2018 Edit: Due to still getting comments on this build by people asking why or saying this is a terrible waste of money, etc, I am adding this at the top. These were built in February 2014 and I posted the build in March 2014. Of course in 2018 you can build a much better PC and by no stretch of the imagination would I recommend any of the parts today. The prices listed were the cheapest at the time! Now, on to the archaeological post below!
After trying to play multiplayer Minecraft, Terraria, and Starbound with my sons on their aging computers, I decided new machines were in order. I had a very strict budget, so I set out to get the most performance I could get for around $500 including the OS. The boys are 7 and 8, so the games they play would run perfect on 720p resolutions. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance I was able to get with this build. Of course they wanted machines like mine which runs at 5760x1080 on three 23" IPS LED panels, but that wasn't in the cards for my dudes. Let's break this build down!
Processor: For a $59.99 quad-core, I can't complain much. I know people will say it isn't the best processor for gaming, but for what they play, it's plenty fast!
CPU Cooler: This tiny beast is the lil' bro to my EVO 212. It keeps this hot headed CPU at about 28-30°C on idle. I haven't really pushed it with very demanding games to see how hot it gets yet. Club Penguin just isn't that demanding folks! The hottest I have seen so far is 37°C while playing the games listed at the top.
Motherboard: This is where I slipped up! When I was checking out boards, I forgot to click the option for onboard USB 3 header! SO, I ended up with this board. The layout on it is nice, high speed RAM and SATA 3Gbps & 6Gbps. I should have went with the MSI 760GMA-P34(FX)!
Memory: For budget purposes, I split the RAM between the two machines. I will add another kit later. I liked the low clearance of this RAM, as that allowed it to fit perfectly below the CPU cooler.
Storage: I wanted the machines to have dual drives for quick boot time with the SSD and a quality HDD for their Steam catalogs.
Video Card: I wanted something that didn't require much power and could push the games they play very, very well. This little baby does the trick! I believe there are two different models of this card though. The one I have selected through this site, is not the one I purchased. The one I purchased has the model#11216-00-20G. The card listed on this site has model#100369-2GL. I searched on the web and the difference seems to be in the PCIe. The 2GL says PCIe Gen 3, while the 20G says PCIex16 Gen 3. These cards also have a price difference of about $30.
Case: I love this case! It has a ton of room inside to make a really powerful single card rig. Of course for my purpose it was more than adequate. But if you want a micro ATX case you can go wild with, this is your beast. It can handle a ton of fans, large CPU Coolers, water cooling, long graphics cards, and a lot of drives! I also liked the look of the case and how sturdy it feels.
Case fans: The case came with two preinstalled 120mm fans to which I added a blue fan to one and a green fan to the other. The boys loved that I made their machines their favorite colors.
Power supply: Nothing too exciting about the power supply. I wanted a modular one since I wasn't installing to many things in the case and didn't want a nest of unused wires laying around! I like the reputation of Corsair, so I got this one. It will also have plenty of headroom for a graphics card upgrade in the future if that is needed.
Well, that's the build! Nothing too fancy, just some nice, clean little machines for my boys. I already had a few LCD monitors, keyboards and mice, so that saved me quite a bit on the builds. I don't own any benchmarking software, so I can't tell you what it scores. Minecraft at the settings pictured above ran at 174-180FPS. If I max out all of the sliders, it runs at 65FPS. Path of Exile runs at 180FPS. I don't know what Terraria and Starbound run at, but they don't lag at all! These numbers are running on a 19" Samsung SyncMaster at 1280x1024. At 1080P these numbers would decrease I am sure.
Let me know what you guys think!
5-20-14: Added Steelseries Diablo 3 mouse to help kids play D3, POE and Marvel Heroes much easier! This is a great mouse and the price was too good to pass on. I got one for $25. 99 and the other for $5.99 after using rebates from PSU and case.