How to Build a Kick-Ass Gaming Rig for Under $700



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I just built a sub-$1000 gaming rig that drastically exceeds the specs of this machine and ought to be up-to-date for 1.5-2 years. Runs battlefield 3 in ultra settings at >60fps.

Check it out at



I built a pc myself for about $750 the other day and these are my specs. No matter what I do, it won't boot into POST or BIOS! No beep codes. And Suddenly the other day, my graphics card fan stopped spinning and I dont know why! HELP! Maybe my parts are incompatible?! Tell ME! PLEASE! I have done everything! Removed from case, reinserted RAM, CPU and Graphics Card, tried different monitors, cables and even called Tech Support! Nothing seems to be working! HELP!!!!!!!!!

MSI H67MA-E35 MotherboardIntel Core i5 2500k CPU4GB DDR3 RAMGigabyte GV-R685D5-1GD/GV-R685OC-1GD (AMD Radeon 6850 Graphics)Cooler Master 550 Watt Power SupplySeagate 1TB Hard DriveAsus DVD/CD Burner



Does anyone have a prediction of how many years this rig would be able to play new games on their lowest settings? I plan to upgrade the motherboard as suggested. I have been out of PC gaming for years so I have no idea myself.




My last rig was about the same level of "bleeding-edge-ness" and it has lasted about 8 years...  7-8 years is a good estimate if you don't mind REALLY low performance on the games near the end of that window.



My gaming rig beats yours:

Core i5-2500
8GB DDR3-1600 RAM
HD 6850

The general specifications speak for themselves.



Howdy-- i love this article & Max PC Mag... do ya'll know of a DVD i can buy or a youtube video or an online video somewhere that shows a start to finish assembly of a PC like this by the Max PC guys or one they would recommend ( Gordon or anyone w/ Max PC ) ? I've built a few of my own, and have an older VHS tape on how to do it-- but would like a newer, 21st century " Kick-Ass 9 " DVD if i could find one-- what do you think ??

  Kind Regards mark-p ( markpouncey-at-gmail-dot-com )



Where are the benchmarks?   And one question I have is why couldn't you use this same game test suite on your Dream Machine 2011? 



I'd love to see what parts you would upgrade with the $100 spent on Windows.



I really LOVE articles like this - it's why I've subscribed to MaximumPC ever since it was called boot magazine.

But am I missing something here?

When I re-read the story on August 1st, the last line read:

"We then fired up Crysis 2, Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, Total War: Shogan 2, and Battlefield: Bad Company. All of the games ran with more-th  "

...and left me HANGING, wanting more but getting none of it.


Give me satisfaction, or give me Mac!

MARK STRELECKI, Proofreader for MaxPC in Training



The article remains incomplete.


MARK STRELECKI, Couldn't be paid enough to be Proofreader for MaxPC

Otherwise, I love you guys.



September 5th - article STILL not fixed. WASSUP, you guys???



Agreed. I could use the rest of the article lol




I'll start off by saying that I have never even attempted to build a pc before.  In fact, the August issue of MPC is the first pc-oriented magazine I've ever purchased.  What drew me to it was this article.  

I have always been a mac person.  I mean, I know how to use a pc, but I've just always had a mac.  Not only is my mac 6 years old, it's a powerbook ( I know, I know).  I'm sick of the thing.  Even when I could play WoW on it (which is the main game I play), it was terrible.  Forget getting into any arena team or 25-man raid.  The lag was unbearable.

 Now I want to build this rig, but I've taken some advice from people on this thread and deviated slightly.  Instead of the Rosewill case, I took ScootieP's advice and got the Apex case (which was a friggin' steal on the egg and just looks waay better with that handle).

 Everything else I got was the same as the build save for two things I haven't ordered yet:  The optical drive and the motherboard.  First things first, I noticed on someone's post here that the magazine's article has a typo and that instead of the Samsung SH-S222A I should get the SH-S223A (Which is what is listed in this article).  The problem is that I looked for it and couldn't find it on the egg or anywhere else.

