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The Birth of a Gaming Rig (An Evolution in Gaming)

by Mittens73

26
28 Comments

Details

Date Published

Dec. 30, 2015

Date Built

Oct. 16, 2015

CPU Clock Rate

3.7GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

32.0° C

CPU Temperature Under Load

65.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.50GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

5.4GHz

GPU Temperature While Idle

31.0° C

GPU Temperature Under Load

60.0° C

Description

Hello!

I'm an engineering student who has always loved gaming and tinkering with machinery. So naturally, I have always wanted to build computers. While this is a fun pastime for me, I do not have an excessively high income to build a powerhouse rig with. I did have experience building in the past since I built an APU rig before with the help of a friend of mine (he currently has that one) but I wanted to build a gaming PC for myself. So I decided to start off with a modest rig that had a solid upgrade path to go through one component at a time.

Building this PC has been an incredible experience for me. Not only did it satiate my desire to create and game in one device, but it taught me a lot about how modern computing works, and that fascinates a nerd like me!

Here's how my gaming performance has progressed as the upgrades were installed:

Getting started, on the cheap (A6-5400k, 8GB RAM, no external graphics): This rig was able to run basic games and older games pretty well, I was actually really impressed considering I picked the CPU up to update my bios to get myself Kaveri ready. I played lots of Payday 2 on 720p and was able to match PS3 quality graphics for the most part. It also handled Bethesda RPGs before Fallout 4 with ease. I even managed to complete a playthrough of Shadow of Mordor on the chip (albeit on low settings at 720p). It was definitely a good starting point and a necessary one if your FM2 board was bought secondhand like mine was and did not have the bios for Kaveri on it.

The next step (A6-5400k, 8GB RAM, EVGA GTX 750 Ti FTW): The graphics card made a huge difference in game performance. Shadow of Mordor, a GPU heavy game, went from barely reaching for 30 fps on the lowest settings at 720p to getting over 40 with nearly all settings maxed at 1080p. I played a lot of Fallout 4 on this setup, and it was fairly playable everywhere except for densely packed areas such as downtown Boston, where there was simply too much for the poor little dual core to process. Overall, though, this setup was able to run and play decently comfortably nearly anything I threw at it, and that is an incredible feat for a PC that cost me under $400!

A true gaming rig (Athlon X4 860k, 8GB RAM, EVGA GTX 750 Ti FTW): Here we are, gaming nirvana for under $500. While I can't claim to be getting 60 FPS at all times, I haven't found a game I can't run at 1080p with nearly every setting at high/ultra with the guts to push my FPS below 30 (beyond the occasional frame drop when open world games load a new area (I.E. Sprinting through the world of Fallout 4 in downtown Boston). For instance, on the above setup (APU with graphics card) I could only manage the upper teens for FPS in Project: Cars (at the lowest possible settings), but with the processor upgrade, I can easily run it on high and get around 50FPS average. I am blown away by the power of this setup, and it will only get better once I add another stick of RAM to it for 16GB dual channel!

Future steps: I know I plan to add another stick of RAM as detailed above, but as this rig sits, it is an extremely capable gaming PC that can run nearly any game at maximum settings. I am hopeful that AMD will release their new ZEN architecture that has been rumored, but the X4 chip will serve me well for a long while. The only upgrades I have planned are going to a 500W modular power supply (likely from EVGA) and grabbing a cheap disc drive to make driver installs that much easier.

I was able to put this computer together as cheaply as I did because I took my time, did my research, and was able to take advantage of sales and promos through various online websites. Because of this, I had to buy parts separately and many of the components were bought as certified refurbished status from their respective manufactures. While I fully trust re-certified refurbished parts, there is still a slightly greater risk in purchasing these parts instead of brand new parts. Always try to go for refurbished before secondhand, but if you must buy secondhand, be sure to verify with the seller that the part works (if you can get photo/video evidence, definitely do this)! That being said, if you are on a strict budget as I was, it is possible to build a 1080p capable rig on the cheap if you can wait a while!

