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Cheap Ass Computer Machine: advice requested


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#1 rrpwiii

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 12:18 AM

I suspect that my present computing machine (per-aluminium MacBook) is on its way out through some form of ritual internal self immolation. This has raised the question of whether to get a new Mac...for lots of moneys...or try to build myself a pc and see just how much windows has changed since 98se.

I am a complete scrub when it comes to computery fabrication but am willing to learn. Especial if it stands to save me a bit of scratch and lets me try out this pc gaming thing I heard about on the internet.

Any advice, insight or recommendations would be appreciated.

#2 Megazell

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:13 AM

What is your budget?

What type of gaming do you plan to explore?

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#3 Qontrol

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:34 AM

What's your budget?

Build your own, it's not that hard and windows is MUCH better than Win 98

#4 rrpwiii

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:43 AM

I would love to keep the price around $400 but am flexible to around $600 if I have to be. And I am mostly interested in the indie realm (as it is sorely limited on consoles) but I have a fairly open mind and do not want to be too limited by hardware.

#5 Megazell

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:28 AM

I would love to keep the price around $400 but am flexible to around $600 if I have to be. And I am mostly interested in the indie realm (as it is sorely limited on consoles) but I have a fairly open mind and do not want to be too limited by hardware.


What did you mean by that bold statement?

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#6 possum1284

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:41 AM

why not get a mac mini. they run about $600 new
Adam

#7 rrpwiii

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:57 AM

Megazell, I just mean that there seems to be a greater variety of indie games available on pc over xbla or psn.

possum1248, I had a friend with a mini and it failed to impress me. That was a few years back so they might have improved since then. Also if I get a Mac other than a MacBook I feel that I will kick myself for it later.

#8 JBaz

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 01:43 PM

why not get an ipad mini, they have tons of indie games like Princess Pony... lol Ok, sorry for bad joke.


In terms of PC, you have a few options between the $400-600 price points in budgeting a DIY build. Unfortunately, you missed the biggest sales holiday during Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals last month that would have opened a lot more options.

The sub $500 gaming PC (w/ OS) is hard to budget for since it solely rests on what sales are going on day to day and what you are willing to compromise. It's not hard to build for, but you do have to keep a keen eye on sales and know what is good value, part for part.

You did just miss the decent AMD budget box barebones kit from Tiger Direct yesterday: AMD 945 x4, Gigabyte 760g mobo, 8GB ram, case & 500w PSU for $150 AR. It's no show stopper, but throw in a $70 gpu, $80 OS, $50 hdd and you would have been set for $350 for a complete budget gaming system.


$500-600 will open a lot more doors in what you can get away with in terms of every day prices for a value gaming PC, but even then, you can still be dependent on sale prices to get your money's worth. For a build right now, I'd probably start around with something like this:

PCPartPicker part list

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($84.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock 970DE3/U3S3 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($69.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: Patriot Intel Extreme Master, Limited Ed 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($31.99 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($67.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: Zotac GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Video Card ($79.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: NZXT Source 210 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($45.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On IHAS324-98 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)

Total: $510.89
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-12-05 07:07 EST-0500)

You get a decent quad core with a very nice 970 series motherboard that will allow you to take advantage of overclocking the CPU if you wanted to. You could save a few bones and get a cheaper motherboard based on the 760 chipset, but you loose the ability to overclock, specially when the black edition AMD chips have a great ability to OC easily and cheaply. You could settle with an 880 series chipset motherboard, but they seem to be around the same price range as the 970 right now, plus you have to be careful since a number of cheap boards only support 95w CPU's instead of the older X4 BE chips that are 125w.

Just as a note, I've seen way better prices for the 955/965 BE chips when paired as a combo with a motherboard. It's not hard to find weekly deals for the cpu's around 75-80 with an 880 or better motherboard for 25-45 that comes with the same features as the $70 970 board listed above. You have to look around and shop for it. Not uncommon to save $50 here.

I threw in any pair of 8GB 1600, cas9 1.5v DDR3 modules. You can find something for a cheaper price on most days, say around $20-25; cheaper if you went down to the 1333 speeds. Honestly, it really doesn't matter too much for a budget box like this as the goal is to get a working computer for cheap that offers great value. Other stuff that I threw in without too much thought is a simple 1TB 7200 drive for about 70 bucks and a cheap $15 optical drive. You could get more value if you went up to a 2TB drive for a few bucks more, but up to you.

I picked a nice NZXT Source 210 case. I personally have built a few PC's around it and i find it to be a great value at this price point over other $40-50 cases, but don't limit yourself to what I picked. Look around, there are tons of other cases like the Cooler Master HAF 912, Corsair 300R and like 10 more other cases. You could easily even cheap out and find a crappy $20-30 case if you wanted to or you could wait to find a better deal with sales.

Paired with the case is the Corsair 430w v2 power supply for $25. Its going to be the best value PSU at this price point as its the only 80 plus certified under $30 right now that I'd get. It routinely goes on sale for sub $20 if you wanted to wait, but it can shoot back up to its MSRP of $40-50 any day. Even at $25, its still a great value and a great performer; more power than you need in a budget box like this.


