Building An Affordable Gaming PC

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If you want to learn how to build an affordable gaming PC, why not let the guys at Corsair show you how they did it. The list of components used in this affordable gaming system include goodies like an 8800GTS, a Core2 Duo, SLI motherboard and all without breaking the bank.

Believe it or not, it's possible to get great gaming performance from a system that doesn't necessarily break the bank. Our goal today is to talk about building the best possible system you can for around $1500 US at the time of this writing. With some careful component selection, a little bit of knowledge, patience, and some tweaking, you can build a rock-solid gaming box.
 

magoo

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Oct 21, 2004
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Good article, written well and with lots of quality pictures.
My only complaint was that the Corsair guys passed on one rule I live by when building a new computer...... test the basic system before you mount it in the case.......put in the CPU/cooler,RAM, and GPU; attach power and see if you can POST......then mount it and try again.

They made a really good how to guide but skipped that part.:D
 

markt435

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wow....from a memory company no less. awesome article. great for noobs and vets alike.
 

FrgMstr

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Good article, written well and with lots of quality pictures.
My only complaint was that the Corsair guys passed on one rule I live by when building a new computer...... test the basic system before you mount it in the case.......put in the CPU/cooler,RAM, and GPU; attach power and see if you can POST......then mount it and try again.

They made a really good how to guide but skipped that part.:D

QFT! This is SOP at my casa.
 

Modred189

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"Remember, a computer with a Corsair case badge is more than a computer, it's an AWESOME computer.

A computer without a Corsair case badge could explode and kill everyone you care about.

Okay, not really. But seriously, that badge looks way cooler. There's SAILS in it for Pete's sake...
"

ROFL
 

techie81

[H]ard for [H]ardware
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"Remember, a computer with a Corsair case badge is more than a computer, it's an AWESOME computer.

A computer without a Corsair case badge could explode and kill everyone you care about.

Okay, not really. But seriously, that badge looks way cooler. There's SAILS in it for Pete's sake...
"

ROFL

Yeah, I thought that was amusing.

Great write up and good pics. I will send this to a couple friends of mine.
 

HAF72

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eh, when I click on the link just goes to hard ocp and shows nothing (if you understand what I mean) Anybody mind linking me a direct link?
 

theelectic

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I would go even lower. Keep the 8800GTS, but go X2 3600+ Brisbane, nForce 4 motherboard (upgrading to SLI rarely makes sense), Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro, some other less expensive ProMOS RAM (maybe OCZ Plat Rev 2). You could save around $300 off what's listed in the article with very little dropoff in gaming performance.
 

markt435

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I would go even lower. Keep the 8800GTS, but go X2 3600+ Brisbane, nForce 4 motherboard (upgrading to SLI rarely makes sense), Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro, some other less expensive ProMOS RAM (maybe OCZ Plat Rev 2). You could save around $300 off what's listed in the article with very little dropoff in gaming performance.

lol...this is a corsair article we're talking about. they're not gonna use someone elses PSU and they're CERTAINLY not gonna use someone elses RAM
 

o0akoni0o

[H]ard|Gawd
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great article and well written. and if that's considered a budget build, my planned build when the price cuts come must be an ultra-low budget build, e4300, ds3, and what's in my sig, lol.
 

moetop

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eh, when I click on the link just goes to hard ocp and shows nothing (if you understand what I mean) Anybody mind linking me a direct link?

Ya you need to click on the link AGAIN. I have no idea why it's set up this way, but clicking on the link in the post will just open the original main page post all by itself to get to the actual article you need to click the link again.. I have no idea why it works this way, but it is annoying.
 

hity645

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I like it. But wheres the keyboard and mouse selection? Monitor?
 

dandirk

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Decent article for a RAM company...

Though $1500 is not even close to what I would call a "Gaming machines don't have to be expensive" rig... Essentially they indicated that the machine should play current games well...

$1500 machine is what I personally would call a more then above average gaming rig. Kick ass gaming rig would go to those insane $3000+ rigs with top of the line EVERYTHING (SLI quad core, Bigfoot NIC etc)...

The article did mention ways to save money at the cost of future proofing ala 7950gt vs 8800gts etc... Which was a very nice touch.

I personally consider a $1500 rig a bit over the top but a gaming rig that should last at least 2 years, more if you can handle lower resolutions with newer games at the 2 year mark.

$1500 rigs are what I buy and I try to balance future proofing and cost effectiveness...
 

Buckus

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My conclusion:

You could easily drop $700 from the price with not much loss of performance. For $1500 I could build a decent QUAD-core gaming rig, much less low-end Core 2 Duo.