Note: I did not include peripherals in the cost of this build, but they ran me about $60 all told (buying things secondhand is the way to go!). I also was able to score Windows 8.1 through my school for free. That being said, if you have a mouse, keyboard, and monitor laying around, this build was put together and is happily gaming for well under $375, which places it at almost the exact cost of an Xbox One or PS4 but gives you a completely functional PC rather than just a gaming device. I am certain this rig will get some CAD experience as I continue doing engineering classes, and for the price, I'm not sure I could ask for much more out of this rig!

So how'd I do? Where can I improve? What upgrades should I consider?

Thanks for reading about my build!

Part Reviews

CPU

I should be able to give this CPU 10 stars. It is the best budget CPU that AMD has to offer right now, and it flat out performs. For a little background, this chip is the A-10 7870k without the integrated graphics in it. This little guy, combined with my GTX 750 ti (both at stock clock speeds) handles Xbox One/PS4 games at 1080p and on high/ultra settings with ease (including Fallout 4, GTAV, Shadow of Mordor, and Wolfenstein: The New Order, more on the way as I become rich :) ). Buy this processor and you will not be disappointed, it is a true budget gaming unit!

CPU Cooler

Why are you reading this? You already know this is the best cooler in this price range!

My CPU temp has yet to break 75 degrees even when benchmarking, this cooler is simply the best.

Motherboard

Fantastic Motherboard for the price, and has all the features you could possibly want to boot! Plenty of USBs, a front USB 3.0 header, and HD Audio in a 4 channel RAM board for under $50? Can't say no to that. Oh, and ClickBIOS is pretty neat too, once you finallly manage to figure out how to boot windows 8.1 from it (software newb here).

I docked one star from it because I did have to buy a cheap APU to flash the BIOS, but I knew that I would have to going in. Just be careful when you buy your components, folks!

Memory

Good, stable ram. I had this stick overclocked to 2133 speed when I was using the APU (APUs are very affected by RAM speed), but I am using the stock speed now and it works very well. I will add a second stick to take advantage of dual channel soon

Video Card

I am blown away by this card. It has given my dual core rig the power to easily match the PS4\XBOne in graphics capability. It gives me an amazing 50 FPS on Shadow of Mordor with all settings on ultra except for textures, which is on high. I know a 900 series may be a bit more powerful but I couldn't pass up this card. Get it!

EDIT: Pairing this with the Athlon is a match made in heaven. The combo handles current gen console games extremely well and the card has yet to break 60 degrees Celsius on me, the value of this card is amazing and anyone building a budget gaming PC should definitely look into it!

Case

Pretty good case for the price. It has 4 fan mounts, comes with one fan, and feels somewhat sturdy with the exception of the front plate not lining up with the top USB housing properly. I like the window in the side, it gives it a nice look.

Power Supply

An 80+ certified PSU for $25 is pretty agreeable. I trust the Corsair name.

EDIT: Still hasn't blown up or fried my components, but I am wishing I shelled out a bit more for the modular unit.

Case Fan

Exceptionally quiet fans, no complaints here! I am running four of these, two in and two out. They work well mounted above my CPU cooler for a push-pull setup.

Comments Sorted by:

Luxazur 2 Builds 3 points 16 months ago

nice budget build!

I don't see any details on a boot drive. I'd say the only thing worth upgrading would be to get a smaller SSD as a boot drive. then you can continue using the external as bulk storage. the SSD will provide basically no improvement to FPS, but it will provide a smoother user experience with everything else. I'm not really sure if going from 8 to 16 gigs of ram will provide much benefit, but that is another cheaper upgrade you could do (sounds like you're planning to do it). I doubt any games would eat up that much ram before exhausting CPU or GPU resources.

I don't think anything else would be worth upgrading. a better CPU would need a new MOBO, better GPU would likely require a new PSU. This build pretty well maxes out the budget offerings available right now.

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I actually do have a boot drive in this build, a 64GB one that has boot files and Fallout 4 on it (Priorities :) )

Also, the more I consider potential upgrades, the more I agree that I should just save up for a new build later on, thanks for giving me the nudge!

TehKingKyzr 1 Build 2 points 16 months ago

Nice first build, my brethren! Glad your motherboard wasn't dead on arrival, like mine.

commodore64 2 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

Heh, seems like this happens far too often now a day. Mine was also DOA.

