Best Budget $150 to $200 Gaming PC Build 2016
Not everyone can afford to spend $2,000 on a gaming computer that runs max ultra settings on games like The Witcher 3. Luckily, many of today's best games don't require that type of graphical power and have settings to lower your resolution or textures in order to play.
I recently set out to bring something to my gaming channel that I've never done before; Build a gaming computer each week and then bring the results to you, the reader. This month's build was especially intriguing to me as it revolved around a $150 to $200 budget.
I say to $200 as my build started off only costing $150, but soon realized that a small investment would make a big difference. In this post, you'll get to see both builds.
Building a $150 to $200 Gaming PC - The Parts
Before I get into the nitty gritty of why I've chosen each part let's look at the part list and go over pricing to avoid any confusion.
At the time of writing this post I can purchase a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue Hard Drive for $15, a CX 430 for $19.99 after a $20 rebate from Newegg, a 1x4GB stick of ram for as little as $24 and a 2x2 kit for $35. In addition, the motherboard was on rebate for $29.99.
For the $150 to $200 build, I used pricing from Amazon, NCIX, and Newegg in the US as I prefer to use those particular options where I live.
If you're wanting to build this PC at a similar price, you'll need to make modifications to it based upon rebates and pricing available where you live.
$150 and $200 PC Builds
$200 (Only Changes Shown)
Gigabyte FM2+ GA-F2A68HM-H
Xion mATX Case
Crucial 2x2GB CTKIT24664BA160B
Corsair Vengeance 2x4GB
WD Caviar Blue 320GB
*Price After Rebates
Best APU / CPU/ GPU Combination for Under $50
PC building experts will point you in the direction of the G3258 and the RX 460 or GTX 950 when talking about budget CPU and GPU combinations. Unfortunately for this build, those $170 combinations take up the entirety of our budget.
Instead, we're focusing on a few cheap APU options that give you processing power along with dedicated-like graphics. Overclocking isn't going to be much of an option here as the CPU cooler would be too expensive. For that reason, the A6-7400k makes a lot of sense for our $150 build. The A8-7600, which can be found for $20 to $25 more, is a solid step-up for our $200 build.
The aim with our APU might be a little different than you expect. We want to build a computer that can handle many of today's most popular games like Counterstrike Global Offensive, League of Legends, Minecraft, and even some moderately heavy games like Tomb Raider or Bioshock Infinite.
Since most people on a budget of $200 aren't going to have $60 to go out and spend on a new game like Batman: Arkham Knight, we'll be focusing on free-to-play or inexpensive games.
Don't get confused with the A6-6400k here. The 7400k is Kaveri, has R5 graphics, and uses the new compute core technology.
A Cheap but not Too Cheap Power Supply
It would be easy to go out and find a $10 power supply that would run this computer. Still, considering how much it costs to run your computer each year, you're much better off in the long-run going with something that will not only last you a long time, but cost you less over time.
For that reason, I recommend you find a PSU that's 80 PLUS certified that's on a rebate. Often times, you can find something nearly as good for cheap if you're willing to look.
A Cheap and Good Gaming Case
Xion Performance mATX Case Review
The case I used was Xion's mATX case. I was a little hesitant in purchasing this case because of the price; however, in the end this no frills case did exactly what I wanted it to.
By no frills, I simply mean that this case excludes an optical drive in the front and has no easy-mounts for installing your storage. Still, it does include 1 120mm Blue LED fan in the front and screw holes for in the drive bay area for mounting your drives.
The outside of the case looks great with a brush aluminum finish and dust filter grill in front of the fan. The USB 3.0 port in the front I/O was not compatible with the USB headers of our motherboard; however, I used a cable to convert it to USB 2.0.
Overall for $20, I couldn't have expected any more than what I got.
If this motherboard is too expensive when you find it, search for another quality budget FM2+ option.
Ram - Dual Channel is a Must
As you can see on the benchmarks for this build, using dual channel memory is a must. For this reason, I recommend you go with a slightly more expensive 2x2GB kit rather than just buying a 1x4GB option.
Admittedly, this may take you a bit over your budget; however, it'll be well worth the extra $5 to $10 for considerably more performance. If you can, step up to a 2x4GB kit. As ram is something that's easily transferable to other builds, it's practical to make that investment now.
My Previous A4 7300 APU $150 Build
Initially, I went with the A4 7300 for this build. Now that the A6-7400k is the same price, go with that. Still, if you can get the A4 7300 for cheap, it might be worth throwing in.
A4 7300 Bechmarks for Tomb Raider, BF4, Bioshock Infinite, and CS:GO
While it would have been nice to have benchmarks for Minecraft, League of Legends, and games like Diablo 3, these benchmarks should give you a really good indication of what the A4 7300 is capable of. Clearly if you go with the Kaveri A6-7400k for around $20 more, these numbers will be higher.
Still, at this price point you have to be careful about going with higher-end APUs. while the A6-7400k makes sense, many other $100 options don't simply because you can purchase a more effective dedicated CPU/GPU at that price point.
A4 7300 Review
Overall, I was impressed with the benchmarks I got with the A4 7300. These might not be impressive to PC gamers who have a $1,500 budget, but for 1/10th the price you really have a lot of games which you could play.
The CPU aspect of the A4 7300 was also a lot quicker than I expected. The dual core with up to 4GHz turbo was quick to respond and makes for a good budget option. Those who want to use this as a cheap browsing or video watching option will certainly not be disappointed.
Motherboard Options Under $30
There were few FM2 or FM2+ motherboard options in the $30 price range. For that reason, I was thrilled to see Gigabyte's FM2+ F2A68HM-H as an option. It has 2USB 3.0 ports in the rear I/o, 4 USB 2.0, and even an HDMI port.
FM2+ Backward Compatibility:
FM2+ motherboards are backward compatible with socket FM2 APUs and work with the current Kaveri generation of APUs as well. Sticking with the newer technology here, should provide you with some additional value down the line.
I got more performance than I thought I'd get out of our $150 build. It's amazing how far performance for the money you spend has come in the past few years. A few years ago $150 wasn't enough to expect any type of gaming, now you can accomplish quite a bit.
In addition to its performance, the build has a small form factor that would make it great as an HTPC or emulator gaming PC to put in your entertainment center.
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$150 Gaming PC Video Review
© 2015 Brandon Hart
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