I'd have to go with a GeForce 7-series card
Lower-cost memory

etc, etc
 

Mazgazine1

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Wow, I just build the same computer, diferent HSF and different case, but damn't its a really nice setup.

I'm surprise they didn't use ANY extra cooling on the board.. Like [H] recommended I wouldn't OC that board without some chipset cooling. but its good to know.
 

Jodiuh

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Though $1500 is not even close to what I would call a "Gaming machines don't have to be expensive" rig... Essentially they indicated that the machine should play current games well...

Couldn't agree more. I put together a budget system for my bro that doesn't game for $600. Toss in a $150 GPU and it's 1/2 the cost of the "mid-high range" Corsair project there. Sure, it's Corsair, so they have to use their RAM, but do they have to use $279 dollar DOM? I hope I'm not alone in thinking these $200 plus RAM modules are incredibly overpriced for all but the most demanding OCer.

For anyone interested in the build, it went like this:

$130 Gigabyte DS3G
$180 Intel C2D E6300 retail
$109 2x1GB Supertalent CL5 Rigid DDR2-667
$53 160GB WD AAJS HDD
$50AR Antec P150 case w/ NEO HE 430? PSU
$40 Scythe Ninja w/ 120mm
$12 2x 92mm Antec Tricools
$8 Zalman flower NB heatsink
$4 Arctic Cooling MX-1 Thermal g00p :D

Shops:
Fry's retail
Newegg
Ewiz

We chose all parts to be as silent as possible wo/ spending a fortune. All fans will run on low and the HDD will be suspended using the bands on the P150. If he so desires to game at some time in the future, we can always throw in an 8800GTX for $200 bucks in 2 years. :D
 

movax

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Yep, excellent build guide, most obvious price cuts I could see were dumping the Lian-Li, and going with cheaper RAM.

Also, re-using HDDs is a lot more common now then back in the day, and the same for optical drives, though an excuse to purchase a SATA burner would be nice. :)
 

Modred189

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Yep, excellent build guide, most obvious price cuts I could see were dumping the Lian-Li, and going with cheaper RAM.

Also, re-using HDDs is a lot more common now then back in the day, and the same for optical drives, though an excuse to purchase a SATA burner would be nice. :)
Building my new PC was the reason upgraded to SATA, on everything. It was easier wire, plus all those Intel 965/975 board's IDE port placement is terrible, it's all the way at the bottom of the board.

I'm glad I did too.
 

Redbeard

Official Corsair Rep.
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My conclusion:

You could easily drop $700 from the price with not much loss of performance. For $1500 I could build a decent QUAD-core gaming rig, much less low-end Core 2 Duo.

I'd have to go with a GeForce 7-series card
Lower-cost memory

etc, etc

Since this was designed as a gaming box that was directX 10 compatible, we went with the lowest-priced DX10 card available at the time of build. We bought these components right before the 320MB 8800GTS came out. Since the G80 series is also the best performing DX9 card on the market, it makes a lot of sense for that.

The gaming performance difference between a Quad-core processor and an E6300 won't be as big as the gaming performance difference between a 7950GT or 7950GX2 and an 8800GTS, the card is just head over heels faster. Plus, once overclocked to 3.5 GHz, a dual-core E6300 is plenty fast on the CPU side.

I know we could have used cheaper memory, a cheaper case, a cheaper power supply, all that stuff could have been done had this been truly a "budget" system, but this was designed to be the sweet spot for price/performance and have the best quality components for under $1500.

There will always be healthy debate and discussion about things like this, and like I said in the article, subjective tastes play a big part in case preference, etc. But I don't think you could build a gaming rig that could outperform this one for $1500 (which is closer to $1200 now, since prices have dropped over the past 2 months) unless you got a better video card ($100 more than ours) or got a better overclock from the processor than we did (which is possible).
 

JOESKURTU

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From article:

Ah hah! After relaxing our latencies to 5-5-5-18-2T, I was able to run the 6400C4D modules at 1000 MHz. A 1:1 ratio, so the CPU and RAM are running exactly the same speeds.

How did you guys change the timings? You explained the FSB change/ math for the CPU very well, but you guys seem to have skipped anything about overclocking the memory, which is odd because you make memory.

How did you change the latencies? By changing the 800 number only?

Forgive my newbism, but I do not understand overclocking that well.
 
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I wouldn't call that an "affordable" gaming PC.

I would have used a lot less expensive RAM than the overpriced Promos based Dominators. I mean come on. You're spending like $400 on some Promos?

I'd get an 4300 and one of those inexpensive 650i mobos and overclock it to 2.8Ghz+ using extremely cheap 667mhz RAM.

Decent article but you can get less expensive parts and still be faster.
 

