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Building a Good Under $300 Gaming PC 2015
As someone who enjoys putting computers together I often get asked by friends and relatives what kind of computer they could put together for around $300 to $400. The reasoning for this makes a lot of sense - they can get a cheap computer for $300 that already has Windows 8.1.
Admittedly, for a lot of users this might even be the way to go. They get a warranty, help, and the operating system for a fraction of the cost. That being said if you're looking to play games, then building your own computer at that price level might be an even better route.
Pre-Built Vs. Custom Gaming PC
The decision is really all about the graphics. Can you get by on the integrated graphics of whatever processor you choose, or do you need something better? If you need something better, then certainly building in a large portion of your budget to a dedicated GPU is the way to go. For this build that means around 30% of our overall budget.
The Pentium G3258 is the Obvious Choice Here:
Because your ability to play modern games will start and end with the processor and graphics card it's important to make them a priority. The Pentium G3258 is the obvious place to start. Intel's anniversary CPU is an incredible overclocker and well worth the $50 to $70 price range you can find it at.
As Tom's Hardware has shown this is the main difference between it and the other Pentium series of processors that Intel has out right now. That overclocker means that enthusiasts can take what amounts to a basic operating frequency of 3.2GHz and bump it up to 4.7GHz using both cores or 4.8GHz using a single thread.
Overclocking on a Budget:
Being that you'll most likely use a budget board to go along with a budget build, your overclock will most likely be lower than this; however, the result is still a positive one. Even without an overclock the G3258 beats out its next to closest competitors in pricing, the Athlon X4 750k.
Finding Motherboard for Overclocking Under $50
While you might think that overclocking this processor requires one of the mighty and expensive Z87 or Z97, there are budget H81, B75, H87, H97 motherboards that support it. While there are certainly many boards out there that will support it many do require a bios update, so be sure you're comfortable with doing that before you decide that you want to overclock.
A Budget Motherboard Built for Overclocking:
I ultimately decided upon the MSI H81M-P33. This is a board that should be found for under $50. Anything over and you should look for an alternate retailer or board. With the stock cooler you should then be able to get up to 4.4GHz at 1.3 volts.
Choosing a Good 80 Plus Power Supply Under $25
For power supply I recommend you get something that's reliable, 80 Plus, and inexpensive. Finding a PSU on rebate is your best bet to get all of the above. This month I like the EVGA 430 Watt 80 Plus certified PSU. This gives us a little wiggle room in terms of the power and should be stable enough for overclocking the G3258.
R7 260X Benchmarks and Thoughts:
For the graphics card we wanted to spend as much as we possibly could while still opting for the graphics card that will give you the best FPS for the money. Right now that appears to be Gigabyte's R7 260X which after a $20 rebate comes in right around $100.
Benchmarks are Still King:
Assuming you can get a solid overclock with your G3258 your FPS should be close to the following numbers which were taken with the i5-3570k:
Battlefield 4: Average 1080p 58.3FPS on High Graphics Settings
Crysis 3: Average 1080p 43.2 on Medium Quality + FXAA
Bioshock Infinite: Average 1080p 50.8 on Ultra Graphics Settings
Other Thoughts: Within range of the 260X is the 750 TI. At around $120 after rebate it should definitely be a consideration here if you want to stretch the budget.
A Budget Case with Lots of Options:
For case you'll want to go with something that's inexpensive, but that still has a lot of features. For that reason I'm going with the Antec Micro ATX VSK-40.
For around $25 it's inexpensive, includes a 120mm exhaust fan, and supports another front intake fan. For those who want to take their overclock a bit further, it also has rear water cooling grommets.
Overall, I'm amazed at the level of PC you can build for $300 to $325. During the holiday season you might even be able to get a build like this down under $300. For a build that I'd consider to be far more capable in both processing and graphical power than an Xbox One or PS4, I'd consider it a success.
For those who want to play a bit further you could also consider going with a CPU cooler. Cheaper is better in a case like this or you might be wishing you went with an i3. That being said even the i3 will have trouble competing with this CPU when overclocked.
The Athlon 750k is a close competitor; however, considering its base price is $15 higher the only true test it beats out the G3258 in is for situations which additional cores may be used.
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Performance Vs. Xbox One and PS4
Do you think this machine would be better or worse than owning a PS4 or Xbox One?
My Video Review for this Build
© 2014 Brandon Hart