Build a $550 bare-bones gaming PC

Build a $550 bare-bones gaming PC

Summary: Excellent question in today's hardware 2.0 mailbag:I want to upgrade my existing PC so it's able to play the latest games. What upgrades do you recommend? By the way, I'm on a budget of about $600 ...Let's take a look!


Excellent question in today's hardware 2.0 mailbag:

I want to upgrade my existing PC so it's able to play the latest games. What upgrades do you recommend? By the way, I'm on a budget of about $600 ...

Let's take a look!

Check out the image gallery that accompanies this post!

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition 3.4GHz AM3 125W quad-core

For a long time I didn't think that AMD had much to offer those looking for high-end performance, but the new Phenom II X4 quad-core pieces are well worth taking a look at.

Right out of the box the X4 965 offers fantastic performance for the price, and if you want you can always overclock to squeeze more power out of it (4.0GHz is quite doable, but you'll need to replace the cooler).

Excellent piece of silicon for the price!

Price: $185

Motherboard: Elitegroup ECS A780GM-A Ultra AM2+/AM3 AMD 780G

A basic but still pretty well thought out motherboard to pair with your Phenom II X4 quad-core. It's not as fancy looking as some motherboards, and doesn't come with all the bells and whistles (most of which you'll never use anyway) but if you're looking for a solid, reliable part, this is worth taking a look at.

Network support, plenty of USB ports, and even an on-board ATI Radeon HD 3200 GPU ... what more could you ask for!

Price: $75

The rest of the upgrade -->

Video card: GIGABYTE GV-R567OC-1GI Radeon HD 5670 (Redwood) 1GB

It's amazing to think that you can pick up a really good graphics cards nowadays for around $100 that's enough power for most gamers (short of those hardcore gamers who have big screens and are running at high resolutions).

The Radeon HD 5670 is a fantastic GPU for the price and should be a

ble to handle everything you can throw at it. Paired up with the Phenom II X4 it'll make a fantastic bundle.

Price: $110

Hard drive: Samsung EcoGreen F2 HD103SI 1TB

A nice, reliable drive offering bags of space for your games. What more could you ask for? You could even add two right from the start to future-proof your gaming PC.

Price: $70

RAM: Kingston HyperX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)

Nothing special here, just good quality RAM at a decent price.

Price: $55

Power Supply Unit: BFG Tech GS-550 550W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V

You don't need a monster power supply unit for your PC, this 550W unit from BFG is all the PSU you'll need for this PC, and it has plenty of room for future upgrades.

Price: $50

Total upgrade price: $545

This machine may not be the top end, and it may not be able to keep up with an Intel Core i7 system, but it's still a fantastic set of PC upgrades given the price tag.

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Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Processors

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  • That's not an upgrade

    that's a whole system
    • Re: That's no an upgrade

      ...sans case, monitor and OS.
  • RE: Build a $550 bare-bones gaming PC

    Isn't 125w on a cpu considered pretty high nowadays?

    Should we wait on buying motherboards until they start coming with a USB 3.0 port?
    Loverock Davidson
    • Well...

      It is on the high side depending on what you compare it too. Mode 3GHz+ CPU's are in the 100-125W range. Intel and AMD alike. Unless you are wanting to spend extra cash. Intel has some higher clocked Xeon's that are 80W, but you pay big $$ for them.

      As for USB 3, I guess that depends on how much you will use it. Personally I greatly prefer eSATA for hard drives, as the controller has less overhead and there is no translation that needs to happen. And it will be some time before other devices (video/audio equipment) start to support USB 3.
      • 125W TDP is not 125W consumption..

        this is the biggest misconception around.. this is a thermal spec not a power consumption spec.. the AMD's actually scale very well with power consumption..
    • Good idea, though there are several out already with

      USB 3.0. It really increases speed, from what I have read, it will allow data transfer speed of 10 fold, that of USB 2.0

      Just buying a board with USB 3.0 won't do the trick though, as Windows is over a year away from supporting this. As of right now, only Linux supports this technology. Think about external SSD on a USB 3.0 cable

      Here is a link.
  • RE: Build a $550 bare-bones gaming PC

    Yikes. 2GB in a gaming system is going to cut it pretty close for some games. The processor as well is a little overkill, especially combined with the GPU and limited ram, basically it comes out to a somewhat unbalanced system.

