Last Updated: Apr 24 2013
Many people do not realize how easy it is to put together a computer system from parts. In fact, many systems that users build can outperform purchased desktop computer systems. The biggest challenge of putting together a computer system is typically finding what parts to buy. That is where this guide comes in.
There is a huge variety of gaming available on the PC that is not found in console systems. But there are specific hardware requirements in order to play 3D games on a PC. Usually the media only reviews the top of the line gear, making it hard to find a good low cost gaming rig. This guide is designed to try and build a system that is dedicated to gaming that won't break the bank. It may not be the flashiest system around, but it does play games very well. It also only covers the core computer system without a monitor.
Many of the parts on this list are sold as OEM products. They are the same items that would come in a retail package but have less material as they are sold in bulk typically to builders. They should carry the same warranties and protections as retail box products.
Remember that this is just a guide of recommended products. There are many alternative components available that will perform just as well. In addition to the name of the item, a link is included for price comparison shopping for the components.
The Budget Gaming PC Components
- Case - Raidmax Smilodon Extreme
A low cost steel mid-tower desktop computer case with a foldout motherboard panel that makes installation of the internal components extremely easy. It also comes equipped with a 500W rated power supply.
- Motherboard - ASRock Z77 Pro3
The Intel Z77 chipset offers a good balance of performance and expansion features. It features SSD caching and hybrid graphics. The board offers two PCI-Express graphics cards slots although one runs in x16 and one in x4 when multiple cards are used.
- Processor - Intel Core i3-3220
Ivy Bridge processors have excelled thanks to their efficiency that then tend to be a better choice than the AMD processors with a larger number of processor cores. Since most games still don't tend to use more than two cores, the dual core design with its higher clock speed is actually quite good and more important affordable.
- Memory - Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Kit
While it might be a bit cheaper to get 4GB of memory, more games now can benefit from the extra memory. This makes 8GB the best overall choice. These memory modules offer a fast 1600MHz speed rating which is great for performance or trying to do a little overclocking.
- Video Card - eVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost
The GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost is the latest mid-range graphics card from NVIDIA that offers some great performance at the most common 1920x1080 resolution of LCD monitors. The eVGA brand also has the nice perk of its Step-Up program in case you want a better card within 90 days of purchase.
- Hard Drive - Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA
Most gaming rigs don't require a huge amount of space but they do need solid performance. This drive spins at the full 7200rpm rate with a large 64MB cache to offer it a solid level of performance at very reasonable prices.
- DVD - LG GH24NS95 24x DVD+/-RW DL SATA
This low cost DVD burner supports all of the current DVD media standards and has 24x speeds for DVD+/-R media. Blu-ray would be nice but it still has not dropped in price enough yet.
- Keyboard and Mouse - Logitech MK120 USB Keyboard and Mouse
This keyboard and mouse combo is very inexpensive but provides a good overall feel.
- Operating System - Windows 8 System Builder 64-bit
The most recent version of Microsoft's operating system is a major departure but if you want to be current, it is the operating system to get.
or Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
While Windows 8 is the latest, it is a pretty major change that many people would rather have Windows 7 which they are familiar with and like. It thankfully is still available although generally slightly more expensive.
What Else is Needed
This list of components will make up the heart of the computer system, but it still needs a few parts. There are no speakers for the system which is probably something that most people playing games would want. About.com's Peripheral site has a list of some good 2.1 Speakers Sets Under $100 or maybe a gaming headset. Finally, a good monitor that mixes screen size and resolution while being affordable is key. Check out my selection of the Best 24-Inch LCD Monitors for a good balance of size and price.
Putting it All Together
Of course, once you have all the parts, the computer system will have to be assembled and installed. Tutorials on the various steps required to install the parts together into the computer system can be found in one of two ways. I have available a 5-day E-mail Newsletter Course that puts the steps in a logical order or you can just dive right into the individual Tutorials themselves.