400$ Gaming Computer in 2012

-This article is now outdated, please check out the 2013 version.

Following last year's popular post, I've decided to, once again, hunt down a PC that plays most modern games without breaking your wallet. The market has changed considerably in just one year. Prices are down (except Hard Drives, which are currently somewhat more expensive because of the floods in Thailand) and performance is up. AMD has seen the success of it's APUs, the failure of Bulldozer, and anticipation is building over Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs. Anyway, lets dive into it!



  1. No operating system is included with this build, so you'll need to shave off another hundred dollars for Windows. If you have a copy of Windows, you can install it, otherwise, you can use Linux (not very good for gaming, but with WINE you can do some pretty impressive stuff).
  2. Also note that this is simply the tower, and does not include the monitor, mouse, keyboard, or other peripherals.
  3. Finally, if you screw up anything, we are not to be held responsible.
Parts Links Price (USD)
-Optical Drive:
-Power Supply (PSU):
-Video Card:


With taxes and shipping, the overall price averages around 400$.

More information on each component, and justification of our choices.

  • Case: We chose this case for a few reasons. First of all, it's cheap, yet not too flimsy, so it won't break if you carry it around, like per example to "lan parties". The case also has good ventilation, and room for a lot more fans. More fans = cooler components = saving money with overclocking. The only thing we didn't like was that the case wasn't compatible with both MicroATX and ATX form factors. This limits potential motherboard upgrades in the future.

  • Motherboard: There isn't that much to say about the motherboard choice. You might even chose another one if you wish, but make sure that your motherboard is of the MicroATX form factor, supports DDR3 RAM and has a AM3 socket. You will preferably also want to have a PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, but PCI Express 1.0 x16 is OK. Our chosen board has all this, so you might just want to stick to it.

  • Optical Drive: Unless you want to watch Blu-ray, which is not the purpose of this computer, don't invest a lot of money for optical drives. For gaming, all you really need is a decent DVD-ROM drive, which is extremely inexpensive. There are a lot of choices out there, but we decided to go for the ASUS one because it's a reputable brand.

  • Power Supply Unit (PSU): Unless you want to fry all of the components of your beautiful new computer, always be careful when choosing a power supply. Here, we chose a 500 watt PSU, which is more than enough to power all our components, and still leave room for expansion. Also, we needed a ATX form factor, otherwise it wouldn't fit in our case. It is well rated, and the price is very reasonable. Still, this is on the cheap side so you shouldn't be too ambitious on overclocking.

  • Processor: This is where our budget starts catching up with us. Normally, a gaming computer would require a quad-core processor or more, but our budget doesn't allow that. Still, this triple-core Athlon is a decent CPU, and you might be able to overclock it, even on stock cooling (once again, be careful with this power supply). If ever you want to upgrade, the AM3 socket on the motherboard supports just about every modern AMD processor, save for Bulldozer and Llano.

  • Ram: 4 gigabytes is the norm nowadays, and DDR3 is the way of the future. Some people may complain that 4GBs isn't enough, but unless you're a fan of heavy multitasking, 4 gigabytes is more than what you'll need. There's an important note here though. While 2 sticks of 2GBs would've offered better performance due to dual channelling, I chose a single stick of 4GBs, because that leaves room on the motherboard to eventually plug in more ram.

  • Storage: On really expensive gaming computers, you might see SSD drives. These are crazy fast, but ever more expensive. Instead of spending ten times more on somewhat quicker storage, we went for a traditional hard drive. This WD Caviar Blue drive is still quite quick, and the 320GBs of storage is acceptable for installing games... or at least until the prices fall. Not so long ago, we could buy 500GB hard drives for 50$. Unfortunately, massive flooding in Thailand, which accounts for a huge portion of the global HDD production, has caused prices to soar.
  • Video Card: Here's the most important part of a gaming computer, and would be THE place to invest more if your budget is higher. Of course, the HD 6570 is highly capable when compared to integrated graphics, but still will lag on more intensive games. If you can invest in something more powerful, such as the NVIDIA GTS 450 or the Radeon HD 6670, then go for it.


The purpose of this article is to prove that you don't need a thousand-dollar budget in order to build a highly capable computer. Here, with a little luck, you could easily go below four hundred dollars, and play World of Warcraft, Call of Duty: Black OPS, The Sims... well, most mainstream games. You could even play a bit of Crysis, but only on the lowest settings! And if you ever feel like you need more power, you can always upgrade some parts in the future.


Happy Building!