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Budget Gaming PC Builder's Guide

Descent

Hella Constipated
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#1
So, you want a machine that will play your latest games great, without breaking the bank? By following the steps in this guide, you can get your dream system for as little as $500.

1. USE THE INTERNET. NEVER USE RETAIL STORES. CompUSA is by far the worst option you can ever use. You can use sites like www.froogle.com or www.pricewatch.com to find the best prices on parts.

2. Benchmarks matter. Yesterday's high end is better than today's low/middle end. What, you have no money, and want a GeforceFX 5200? Don't get it. Instead, get a card such as a Geforce3, Geforce4 Ti or a Radeon 8500. Model numbers are misleading; a GF3 is much faster than a GF4 MX, and a Radeon 8500 is faster than a 9000/9200 (A 9100 is a rebranded 8500LE). Want one of those new Radeon 9800's? Skip it. Get a 9700; they provide similar performance for much less money.

3. Motherboards matter. For Athlon XP/Duron/Sempron based systems, forget using a Via chipset (Besides the KT880). Via chipsets are unstable, buggy, and glitchy. Be sure to get a SiS chipset or an nForce. If you are REALLY tight on cash, get a SiS. If you have the extra $20 or so dollars, get an nForce. The same goes for the P4; be sure to get a SiS or Intel chipset motherboard.

Reputable motherboard brands no longer exist; everyone now makes stable and fast boards. We have come a long way since 1998. They all are up to par on everything but overclockability. If you are into serious OCing, get an Asus or Abit (Some Epox models also excel at this).

4. Don't skimp on the CPU. Intel is not a good option for budget users unless you get the Celeron D processor. Pentium 4's are too costly, and for the same price you could easily get an Athlon XP that is much faster. Avoid the Duron at all costs; I learned this the hard way. The Sempron and Athlon XP systems are the best option. Be sure to get AT LEAST a 2500+/2.5GHz CPU. Anything lower will be totally silly.

5. NEVER GET A CRAPPY POWER SUPPLY. This is the main cause for lockups, as well as PC fires and instability. A cheap PSU can also fry your entire system. Be sure to buy a power supply from one of these brands:

PC Power and Cooling
Aspire (Turbolink)
Antec
Bestec
Enermax
Sparkle/Fortron
ThermalTake
Zalman
Vantec
Kingwin
MGE
Ultra

BE SURE TO AVOID:

Powmax
Raidmax
Allied
Anything else that is generic

If you don't want to spend the extra cash on both a power supply AND a case, then buy a case made by Aspire, Kingwin, MGE, or Antec. These companies will give you a VERY high quality PSU with the case, so that can actually save you a fair amount of beans.

5. Skimp on the non-essentials. Don't spend $120 on a case when a $30 Aspire case will do everything you want it to, as well as come with a great PSU.

6. Audio cards can give a HUGE jump in performance; we're talking as much as 10% or more. Be sure to spend the extra money on a hardware accelerated card. nForce audio is accelerated, but many manufacturers still put on crappy C-Media or Realtek audio. For accelerated audio cards, you have Turtle Beach, Creative Labs, M-Audio, and a couple others I am forgetting. I would recommend the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz. It's only $30-40, has excellent sound quality (On par with an Audigy 2 ZS), and has more features than an Audigy, including 3D Virtual Surround Sound that doesn't make the audio sound colored. It also has much more stable and feature packed drivers than Creative Labs cards do, and has support for other 3D audio formats besides EAX (Which is nothing but a bunch of fancy echoes).

7. Memory is important. You can get generic RAM, as long as it has chips on it that say MT, or Samsung. Generic RAM with any other brand of chips is crap, and will lead to data loss, system crashes, blue screens, etc. For name brand memory, get Crucial, Kingston, Corsair, Samsung, or Mushkin. Anything else is crap.

Please give me feedback on this, and let me know if there is anything I have forgotten!
 

Jung

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#2
www.pcpowercooling.com probably makes the best power supplies on the market right now. They're the only power supplies that actually push their rated wattages. The rate their 510 at lowest optimal conditions, rather than highest possible, like most other companies. Check out their 510 vs. "other" 550 comparision (pdf). Definately worth the money!
 

Descent

Hella Constipated
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#3
I'll fix that. I have also seen that PDF file, cool stuff.

However, I am running about 340w of stuff off my 250w Bestec PSU with no problems.
 

Jung

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#5
pimpyobitch said:
www.newegg.com is all you need when buying computer parts.
I agree on New Egg being a great place, but they're not always the cheapest.

Another good way I've found is to use www.pricewatch.com with www.resellerratings.com for reports on a busisnesses reputation. Pricewatch is usually pretty good about cleaning out the scammers, but it's impossible to catch all of them. If a store gets good reviews on Reseller Ratings, then I'll usually buy it form there, provided they're cheaper than New Egg. Likewise, if the store has negative ratings or isn't listed, I don't order from them.

I just ordered another 250GB drive, with an external USB kit and saved about $35 over New Egg's price. :thumbsup:
 

pimpyobitch

Banned - What an Asshat!
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#6
Agreed. It's just that I trust newegg and parts always arrive on time, usually under 3days. Where pricewatch has low prices, but those are independent sellers and alot are scams. Just have to make sure when you go through pricewatch to look at the seller ratings.
 
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#7
Well everything I have fits that fine except my power supply(Raidmax), its been running with no problems so far... but I was thinking of replacing it anyway

Amd Athlon Xp 2600+
Radeon 9800 Pro(got it for 100 on some wierd sale)
Asus A7n8x-x
120Gb HD Samsung I think
1gb(2x512)Ram Muskin Pc 3200
round 800 or so spent total
 

pimpyobitch

Banned - What an Asshat!
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#9
WILD said:
Well everything I have fits that fine except my power supply(Raidmax), its been running with no problems so far... but I was thinking of replacing it anyway

Amd Athlon Xp 2600+
Radeon 9800 Pro(got it for 100 on some wierd sale)
Asus A7n8x-x
120Gb HD Samsung I think
1gb(2x512)Ram Muskin Pc 3200
round 800 or so spent total


I can build that for $700
 
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#11
pimpyobitch said:
I can build that for $700
I included the whole windows price in that... that should fill the 100 or so difference.
 

Jung

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#12
WILD said:
I included the whole windows price in that... that should fill the 100 or so difference.
You know you can buy the XP upgrade a lot cheaper. When you go to install, it'll ask you to insert an installation disk, any pre XP disk will work.
 
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#13
junglizm said:
You know you can buy the XP upgrade a lot cheaper. When you go to install, it'll ask you to insert an installation disk, any pre XP disk will work.
I'll try to remember that...