400$ Gaming Computer in 2013
-Last updated Friday, February 13, 2013
This article is outdated. I recommend you check this out instead: http://thecomputerblog.net/four-hundred-dollar-gaming-computer-build/
Every year brings drastic changes to the landscape of computer hardware. In the wake of 2013, I decided to try and hunt down the best parts to build a 400$ computer that would be a viable option in the intensive gaming world. I for one would not recommend gaming on a machine this inexpensive. Nonetheless, for those of us held hostage by budget constraints, we often have no other choice... Last year saw computer hardware pushing the boundaries of what was possible until then, with CPUs & GPUs reaching record performance and solid-state drives gaining more and more popularity.
- 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).
- Also note that this is simply the tower, and does not include the monitor, mouse, keyboard, or other peripherals.
- Finally, if you screw up anything, we are not to be held responsible.
|-Case:||APEX TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower Computer Case||30$|
|-Motherboard:||ASRock N68C-GS FX AM3+ Micro ATX AMD Motherboard||45$|
|-Optical Drive:||ASUS 24X DVD Burner||20$|
|-Power Supply (PSU):||Antec NEO ECO 400C 400W Continuous Power Power Supply||40$|
|-Processor:||AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz3 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor||75$|
|-Storage:||Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive||60$|
|-Video Card:||GIGABYTE Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 Video Card||70$|
More information on each component, and justification of our choices.
- Case: I always choose this case for budget builds. 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 an 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. It also has (surprisingly for this price range) an integrated GeForce 7025 video chipset. It is highly unsuitable for gaming though, which is why we also included a discrete graphics card.
- 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 400 continuous current watt PSU, which is more than enough to power all our components. 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 as inexpensive PSUs tend to fail often.
- Processor: This is where our budget starts catching up with us. Normally, a gaming computer would require a Phenom II quad-core processor or more, but our budget doesn't allow that. Still, this nice little 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 you ever want to upgrade, the AM3+ socket on the motherboard supports just about every modern AMD processor, save for Llano. If you're looking to get an Intel processor though (the i5 and i7 CPUs are superb in gaming, but about 4 times more expensive than our Athlon), you're out of luck with this motherboard.
- Ram: 4 gigabytes is the norm nowadays, and DDR2 is completely outdated. 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 channeling, I chose a single stick of 4GBs, because that leaves room on the motherboard to eventually plug in more ram. Also, make sure to plug the ram into the DDR3 slots on the board and not in the DDR2 ones.
- 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 quicker storage, we went for a traditional hard drive. This Barracuda drive is still quite quick, and the 500GBs of storage is acceptable for installing games... Unfortunately, due to massive flooding in Thailand about two years ago, HDD prices have been much higher than they otherwise would've been, but that has been improving in the last months.
- 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 6670 is highly capable when compared to integrated graphics, but will still lag on more intensive games. If you can invest in something more powerful, such as the NVIDIA GT 640 or the Radeon HD 6770, then go for it. Keep in mind though that, if you opt for a better video card, you'll probably need a 500W power supply or more.
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, Skyrim... 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.