TehKingKyzr 1 Build 2 points 16 months ago

Yeah, my new one from MSI should be here in a few hours, can't wait! Can't believe I spent 8 days without my one and true love... My PC.

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I was one of the lucky ones I guess :)

imloppie 1 Build 2 points 16 months ago

Nice rig.....and good part selection

ThugginMcMuffin 3 Builds 2 points 16 months ago

Have you considered grabbing a hyper 212 and overclocking that chip a bit? you can squeeze a little more by doing that.

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I actually already have one in the rig. I'll post more pics soon I promise!

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I have it overclocked at 4.1 on stock voltage and saw minor improvement. I'll play with my voltage a bit more and see if i can push to the 4.3-4.5 range. Without frying my pc that is!

SargeMarshall 2 points 16 months ago

I love your description and I'm an engineering student wanting to build computers too! I actually learned a few things from what you said. As for the build, very nice work (thumbs up)

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I'm happy I can help! It's good to know that i can share what I learned through exhaustive research and endless planning to get a cheap ish gaming rig (I'll use it for CAD too haha)! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions as you go through your build process!

blakeganiere 1 Build 1 point 16 months ago

Nice build! +1 from me

DaimondGamer718 1 point 16 months ago

great rig! +1 from me

kyrim 2 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

Nice build, go look at my build, we kinda used the same parts :)

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 2 points 16 months ago

A nice build indeed, I really like that case. The case is definitely a weak point for my build...

nuked24 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

+1, great build! One question though- what do you boot off of?

ALennox15 1 Build 1 point 16 months ago

I think he's using the external harddrive....

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

I do have a 64 GB SSD that I have my boot files on, I just forgot to put it on my parts list. I boot windows pretty quickly with that and MSI quick boot.

TheHoodedDragon 1 point 16 months ago

That's an awesome build. I've been wanting to build a rig like this. I was only able to make a rig almost $500, but I have the same CPU in the list.

Awesome job there. :O

Innatespatk 1 point 16 months ago

Could this run gta 5 fallout 4 with mods I am a scrub in the pic gaming world and know nothing other than ram and CPUs are needed

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 2 points 16 months ago

I'm not sure for GTAV but I am running Fallout 4 modded now. Obviously performance will be effected by the nature of the mods you run (i.e. running 4k texture mods probably won't go well for most systems), but I am having no issue so far with the close to 40 mods I currently am running. PM me and I'll send you a list of the mods.

Innatespatk 1 point 16 months ago

Ah thanks I am currently looking at another rig what do you think I'll pm in a sec https://pcpartpicker.com/user/Innatespatk/saved/Z3Q48d

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

That's a great rig if you have the money for it. It should be able to outpace this build a bit since it uses an 8-core AM3 socket CPU. It's a bit higher in price but definitely worth the investment if you can make it!

UndefinedVirtue 1 point 16 months ago

I think you did great, being a newly returned PC enthusiast, have an almost exact build design.

Of course I considered crossfire (should we decide to upgrade), and choices will be for the gtx 950 2GB or R7 4GB (Probably the R7).

I used to be an advocate of Intel, and I still am, due to the W consumption, which is usually 1/2.

I will be trying the X4 860K, just to see how much the critics might be wrong. ( They have with games like Outlast, so I thought it might be true with PC advice as well )

Either way, I love that techs do not all covet their knowledge at the expense of society being idiots.

sambonila 1 Build 1 point 7 months ago

I have a feeling that builds like these are the true console killers. The power they have with such a small price is truly phenomenal... and it's only getting better all thanks to new components coming out that are more and more powerful, making the already proven-to-be powerful components cheaper and cheaper like the GTX 950. I feel like 2016 and 2017 are going to be the year where you really can build a PC that is notably more powerful than a console. Really excited to see where new technologies take us in the near future!

TheGloweyThingy 0 points 16 months ago

(ಥ﹏ಥ) Good Birth More Pictures Kevin Want More ಥ_ಥ

Mittens73 submitter 3 Builds 1 point 16 months ago

On the way!