The second thing is that the magazine really recommends getting a better motherboard like the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3-B3.  Well, the egg has this listed, but there are none in stock. 

I’m not too worried about the optical drive.  With a 20 buck pricetag, I can just go to Fry’s and ask for help there with one (although I’m sure some of you guys are much more knowledgeable and any advice is greatly appreciated).  I want to know if getting the full-size board with four memory slots and a P-series chipset is even worth it if all I really plan on playing is WoW and maybe a few games like Witcher or Diablo III when it finally comes out?

Also, a quick question.  When I ordered the GPU, there were 2 choices for the Radeon HD 6790.  One was this PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card (which is the one I figure I should get) and the other one was just PCI Express without the 2.1 or the x16.  Am I correct in assuming the prior is the one I want?

Thanks to those of you who can help me out.  Hell, thanks to any of you that read this whole thing.  – A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. 




  • CPU:  Intel Core i3-2100 = $132
  • OPTICAL DRIVE:  LiteOn x24 sata2 DL dvd-ram = $43
  • PSU:  500 watt coolmax v-500 = $26
  • RAM:  Kingston ValueRAM memory 4 GB total = $42
  • OS: WINDOWS 7 HOME PREMIUM OEM 32bit = $99
  • Solid state drive:  OCZ Onyx series - 32 GB - SATA2  = $70
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Green - 1 TB sata2 hard drive = $75
  • Case:  Viper ATX = $65
  • Video Board:  Visiontek Radeon HD 5670 = $117

My total $759 in July 2011



This is a very well put together rig. The only thing that I would've tried upgrading is the motherboard. I always go for high-quality boards, at least x16/x8/x8 and hopefully x16/x16/x8 PCIe slots, and dual- or triple-channel memory. But this is a budget build after all. The WD 'blue' and 'green' classes would bug me as well, as I always get 'black' drives (I do a lot of moving 2GB+ folders and files).



There is typo in the model of the optical drive on the hardcopy of the magazine. The magazine lists it as a Samsung SH-S222A but that is an IDE drive. I bought it from Newegg and that is what I got. When I tried to install it I realized that it was not SATA. I checked my order, I checked the store, I checked Samsumg’s website and that drive is IDE. I see that you have corrected the model in the online version of the article. I should have checked those things before purchasing it but I trusted the magazine a bit too much. I could return it but shipping is going to take what they give me back so I better keep it as a souvenir. BTW, the motherboard upgrade that you suggest is no longer available. I tried to purchase it and it is no longer available (not out-of-stock).



If you cant afford a ssd then your computer will be a piece of sheeit any way. SSD's are the single most important piece of hardware on any computer. If you dont think so you haven't used one.



If you are replacing a system opposed to building an additional system there should be no need for a operating system unless you have something very old. XP and newer should suffice. That's also assuming you installed the OS on your old system yourself and it didn't come pre-installed. I would use the $100 budgeted for the OS for a i5-2500K CPU and use the remaining savings towards a better graphic card.



I would've gone for a GTX 460 768MB / 1GB or 6850 and switched to AMD for the CPU. X4 955 and a good AM3 board is still more than plenty for games and it can overclock quite nicely. Sure, the i3 will outperform it in dual core games at stock at least, but four real cores, why say no?



However, the "chips" are kinda crunchy.

I would rather dumb down the video card in the system and move up a little bit in processor.  I got lucky and got a 5770 for $75 on a memorial day sale at the Egg - got more MB and processor than I will need for a while (2500k and an ASUS Evo board) - but this will allow me to use Premiere Elements to burn movies, etc.  I only got the 5770 because it was $10 more than a 4670.



I really like the build, but I can't believe more people are bashing the dual core processor and not the power supply. Maybe Rosewill has gotten better, but I doubt it. More wattage won't help the reliability (I think the article implies it.. too lazy to go check), but a better brand will. Look at the Antec EA-430D on newegg. I have two Earthwatts power supplies and they have been great. Plus, it's $10 cheaper. Yay.