    Nothing wrong with the 5670 for its price, it's a good card and will run most games at 1080p at very good framerates if you can skimp on the AA, but there are better matches, especially if yuo're going to the expense of getting a high-quality PSU like that. The 5670's main advantage (aside from price) is that it doesn't require a PCIE power connector so it's great for OEM rigs - DIY machines though, there are better matchups.

    Amd just released an excellent low-end CPU; the new X3 440 saves you $100 over the Phenom II. 99% of games will show barely any difference with a triple vs. a quad core, hell 95% of games barely show any difference with a double vs triple/quad, especially at the resolutions most PC gamers expect to play at.

    That's more than enough to upgrade to 4GB and get a better card, such as a 1GB 5750 at Newegg for $140 which is significantly faster than a 5670 for only $30 more, and still come in under the price of your system.

    Far more balanced, and there's a chance you can even unlock the 4th core of the 440. :)
    • re 2gb

      it may sound low but if the motherboard has sideport memory then it should be ample combined with the 1gb version of the gpu.
      I Hate Malware
  • That'll work. Send it over.

    I'll install Ubuntu Server on it and run everything in kvms.

    You've done that, haven't you Adi? Yes?
    • Dietrich?

      Is that you?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • No no nooo. Nicholas.

        I am The Linux Advocate.

        That's who. Yes? Yes!
      • Love that MoBo

        This is me. Who is you?

        I've been running an ECS A780 motherboard for a while. Not sure why he said it's not as attractive as others, because I think it's a lot MORE attractive than others! Show me another mobo with a black PCB. The cool "Black Series" heat sink. The color coded RAM slots. It's one bad mama jama!
  • That's pretty bare bones

    I think that is pretty bare bones. Why even do it when PC gaming is dead for the most part. Heck you will have to spend at least $200 for a decent video card. Sorry but I went to a gaming platform like Xbox 360 and stick with the cheap PC's for everything else.
    • Consoles suck for a lot...

      ...of games. Namely FPS. I enjoy playing Modern Warefare 2 with friends sure, but I will take, fast, accurate mouse control over a console controller any day of the week.

      And there are a lot of games that are PC only.

      Personally I hope all the game makers that have switched to making console games instead of PC games crash and burn. Especially when you look at Modern Warfare 1 which was a PC game ported to console, and had awesome multiplayer. And then Modern Warfare 2 which is a console game ported to PC and has the worst multiplayer setup ever.
    • Have you looked at the specs on the 5670?

      What do you think is necessary?
    • PCs for gaming dead?? I don't think so

      FPS games are way better on the PC, and every friend I know who has a console game (both PS3 and 360) says the graphics are much brighter and better on the PC.
      I only play FPS so I will only speak for those games (Left 4 Dead I & II, Call of Duty 2 & 4 & Modern Warfare II, Unreal Tournament).
      Another reason PCs are superior over console machines is that the games can be modded, patched, and addons come quicker. People like me can make maps, campaigns, and other things while xbox users can only hope xbox live releases patches & such and which are usually limited and cost money.
      Do not get me wrong, consoles are nice as I myself have an xbox 360 with a bunch of games but it does have its limitations.
    • You don't need a $200 video card

      That sub-$100 5670 will play console ports *far* better than their native console platforms, this is a fact. A $200 card will absolutely blow them away.

      You're simply out of touch with regards to PC technology. The days of $1500 being required to build a decent gaming PC are long gone and have been for some time.
    • Why Limit Yourself?

      I try not to limit myself and own gaming consoles AND a great gaming PC. I buy a console usually when it has an interesting game that is not on PC though. But I disagree that PC gaming is dead cause I spend more time on the PC than my consoles. Just as another post here stated, "There many mods & addons to be had for PC games long after the console games have ended". Also, Never forget, Your console games are programmed on a computer.

      But Really... Why Limit Yourself?
    • PC Gaming dead? Uhhh, I don't think so.

      Tell that to all the subscribers to World of Warcraft, Everquest II, and all the other MMORPGs out there.

      Consoles have their place. So do PCs. I don't see either ever being 'dead' in their respective markets.
      • beautifully said. I agree completely (nt)