Going with AMD after More than a Decade
Looking to stream your favorite game on Twitch, render YouTube videos, or do some photo editing? It all starts with the right computer. As someone who does all three, I recently needed an upgrade.
Admittedly, my six-year-old PC still performs well. And replacing its video card three years ago helped to keep it ticking.
However, as I'm teaching my son Adobe Premiere, and there were much better options for cheap, I opted to do the research and build another computer. This one costs around half the price of my last one and performs admirably.
I haven't had an AMD processor in my personal PC for more than a decade. This time around, the competition is different. And if you're not familiar with what AMD's been doing with Ryzen the last few years, you'll want to definitely take a look.
To avoid a long explanation, basically, you can expect more cores and threads, competitive single-core performance, good thermals, and even competitive TDP. And because of this increased competition, Intel's value has increased as well.
That being said, the extra cores and threads appealed to me more when it came down to my final decision. And depending on when you buy, you'll want to take a look at Intel's new Comet Lake Processors as well as new budget AMD options like the Ryzen 3 3300X to make your decision in 2021.
If you're in the $1,000 budget range, here are a few CPUs I recommend.
Competitive CPUs under $200
Ryzen 5 3600
Ryzen 3 3300X
Intel i3 10300
Of course, if you focus more on your CPU than I did here, you may want to go with something in the $300 range. The Ryzen 7 3700X and i7 10700F are the processors you'll be comparing in that price range.
However, for my personal build, I stuck with the R5 3600 because of how similar it was to other options in the price range and how cheap I could get a great motherboard for it. I used the stock fan rather than opting for purchasing a separate cooler.
What's more, in terms of workload, even Intel's new i5 10500 doesn't have an advantage against it. For purely gaming, you might see a slight increase; however, I feel like the R5 3600 is still the best option to build with right now.
Cheap Motherboard Options for Ryzen That Come With an Updated BIOS
Ryzen's 400 series of motherboards are compatible with Ryzen 3. However, many options out there don't come with the BIOS upgraded. This can be a pain if you don't have a processor already for the motherboard.
However, if you go with something like MSI's MAX 400 series of motherboards, all of the motherboards come with an updated BIOS.
I was able to get the MSI X470 Gaming PLUS Max for super cheap and have been more than satisfied with its performance so far. Doing this, rather than using a 500 series motherboard, should save you quite a bit of money while still allowing for a really nice motherboard.
- Includes Support for Ryzen 3 Out of the Box. No BIOS Updated needed.
- M.2 Support and 4133MHz (OC) ram speeds
- No PCIe 4.0 Support
It's unlikely you'll need PCIe 4.0 support anyway. So, in my opinion, it's worth saving a few bucks here and going with an affordable yet good board like this one.
Graphics Card Options
A graphics card can greatly improve the performance of some of your work-based software and thus save you a lot of time. Plus, it allows you to game on your PC. For me, that's a win-win.
I set apart around $200 for the graphics card in this build. And since my build was only around $900, it's possible you may have additional cash available for a higher-end GPU if that's what you're wanting.
That being said, the $200 price range was perfect for me and how much I plan on using the card each day I went with the GTX 1660 Super, which is a very no-fuss option. The specific card I ended up going with was the MSI Ventus XS 1660 Super, which I was able to get for around $215 after rebate.
If you've got an extra $100 in your budget, I'd stretch for the RTX 2060 here. Yes, you may have heard that there are certain (KO) models that give you extra performance, but they aren't generally available. So, I'd just go with something reliable and inexpensive.
Streamers on Twitch and YouTube:
If PC gaming and streaming is a large part of what you're doing, I'd definitely try to push more of your budget towards your graphics card. Otherwise, you may be limited shortly in the type of game you plan on streaming. You can save some of the budget I used here by using a B450 Max motherboard, and potentially even limiting some of the hard drive capacity I've mentioned below.
If you're just getting started, here's a look at some of my favorite entry-level cameras.
The higher the resolution of the video you're working on, the better the GPU you'll want to get. If you're working in 1080p, rather than 4k, you'll be able to get away with a lot less. If 4k is important, and you're editing quite a lot, I'd recommend at least a 2060 or even 2060 Super.
Need a monitor to edit on but don't want to break the bank? Here's a post on my favorite photo editing monitors under $500.
Capacity and Choices
Depending on what you plan on doing with your computer, your choice here may be completely different from mine. I need a good amount of space but not the amount that some need.
For speed, I plan to place my programs and OS on this Samsung 970 EVO 500GB M.2 NVME Solid-state drive. This makes it super quick to load all of the different programs I use and keeps PC gaming loading times quick as well.
For pure capacity, I went with a 2TB Seagate Barracuda drive. It cost me just around $50, so you could easily add another one of these if you needed to. Going with the 4TB and 8TB drives will save you a little bit vs stacking the smaller options.
This is just one of the drives I recommend for capacity. However, there are many options out there, so you'll definitely want to price shop to get the best deal.
An Affordable but Good Looking PC Case
I've got to admit that I'm not the type of person that wants to spend much more than $50 on their case. I'd rather put that money towards something I actually care about, performance.
Still, I do spend at least enough to get something that has decent fans, cable management, and a look that fits well with my office.
NZXT's H510 is a good compromise here. For around $60, you get a classy looking case with several subtle color options.
Other than a few screws, especially in the back IO that were more difficult to get out than they should have been, I found the installation process very simple. The straps on the back for cable management as well as the compartment to hide your power supply give you a classy look.
It comes with tempered glass as well which, along with the subtle red color choice I made, look pretty great. I'm not one for LEDs as they bug me while I'm working, but you could certainly add some options to this case to spice it up if that's your thing.
I'm all for buying a good power supply. And I've had some last me a decade without a problem. That being said, depending on the prices you find when you build your PC, you may decide that buying a decent 80 PLUS bronze power supply, rather than a higher-quality gold or platinum PSU, is a better deal for what you're doing today.
And while I have better quality and higher rated power supplies in my home theater and network PCs, I decided for this one I'd go with a slightly less expensive option in the Thermaltake Smart 500W series. No, this isn't a power supply that is going to last forever. However, it cost less than half of what I could find in a gold-rated one. In addition, it comes with a decent warranty so I'm covered if anything were to happen to it. And most likely it'll be just fine. I've had an inexpensive EVGA 430W power supply that I've used for the last 7 years in one of my rigs as well without a problem.
How Much Ram Do you Need for Editing, Streaming, and Gaming?
In my opinion, you'll want at least 16GB of RAM for your machine going forward regardless of what you're doing. Depending on what tasks you plan on doing, you may want more.
For my purposes, 16GB was enough. I'll be gaming and editing just part of the time while I continue to write and work on marketing for another business my wife and I operate.
16GB is recommended for Photoshop and Lightroom. Lightroom does ok with just 8GB but really performs well at 16GB.
Take a look at the Premiere Pro render tests below. There is a lot of benefit in having 32GB of RAM while rendering. That being said whether it's worth it or not depends on how much you're rendering each week. For me, I'm doing just a video or two a week so 16GB is fine.
For streaming, 8GB is technically enough albeit barely. However, assuming you may be streaming more demanding games and have other apps open while doing so, you'll want to have at least 16GB.
I've been able to get up to around 14GB usage with a single game, browser, and lots of open tabs. Though I've never passed that, you may consider 32GB if you want to future proof your device, plan on editing high-resolution videos, and think it can save you time.
In my opinion, other than the current reselling of graphics cards, 2021 is an amazing time to build a computer. And because processors have become so much more competitive over the last few years, building a PC for editing, streaming, and gaming on a $1,000 budget is not only possible but gives you a very capable PC.