But otherwise, this is an excellent build.



"A tech media prediction says that optical drives will go away within five years."

That is very hard to believe. What are people supposed to play movies on? All programs will now be downloaded via the cloud? Yeah right.



Hulu,, Steam, all of them make discs obsolete to some extent.



Yeah. My legit copy of Borderlands won't load because it fails the verification process, so I threw it away and will download it via Steam.



My 3 year old machine has a blu-ray optical drive in it... I think besides using it to install the OS, I've never used it. (As 2 of my 3 monitors aren't HDCP compliant, I can't watch blu-ray discs on the thing)


Sid 6.7

The GPU should be the EVGA GTX-560 SUPERCLOCKED 1GB. I made a mistake and listed the GPU as being from Asus.


Sid 6.7

Another typo: RAM should be 2x2GB, not 2x4GB.


Sid 6.7

Here is my version. All prices are after rebates and current discounts from Newegg.Com. If you don't mind shopping from multiple sources, you could save even more money.

$220 CPU: Intel Core i7 2500k
$110 MOBO: Gigabyte GA-P67A-D3-B3
$65 Case: Thermaltake Armor A60
$35 PSU: OCZ ModXStreme 500W Modular
$44 RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws X-Series 4GB DDR3 1600MHz CAS-9 (2x4GB)
$184 GPU: Asus GTX-560 Superclocked 1GB
$60 HDD: WD Blue 1TB 7200rpm SATA3 6Gb/s
$56 Optical: Liteon 4X Bluray/DVD Combo (player/Burner)

Total Price = $775.

If I do say so myself, this would be a killer rig. Notice it's all premium, mainstream, enthusiast-targeted, brand name parts. You have overclocking ability right out of the box. Current-gen non-Ti ASUS factory overclocked Fermi GPU. SATA-3 hard drive. Tool-less mid-tower case. And you still have room to grow. Add another 4GB of RAM, add another GPU, drop in more HDDs, add some watercooling to the CPU for even higher overclocks ... etc.

If anyone would like the actual wishlist, give me your email, and I will send you a link.

I think one of the best factors of the current gaming market, is that we all have tons of choices available to us to get us where we want to go. And we can mix and match, and create a unique platform that expresses our individuality.



I'd like the wish list



You can get it under $700 if you swap out the case (for a Xigmatek Asgard 2), HDD (For a 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate), and got a DVD burner instead of the Blu-ray drive.



Hey Sid,

Please email me the wish list link.  My email is





I see a lot of trash talking a duel core CPU in the comments here.

Let me tell you a story of a duel core that could.

My old system:

Ram: Corsair Dominator 4GB (4 x 1GB) DDR2 1066

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 < OC @ 3.3GHz

MB: EVGA 122-CK-NF68-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI

HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB

Grapics: EVGA 896-P3-1171-AR GeForce GTX 275 Superclocked Edition 896MB


So how old is that computer? Well it was build on 6/7/07 with the GTX 275 added on 4/22/2009

I played everygame with maxed out settings other then Crysis only because I never bothered to buy that game. But I will say it ran Bad Company 2 at 1920 x 1200 with max settings just fine. The only game I had problems with max was Just Cause 2 and even then the settings were close to max.

The point is that ya a duel core may be "outdated" but if thats the case then so is just about all the software we all run. When all software scales with how ever many cpu cores there are we will all be in heaven.

If I was so happy with it why do I not have it now? Well the new Core i7-2600k just looked to tasty to pass up. Now granted I can backup my movies faster then I ever could with my E6600 but I can't tell a differance in Bad Company 2 at all.

So was the upgrade to 4 cores and 8 threads worth it? Well yes for me because I'm a power user! I also have a 27" Dell Ultra Sharp monitor with 1920x1200 res. Would it be worth while for my friend to upgrade to a $2000+ system when all he dose is surf the web and play a few games here and there on his 22" monitor that supports a max of 1680x1050 res? Hell no! I also bet this setup your all commenting on would do him just fine in Battlefield 3 also.



