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Hardware Hacking Build Games

Build an $800 Gaming PC 296

Posted by kdawson
from the fast-as-you-like dept.
ThinSkin writes "Building a computer that can handle today's games doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can build one for less than $800, especially given that many hardware manufacturers have cut costs considerably. Loyd Case over at ExtremeTech shows gamers how to build an $800 gaming PC, one that features an overclockable Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 and a graphics-crunching EVGA 260 GTX Core 216. The computer exceeded expectations in gaming and synthetic tests, and was even overclocked well over spec at 3.01GHz."
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Build an $800 Gaming PC

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  • by MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @11:54PM (#28104833)

    Yeah but can it run windows7?

      i kid i kid!

    • by msormune (808119)

      Yeah, but can it run linux and work with modern eye candy enabled in X11 without any lockups?

      I'm not kidding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kokuyo (549451)

      I AM running Windows 7 on a Core 2 machine (1.8 GHz-ish) with 2 gigs of RAM. So far, everything works surprisingly well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:08AM (#28104935)

    spend $400, get one thats 90% of this speed, in a year sell it for face value on craigslist, rinse and repeat.

    I've been getting free upgrades for many years now.

  • by the_raptor (652941) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:15AM (#28104993)

    I am sure we had a story like this the other week. I am pretty sure we have it every couple of weeks. Considering this has been (more or less) the way of things for probably about five years (I have been following the 'good enough' philosophy for that long, from a Radeon 9600xt, through a GeForce 6800, to a Radeon 4850 today), it isn't news to any nerd. You stopped needing a top of the line computer for gaming around the turn of the century when clock rates stopped doubling every 12-18 months and ATi got good enough to really compete with nVidia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      I am sure we had a story like this the other week. I am pretty sure we have it every couple of weeks.

      Yeah, but the last article I remember [maximumpc.com] was $500. So this is new news because they're spending $300 more and not promising to run crysis. In the summary anyway. Oh, it's overclocked too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tygerstripes (832644)

      Absolutely.

      Seriously; this article, the person who submitted it, and the editor who deigned it front-page-worthy, can fuck right off.

      This is not news, not useful - christ, it's not even interesting. The interwebs are totally awash with articles of exactly this nature, and have been for fucking years. 90% of /.ers are already perfectly capable of building a PC to a spec which suits their unique requirements, cheaper than this, and don't need or want to read this. The other 10% can fuck off and learn a thin

  • by Warlord88 (1065794) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:24AM (#28105057)
    The April 2009 version of Ars Technica System Guide covers three systems priced at $700, $1600 and $12,500. The link is http://arstechnica.com/hardware/guides/2009/04/ars-technica-system-guide-april-2009-edition.ars [arstechnica.com] Tweaking the first two systems here and there should cover requirements of most users.
  • My top of the line system is about $500. (More than what my 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix is worth.) That's good enough to run Quake at 500 FPS. :P
  • by JoeSixpack00 (1327135) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:50AM (#28105255)
    I don't understand why gamers have this die hard loyalty/borderline bias for Intel. Granted, they are better than AMD hands down - they're a bit of an overkill. Unless you're an extreme gamer, you'll never actually need the extra power, and to recommend the Q8400 over the Phenom II X4 940 is odd considering they're usually priced within $5 of each other.

    I build a new computer almost exactly a year ago. 4 Gigs of DDR2 800 Low Latency memory, 7200 RPM SATA II hard drive with 32mb cache, an Athlon X2 5000 BE (I just bumped the multiplier from 13 to 15 to get it at 3ghz) and a HD 3870. With the exception of the CPU, everything is is running at stock speeds. These are the games I play:

    Call of Duty: World at War
    Fallout 3
    Race Driver: Grid
    NBA 2K9
    Drakensang

    I was sure my computer would be sluggish, but it runs all these games just fine with excellent graphics at a 1680x1050 resolution. The point? At the time of my building, all of the mentioned games were (for the most part) considered "current generation", and my CPU was lumped into the scrap heap with the "only if you have to" parts. When I actually started playing games, I soon realized that my performance was exactly what people said I wouldn't achieve.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:00AM (#28105591) Journal

      Yes, you can go 'cheap' and spend 'only' 800 dollars on a machine. But that's not REAL cheap - that's just a budget, new computer. Me, I can go REAL cheap and still have a reasonable gaming experience.

      I bought a used Pentium IV with a 40 GB HDD and 1 GB of RAM for 50 dollars, with a crashed O/S. It's a Dell, and I have a Dell install CD, so don't need to worry about the OS code or Genuine Advantage. I dug for a bit at pricewatch.com to get a new AGP video card with decent 3D performance in a low profile. Reviews just a year or two ago indicated it was a good chipset. It came with a DVD drive, no burner. 25 dollars got me generic mouse, KB and speakers.