Modred189

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Since this was designed as a gaming box that was directX 10 compatible, we went with the lowest-priced DX10 card available at the time of build. We bought these components right before the 320MB 8800GTS came out. Since the G80 series is also the best performing DX9 card on the market, it makes a lot of sense for that.

The gaming performance difference between a Quad-core processor and an E6300 won't be as big as the gaming performance difference between a 7950GT or 7950GX2 and an 8800GTS, the card is just head over heels faster. Plus, once overclocked to 3.5 GHz, a dual-core E6300 is plenty fast on the CPU side.

I know we could have used cheaper memory, a cheaper case, a cheaper power supply, all that stuff could have been done had this been truly a "budget" system, but this was designed to be the sweet spot for price/performance and have the best quality components for under $1500.

There will always be healthy debate and discussion about things like this, and like I said in the article, subjective tastes play a big part in case preference, etc. But I don't think you could build a gaming rig that could outperform this one for $1500 (which is closer to $1200 now, since prices have dropped over the past 2 months) unless you got a better video card ($100 more than ours) or got a better overclock from the processor than we did (which is possible).
Props to you guys btw, for an excellent article. I agree with the $1500 price point for a current gen/next gen gaming rig budget.
I am doing the same now, and am just waiting for some good DDR800 RAM to go a little lower in price, as I am operating on a tight budget.
One question, however, did you include the OS in the price?
 

moetop

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Affordable is a subjective word.

There are probably a lot of people looking at the reviews here at [H] and rarely do you see a PC under 1500. For a PC built with quality components, a video card that will carry you into the latest OS (DX10 compatability), and have enough Umph to get you through the upcoming year(s) titles.

I would easly call it "affordable". I dont think they ever said Cheap, Inexpensive, or Budget.
 

Redbeard

Official Corsair Rep.
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From article:



How did you guys change the timings? You explained the FSB change/ math for the CPU very well, but you guys seem to have skipped anything about overclocking the memory, which is odd because you make memory.

How did you change the latencies? By changing the 800 number only?

Forgive my newbism, but I do not understand overclocking that well.

There's almost always a section in the BIOS called "MEMORY CONFIGURATION" or something similar. Once you set that to manual or user defined, there's a few settings that refer to the timings.

When you see 5-5-5-18 or 3-3-3-8 or whatever as far as latency goes, you're seeing:
CAS LATENCY - tRP - tRCD - tRAS and usually in that order, but sometimes they switch tRP and tRCD around in the BIOS. Also, sometimes command rate is available (on non intel chipsets) and that can almost always be set at 1T or 2T, 2T is better for high frequency, but at low frequency and tight timings, 1T is where you want to be.

I wouldn't call that an "affordable" gaming PC.

I would have used a lot less expensive RAM than the overpriced Promos based Dominators. I mean come on. You're spending like $400 on some Promos?

I'd get an 4300 and one of those inexpensive 650i mobos and overclock it to 2.8Ghz+ using extremely cheap 667mhz RAM.

Decent article but you can get less expensive parts and still be faster.


The PROMOS stuff was $275 on Newegg at the time, right now it's $200 after a mail-in rebate. So I don't know where the $400 number came from. But the reason I picked it was because it's good overclocking memory. I know that first hand. The modules are rated at 800 MHz, but after picking a pair at random from the big box of PROMOS memory that got exchanged in December, I was able to get them stable at 1000 MHz, a 25% overclock.

As for the rest of the build, we did use an inexpensive 650i motherboard, and your 4300 overclocked to 2.8 GHz would certainly be a great performer, but it would almost definitely be spanked by a 6300 overclocked to 3.5 GHz, like we managed. :D

You can cheap out on some components, like I said, mostly case, power supply, stuff like that. Nobody needs a $100 case, but our goal was to build a nice, easy to use gaming rig for an affordable cost. Not cheap, but great performance at a good price point. I would put that system head-to-head to anybody else's system, dollar for dollar, and be confident I can be competitive performance-wise. Could you build the same performance for $200 less or so? Yeah, but then you're cheaping out on some components, I think, and our goal wasn't "make the cheapest gaming PC ever" it was "get awesome performance for a good deal".
 
Joined
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You can a lot more than that with $1500.

Any $170 Micron D9's will beat the crap out of those Promos(not to mention the hassle of rebates). A $240 kit(before rebates) running at 1Ghz 5-5-5-15 isn't impressive at all. You can get more for the money. Sorry to say and I understand that you will use your own company's parts anyways.

Overclocking the E4300 to 3.5ghz, if possible, is much easier than overclocking an E6300 to 3.5Ghz and cheaper too.

You can even go the E6600 route for $1500. Like I said, decent article but could be better.
 
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