Wow.. are you honestly trying to say you can run Bad Company 2 maxed out @ 1920 x 1200 on a E6600 Core 2 Duo?  I call major B.S. right there.



Absolutely, the BC2 commentary is complete bullshit. Why do people lie about stuff like this in forums?



Ditch the Rosewill case and go for an APEX TX-381-C:

I've used it before and the handle is pretty solid, you actually get a top mounted, very usable set of front ports with a nice little clear flip down protector window. Kicks the Rosewill's A$$ easily. While it's listed at $29.99 w/ free shipping now, I've gotten it recently from newegg for $24.00 with free shipping off of a special offer.



Meant to say w/o free shipping the first time. Sorry. Yeah, I know it's $10 more but most definitely worth it. And like I said, bide your time and you'll get it with free shipping anyway.



$667. not bad, but then the builder spoke of changes if the budget was higher. there's about a $30 gap before the $700 mark, which means a different motherboard or more ram in this instance for a slightly higher performing system or room to upgrade later.  The biggest advantage is that it's a SandyBridge CPU, which for now is the current chipset that is being worked on, so there's going to be stuff coming for a little while for it compared to the LGA775 or 1156 non sandybridge i3-i7 dual and quad core chips.  Not a bad build.



LoL@BF2 & 3

You think these are the only games people play? Even with 2 cores, i3 here will run faster in most benchmarks than the aging Athlon architecture w/ 4 cores, not to mention being cooler and less power hungry.

And really, did you not read the article? He clearly states he chose this over X4 because X4 was found lacking even in multi-threading benchmark!! If you don't believe this, head over to Anand or Toms for more comprehensive cpu comparison.

The single-thread performance on i3 will decimate any advantage Ahtlon will have by merely having 2 more cores, which is quite important for majority of current games and everyday software. Sorry, multi-threading is still ways to go, and some computing tasks are not just cut out for it.

And if you're worried about the future, i3 is still a better choice. Not only is this better gaming bang for the buck relatively to Athlon X4 now, but you have an upgrade path to i5 or i7, which pretty much runs circles around anything AMD has right now.

On top of that, QuickSync will be an asset down the road for video encoding if you pair this with the right motherboard, although this is not really a concern for a gamer, but still a nice icing on the cake.




No, we don't think Battlefield is the only games people play.  Of course not, but they're prime examples of where game architecture is going:  multithreaded.  Did YOU even read the article.  We're talking about a gaming system here, why the hell you're bringing up synthetic benchmarks is beyond me.



Very nice how-to article, a lot of detail, very informative, and if your looking to build a new PC all bases are covered.




I recently built a $700 machine for my wife.  I got most of the parts on sale, but it does the trick.  She mostly wanted to run SIMS 3, but I was able to run Crysis at max settings at a res of 1440x900.  It's not 1080p, but with the quad-core I can do all of my media encoding and ripping rather quickly.  It also is very snappy with photoshop.  She needed more CPU than GPU.  And FYI, a 32 SSD is barely enough for Win 7, most programs, and Photoshop.  If you don't mind installing programs like games and such on the HDD, then a 32Gb SSD should be plenty for a speedy OS Drive.

AMD Phenom II X4 925 Deneb quad-core 2.8GHz

ASUS M4A88T-I AM3 M-ITX mobo

2 x 4GB G.Skill DDR3 1333 SoDimm (on sale)

MSI HD 5770 1Gb Low-Profile GPU

Corsair Nova 32Gb SSD, Samsung Spinpoint 1Tb 7200 RPM

Sony Optiarc Slot-Loading Slimline DVD Burner (on sale)

Generic ITX Box with 350 Watt Power Supply (found locally)

Win 7 Home Prem 64-bit (on sale)




I have a 64 GB SSD since building my system and a 1TB SATA HDD after installing Windows on the SSD. I only have Windows on the SSD, except for the occassional, forceful program. It really rocks in this setup! I also have an 8X BD-R, ATI 5800, TV Tuner and 16GB of ram on a 3.2GB AMD 6X. It does Call of Duty: Black Ops gracefuly, along with several other nicely running games and programs.