      Spent an afternoon, loaded a new OS, (WinXP) drivers from Dell support, and video card drivers, and I now have a system that plays newish games like Star Wars, WoW, and GTA 3 SA and GTA IV at 1024x768 on the 17 inch CRT monitor bought at a yard sale. High end? Not a chance. But for bang/buck, the 650 bucks saved on this rig will go a long way towards helping to pay for my kids' college.

      And still lots of fun!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Drawsalot (733094)
        I play on an AMD 4200+ Dual-Core at 2.31 gHz (OC), with 4 GB of memory under XP and have an nVidia 8800GTS with 340 MB RAM. I can just get 800x600 in GTA IV-- how do you make GTA IV playable at 1024x768 with that system?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ascendant (1116807)

      You were lied to.
      Additionally, you are attributing vastly more responsibility to your CPU for the performance of all of these games. Why don't you underclock your CPU and see how much effect it has on your framerates? Yes, even to 2GHz and below.

      The HD 3870 was released in October 2007, Fallout 3 was released in November 2008. Those other games, around the same time. Barely a year apart, those games were designed to run on those exact games: not the 4870 which was released barely months before.

      On top of

    • by tedgyz (515156) *

      I used to preach the AMD mantra. Unfortunately, there are ALWAYS some issues when building an AMD system. I am just tired of discovering the obscure incompatability. For example, most of my old AMD systems had USB issues. My Athlon X2 system had major dual-core issues with certain games.

      My last build is 2 years old - an Intel core2 duo system. The whole system is flawless - it plays all the games I want and runs my multimedia center on my home theater. I never have to worry about it.

      I WANT to support

  • by daemonenwind (178848) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:50AM (#28105257)

    anandtech.com
    tomshardware.com
    maximumpc.com
    pcmag.com (hard to find, though)
    arstechnica.com
    sharkyextreme.com

    I mean, really....does anyone think it's hard to find this stuff?

    You can even find sample builds on amazon.com and on newegg.com if you look around a bit.

  • Why Quad Core? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ffejie (779512) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:06AM (#28105329)
    I don't understand why you would go with a Quad Core. If you're looking to trim costs, get a Core 2 Duo and overclock the hell out of it. Spend your money on a better graphics card if it's for gaming. I have a quad core and it really only gets utilized for video encoding.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Clinkster (1563041)

      -Quad cores don't go for much more than dual core processors do. The price between one Q6600 and a E8400 is approximately $20, so not exactly a tremendous price gap there.

      -Given that, the quad core is a very viable option if you wish to future proof your PC. The clocking speed shows a lower number, but you're essentially given twice as many pipelines for information to go through. Right now, that's a substantial boost if you multitask.

      -Not good enough? Even for gamers, quad core would be a better option. Su

      • Re:Why Quad Core? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Spatial (1235392) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @08:42AM (#28108169)

        -Quad cores don't go for much more than dual core processors do. The price between one Q6600 and a E8400 is approximately $20, so not exactly a tremendous price gap there.

        It's still crap value. That CPU is built on a 65nm process: older, slower, hotter and uses more power. The E8400 is a 45nm part. Unless the computer is a video-encoding machine, it's absolutely senseless to buy the Q6600 (and you should get a Q9300 anyway, it's faster and 45nm).

        -Given that, the quad core is a very viable option if you wish to future proof your PC. The clocking speed shows a lower number, but you're essentially given twice as many pipelines for information to go through. Right now, that's a substantial boost if you multitask.

        No it isn't. I have a quad core upgraded from a dual core, and there's no perceptible speed difference except in video encoding. Selling it on multitasking is just marketing.

        You can't future proof a PC without wasting a ridiculous amount of money. Buy a quad core now and you already sacrifice real-world performance and value for money in exchange for a potential benefit in a few years except in specialised uses. By which time any game that actually needs it is released, your old quad will be obsolete. You can just buy a dual core, save money, and get higher performance right now and for a few years to come. It's obviously the more sensible choice.

        -Not good enough? Even for gamers, quad core would be a better option. Sure, right now you're going to see dual cores cranking out the numbers because most games have really been optimized for use with two cores. But you said it yourself, video encoding delivers results due to utilizing all four cores on the quad core. It's only a matter of time until the standard for game developers include optimizing for more than two cores. When that time comes, those people will start wishing they bought that quady.

        This is terrible advice. The vast majority of games aren't even CPU limited, and only now, years after their release are dual cores becoming widely used. And of course, 'future proofing' was pointless: early dual cores are obsolete now unless you spent a ridiculous amount of money back in the day.

