Building a PC on a budget is a delicate balance between price and performance. How much should you spend on the motherboard and CPU, and what about the graphics card? Which parts are worth spending extra money on?
Select parts for your PC build
The most important decisions depend on what you plan to use your PC for, what brand of CPU you want, and ̵
In a way, building a personal computer on a budget is like drafting a wage cap in fantasy sports. You will get the best possible high achiever value that you can and then form the rest of your team with the rest of your budget.
A critical issue in choosing PC components is making sure they are compatible with each other. The easiest way to manage this is to use PCPartPicker, a website that lets you create your own PC build and that will check that your parts are compatible.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re building a gaming PC and want to spend at least $ 800. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that a lot of people slowly pile up new PC parts until they have everything they need for a new build. This is a great way to spread the expense out to reduce the stress on your bank account.
Tier One Splurge: The graphics card
The first thing a new gaming PC needs is a graphics card. You need a powerful motherboard and CPU to support your monster producing graphics, but the GPU is the best place to start. The graphics card is the workhorse for games. This is the component that brings back all of the delicious eye candy that you see on the screen.
First of all, you need to decide which resolution you want to use. There are two ways to look at this. One is to get a more powerful GPU with higher resolutions in order to get a better display later. The second method is to stick to a graphics card that has the resolution that you now have.
Despite 1440p and 4K displays everywhere, most people still rock 1080p. This resolution delivers very good graphics and is also the most economical choice as you can get a graphics card that rocks at 1080p without breaking the bank.
If you’re going for a more powerful card, you’re probably looking for 4K, which offers a wide variety of options. For example, you can get a card that excels at 1440p but also works as a 4K entry-level card that outputs 30 to 60 frames per second (fps) depending on the game. The absolute minimum for a guaranteed smooth gameplay is 60 fps, although for the less picky 30 fps is excellent playable.
Beyond the entry level, you have the 4K monsters that pump out 60 fps or more on most games. This type of 4K graphics card is usually the most expensive unless you get a good sale.
Tier Two Splurge: The CPU
After the graphics, the CPU is the most important part of your gaming setup. If you cannot get a sufficiently powerful CPU, bottlenecks will arise. In this case, the CPU becomes an obstacle to GPU performance because instructions are not processed and data is not transferred quickly enough.
Choosing this component will also affect the choice of your motherboard. Once you’ve selected an AMD or Intel CPU that limits the motherboard models, it’s your choice. For example, if you choose a Ryzen 3000 CPU, you are likely choosing an X470, X570, B450, or B550 motherboard.
If you’ve poured a lot of money into a high-end 4K capable GPU, your budget is likely to respond best to an AMD CPU. Ryzen 2000 and 3000 CPUs have gotten very powerful for gaming, and their prices per thread are just superb. If you want an Intel CPU, you’re a little more price-conscious. For those looking to balance their CPU and GPU purchases in terms of cost, choosing your favorite brand becomes easier.
Tier Three Splurge: The Motherboard
Next we have the motherboard. This is another part that should be the best quality that you can get for the money you have. There are a number of options here. In general, each generation of CPU has high-end and budget options for motherboards. And just because you’ve gone over the top with the GPU and / or CPU doesn’t mean you can’t go for a budget motherboard.
Of course there will be performance tradeoffs, but that’s the art of PC building. You will get a better overall experience on the CPU and GPU and then you will get the best motherboard possible. We strongly encourage you to read the motherboard reviews online as well as customer ratings before making your purchase. Motherboards with the same basic model number can vary greatly in quality and functionality.
The rest of the build
After the big three, you have the rest of the major build parts including the CPU cooler, case, memory, power supply, and RAM. If budget buyers chose a CPU with an included cooler, stick with it for now. If not, choose a fan-based CPU cooler that offers better overall value. For example, the powerful Coolermaster Hyper 212 costs $ 40 or less.
The case is a key component to a build as airflow is an important factor in keeping your system cool. Even so, a savvy shopper can find a very capable suitcase for $ 100 or less, suitcase fans included. If you already have a suitcase, this is one of the easiest PC parts to reuse.
Storage is great, but on a budget, hard drive will get the best value. However, a smaller M.2 NVMe-based boot drive combined with a larger hard drive is also a good strategy.
If there is still something left to be done, we should argue that it should go towards the power supply unit (PSU). Choosing a power supply is beyond the scope of this article. However, we have a tutorial on how to upgrade and install a new power supply that explains how to choose a power supply. The best thing to do is to get a modular power supply that will help you manage cables, but also a semi-modular versus a non-modular model. Be sure to stick to well-known brands as the power adapter can be the cause of many problems if they are too cheap.
Finally there is the RAM. To get. Get at least 16GB, a famous brand, and the best possible speed for the money you have that is compatible with your CPU and motherboard.
RGB lighting looks cool, but that’s it
The RGB lighting on your motherboard, case fans, case, and RAM looks fantastic but doesn’t add to actual performance. Building on a budget will save you the premium you would pay for RGB equipment in favor of more powerful components. You can always add some RGB case fans or purchase an RGB CPU cooler at a later date.
Update your peripherals later
Peripherals should always be an afterthought when building on a budget. A fantastic mechanical keyboard and high resolution mouse won’t do much if your system stutters and stutters under the demands of your favorite game. The same applies to an advertisement. If you can, stick with what you have now and upgrade to FreeSync and higher resolution later.
All of these suggestions are just that – suggestions. What you actually get in real life will depend on the equipment you have now, how much money you have, and what the main uses for your new PC are.
Building a PC is a process, not a goal. Don’t be afraid to change your mind by doing several possible builds on PCPartPicker to see what value you can get with different part combinations. Also, keep updating this PC when you encounter sales. In time, you’ll have a seriously tricked rig and enough spare parts for a second PC.