Back to the story, SSD's are awesome and I commend you on keeping up on a 32GB SSD! I would have put a 64GB SSD in this build and paid the extra money. You can't easily put one in an existing system, as it's a proocess: Install the SSD and leave the SATA HDD disconnected as Windows will try and use some of the HDD for boot info and the like. Afte installing the SSD, install Windows, the reconnect the SATA HHDD aftter that. Then when you install applications, change the C:\ to D:\ to keep the apps on the SATA HDD. As I said, this is not very practical to add an SSD as the bootl on a running system, even using software that copies your boot drive to another drive, so you might as well do it right the first time!  :-)




At least with me, the first thing in my budget that went out the window was the case. Why? Because I allready had one. Not a fancy case mind you, but a fugly beige ATX one from the late 90's. Other than some wacky hole mount problems for the psu, it all came together nicely. Granted, I only have one front usb port (which a stole from another case) and there are no real fan mounts to speak of, but its a sturdy box. My advice, if you have an old Pentium tower laying around in your closet since 2003 and you want to save some $$$ for the most important stuff first, gut that pos packard bell and throw in the new stuff. Then, you could use that till you can get a new case. Heck, if you're enterprising, with a dremel and drill, you could have more fans in that old monster than an antec lanboy air.



This config sucks. Intels Sandybridge CPUs only start getting good for gaming at the $200 mark with the 2500k and maybe the 2400 Under that AMD is king. Like joeking said how are you gonna play BF3 on a dual core? I recently did a build for my friend at this exact price range. 

HIS HD RADEON 6850 $160

Lian Li Lancool First Knight $60

4GB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3 1333 $35 

Rosewill 500w Blue LED PSU $40

AMD Athlon X4 640 $99

Seagate 1TB SATA 3 HD + Lite-On 24x DVD Burner Combo $$67

Asus M4A78LT-M $60

Windows 7 HP 64-bit $100


He didn't need an OS so I managed to get a monitor, keyboard, and mouse in for $700. Better CPU for BC2 and other frostbite games, better videocard, LED Memory, much better case, and Cheaper. Fail MPC. 



Army Of One

You really should have done your homework. You just built your friend a PC on a motherboard socket that will be outdated in 3-4 weeks when the new AMD bulldozers come out (and no they won't work on his mobo)

The i3 2100 CRUSHES the X4 640 in everything, peroid. And yes, it will run BFBC2. The most important part of this build is the fact that it's on the new sandy bridge platform. A year from now the CPU can always be upgraded to a i5 2500K or an i7 2600K. Your friend will be stuck looking for a outdated CPU to upgrade that they no longer produce.



Looks great, but I personally think a GTX 460 1GB would make a better GPU; you can find one online for as low as $110.



Dumb suggestion, its old technology.  Especially since the 500 series is MUCH better in terms of performance. 


I hate when users comment and try to suggest other parts for systems like this.  This was meant to be a guide for someone who wants to build a gaming pc for a bargain, and wants it to not be severly outdated by end of 2012.  Now  I, as a bargain PC builder appreciate these guides that MPC has.  It gives me an idea of what ball park prices are now, what's current and what MPC reccomend.  Good choice of parts all around MPC, and I'm not even an ATI fan XD



The 550 Ti (price equivalent of the 460) is WORSE in almost every benchmark.  The 560 is better, but more expensive.  The architecture of the 560 Ti is the same as the 460, just with one more SM enabled. Same core, same memory, same process.  If the 560 Ti isn't outdated, how is the SAME GPU outdated.  The only difference aside from the SM is that one has a 5 in the name.



Well, considering MPC suggested using an ATI Radeon HD 5770 in last year's budget build and in this year's "Cheapskate's PC", I was mildly surprised (and pleasently so) to see that they suggested something different.



News flash:  Dual-cores are outdated

A freakin' XBOX360 made 6 years ago has more cores then this "gaming" machine.

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