        -By the way, this same argument used to take place when dual core was introduced. Some gamers suggested buying single cores due to their higher clock speeds, but those recommendations were short lived once the software caught up.

        Single -> dual isn't the same transition as dual -> quad. The first has other benefits, like a single program being unable to bog down the OS, and even single threaded programs benefit a little because all the background processes can use the other core.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aceticon (140883)

      Tomshardware just recently did an article where they measure performance of games in PCs with different numbers of cores (link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/multi-core-cpu,2280.html [tomshardware.com]).

      Their conclusion is that at the moment, for the current crop of games the ideal number of cores is 3.

  • In India... (Score:5, Informative)

    by freedom_india (780002) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:45AM (#28105535) Homepage Journal

    You can build it a lot cheaper with branded components that cost way less: Here's my rig and prices translated into USD at INR47:$1
    M2N-E-SLI mobo: 189
    AMD Athlon X2-63 bit dual core 4200+: 96
    9800GTX+ AND 8600GT (yeah two): 189
    LG 17" monitor LCD: 93
    Case: 20
    OCZ Vanquisher cooler: 35
    Point of View PSU: 170
    Total: 792
    Hell, the shops here will fix it up, assemble and home deliver free if you spend this much amount at one shop.
    I got a free MS Natural keyboard, Microsoft Mouse and a 8GB JetFlash card free

    • I forgot to mention that it includes 4GB RAM

    • Pendantry (Score:5, Funny)

      by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:29AM (#28105697)

      AMD Athlon X2-63 bit dual core 4200+: 96
      ...
      Total: 792

      See, that's because you got a 63 bit processor. The problem with 63 bit processors is you have no end of bizaar problems trying to run modern 64 bit, or even 32 bit software and that's why you save the $8. Myself, I'd spend the extra $8 on 64 bit. :-P

      Funnily enough, this is the second reply to this story by someone with a -1 bug. Someone else mentioned their old 485DX33 system.

    • Well sure, if you take into account wages, standards of living, infrastructure maintenance, laws and regulations regarding work, laws and regulations regarding pollution, etc. and so on and so forth, then you can have things for cheap*

      Heck, as it is, things in the U.S. tend to be cheaper than in Europe.

      'Unfortunately', not everybody lives in Poland / India / China / whichever place happens to be cheap because, well, they're cheap, at the time.

      So any comparison there is absolutely moot unless one can actuall

  • So....
    What is the optimum configuration that yields the high-enough FPS/high-enough resolution/lowest latencies with the minimum of price?

    In other words - Build a system configuration at the minimum price after which any incremental gain in performance is disproportionate to further input in price?

    An optimization problem there.
  • the thing is, if you want to run current games, you will have to spend about that same amount every 18 months or even sooner.

    It just isn't right: game developer should settle down once and for all, and make games that run on a 1 year old platform just as their 1 year old games did/do. Luckily I'm not a gamer (not a fanatical one anyway) or I'd be bankrupt.

    • IMO the best eras of games occurred when the platforms stagnated in technical advancement. For example the Commodore 64 was the most popular gaming platform for years after all its video resources had been exploited to their fullest. The lack of new ground to break forced game developers to break new ground in game development rather than video exploitation.

      When I put it like that, it makes complete sense. Funny how nobody under age 25 seems to grasp it.

      And don't get me started on movies...

  • I've just recently assembled a new gaming PC (to make a long story short, I wanted to upgrade my old machine to a new CPU architecture, which meant also upgrading motherboard and memory, but the upgrade hassle factor was so large that I just ended up buying the rest of the parts and making a new PC) and I've go a Quad Q6600 (G0 stepping, the easier to overclock) running rock-stable at 3.2 GHz, when the stock speed is 2.4 GHz (while, thanks to using a passive water-cooling setup - a Reserator V1, temperatur

  • Tell us (geek crowd) more pls.

    Seriously its like waving a flag in front of a bull. Cue the epenis discussion, none of which will be news to any slashdot reading PC gamer. Why don't you just post a snapshot of today's discussion on rage3d or overclock.net or the like.

    Better go break out my 3Dmark vantage benchies and waste hours and hours tuning my ram timings for a 0.5% gain. Then I post links to newegg for the benefit of international readers.

    oh wait, I wasted them already on slashdot

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @06:06AM (#28107095)
    When I saw a quad core recommended for a bargain gaming PC I knew I would read about an nvidia card not too far down the list followed by 'gamer/overclocker' ram. Yep it's YAFBBS (Yet Another Fan-Boy Build Story) with no actual useful advice for anyone on a budget.

