So, you already know from the title that this article is from early 2021 and right now the market for PC components isn't in a very good way. Supply chain squeezes have made it really difficult to get your hands on both big ticket graphics cards and processors. But do we really need all of that to build a capable gaming rig?
The answer is no and today, we're going to walk you through how to choose parts to put together a solid system for under 600 U.S. dollars. Here's hoping that won't even come close to eating through your tax refund.
Let's start by talking about the CPU, the brain of the computer. Despite the well-publicized chip shortages, it's not too difficult to get your hands on a modern, quad-core processor for around 120 U.S. dollars. Although six core CPUs are quickly pushing their way into the mainstream, most modern games will still play just fine on four cores, as long as you're not trying to stream with CPU encoding or run lots of other things while you're gaming. And besides, we only have $600 to work with.
Of course, you'll need something to plug that CPU into, so let's quickly talk about motherboards. The good news is that unlike the old days, raw performance doesn't vary much between models, higher priced boards simply give you more IO, more features and perhaps more overclocking headroom, but for a $600 build, there's nothing wrong with spending around 75 bucks on a simple motherboard from a reputable manufacturer, especially as you can always connect more powerful components to it later, just make sure it's compatible with your CPU.
But how much RAM should you pair with your bang for the buck CPU and motherboard? Although it's becoming more common to see 16 gigabytes recommended as a sweet spot for mid-range builds, eight is enough, if you're trying to save some money. Although you won't be doing any extreme multitasking with eight gigabytes, it's enough for most games, as seeing how it's possible to find eight gigs of RAM for only about 40 bucks, it's a great starting point for a cheaper build.
Additionally, even though there's been a lot of chatter lately about how AMD processors specifically can benefit from higher RAM speeds, the difference isn't huge, so don't feel compelled to grow and blow more money on a faster RAM kit, if you went with a CPU from team red.
Now let's get to the most costly item, your graphics card. The shortage of current gen GPUs has driven up the cost and constrained supply for even older cards, as many people are scrambling just to get something to game on. But this doesn't mean that you're out of luck, as supply for more mid-tier products can still be had.
At the time of this writing, you can get a GTX 1050 Ti or an RX 570 for around $200, especially if you're willing to buy used. And while that's a bit of a mark-up from their launch prices, it's currently very difficult to get anything more powerful at that price. But the good news is that although you won't be setting any 4K benchmarking records with these cards, you can get playable frame rates at 1080p on modern titles, some of them even at higher settings.
So if you've been keeping score at home, we're up to 435 bucks now, meaning there's not much room left to play with but still some components to buy, so, let's look at how we can get the most value for money out of the last few parts.
In terms of storage, we wouldn't want to salve you with a clunky, old, mechanical hard drive, even at this price point, but fortunately, there are plenty of good SSDs that will hold around half a terabyte for 50 bucks. And you can even find an NVMe model for only 5 or $10 more if you have large files to move around frequently.
But if you're trying to save every penny, a good old SATA SSD won't slow you down appreciably when you're gaming or doing typical tasks in windows.
Next up, a power supply. You've probably heard horror stories about how cheapo, no-name power supplies can do lovely things like give off sparks and damage your components, but the good news is that you don't have to spend too much more to get something reliable.
Look for a power supply with an 80 Plus Bronze certification from a manufacturer you recognize. Such a unit will set you back around 45 bucks. Don't worry too much of a wattage, as the components we're recommending in this article, won't come close to pushing your PSU to max capacity.
And finally, you'll need a case to hold it all together, unless you just want to expose it to the elements and the dust. Budget cases are actually the nicest they've ever been as it's possible to find painted interiors, cable management grommets, a basement to hide all the mess from your budget power supply and even tempered glass and RGB for 60 bucks.
Although you'll want to read reviews and make sure the case you want has good airflow, you won't need the kind of high-end fan setup that you might see in builds with pricier components that generate more or heat. And that's it, for 590 bucks, you've got yourself a very capable home PC and gaming machine, even in this economy. But unfortunately, there wasn't room in the budget to squeeze in a built-in chicken chamber, so, the Colonel still wins on that one.