With yesterday's launch of AMD's 65W Kaveri APUs, it seemed a good time to give some recommendations for new system builds. We're starting out at the budget end of the spectrum, however, and pricing/availability on Kaveri generally rules it out. We'll keep things short and look at two builds, one AMD and one Intel. Outside of the CPU/APU and motherboard, parts are generally interchangeable.

Budget AMD System
Component Description Price
CPU AMD A6-6400K (2x3.9GHz, 1MB, 65W, 32nm) $65
Motherboard MSI A88X-G41 $73
RAM Team Vulcan 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-2133 CL10 $71
Storage Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB $55
SSD SanDisk Ultra Plus SDSSDHP-128G-G25 128GB  $60
Case NZXT Source 210 S210-001 $40
Power Supply Seasonic SS-300ET 300W 80 Plus Bronze $38
Total (without OS)   $402

The Kaveri APUs provide a decent blend of general and gaming performance, but finding one priced reasonably for a budget system is still a bit difficult (depending on your definition of budget, of course). While the idea of an inexpensive system capable of running games is fine, the cost to go from the A6-6400K we've selected to one of the Kaveri A10 models is more than the cost of a moderate dedicated graphics card like the R7 250, and the A6-7400K and A8-7600 are hard to find – and when you can find them, they're priced $15 higher than the MSRP. If you can wait a bit, the A6-7400K and A8-7600 should become more readily available. In the meantime, the A6-6400K will provide similar performance with a slightly slower graphics configuration.

For the rest of the system, the MSI motherboard can support both existing Richland APUs like the A6-6400K we've selected as well as Kaveri APUs. Similarly, the DDR3-2133 RAM can provide better bandwidth than DDR3-1600 RAM that would only save you a buck. For storage, you've got three options: go pure SSD and have fast storage performance but without a lot of capacity, buy the 1TB HDD and sacrifice performance for capacity, or get both. Personally, I'd go with a pure SSD or the SSD+HDD configuration.

Wrapping things up, the case is a decent looking and not too expensive NZXT Source 210. Cases can be a very subjective topic, and there are plenty of reasonable options, but the NZXT is a good choice for a budget build. You could also drop down to a micro-ATX case and motherboard, and if that's what you're after the MSI A78M-E45 would be a good alternative. For the power supply, the small increase in efficiency offered by 80 Plus Gold isn't really worth the added cost at this price, and Seasonic makes a good 300W unit that will provide good efficiency for a low-power system like this while still allowing for the use of a moderate discrete GPU down the road should you choose to upgrade.

Budget Intel System
Component Description Price
CPU Celeron G1850 (2x2.9GHz, 2MB, 53W, 22nm) $50
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-H97M-D3H $80
RAM Team Vulcan 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 CL9 $70
Storage Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB $55
SSD SanDisk Ultra Plus SDSSDHP-128G-G25 128GB  $60
Case Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-01 $50
Power Supply Seasonic SS-300ET 300W 80 Plus Bronze $38
Total (without OS)   $403

The Intel budget build is going to provide a pretty similar experience to the AMD build overall; single-threaded performance will be a bit higher, but graphics performance will be lower. The price for these two builds is equivalent at around $400 – which includes both a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, so you can shave off $50 by dropping one or the other storage option. The Celeron G1850 is Intel's least expensive Haswell option right now, and while budget CPUs aren't going to win in any performance contests, for normal tasks they're still plenty fast. Paired with a 128GB SSD they can make for a decent home/office system and the price is certainly appealing. Overclocking isn't really a goal of either of these builds, and Gigabyte's GA-H97M-D3H should do fine for stock clocks.

The one other noteworthy change is that we've included a slightly more expensive (and perhaps a bit too gaudy for some) Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 case. It has lots of angles and vents, and while Corsair has made some very good cases opinions on aesthetics are still up for debate. It ships with two 120mm fans for cooling, which is going to be overkill for a budget build like this but will give you room to grow. It also has a case window and red LED lighting for those that want to show off a bit.

