The notion of choosing a bunch of PC components, before attempting to put them all together in the hopes of achieving a working system, can seem very scary. It’s like super-expensive (though not by much) LEGO that you really don’t want to break! Today I’m hoping to help potential first-time builders get over that fear and build a budget gaming PC that’s simple, yet capable. In this build, there will only be five components that need to be inserted into a case. Come on, you can do it!
While it might be easier for me to just sort components by the lowest price and recommend the cheapest parts to make a low-cost build, it wouldn’t be easier for you, as many of those parts are cheap for a reason, and often difficult to put together. Sometimes that extra few dollars can go a long way into making the build process as smooth as possible.
This easy-to-build, but still budget, PC guide was inspired by my little brother, who has finally begun to hunger for gaming at higher frame-rates in PC-exclusive titles. With a budget of around $450, my goal was to get him the parts required to build a solid foundation. Something that was powerful enough to run games at 1080p, at playable frame-rates. This PC would need to be easily upgradable down the road, when budget allowed for additional storage, RAM, a graphics card, and ultimately a new CPU.
My initial part list was based on building the system myself. I then learned that my 14-year-old brother wanted to put it together, with no prior experience. This led me to swap out some of the parts, prioritizing an easy build over additional performance.
Now you know the context, and who exactly this build is for, let’s dive into the parts I chose, and my general recommendations for each component.
Budget Gaming PC: Best Cheap PC Build
CPU – Ryzen 3 2200G ($89.99/£97.99)
First up, we have one of AMD’s Ryzen APUs, with its integrated Vega graphics meaning an additional graphics solution isn’t required. Even the lower end Ryzen APUs can run games at 1080p. Initially, I had decided upon the Ryzen 5 2400G, but found the Ryzen 3 2200G’s better bang for the buck to be more attractive. This, and the fact that my brother isn’t interested in video editing or streaming — something that the Ryzen 5 2400G’s eight threads would come in useful for — made me grab the four cores, four threads Ryzen 3 2200G.
The Ryzen 2200G performs well enough for a temporary graphics solution, and will still perform well when combined with a dedicated graphics card (like the 1050 Ti, or next-gen Nvidia card) further down the line.
Motherboard – Asus Prime B350-Plus ($89.13/£62)
Though the new AMD Ryzen APUs are ideal for first-time builders working with a low budget, picking out a motherboard can be a massive pain in the arse. You see, though the latest Ryzen processors do work with older motherboards (A320, B350, and X370), compatibility has to be activated through a BIOS update. This means that you could order a part, have it delivered, and then find that it needs updating using an older CPU. You’d then have to order a kit from AMD to update the BIOS yourself, or send the board back for the retailer to update. Needless to say, this is added stress that a first-time builder wouldn’t want to experience.
To avoid this mess myself, and to give my brother the best chance at actually succeeding in building his first computer, I went down a different route. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fit the ready-and-compatible X470 and B450 boards into my budget, so I went for a combo CPU and MOBO deal, which was guaranteed to be fully updated and ready to be popped into the case. I grabbed the Asus Prime B350-Plus and aforementioned Ryzen 3 2200G for $170. It’s around $10 more than the CPU/X370 combo I had my eye on, but the extra cost was worth the time and stress saved.
Important note to make here: Please, please, please make sure that you buy a motherboard with some form of video out, if combining it with a Ryzen APU. If you don’t spot a HDMI out on the motherboard, you’ll want to steer clear, as your Ryzen APU won’t be able to output an image, making it useless!
The motherboard comes with a manual that details the build process with clear illustrations, as well as all of the screws you’ll need for mounting components and keeping them in place. Slowly and steadily making your way through the booklet with yield best results, though YouTube is a good place to check out video walkthroughs. (Paul’s Hardware is a personal favorite of mine.)
RAM – Patriot Viper 4 8GB DDR4-3000 ($94.99/£85.04)
Fast RAM is the priority with Ryzen, but it also needs to be cheap. To narrow down my search, I hunted for the lowest priced, dual-channel (2 x 4GB, not 1 x 8GB) kit I could find, which had the fastest speeds in its price tier. I then checked reviews to cement my decision.
I decided upon the Patriot Viper 8GB kit, which boasts speeds of up to 3000 MHz. It was priced at $94.99, which I was happy with, and the red color coincidentally goes with my motherboard of choice. My brother can later add another 8GB, as prices continue to fall.
Storage – Kingston A400 240GB SSD ($54.99/£41.49)
I’m of the opinion that every new build must have an SSD. It doesn’t need to be the fastest solid state drive available, but man, the improvements over a mechanical hard drive, for both general use and gaming, are huge. With SSD prices dropping, there’s no excuse not to grab one. At the very least, get a 120GB drive for your OS and a couple of your most-used programs or games.
I chose a Kingston A400 240GB SSD as my brother’s sole bit of storage. While yes, this will force him to employ some good storage management practices, as that is very little space, it’s a good starting point which, once budget allows, will work nicely alongside a cheap 1TB hard drive.
Power Supply – CM MasterWatt 550W 80+ Bronze ($55.02/£52.23)
For the power supply, I went with a Cooler Master MasterWatt 550W 80+ Bronze semi-modular power supply. It’s important not to cheap out on a power supply, as a PSU failure can take out an entire system, rendering it all useless. I’d go with a brand that you’ve actually heard of, ensuring that it has a rating of at least 80+ Bronze. 550W is more than enough for my brother’s build, with enough headroom for an additional graphics card and, eventually, a better CPU.
I also made sure that the power supply was semi-modular. Though non-modular PSUs will be cheaper, they also come with all cables permanently attached, resulting in what looks like a rat’s nest forming at the bottom of your rig. This means more cables to hide in the case and generally makes for tougher time building. The MasterWatt 550W has is perfect for our needs, and is a solid deal at $55.
Case – Fractal Define S ($72.99/£59.99)
Without a doubt, the Fractal Define S is my favorite case to build in. Though it’s admittedly overkill for my brother’s initial system, I’m confident that it will be compatible with any and all future upgrades. The Define S offers plenty of room to build in, which a first-time builder will certainly appreciate. Once the system is up and running, this case will help keep the noise to a minimum, with silence being another of its key strengths.
For $450, my brother now has a great foundation to build upon. He’s got good branded parts bought from reliable retailers which should stand the test of time, with excellent warranty coverage if they do happen to become faulty. Buying used was an option, but as this is a first build with no budget for replacements if things do go wrong, I figured the generous warranty periods (3-5 years per component) were not worth the sacrifice.
Sometimes budget systems are great for a year or two, before then needing to be fully replaced. With this build, I aimed for parts that could be reused, as that longevity helps stretch that value over time. Options to upgrade to a discrete GPU (1050 Ti, etc.), additional storage, more RAM, and beyond, are all easily achievable, and I’m confident that my little brother will be able to manage this all on his own. I’ve got faith in him, and I’ve got faith in you!
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