Building a budget PC for under $500

Building a budget PC for under $500

Summary: How to build a budget PC around the AMD A8 Llano APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Believe it or not, it's possible to put together a great value PC without having to spend the earth, remortgage your house or sell your first-born! I'm going to show you how to build a budget PC for under $500 around the AMD A8 Llano APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).

RelatedHow to: Stress test your new PC to shake out any faults

Note: As usual, I won’t be recommending a case or peripherals … there are too many possibilities, and personal choice/tastes are too varied.

Processor

As I've already said, this system is built around AMD's A8 APU which sees the CPU and GPU combined into a single package.

The silicon I'm going to use here is the A8-3870K 'Black Edition.' It combines a 3.0GHz quad-core Socket FM1 CPU and a AMD Radeon HD 6550D GPU into a single package. Also, being a 'Black Edition' part it has an unlocked multiplier which makes overclocking easier (if you're into that sort of thing).

Note: Because the APU is  CPU and GPU, there's no need for a separate graphics card, which reduced the cost of the overall build. Also, the heatsink and cooler are included in the bundle, so there's no additional spending required.

Price: $115

Motherboard

Because we're using an A8 APU, we need a motherboard that features a Socket FM1, but don't let that put you off going for an A8 APU because there's plenty of choice.

With a budget build we don't really need to go overboard on the motherboard, we just need something solid and reliable. Fortunately, for under $100 you can not only get a good board, but also high-end features such as HDMI and UEFI firmware, even USB 3.0.

The board I've gone for here is there the ASRock A75 PRO4. It contains everything you need at a decent price point.

Price: $90

Next -->

RAM

We're building a budget PC here, but i still don't think that you should skimp on the RAM and fit less than 4GB, especially given that it'll only cost you around $25.

Note: For more information on how much RAM you need, check out 'How much RAM do I need?'

For this build I've chosen 2 x 2GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600). Good, stable RAM at a decent price.

Price: $25

Storage

Over the past few months the price of hard disks has risen by something like 300% following the disastrous flooding in Thailand which caused production to shut down.

One of the best deals I've found for storage lately is the HITACHI HDS721050CLA362 500GB, 7200 RPM drive (buy it s a bare drive as you don't need the full retail kit).

Price: $80

Power Supply Unit

I'm keeping it real with the power supply and going for something modest. I've gone for the Corsair Builder Series CX430 V2. This offers 430W of power, a wide range of connectors, it's quiet, and is 80 PLUS efficient so it won't cost the earth to run.

Price: $45

Optical Drive

Don't overthink this one too much. A combo burner like the ASUS DRW-24B1ST which you can pick up cheaply will do just fine.

Price: $20

The Bottom Line ...

Let's do a quick rundown of the price list (a copy of Windows have been added to the price):

  • A8-3870K 'Black Edition' - $115
  • ASRock A75 PRO4 - $90
  • Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3 1333 - $25
  • HITACHI HDS721050CLA362 - $80
  • Corsair Builder Series CX430 V2 - $45
  • ASUS DRW-24B1ST - $20
  • Windows 7 Home Premium OEM - $99

Total price: $474

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59 comments
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  • Bad idea on the ram

    The APU processors are very very ram sensitive. bypass the 1333 and grab 1600 for the same price or slightly more. You will see a about a 20% jump in performance.
    AceOfClubs
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @AceOfClubs

      If the title said a budget gaming pc I would agree but that's not what the article is about. What, other then games would you see a 20% improvement from? For what he has it is perfectly fine. And if your going gaming then I would recommend 1866 memory for a little more $$, which would still keep it around $500.
      ewell44
    • @AceOfClubs ... Ummm ...

      ... the article title says 'Building a budget PC for under $500'. I never got any inferences by AKH that he's trying to sell this random selection of parts / peripherals as somehow being a killer, Alienware-like, RAM ravenous, gaming rig. So no, his recommendations are actually quite good for a ... readit!...>>> [i]Budget PC"[/i].<br><br>I'll even go on to argue that some of the parts (APU included) are actually a 'little' overkill - for even a budget system, nowadays.<br><br>Thanks for playing.
      thx-1138_
  • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

    $500 is budget? You can build a halfway decent gaming computer for 500.
    Aerowind
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @Aerowind : Yep - I had exactly the same thought - other than wanting to gain experience, or being a control freak about what goes into the machine, why would anyone considering the category of BUDGET ever think of spending more than $200 to $300? If BUDGET is really an issue, one can shop refurbs & off lease sellers and stay well within the lower figure. Sure they will not necessarily be "up to date", but then that is the price of staying within a BUDGET.
      I guess this is what happens when someone puts a keyboard in front of someone with a cloud-based brain.
      Willnott
      • If you're buying a NEW computer system for $200-$300