    At the moment a Radeon 4770 would be a better choice, if the not the #1 on bang for buck, as touted by most reputable sources. Highly clockable e7xxx or e8xxx range core 2 duo still kicks quad core ass for less money (easy stable 4ghz), less power draw and subsequent heat problems. What really gets my gall with these kind of websites, is the ram recommendations. That quad core has a 1333mhz bus, thus DDR2 faster than 667mhz gains almost no improvement in memory bandwidth and latency, yet somehow there is a huge market for this kind of crap.

    I hate to sound like a greybeard but back in the day it was all about making dirt cheap parts outperform four-figure parts. Now overclocking parts cost more and are much less challenging to work with. If anything overclocking is boring now, it's all about bling. Remember the Celeron 300A?

    Yep, CL5 800 is just fine. If you want another 5% in benchmarks you can blow your dosh on CL4 1066mhz. Even if you overclock your FSB speed, you'll watch your bandwidth scores scale up, even holding ram speed at a fixed 800mhz! Even if your FSB is stepping up faster than your ram speed, your memory benchmark scores will continue to go up. It only really makes more sense to come down in latency, 667 CL3 is lower *realtime* latency than 1066mhz CL5, and even reasonable 'value ram' will reach those timings with a voltage boost. Yep the socket 775 platform is that crappy. Spend your money on other areas please.

    No IT professional worth their salt recommends anything above reasonably priced and reliable 800/1066 ram, unless you really are going to push high FSB speeds on a core 2 duo, maybe worth paying a whisker more. You don't really need heat spreaders either, and a strip of aluminum and 3M thermal tape will do the job better than $20 set of aftermarket spreaders.

    Honestly, you could blow this thing away in benchmarks for less money.
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Sound advice.

      The people who write these articles seem to have a tenuous - if any - grasp of the concept of value for money.

      Maybe you should write a piece on this and submit it here as you plainly know your ass from your elbow, unlike the article writer. (Budget quad core gaming PC? picard.gif)

      There's also a thread full of good advice on the Something Awful forums, here. [somethingawful.com] If anyone is building a PC right now, check out this thread first.
  • The article seemed to be confused about the size of the HD in the gaming rig. Initially, it states that they found a 320GB drive for $43, but the final table says it's actually a 250GB drive. Either way, isn't that quite a small drive - you suspect that installing 15-20 games on that rig could potentially fill the 200GB or so that would be available after the OS install. Newegg have the excellent 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1 for $84.99 - four times the capacity (and I bet faster, cooler and quieter too) for twi

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @06:27AM (#28107211) Homepage Journal

    How about a version of this project that targets 1080p HDTV/DVR instead of gaming? To run Linux of course - for the horsepower, and the thrill of finding drivers :).

  • Here is the parts list for the PC they built:

    CPU Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 $185
    GPU EVGA 260 GTX Core 216 SSC $235
    Mobo ASUS P5Q SE Pro $97
    Mem OCZ 2 x 2 GB DDR2-800 $39
    HDD WD Caviar Blue 250GB $43
    Optical Sony Optiarc 20x DVD+/- RW $25
    Case/PSU Cooler Master 534 $75
    OS Windows Vista Home Premium x64 $100
    Total $799

    And a bit about why the Intel vs AMD:

    Another alternative is to go all AMD. You could build an $800 gaming rig based on a Phenom II X4 840 and 1GB Radeon HD 4870. That would be close in performance to our $800 system, but would probably fall just a little short overall.

    I personally like to support AMD given that the alternative is to have Intel monopolize the m

  • Dude, get a dell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by soupforare (542403) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @09:01AM (#28108369)

    Unless you have a specific need- HTPC/Silent PC/foo. Just get wait for a slickdeal on a dell vostro. Up the ram and stick a real video card in there and you've got a sweet machine for less bucks and less work. Usually they come with a gigantic widescreen monitor, too.
    It's not 1998 anymore, BYO doesn't make sense most of the time.

  • Cheaper solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @10:25AM (#28109335)

    Buy a $300 Dell loaded with bloatware and OEM garbage. Make sure it has at least Intel Core 2 Duo, two ram slots and a PCI-E video slot. Format the hard drive (getting rid of bloat and OEM garbage), upgrade to 4gb ram, buy a decent 3d video card (what are they now days, about $200 for a good one?). There's a $550 solution (if you already have keyboard, mouse, monitor).

    It's worked well for me for well over 10 years now. If you have to go through the pain of owning a Windows based system, you might as well buy cheap, upgrade cheap, dispose of cheaply when it outlives it's gaming worthiness (about 2 years).

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