In past months, we’ve shown you how to build rigs for less than $1,000, and we even built a surprisingly speedy $667 PC Value Meal. But what do you do when your budget is half that? Let’s face it, not everyone has half a grand or more to spend on a new computer, and not every build has to be a tricked-out gaming rig. Sometimes you just need a second computer for the family, or an HTPC that doesn’t break the bank. Heck, sometimes you just need a cheap first computer. That doesn’t mean you have to head to big-boxville and pick a prebuilt off the rack. Indeed, we’re betting that with a little elbow grease we can put together a machine for less than $350 that’ll perform basic tasks, if not with a surplus of power, at least without smoking and dying.
Our budget gaming rig is all about instant gratification: a way for you to fill your gaming hunger with a state of the art, speedy machine, capable of playing today’s games at 1080p resolutions, for less than $700. With our instructions, you will see how you can build it yourself in less than hour. On top of that, we’ll tell you how you can easily supersize your budget box with future upgrades.
I have an average-size spare bedroom that mostly functions as a home office and gaming room, and has been used primarily by me. Given the cramped quarters of San Francisco apartments, I set out to make the room less me-centric and more family-friendly by transforming this home office into a home office theater. The goal was to create a room suitable for three things: normal PC computing, big-screen surround sound movie viewing with no reconfiguration needed, and big-screen gaming. Ancillary goals were to make the room feel less like a cluttered man cave, and to avoid breaking the bank.
Were there a Mount Everest of PC builds, the see-through PC would likely be it. The difficulties are great, and the possibilities for failure high, but there’s nothing that gets me more excited than the opportunity to crack my knuckles and customize the lighting and electrical setup of a transparent desktop system.
In the forever war between CPU vendors, AMD and Intel have traded places many times—one leads, then the other. Since the advent of Intel’s Core i7, though, AMD hasn’t been able to touch the performance of Intel’s high end, and Sandy Bridge further increases the gap. But, well, you couldn't buy Sandy Bridge motherboards when I wrote this build-it story in February for the May print issue—something about a bad chipset—and I'd been meaning to build an AMD-powered machine for a while now—with CrossFire, even. Why? Partially because I can, but I also want to witness the performance delta firsthand.