Best Under 400 Gaming PC for the Money 2014

In this post I take you through 3 builds that I feel beat out consoles in terms of performance. There's even enough for a decent PC case as you can see above.
In this post I take you through 3 builds that I feel beat out consoles in terms of performance. There's even enough for a decent PC case as you can see above.

$400 PC Vs. Console in 2014

Improvements to processor and graphic technology in the last couple years have made the notion of a $400 gaming PC possible if you build it yourself.

With the new Wii U console available in the $300 price range and estimates for the PS4, touted as a gaming PC, in the $500+ range I've been thinking about just what you could get in the $400 price range if you built everything yourself. Below I'll go through the budget as well as various options that you have for each component.

My goal for this post along with other posts I'm creating in its category is to give PC gamers the flexibility to choose their own budget and build their own PC. If this post interests you, then I also recommend you read my posts on building a $300 and a $500 Gaming PC Build as well as other hardware specific posts I've written for each component.

AMD 5800k
AMD 5800k

3 Main CPU Options

What CPU you decide upon is, perhaps, the most important decision you can make in this price range. This is because the CPU you choose will determine what type of compatible socket type your motherboard needs.

First Build: Intel G3440

There's quite a difference between sticking to a budget and the real world. If we're sticking to our budget, then for this route we have to go with the Intel G3440. It's a decent CPU that's pretty good at it's price point of $80.

While it would be nice to jump up to the i3-4130 like we do in our $500 budget it simply isn't possible in this price range. That being said the G3440 offers a lot of bang for your buck for right around $80. It also leaves us room to purchase a dedicated graphics card.

Second Build: AMD A10-7700K

It's hard to deny the cost effectiveness of combining a CPU and graphics card all-in-one. The newer Kaveri models do a decently fair job in 1080p sporting decent benchmarks if you're willing to tweak the settings.

Benchmarks:

Battlefield 4:

1080p Low Detail Preset: 25 FPS Average

Bioshock Infinite:

1080p Low Detail Preset: 27 FPS Average

Skyrim

1080p High Detail, 0x AA, 8 x AF: 30 FPS Average

As you can see this method won't win any awards for its performance; however, for the price you can tweak the settings for 1080p or play in 720p without any problems.


Third Build: AMD Athlon 760k

The Athlon 760k is a lot like what you'd find, in terms of performance, in one of AMD's more modern Kaveri APU. For around $80 you get what I'd consider a good processor and then get to go for a dedicated graphics card that could possibly give you more performance overall. If you do plan to upgrade, then this route does seem more viable than going with an APU and then adding an additional graphics card in SLI.

Processor Options Final Thoughts:

If this is the real world, the easiest solution to the problem of dull processors would be to jump up to the 13-4130 or FX 6300. Due to the probability of game developers using multiple cores in the future I'd probably place my extra $40 in the hands of the FX 6300.

AMD FD6300WMHKBOX FX-6300 6-Core Processor Black Edition
AMD FD6300WMHKBOX FX-6300 6-Core Processor Black Edition

Because this is real life and not a budget, I'm going to recommend that anyone that actually does this build go with AMD's FX 6300 rather than the CPU picks above. Yes, this will take the budget to around $440, but should give you drastic enough performance improvement that it's worth every penny.

 
5 stars for the AMD FX 6300

Intel Vs. AMD Poll

Which CPU would you go with if you only had $400 in total?

  • Intel Pentium G3440
  • AMD A10-7700k
  • Athlon 750k
  • Forget Budget, you're crazy not to add $40 here and go for the i3-4130 or FX 6300
See results without voting
The MSI Radeon R7 250X is around $80 after rebate. Find it for a good deal and it's the best price/performance you'll get.
The MSI Radeon R7 250X is around $80 after rebate. Find it for a good deal and it's the best price/performance you'll get.

Best Performance Graphics Card for Under $100 2014?

A good graphics card is at the heart of any good gaming rig. We've set aside $85 for our budget which really gives us a solid option for low to medium graphics on even the most graphically intense games. For this price point there's, in my opinion, only one really strong competitor; the R7 250X.

Find it on rebate and you'll end up right within our budget of around $80. If you're willing to jump up around $40, then going with the R7 260X is well worth the cost. That being said price/performance it's hard to beat AMD's newly rebranded HD 7770, the R7 250X. Here's some benchmarks to show you the kind of performance you can expect from this card.

Benchmark for R7 250X:

Battlefield 4

1080p Medium AA Post, SSAO: 58.7 FPS Average

Metro: Last Light

1080p Low Quality, Blur Low, R x AF: 54.7 FPS Average

Bioshock Infinite Frame Rate: 48.8 FPS Average

Graphics Card Final Thoughts R7 250X Vs. A10-7700k:

As you can see performance-wise you are much better off going with a dedicated graphics card rather than using an APU at all. At these frame rates we've already reached performance in excess of what consoles can provide.

MSI Computer Video Graphics Cards R7 250X 1GD5
MSI Computer Video Graphics Cards R7 250X 1GD5

Fantastic performance that trumps consoles for around $80 after rebate.

 
ASUS M5A78L-M LX PLUS AM3+ Motherboard
ASUS M5A78L-M LX PLUS AM3+ Motherboard

Best Motherboard for Under or Around $50?

If you've read carefully above, then you know that for this portion I'm recommending an AM3+ motherboard. This is assuming that you've exceeded the budget and gone with an FX 6300 processor. If you want to stick closely to the budget, then you'll need a socket 1150 motherboard for the Pentium option or an FM2+ motherboard for the Athlon 750k.

For motherboard go with something like the Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3. While it won't do you too many favors in the overclocking department, it's still a quality product from a reliable manufacturer.
You can find it on rebate for under $50.


3 Final $400 Gaming PC Builds for 2014

Intel Build: Pentium G3440, MSI AMD Radeon R7 250x, Gigabyte LGA 1150 Intel H81 GA-H81M-HD2, 8GB of Kingston HyperX, Corsair CX 430, Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB, and lastly Thermaltake's V3 PC case.

Total Price: $426

AMD Athlon Build: AMD Athlon 750k, MSI A78M-E35 FM2+, 8GB of Kingston HyperX, Corsair CX 430, Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB , and the Thermaltake V3 PC case.

Total Price: $428

AMD FX Build: AMD FX 6300, MSI AMD Radeon R7 250x, Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3, 8GB of Kingston HyperX, Corsair CX 430, Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB , and the Thermaltake V3 case.

Total Price: $460

What Build Should You Pick? Final Thoughts:

Because of the price to performance ratio I ended up throwing out the APU build altogether. What we have in the end are 3 builds that I feel do a solid job of beating the console in terms of performance. In the end, in my opinion, you're best off going with the FX build here as it should give your PC a bit more longevity in terms of its CPU and upgrading later on.

© 2013 brandonhart100

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