Q. Can I build a gaming computer for $1000?

An exercise in budget computing is to build a computer that will give acceptable gaming performance for under $1000.

The biggest bang for the buck component in a gaming computer is the video card, so sacrifices will have to me made in the area of CPU and hard drives. As desirable as quad-core Sandybridge Intel processors are, they are more expensive, so AMD is the way to go for quad core under $800. Here are suggested configurations at about the $800, 900 and $1000 price points (before tax, Canadian dollars, current to July 20 2011) In all of the configurations, we have gone with full sized motherboards that have:

  • two PCI-e video card slots compatible with Crossfire (or SLI) for future acceleration
  • USB 3.0 on board
  • SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) on board
  • Gigabit Ethernet (1000BT)
  • digital audio out
  • 4 RAM sockets with overclocked DDR3 capability

And we have specced a robust power supply to keep things running (something that is often skimped on in budget builds).

CPU: AMD Phenom II x4 965 Black Editon Processor AM3 3.4 GHz 8Mb Cache Box 125W $149
Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 Motherboard with SATA 6.0 GB/s, USB 3.0, UEFI BIOS $99
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD6670 820 MHz 1 GB DDR3 RAM $99
Memory: Corsair CMX4GX3M2A1600C9 XMS3 4GB kit (2x2GB) Dual Channel 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM $42
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda ST3500413AS 500GB 7200RPM Hard Drive $47
DVD Drive: Asus DRW-24B3ST 24X Internal DVD Burner with Nero software – $32
Case: Vento TA-8H3 ATX Mid-tower Black, USB2.0 and Audio jacks on front panel 80MM FAN $29
Fan: Additional case fan 120 mm quiet model $19
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts 650W Green Power supply PSU 80+ Bronze SLI and CrossFire Ready $85
Cooling: Stock heatsink and fan comes with the AMD Phenom Boxed processor
Mouse: Comfort Optical Mouse 3000 $22
Keyboard: Wired Keyboard 600 Black USB Port English $15
Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium $129

Total: $767

A video upgrade makes the most immediate difference to gaming performance, the Radeon 6670 card benchmarks at about 69 on TomsHardware combined ratings, the Radeon HD6850 at about 95 and the nVidia GTX560 at about 123

Video card: Gigabyte Radeon HD6850 Overclock 820MHz 1GB-DDR5 256 Bit, 2X DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort $199 (+$100)
or
Asus ENGTX560/DCII nVidia GTX560 Overclock 850 MHz 2 DVI + 1 HDMI 1Gb DDR5 RAM DirectCu II dual fan $229 (+$130)

Total with HD6850 video: $867 or with GTX560 $897

Other optional upgrades
Mouse: Logitech Gaming Mouse G500 USB $79 (+$57) (note that you don’t want a wireless mouse or keyboard for gaming)
Keyboard: Logitech Gaming Keyboard G110 12 programmable keys, backlighting, USB audio $96 (+$81)
Audio: The motherboard has digital optical audio out (S/PDIF) so if you have speakers, headphones or a receiver with digital optical input, that will get the best sound quality.

Adding the mouse and keyboard to the video upgrades, the total is $1045

To go Intel here’s a suggested i3 rig about $817. Remember that most games do not take advantage of multiple cores, so a faster dual core processor usually has an advantage over a slower quad-core processor, so we have started with a 3.1 GHz i3.

The quad-core i5 and video card upgrade options push the budget to a little over $1000

CPU:Intel Core i3 2100 3.10 GHz SandyBridge LGA1155 Dual Core Retail box 3M cache $139
Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD53B3 SKT.1155 INTEL P67 ATX 4X DDR3,2PCI-E X16/2PCI/3PCI-E USB3.0, SATA 6.0 Gb/s $159
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD6670 820 MHz 1 GB DDR3 RAM $99
Memory: Corsair CMX4GX3M2A1600C9 XMS3 4GB (2x2GB) Dual Channel 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM $42
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda ST3500413AS 500GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive $47
DVD Drive: Asus DRW-24B3ST 24X Internal DVD Burner with Nero software $32
Case: Vento TA-8H3 ATX Mid-tower Black, USB2.0 and Audio jacks on front panel 80MM FAN $29
Fan: Additional case fan 120 mm quiet model $19
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts 650W Green Power supply PSU 80+ Bronze SLI and CrossFire Ready $85
Cooling: Stock heatsink and fan comes with the Intel Boxed processor
Mouse: Comfort Optical Mouse 3000 $22
Keyboard: Wired Keyboard 600 Black USB Port English $15
Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium $129

Total $817

Upgrade options
CPU: Intel Core i5 2400 3.10 GHz SandyBridge LGA1155 Quad Core Retail box 6M cache $229 (+$90)
Video card:
Gigabyte Radeon HD6850 Overclock 820MHz 1GB-DDR5 256 Bit, 2X DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort $199 (+$100)
or
Asus ENGTX560/DCII nVidia GTX560 Overclock 850 MHz 2 DVI + 1 HDMI 1Gb DDR5 RAM DirectCu II dual fan $229 (+$130)

With the HD6850, the total is $1007 or with the GTX560, $1037

Adding the keyboard and mouse upgrades takes us to $1175

Add tax and shipping depending on where you are getting the components, and add some budget for assembly and testing if you’re not confident to do it yourself.

You’ll require a monitor as well, but chances are you already have one. If you have a retail license of Windows 7 64 Bit which is not in use on another machine, you could save the cost of the operating system.

These systems rely on the stock cooling fans – if you are intending to overclock, then you may be wise to look into third party CPU coolers, and the Intel Core I5 3.30 GHz Socket 1155 6M Boxed Unlocked “K” version of the Intel i5 for about $45 more

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1 Response to Q. Can I build a gaming computer for $1000?

  1. Pingback: Q. Can I build a $1500 – $2000 gaming computer? | CanadaRAM: Memory and Computer Q&A

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