I left my finance job 6 years ago to work for my dream boss, myself. I've never looked back. I focus on tech, gaming, and hardware reviews.
PC vs Console - The Performance Gap Increases
The Witcher 3, released in 2015, was the best game of the last several years. In my opinion, it was everything that an RPG should be with its immersive story, next-level graphics, customization, and gameplay.
Now that the Blood and Wine DLC is here I wanted to go over a budget build for those of you trying to still get into PC gaming. While The Witcher 3 can be played on PS4 and Xbox One, the true experience is best seen on a gaming PC. And while you certainly won't be able to have all of the settings maxed at this price point, you should get a superior picture and framerate.
While the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U were all released within the last few years, the gap that exists between computer performance and these consoles continues to grow at a steady pace. In 2017, you can now build a PC for the same price of a console but use superior parts like the Intel's Haswell i3-7100 and an RX 560 or GTX 1050.
Below, I'll discuss not only what type of performance you can expect, but also give you benchmarks for what you can expect for the various choices you can make in this price range.
Choosing a Processor from $100 to $125
We're going out on a limb here to make a Kaby Lake gaming PC. It's possible that you could save around $50 on the overall build by going with older parts. Still, the 7th generation Intel core i3-7100 is very tempting here at its price point and should be all the CPU performance that our budget graphics card will need.
Another possibility here is to wait for AMD's R3 processors. It's likely not to have as fast of IPC; however, it will have more cores.
Still, if it's anything like the Ryzen 5 and R7 it'll be similar in terms of performance.
Best Witcher 3 GPU from $100 to $150
At this price point, we only have around $100 for our graphics card. We're using reasonably good hardware in the build including 2400 MHz DDR4 memory as well as an 80 Plus certified power supply. Certainly we could cut corners to get that amount up to around $150, but I wouldn't recommend it.
So, your choice here is to either stick with the $400 budget and go with something like the NVIDIA GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti, or spend more for additional frames as shown below. Keep in mind that the first benchmark's settings here are actually higher than the second.
My recommendation here would be to spend a little more and go for an NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti here. It would make your overall budget around $450 but put you in a place where if you adjusted graphical settings you could easily reach 60FPS in medium. That would give you a picture and framerate far better than could have gotten on a PS4 or Xbox One.
Motherboards Under $50
At this price level, we only have around $50. For this reason, you're going to want to go with a solid micro ATX motherboard that still has a lot of features. In this category, I'd recommend the Gigabyte GA-B250M-DS3H which you can usually find between $40 to $50.
It supports up to 32GB of dual channel memory, has 4 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors, a HDMI 1.4 port with support for 4k resolution, and USB 3.0 support. If there's one downside to it it's that it only supports up to 2133 DDR4. While I feel like most of the benefit of DDR4 mostly stops at 2400, this is just one corner we'll have to cut.
Hard Drive and DVDRW:
With $400 you don't have a ton of room for messing around. Try to find a 7200 RPM hard drive in the $50 price range and a DVDRW in the $20 price range. You can also consider skipping your DVD drive altogether and allocating that elsewhere. This would be especially valid for gamers who use programs like Steam or Origin to directly download their PC games.
Witcher 3 Benchmarks for Low to Mid-Range GPU
|GPU||1080p High Settings Hairworks Off|
GTX 1050 Ti
64.6 (Medium Settings)
58.2 (Medium Settings)
The Witcher 3 System Requirements:
Minimum System Requirements
- Intel CPU Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz
- AMD CPU Phenom II X4 940
- Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 660
- AMD GPU Radeon HD 7870
Recommended System Requirements
- Intel CPU Core i7 3770 3,4 GHz
- AMD CPU AMD FX-8350 4 GHz
- Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 770
- AMD GPU Radeon R9 290
Thoughts on The Witcher 3 System Requirements:
As you can see this build falls a bit short of the recommended system requirements for Witcher 3. That being said playing on a somewhat lower setting and going with something like the 950 will get you well past the minimum requirements.
Other Components to Consider for your $400 Budget Build
While it would be nice to be able to upgrade to 8GB of ram here it just isn't worth doing if you have to gimp your processor or graphics card. Stick with inexpensive DDR4 ram you can find for around $30 or if the budget permits, go for 8GB.
If you're playing the Witcher 3 you'll want to stretch here for 8GB right away as the game recommends 6GB.
A Good and Cheap Power Supply
For this build we're going with the Corsair 430W 80 Plus certified power supply. It should be enough for this system unless you add substantially more to it.
Keep in mind that if you go with the R9 270X that AMD recommends a minimum of 500 watts so you may need to go beyond that but this is fine for both the 950 and 750 Ti.
It may not have all the bells and whistles that a case that costs 3 times its price does, but the Thermaltake VL80001W2Z Mid Tower Case still gives you plenty of room for your micro ATX motherboard, graphics card, and other peripherals.
$400 Console Vs PC Poll
$400 Console vs PC
A $400 PC isn't perfect, but as you can see it gives you a lot of value for what you pay. Even 1080p gaming in modern games like the Witcher 3 and GTAV is possible. With better graphics, performance, and more flexibility than a console why wouldn't you go this way?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Brandon Hart
Speak Your Mind
Its me again on December 28, 2015:
I suggest that use R7 260x than the GTX 750ti since it has only 2% - 5% differences and if you are going to buy R9 270 x you might as well buy the gtx 960 or the R9 280x because it has 20 - 30$ more expensive but 3 times more powerful
Jose on December 28, 2015:
I think its way more better if you bought a gtx 950, R9 270x or higher than it it may be more expensive for about $20 - $30 but its more wortb it with 40% - 50% better performance than that recomended GPU and other should stay the same
Ahsen on May 30, 2015:
it costs about 650$ where i live. lol.. my bad
Jasmina on July 12, 2014:
I built my computer before reading this article ... but some of the parts look quite familiar. :)
AMD Phenom II X4 965 -- same as mine
Asus M5A78L-M LX Plus -- mine has the Asus M5A78L-M USB3, which is almost identical.
If both are available at similar prices, I'd advise going with the M5A78L-M USB3, because it has four memory slots for future expandability there.
4GB Kingston RAM
A very nice article, and highly recommended!
Ericmci on June 14, 2014:
Very succinct write up.
If you were going to do a 400.00 build right now would your specs change?
Thomas on March 26, 2014:
Could this setup run newer games like titanfall at average set graphics without lagging?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on January 08, 2014:
A less expensive case is perfectly fine if the one I mentioned isn't on sale.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on January 08, 2014:
You shouldn't need one. The onboard motherboard should be good enough. If it's not, then go with a headphone amp instead like the fiio e10.
jake lewis on January 07, 2014:
Can somebody tell me if I HAVE to get a bigger case im Im going to get the gtx 650 ti boost? Im on a short budget and the case he recommended is close to 50$ more
Kyle on December 26, 2013:
Can i buy this already built anywhere? Because i don't really have any experience with building computers :/
Mohit on December 21, 2013:
What about sound card?