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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  • Hector2 - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    After my Apple II in 1980, I switched to IBM-compatibles because I'm an engineer and PCs were much cheaper and much more widely used in the tech industry. I started building my own in the early '90s for myself & family and friends because the OS was basically free then (by copying) and the markups were so big. Once desktops got under $800 and I couldn't just use a Windows copy, it's always been cheaper to buy than to build your own. It hasn't changed.
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    At this price point, you would be better off to just get a prebuilt unless you have a copy of windows that you can use. For around 450.00 you can get a Haswell i3 system that would be superior by far in cpu performance to either of these, and if you want to game you could still add a 100.00 card and be close to the budget.
  • Computer Bottleneck - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Nice Article! Thank you!
  • hiitsroby - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Really? was someone actually paid to write this sub-par article?

    [PCPartPicker part list](http://pcpartpicker.com/p/6mLzhM) / [Price breakdown by merchant](http://pcpartpicker.com/p/6mLzhM/by_merchant/)

    **CPU** | [Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/intel-cpu-bx80646g325... | $69.99 @ Newegg
    **Motherboard** | [MSI Z97 PC MATE ATX LGA1150 Motherboard](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/msi-motherboard-z97pc... | $99.99 @ Newegg
    **Memory** | [Crucial 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/crucial-memory-ct5126... | $37.99 @ Amazon
    **Storage** | [Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB 2.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/seagate-internal-hard... | $39.95 @ Mwave
    **Video Card** | [MSI Radeon R7 260X 2GB Video Card](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/msi-video-card-r7260x... | $119.99 @ Newegg
    **Case** | [Logisys CS369BK ATX Mid Tower Case w/480W Power Supply](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/logisys-case-cs369bk) | $40.16 @ NCIX US
    **Operating System** | [Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Full (32/64-bit)](http://pcpartpicker.com/part/microsoft-os-glc00182... | $15.00
    | | **Total**
    | Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available | $403.07
    | Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-07-31 23:34 EDT-0400 |

    [4gb vs 8GB ram for gaming benchmark](http://www.techbuyersguru.com/RAMgaming.php)

    [pentium G3258 gaming benchmarks](http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pentium-g3258-...])

    [r7 260x DX11 Ultra benchmarks](http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/radeon_r7_260...

    [second set of bechmarks for r7 260x](http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/5917/visiontek-ra...
    ~~to purchase windows OS keys for 15$ used in build~~ reddit.com/r/softwareswap
  • buffhr - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    Not sure where you found the os for 15$ cheapest I can find on pcpartpicker is $89.98
  • iLovefloss - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    These build aren't specifically for gaming. No one would switch out a SSD and 1TB drive for a single 500GB Seagate if they weren't trying to squeeze every ounce of gaming performance out of their budget.

    The RAM thing is a quality of life, and yes, you could get away with a more expensive CPU and a dedicated graphics card (especially if you were willing to forgo a decent case with a decent PSU).

    Another thing you forgot was that AnandTech limited themselves to NewEgg for their pricing. Your specific build (including combos and your $15 Windows key) would be $500. But even if we adjust your build for NewEgg prices, there would still be a couple of problems!

    For one, all it would take for an extra 500GB of storage is $3.

    Your case and its PSU are still questionable. I would personally recommend someone a cheap Seasonic or Corsair PSU paired with a decent case like the ones featured in the article (or a Fractal Design Core 1000 if you want to be super cheap). If you get the Corsair CX and the Fractal Design Core 1000 (as shown in Hrel's build), you can get an infinitely better case/psu combo for only $5 more (including rebates and promos).

    Also, let's go back to that RAM thing. It may not matter a whole bunch if you're just after game performance, but let me tell you, 4GB on a modern Windows OS sucks when you're doing more than light computer use (unless you have a SSD, but you removed that from your build). It feels cramp. Half the time you're fine, but at other times (especially when gaming and doing something else), you'll be wishing you had more RAM.

    Honestly, if we were doing a gaming focused build (and not limiting ourselves to NewEgg), I'd go for a modified version of Hrel's build and not yours. I'd dump myself down to a 128GB SSD like the MX100 or Ultra Plus while downgrading to a 1TB drive, and then I'd spend my money on a R7 260 or similar card. Instantly better system than yours.
  • jabber - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    Alternatively buy a five year old Dell dual Xeon workstation for peanuts on Ebay a kit it out for less and still have twice the power. Probably last longer too.
  • hojnikb - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    And have a piece of ancient history.
    And last time i checked, electricity isn't free :)
  • jabber - Monday, August 4, 2014 - link

    Carry on with your dull little econo-boxes then.

    And you'll be wanting to swap that econo-box out after a 6 months. Makes electricity costs moot really.
  • FriendlyUser - Saturday, August 2, 2014 - link

    Well, I use the Richland A6-6400K for my linux backup server/NAS and I'm quite happy with it. It is much faster than what you'd expect for simple tasks and really feels snappy.

    For what it's worth, there is a newer A6-6420K that has a slightly higher base clock at 4.0 GHz, so if the price is comparable, which it really should be, it's probably a better choice before going quad-core or dGPU.

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