Brother Wolf’s Budget Gaming PC

NovaBench Score

Current Desktop

My current gaming desktop. It started life as Sister Moon’s old desktop, a Dell Inspiron 531, (Athlon X2 2.3GHz 1MBL2C, 2GB 667MHz DDR2). When the HDD failed in Aug2010, we picked up a new HP for her and I bought a WD Caviar Blue 1TB HDD, (WD10EALS), to rebuild it with, intending to make and mp3 server for the house.

Flash forward to spring of 2011, the HDD was still in a box and I finally had a space to run a desktop in my office again, I had been relying on my laptop and XBox360 primarily for gaming). I decided to give it the desktop a shot at gaming as I had added a GeForce 9400 1GB at some point during it’s life to beef up the window’s performance. What I encountered after installing the new HDD and OS was… disappointing.

This led to the first real research into re-building a machine with more than an HDD or RAM swap in over a decade. As I researched and implemented a plan, I learned some new things, not the least of which was how much power it required and what aging does to a PSU, (in the old days, these weren’t issues as a rule). Since Dell does everything proprietary and on the cheap, I new that a new PSU would mean a new case. So, original mobo/proc/DVD combined with older GPU and new RAM/PSU/NIC/case. End result? Still shite.
NovaBench Score

As of Mid-August 2011, Danny Yu had made some revisions to his recommended systems since I reviewed them in June. This led to more research on Tom’s Hardware and the ultimate decision to re-build from an AMD Llano APU rather than Intel Core i3+discrete GPU. There we compelling arguments either way, but ultimately I chose my maximum budget build based on what seems like cheap power now and some minor future proofing. The end result is a vast improvement both in comparable benchmark numbers as well as the initial play tests. I need to run all my games through their paces, (SC2, L4D2, TF2, SWTOR, etc), but the initial test was a delicious 30-40fps romp through a medium quality MMO, (consider everything previously had been lowered to the absolute minimum).

The build w/ buy-links to help out the Googly-challenged.

  • AMD A8-3850 APU with AMD Radeon 6550 HD Graphics 2.9GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Processor (AD3850WNGXBOX), $139.99 (Amazon, 17Aug2011)
  • Gigabyte AMD Socket FM1 Dual Graphic Micro ATX Motherboard (GA-A75M-S2V), $87.99 (Amazon, 17Aug2011)
  • G.Skill Ripjaws-X 4GB (2x2GB) – DIMM 240-pin – DDR3 – 1600 MHz / PC3-12800 – CL9 – 1.5 V – unbuffered – non-ECC (F3-12800CL9D-4GBXL), $41.99 (Amazon, 17Aug2011)
  • Corsair Builder Series CX V2 500-Watt 80 Plus Certified Power Supply (CMPSU-500CXV2), $59.99 (Amazon, 28May2011)
  • NZXT GAMMA Classic Series ATX Mid Tower Interior Steel Chassis (GAMMA Black), $35.99 (Amazon, 28May2011)
  • Cooler Master 120mm Blue LED Computer Case Cooling FansR4-L2R-20AC-GP), Qty2 – $8.35ea (Amazon, 28May2011)
  • SilverStone 120mm Fan Filter with Grill (FF121B), Qty3 – $2.99ea (Amazon, 28May2011)
  • Western Digital 1 TB Caviar Blue SATA 3 Gb/s 7200 RPM 32 MB Cache Internal Hard Drive (WD10EALS), $69.98 (NewEgg, 24Aug2010)
  • Cisco-Linksys Wireless-N PCI Adapter with Dual-Band (WMP600N), Gift w/ Purchase (NewEgg, 27Jul2010)
  • Hitachi 16X DVD+/-RW (model unknown), Recycled (Dell, 18Jul2007)

Cost to build: $461.60, incl recycled parts
Current value: $521.49, (Amazon, 22Aug2011)

In general, you may be able to save a buck or two on NewEgg, but I have Amazon Prime and being able to buy kit and have it at my home for free in 2 days is a really big deal. I picked up the mobo/proc/RAM on Wed afternoon, had the proc Thur & rest Fri. Played some tabletop games at the house Sat, disassembled the machine and installed the new parts that same evening and before midnight we had drivers installed and a quick play test to prove it was behaving as expected.

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