Best Budget $150 to $200 Gaming PC Build 2018
Having a minuscule budget but still wanting to play games on PC is the story of my childhood.
So, I set out to bring something to my gaming channel that I've never done before; build a budget gaming computer in the $200 range that plays today's latest free online titles (like Fortnite). I'll give you a budget range that goes up a bit more for those who'd prefer to have a wider upgrade path.
Sound impossible? It's not.
Below, I'll show you the parts you'll need to purchase in order to build your inexpensive gaming machine along with why I've chosen them.
Rebates on Everything
Before I get into my parts list, it's important to realize that staying under $200 means you'll have to get rebates on everything you can. For me, that included the ram, motherboard, case, and power supply.
Typically, this is easiest accomplished around the holidays but can be done in other parts of the year with some patience. Without these rebates, your price may come in 25-45% more.
Best APU / CPU/ GPU Combination for Under $50
PC building experts will point you in the direction of when talking about budget CPU and GPU combinations. Unfortunately for this build, that $100 APU takes up at least half of our budget. That being said, the Ryzen 2 2200G does outperform the APUs we feature in this build and allow a better upgrade path for getting a dedicated GPU later on. So, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons of that. See the table below for some additional information. the Ryzen 3 2200G
Instead of the 2200G, we're focusing on a few cheap APU options that give you processing power along with decent graphics. Overclocking isn't going to be much of an option here as the CPU cooler would be too expensive.
Since most people on a budget of $200 aren't aiming to play AAA titles like Witcher 3, we'll be focusing on free-to-play or inexpensive games like Fortnite, Hearthstone, and other popular online e-sports games. If you're wanting to play AAA titles, I highly recommend you fork over the extra cash for the 2200G and save for a dedicated graphics card.
If you're building a PC, here are the 3 processors you should be looking at. A fourth would be the i3-8100 if you prefer to go the Intel route.
A6-9500 vs A8-9600 vs Ryzen 3 2200G
Ryzen 3 2200G
2MB (4MB L3)
AMD Radeon R5
AMD Radeon 7
Radeon Vega 8
Graphics Base Frequency
Regardless of what you choose it's nice that you can go with a socket AM4 motherboard for any of them. This should keep you up to date. Keep in mind that if you go with a B350 motherboard and the Ryzen 3 2200G, a BIOS update may be required if it's been sitting around a while at the warehouse.
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.
Typically you'll find what you're looking for in EVGA's 430 W1 or the Corsair CX 430. Try to find one on rebate for around $20 to $25. Typically, they're more like $35 to $45. I used a gold certified power supply from another build that I had lying around as I already had an extra.
That being said I've used the W1 model on a $450 i3 build that I built for my brother a few months back. For the money, it's one of the better options available. At the time of writing this Corsair has a deal on their VS 600 80+ PSU for $20 after a $25 rebate. So, again just look around a lot.
Interactive Reader Poll
Is this $150 Gaming PC / HTPC worth Building?
A Cheap and Good Gaming Case
Xion Performance mATX Case Review
The case I used was Xion's mATX case. However, in the update I'm making to this article I found the Rosewill FBM-05 and 01 available for just $20. Look around to make sure you can't find a better deal than the Xion here as it certainly had some limitations.
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.
Ram - Dual Channel is a Must
This article has been updated through the years. When I first used a Kaveri APU I used a 2x2GB kit of memory. For this build, we're actually using a 2x4GB kit of DDR4-2200. This is the main reason the budget tilts toward the $200 side rather than the original $150 price I made it for.
Right now I can find the Geil Potenza 2x4GB 2400MHz kit for $59.99 after rebate. Try to find something similar or better to this in price. Faster is, of course, better and will affect your framerates in games. However, you'll want to stick with whatever is most affordable if you plan on staying within our budget.
If you go with an older build, you may be able to go with DDR3 memory, which would probably save you a significant amount of money and get you to the $150 price point. Still, the upgrading path for that is even more limited.
$150 to $200 Gaming PC Build Parts List
A Good and Cheap Hard Drive:
At the time of writing this post I can purchase a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue Hard Drive for $15, and a 120GB solid-state drive from Kingston for $20. In my opinion, you'll want to go with a solid state drive here if you can.
Purchasing a solid state drive makes this build feel, overall, very snappy. In fact, it's definitely a viable option as an every day working PC.
$200 (Only Changes Shown)
A6 9500 (Consider Ryzen 3 2200G for $50 upgrade)
Rosewill FBM-05 or Xion Case
CX 430 or Corsair VS (look around)
2x4GB of DDR4 (Try and stick to $60)
Kingston A400 120GB SSD
*Price After Rebates
My Previous A4 7300 APU $150 Build
Initially, I went with the A4 7300 for this build. It's often available for cheap. Right now, I've seen it as low as $35. Here are some benchmarks for that APU.
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.
AMD Bristol Ridge APUs in 2018
Ultimately, you're better off going with the Bristol Ridge options here rather than Kaveri. Better yet, it's hard not to recommend going up to the $250 version of this build and go with the Ryzen 3 2200G. That being said, the A6 9500 will work with today's latest eSports games online. So, if your budget is very limited, don't be afraid to go in that direction.
$150 Gaming PC Video Review
Questions & Answers
Does this gaming PC have built-in WiFi?
If you want built-in WiFi, just be sure to purchase a motherboard with it.Helpful 5
How would one upgrade this pc in the near future?
This isn't really a PC I'd upgrade. You could get a higher-end APU, or install a dedicated GPU. However, this is more of a placeholder PC. If you're on the fence, you might want to go with something like an inexpensive Ryzen 3 2200G. I've been able to put them together for around $350. The upgrade path there is much more clear.Helpful 4
Did you buy or make this gaming PC?
I made this one myself like I do all of my PCs. This one is a couple of years old now but really the only solution in this price point.
Is this an i3?
It's an AMD APU. The i3 is Intel's processor.
Can I add more cores to the A6 CPU later?
No, not unless you switch out the APU.
© 2015 Brandon Hart