        @Willnott <br><br>you're not buying budget as much as bargain bin junk. Basically units geared for surfing and lite duty needs, and susceptible to premature meltdowns and "mysterious" kludging (often tracked to the integrity of components used). <br><br>"My, my, are these leaky capacitors we're seeing here?" :| "Wonder what readings we'll find when we tab the power rails?" :O *doink*<br><br>"Budget" as used here simply means inexpensive, not rock bottom. If that's the case, and your budget is very restrictive, you might want to look at used units (hopefully ones built with better quality parts). Many represent smart values, especially if the price is right and the mileage isn't too steep.
        klumper
  • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

    Soo...umm, what about the HDD? Or do computers not use those anymore? Must be a slow day to create another Budget DIY article. :-(
    celliott113
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @celliott113
      It's listed under storage after the RAM section. Must be a slow day to read before posting
      mike2k
      • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

        @mike2k It is. :-D No coffee and my illiteracy is at its best until 10:00am. My bad. But it still seems odd for another diy article. Thanks for the correction.
        celliott113
      • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

        =D
        ctcarino
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @celliott113 that's the HITACHI HDS721050CLA362 - $80 in the list
      Scubajrr
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @celliott113 OK. Where's the case? I HAVE had most of a cup of coffee and I still don't see it. Help me out.
      bkfriesen
  • sparse motherboard

    I considered building something with this amd processor, but was leary of the rendering capabilities of the 6550 when it came to open gl. Was wondering if you know anything about that?? It also seems like there's spots for a video card, and was wondering if the 6550 is available for use from the processor (to do vector math) if a video card is installed. Also if the onboard video is disabled when using another card, or if it's still available for dual screen.
    sparkle farkle
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @sparkle farkle IIRC the 6550 is available for hybrid crossxfire usage, but I'm not sure with what cards.
      Champ_Kind
  • People build budget PCs?

    You can probably do just as well buying one from Dell or HP. In December of 2010 I picked up an HP Pavlion with a 2.4GHz, quad core AMD CPU, 8GB RAM, 750GB HD, Dual Layer DVD recorder with lightscribe, wireless networking, media card reader, etc, etc for $325.
    ye
    • Quality of the components will be questionable

      @ye <br><br>Starting with motherboard and PSU -- and it generally extends beyond that. The harder you push them (or attempt to), the quicker you discover shortcomings and trips. Some are worse than others, so this is cast in somewhat broad strokes.<br><br>Upgrading can also be more difficult, if not impossible. Replacement of OEM parts are often expensive, at times very expensive. And of course many warranties are voided if you open the case or interfere with any of the original parts. Thus YMMV.<br><br>That said, many OEM offerings do represent decent overall values. The lower you push the price point however, the quicker the corner cutting and compromises begin. That much you can bank on.
      klumper
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @ye I haven't purchased a brand-name PC since 1997. When I realized that I could buy a pretty decent PC for less than I could build one for (~$500), I said goodbye to my DIY days. I bought an HP refurb TouchSmart with a 25.5 inch monitor. Love it. Works great for everything that I do. (Not a gamer.) Cost? $500.
      bkfriesen
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @ye That's true, I have built systems for years, but its hard to beat a prebuilt with those spec's. Add to that, that if you shop around you can find similar setups with last year's dedicated video card for pennies more.
      zapthepunctual
  • Sad part is you can buy a PC for under $500 too.

    The sad part of it all is that you can also find deals on already assembled PC's for under $500 too. Don't get me wrong, I still like building mine, but its for pride and not economic reasons.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
    • RE: Building a budget PC for under $500

      @jscott418

      I too enjoy building my own computers.

      For anyone that is interested, here are some reasons for this:
      1. Knowing that you have high quality parts
      - One of these parts is the power supply (PS). Many branded computers skimp on having a good PS. This also applies to many computer cases that are sold with power supplies.
      2. Having a "clean" computer
      - I prefer to have my own OS disc without bloatware, if nothing else
      3. Longer warranty
      -There are longer warranties on the individual parts than on a whole branded computer
      4. Having "new" technologies
      - It is amazing that although most major external hard drives are USB 3.0 now, very few branded computers offer this capability
      5. Being able to replace parts.
      - There are a number of companies (I wont name names) which use proprietary connections or arrangements in their computers. Sometimes, this includes common connectors with switched wire orders (hence, replacing a PS is out of the question).

      This all being said, the computer manufacturers will typically include larger hard drives (1TiB) and more ram (8GiB) in computers sold at the same price point and specs as those you can build yourself.
      fairwinds8