Posts Tagged handy guide

Building a Sub $500 Gaming Desktop with a AMD A8 APU

Monday, August 29th, 2011 | Permalink

Recently a friend of mine wanted me to help him build a desktop. He is just starting law school so he needed to build it as cheaply as possible. I considered his needs, which were basically a reasonably fast computer that was reasonably future proof–not outdated by the end of the week. Now he didn’t specifically say he wanted to build a cheap gaming desktop, but when we looked at the price and performance of the AMD A8-3850 we figured he could build a cheap desktop that just happened to be a medium range gaming desktop.

The Budget Gaming Computer Build

We chose all the components based off of the processor and this is what he ended up getting:

ComponentName/SpecPrice
ProcessorAMD A8-3850 2.9GHz$134.99
MotherboardMSI A75A-G35$84.99
Graphics CardNone$0.00
MemoryCorsair Vegence 2 X 4GB 1600 MHz$57.99
Hard DriveSeagate Barracude 1TB 7200RPM$59.99
Optical DriveSamsung Blu-ray SH-B123L$59.99
CaseLancool PC-K85W$69.99
Power SupplyOCZ ModXStream Pro 500W$64.99
MonitorNone$0.00
Keyboard/Mouse$20.00
Operation SystemWin 7 Professional$29.99
Rebates and Discounts-$55.00
Shipping$2.90
Total$530.83

Probably the biggest compromise we made was on the motherboard. It came in a combo with the RAM making it a steal at only $64.99 (after mail in rebate), but it is definitely the entry level motherboard for the FM1 socket type. It only has two dimms for memory, you can’t use both HDMI and DVI at the same time,  and although it has four USB 3.0 connections (two on the back I/O panel and two on the board) only two can be used at once so you have to decide which two you want. If it were solely up to me, I would spend a little bit more and get a less restrictive motherboard, but for building a gaming PC on a budget then this not a bad choice.

As you can see from the table he used Windows 7 Professional Upgrade. The only reason was price, because as a student it comes really cheap. I’ve used it before upgrading from Vista or XP, even using the custom install (clean or fresh install) option, and it worked just fine. Initially it wouldn’t validate the install, but one search we found a handy guide on how to change a single 1 into a 0 using regedit.exe and after a reboot it validated without a problem.

Buying versus Building A Gaming PC Under 500

Why choose building a gaming computer over just going out and buying one? The number one reason is price. If you look at the chart below you can see a comparison between a Dell Inspiron 620 and the custom built budget gaming desktop shown above. The Inspiron 620 has an i5-2310 which ranks closely with the A8 APU and a graphics card that will deliver similar performance to the A8’s video processing. The other components, upgrading where necessary, are as close to the same as I could make them. The fact that Dell charges $60 to upgrade from 6GB to 8GB of RAM should be a giant red warning flag, especially since the 8GB of RAM we bought only cost $57.99 to begin with.

 

Build a PC vs Buy Pre-made Computer Comparison Chart

If you are on a budget and you want to own a decent gaming desktop computer then you have to build your own. If you don’t, you are settling for an inferior machine. (side note: NEVER buy a monitor through Dell, especially not one that comes with a desktop, and the worst sin of all is upgrading to a bigger screen size on Dell. They are the biggest rip off outside of anything with an Apple logo on it.)

The second reason you should build your own computer is future proofing. If you buy a computer from Dell, or any manufacturer, it is almost impossible to upgrade. They typically only have one extra hard drive slot in the case. The heat sync and fan are built into the case in most cases so you can’t upgrade that very easily either. They aren’t guaranteed to have the lastest technology in their motherboards (SATA III over SATA II, USB 3.0 built in, or displayport connections for example) and they won’t even tell you what board they are using (usually it is custom built for the manufacturer). You can’t customize the video output connection types (2x DVI and 1x HDMI, or 1x VGA and 2x DVI). I’m sure there are more things I could list but you get my point. For the sake of your future self, don’t buy. Build instead.

The last reason you should build your own gaming computer is that you get to customize it and make it exactly like you want. I think that going on to Newegg and finding all the parts that you want in your new computer is one of the funnest things you can do. I love figuring out what components go best with other components. Finding the best price on a component that meets my needs. Saving a few bucks on X so I can spend it on Y. I seriously love building computers, I wish I could do it all the time.

Bottom Line

My friend wanted a cheap computer so I built him just that, with the added bonus of being able to use it as a gaming computer. We had one minor hiccup with the Windows install that was fixed after 30 seconds of Googling. We saved about $200 and got a better and more future proof machine that was a ton of fun to build.