With both of my parents being computer engineers, never in my life have I bought a PC. Why? Because when I look at what you are getting and how much you pay for it when you get a complete computer, I realize that I’d save some money by putting together the same computer myself. Plus I also have a wide range of choices, rather than being limited to a single set of components with maybe a little variation in processor speed, memory size, etc. And I don’t consider it much of a hassle to put together the computer; the entire process takes me less than two hours.
Below I’ve listed the parts to a custom gaming PC. The prices I used are from Newegg.com. While their prices may not ALWAYS be the best out there, they’re usually all very close, so I find it to be a good estimate of what something will actually cost without doing a lot of price hunting beforehand. Prices listed are the current prices as I write this article, after mail-in rebates but before taxes and shipping.
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (Socket AM2)
Even on a relatively small budget, I chose to have a dual-core processor. More and more games these days (along with other programs) are optimized for multiple cores. Buying a dual-core processor keeps you “future-proof” for longer than a single-core CPU would. The 3800+ is the bottom of AMD’s dual-core processors, running at 2.0 GHz with 512KB of cache per core.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-M55SLI-S4 (Socket AM2)
Since we’re talking about a gaming PC, SLI is an important feature (for those of you who don’t know what SLI is, it’s a technology that enables a user to use multiple graphics cards in the same computer to increase performance). This is a standard SLI-compatible motherboard, and it includes two PCI-Express x16 slots, four SATA ports and four IDE ports, two PCI slots, four DDR2 memory slots, and completely silent chipset cooling.
Memory: OCZ Gold Series 1GB DDR2 667 (PC2-5400) dual-channel pair
Less than 1GB of memory for a gaming PC isn’t acceptable, but 2GB is excessive. The memory clock runs at 667 MHz, which is the fastest supported by the CPU, and comes in two modules for a dual-channel interface. The modules also have heat spreaders, so they don’t overheat during operation. The timings are 4-4-4-12, which is about as low as I’d go on a small budget.
Graphics: MSI NX7900GT-T2D256E
Running on a GeForce 7900GT, this card is quite a bargain, even though it’s the most expensive component. It comes with a clock speed of 450 MHz and 24 pixel pipelines, and has 256MB of memory, which is enough to play any game today at a reasonable framerate. A 256-bit memory interface gives the card high memory transfer rates, which add to the performance.
Even though I have an SLI-compatible motherboard, a second video card would kill the budget. So that would be left as an upgrade, since all SLI motherboards work just fine with only one card.
Hard Drive: Western Digital 250GB SATA
250GB should be enough space for anything you want to store. This is a fairly good hard drive, with a 7200RPM spin speed and 16MB of cache. It runs on the SATA 2 interface, for a total possible bandwidth of 300MB/s (keep in mind that hard drives only work at around 50-60MB/s; that’s just the interface speed).
DVD Burner: Lite-On Dual Format Dual Layer drive
Just your standard DVD burner, 16X for DVD+R and DVD-R, 8X for DVD+R DL and 4X for DVD-R DL.
Case: Cooler Master Centurion 534
One of the things I like about this case is that a power supply is not included, which lets me pick my own, since I’d probably end up replacing the included one anyway. This case has anything you would ever need, unless you prefer cases with a window (I don’t – they make more noise). The front panel has USB, audio, and 1394 ports, and the side panel has a pair of vents to offer cool air to the CPU and graphics card. Inside you’ll find room for five 5.25″ devices and five 3.25″ devices (one external and the other four internal), and a tool-less installation for anything other than the motherboard. It comes with a 120mm fan in the rear and a mount for an additional one in the front of the case.
Power Supply: Thermaltake Pure Power 550W
This power supply will keep all of your parts stable, with a combined output of 29A on the two +12V rails. It has four SATA power cables and two PCI-Express power cables for video cards. It also sports a 120mm fan for quieter operation and sleeves to keep all cables neat. It also has active PFC protection.
Monitor: Wise Wing W702B 17″ LCD
I’ll be honest, the only reason I picked this is because it was the cheapest 17″ LCD on the site. But it looks fine, and your monitor really has little effect on the gaming experience. Besides, chances are you already have a monitor you can use, so you don’t even need one.
So the final price of all parts is $933.43. Take out the monitor and it becomes 789.44. Not a bad deal, huh?