Of course we're still missing the OS, keyboard, mouse, and display; these are all commodity items and most people have existing accessories they can carry over from an old PC. Unless you're running a free OS like Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux, the cost of Windows is going to represent a significant increase in price of nearly $100, putting us at the $500 mark referenced in the title. Adding a 20" to 22" LCD will tack on another $100-$140, and a keyboard and mouse will be $25 combined for a basic set. So all told if you want a complete new PC the price will be closer to $650, but $500 for the core system and software is a good starting point. You can also find some mail-in rebates on quite a few parts that might drop the price a bit, but as those change regularly I haven't included any in the above tables.

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  • cpy - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    You fail Walton! I can get Windows 8.1 PRO for 17EUR! G2A ftw! I don't even have to pirate this crap! Yeah well steam os gaming ftw and you're free.
  • bountygiver - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Should be titled "Upgrade your decade old PC with a more updated hardware for just $400", so you can use your old kb/mouse/monitor.
  • jjj - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    It's crazy to include a 1TB drive, you got to look at price per TB and 1TB drives are not efficient when it comes to that because of the platter size (hen it comes to hybrid or notebook drives ofc ideal sizes are different). Paying 55$ for 1TB really doesn't make any sense when you can get far better value with bigger drives.
  • hojnikb - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    But why get 2TB if you're never even gonna fill it with 500GB of data. While shaving 20$ may not make the hdd price/gb king anymore but the money can be better spent elswere (better mobo, psu, cpu etc..)
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    If this was a $750/1000 build I'd agree; but this is a how low can you go build. The HDD isn't the only place where $20 or $30 more would give a significant benefit to one cost/benefit stat; but if you did that everywhere the entire build would cost half again as much.
  • dragonsqrrl - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Dude, it's a $400 build. It's well below the optimum performance/capacity per dollar system budget. Every $ counts here, so even though a 1 TB drive might not be worth it from a price per GB standpoint, the absolute price still makes it better for this budget. If you're doing a something like a $400 build you're not going to be getting to best bang for your buck, this has been shown time and again.
  • Da W - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    If i just want a decent HTPC with low power, low noise and decent integrated graphic - gaming by streaming from my big PC, A10 is the way to go.
  • hojnikb - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Why would anyone buy 2 core APU/Athlon (especially on a 500$ or less budget) is beyond me. Shave a couple of bucks on PSU, a cheaper board (A88X really isn't needed), 4GB of ram (can always be added at a later time and ram is overly expensive nowdays anway) and with all that money saved one can get easily a better CPU (Athloh x4 is a pretty good choice nowdays) and a lowend gpu (250X or 260X for example).

    Again with intel build. H97 board really isn't needed, let alone 8GB of ram. With money saved, one could easily fit a pentium or even i3 in the build.
  • mapesdhs - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    I bought a G3258 PentiumK, it was on offer. Dual-use HTPC that can handle
    moderate gaming though, and general 3D like Google Earth at 4K, so it'll
    likely have a GTX 750 Ti. Mbd is an ASUS Z97I-Plus, very nice board. PSU
    is a BeQuiet 350W SFX, black Silverstone Sugo SG05BB-Lite case. Same
    stuff but with an H97 would be quite decent for most users.

  • feeblegoat - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/fgBwyc
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/fgBwyc/by_merchant/

    CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor ($69.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: MSI H81M-P33 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($48.38 @ Newegg)
    Memory: A-Data XPG V1.0 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($72.99 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($58.00 @ Amazon)
    Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 750 1GB Video Card ($89.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: NZXT Source 210 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($34.78 @ Amazon)
    Power Supply: Corsair CX 430W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $399.12
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-08-01 15:59 EDT-040

    I know gaming isn't the only criterion, but... I still like to push the performance envelope.

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