Build a high-performance gaming PC for under $650!

While hardcore gamers will always find a way to pay for that uber component for their gaming rig, I know that many of you out there want to get your hands on a great gaming system, but don't have the dough to blow on your "dream" system. Well, if you're one of those people, this post if for you!

While hardcore gamers will always find a way to pay for that uber component for their gaming rig, I know that many of you out there want to get your hands on a great gaming system, but don't have the dough to blow on your "dream" system. Well, if you're one of those people, this post if for you!

The trick with building a high-performance gaming system on a budget is two-fold:

  • First, you have to spot the fine line between "value for money" and "insanity" - it can be tricky!
  • Secondly, you need to know where you can make compromises that have a marginal effect on performance.

OK, with that in mind, let's start building a high-performance gaming PC for under $650!

Note: The price of this build includes only the hardware (no OS, no games) and doesn't include the cost of peripherals such as keyboard, mouse and screen.

Next -->

Processor

Picking the processor is perhaps the toughest part because not only is it easy to overspend and blow the budget right from the start, if you underspend you'll end up with a poor system. As a general rule of thumb, I tend to look at CPUs that are in the $100 to $125 price range as the best bet.

For this build I've gone with an AMD piece, the Phenom II X3 720. This is a 2.8GHz, triple-core, Socket AM3 part. It's also a "Black" edition part which means you have greater headroom for overclocking, if that sort of thing floats your boat.

Note: If you'd rather have a slightly slower quad-core part, then you can pick up the Athlon II X4 620 for around $99. At 2.66GHz it's slightly slower than the X3 720 but if you run software that works multiple cores (video editing for example), it's a good buy.

Price: $125

Motherboard

Now we've narrowed down the CPU we want, we can go looking for a compatible motherboard. Again, it's easy to overspend on motherboards so the idea is to pick up a decent board at a sensible price.

I've chosen the Foxconn A7DA-S 3.0 AM3 790GX board. This is a great board without being overkill. It features the AMD 790GX chipset, 8GB of DDR3, 2x PCIe slots, decent sound, and HDMI.

Price: $105

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Graphics card

Picking the right graphics card is always tricky because the value for money line is constantly shifting.

A good graphics card for this build is the XFX HD-485X-YDFC Radeon HD 4850 512MB. This is an excellent card, offering excellent performance from an excellent company (which provides lifetime parts and labor warranty on cards).

Hard to go wrong!

Note: Wanna blow some extra dough and get some more gaming performance? Buy two f these cards and link them up via Crossfire. You might not get the full $115 worth of extra performance, but it's a nice upgrade nonetheless!

Price: $115

RAM

Nothing special here, just 4GB (2 x 2GB) of Crucial DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600).

Price: $75

Hard disk

No brainer - Samsung Spinpoint HD502IJ 500GB.

Price: $50

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Optical drive

The Samsung SH-S223L is a decent SATA burner capable of handling all your CD and DVD burning needs.

Price: $32

Power Supply Unit

Again, nothing fancy. Antec EarthWatts 500W.

Price: $70

Case

Feel free to make your own choice here, but the Antec Three Hundred is a decent budget case.

Price: $60

Total price: $632

Well there you have it! A kick-ass, high performance gaming PC for under $650!

Pretty cool, eh?

Thoughts?

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