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Jethryn Freyman

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2007
2,329
2
Australia
You spend most of that $500 on a good gaming video card and decent monitor.
A good 23" 1080p monitor goes for about $150 these days, brand new, these days most people have an at least acceptable monitor [i.e. not VGA], so I wouldn't really factor that into the $500. It's more of a... peripheral. Or something.

Video card, yeah for those games if you want to place with all the pretties and high resolution, you'll be spending upwards of $200 on the GPU. Of course when $500 is your baseline, I generally say to get a decent base system, CPU, 8GB memory, and then squeeze every penny you can into getting a beefy GPU. And make sure you've got a power supply and PCIe slot that can handle and take advantage of upgrades in the computer.

Great thing about $500 is that it'll get you a nice base system, lots of expandability options, you can add to it after that, so keep that in my. It's not a $500 box welded shut, it's like a pot plant, it can grow [though unlike a pot plant, it requires a power socket.]
 
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Plutonius

macrumors G3
Feb 22, 2003
8,409
7,278
New Hampshire, USA
A good 23" 1080p monitor goes for about $150 these days, brand new, these days most people have an at least acceptable monitor [i.e. not VGA], so I wouldn't really factor that into the $500. It's more of a... peripheral. Or something.

Video card, yeah for those games if you want to place with all the pretties and high resolution, you'll be spending upwards of $200 on the GPU. Of course when $500 is your baseline, I generally say to get a decent base system, CPU, 8GB memory, and then squeeze every penny you can into getting a beefy GPU. And make sure you've got a power supply and PCIe slot that can handle and take advantage of upgrades in the computer.

Great thing about $500 is that it'll get you a nice base system, lots of expandability options, you can add to it after that, so keep that in my. It's not a $500 box welded shut, it's like a pot plant, it can grow [though unlike a pot plant, it requires a power socket.]
Technically, I suppose you could call the monitor a peripheral but your computer will not run without a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and copy of Windows. That's why I think you have to add their cost into the total cost.

I agree that you can build a good baseline system cheaply. I just commenting on the people who claim to build a sub $500 computer while conveniently leaving out the cost of some of the things they require in the computer.
 
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lunaoso

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2012
1,332
53
Boston, MA
I'm thinking the minimum for a "good" gaming computer would be $1000.
Depends how you describe good. I'm building one now for about $450 (already had RAM and Hard drive), and it should be able to play all of the newest games at medium settings at decent fps. Even if you include the hard drive and ram, it'll be maybe 600 tops, less if you buy used, plus I bought a pricey (90 bucks) case. $1000 will get you a great build that'll give high-ultra settings on everything, but its not necessary on a budget. Although, as said above, if you include a copy of windows and a monitor, you might get up to the 1000 mark.
 
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