The video card is the last thing I wanted to talk about as its the most volatile priced item in the whole set. GPU choice can easily change back and forth hourly depending on what parts goes in and out of sale, at what price points/tiers and what games you expect to play and at what level of visual quality. Saying you want to play "indie" games doesn't add any weight to the gpu choice since that's like saying you need to get somewhere in something with 4 wheels and an engine. Very ambiguous.

You could even be tempted to go with an entirely different PC build towards an APU like that of the AMD FMx socket A series that combines a quad core X4 cpu and a decent entry level gpu core that mimics a $50 6550 card (or better) or cross over towards Intel's sandy/ivy bridge cpu's with their HD 2000/3000/4000 gpu cores in practically all of their cpu's now. On board graphics are no sloth's anymore considering you could play a game like dirt 2, crysis or even skyrim and batman at 720P at playable frame rates.

For this build, I picked a Zotac 550ti 1GB since its price right now at $80. I personally don't like the Zotac brand, but if we are going for cheap and value oriented, it will work. If you can wait for a deal (which I highly recommend), you can easily find an AMD 7750 or an nvidia 650 for about $70, which is about or more powerful than the 550 ti. The AMD 7770 was $70 during BF/CM deals though, which was steal. You could also look at this MSI 6670 card for $50 AR that adds a good value and performance for the price point.

Anything less and you might as well use an onboard Intel HD 4000 gpu core capable CPU (i3 3225k $130) or the new AMD A10 5800k ($120) with its 7660 gpu core since either are more powerful than the simple and cheap display cards like the GT 520, GT 610, or AMD HD 6450 that make up most of the sub $50 gpu market.
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#9 Megazell

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:19 PM

Megazell, I just mean that there seems to be a greater variety of indie games available on pc over xbla or psn.


OK. I was just trying to understand the type of gaming you plan to do on this rig.

Jbaz gave you a solid lead.

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#10 rrpwiii

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:31 PM

JBaz, Thank you for your input. I now have a lot to look into and research to day, luckily I have a job that pays me while I muck a bout on the internet. I also apologize for being a bit nebulous but that was at least partially intentional, as I do not completely know what I intend to do with a computer. I have not used Windows or a desktop (do they still call them desktops?) since 1999 and I was under 5'. I have a bit of catching up to do.

#11 JBaz

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 04:47 PM

Unless you are needing to build right now, I'd say hold off for another week or two until pre-christmas sales start to pop up for better deals or better parts for the same price. Most of the parts I listed on the $500 PC above can all be found cheaper; potentially save probably around $50-100, depending on the sale and availability.

A similar build during BF/CM deals would have ran you about $412 with windows 8 with double the HDD storage and a better graphics card all from newegg.com. And that's not including any crazy in-store only sales from microcenter that most people will not have access to.


Personally, I like windows 7 over 8, but the new tile format is hard to win me over since I've been used to a normal windows platform for over 15 years. It's nice for a mobile touch platform, but on a laptop or a desktop; I don't find it handy at all, specially if you are like me and have like 1000 software applications installed at the same time.

Plus it has compounded more issues and calls from friends and family on how to use the damn OS. I just got my mom a new 3rd gen i5 win 8 laptop this week for her pre-christmas present and I've already had to video conference about a dozen times on how to open up a browser or any application. It just got to the point of where I had to RDC and open office for her... my dad refuses to even touch my mom's new laptop and trusts his windows XP desktop (my old gaming rig, 7 generations removed now) that has worked flawless for 10 years straight.

#12 rrpwiii

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:03 PM

I am not in that big of a hurry to build anything...right now I am at the research phase of the operation. So I do not mind waiting for stuff to go on special. I have not even started trying to suss out Windows 7 or 8, having spent no time with either.

#13 JBaz

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 08:28 PM

The general GUI of windows 7 is based on the same layout as windows 95/98/XP/2000 with the classic start button. Windows 8 throws that out and goes with a tile layout as their start home screen; similar to their windows mobile OS.

Windows 8 proves well for a mobile touch screen device, but for a PC with normal keyboard & mouse, its incredibly annoying to open up a start menu that takes up your entire screen, then scroll through massive icons along with useless bits of weather information or news tickers to find one app that would have taken you all of 1 second to find and open in a normal start button and programs list layout of windows 7 and older. Its not entirely intuitive to move your mouse cursor all the way to the corners of your screen to open up the home screen, tabs or search features. The first question I get asked is "where's the start button?" followed by "why the f**k did they remove it?".

#14 Triggerhappy14

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:23 AM

Do you need a monitor as well? And if you do, I'm guessing it needs to fit into the current budget? What about keyboard and mouse?

#15 jimijumper

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:38 AM

This thread is great! rrpwii, thanks for starting this thread and Jbaz thanks so much for your detailed information. I too have been contemplating building my own cheapass PC with gaming as a secondary priority...

#16 rrpwiii

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:57 AM

Trigerhappy14,
Whats a monitor?

I do need a monitor and other such accompaniments but I was not including them in my budget.

jimijumper,
Your welcome.

#17 JBaz

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 01:19 AM

This thread is great! rrpwii, thanks for starting this thread and Jbaz thanks so much for your detailed information. I too have been contemplating building my own cheapass PC with gaming as a secondary priority...

Just FYI guys, you do realize there's the perpetual "The Ultimate 'Build-A-PC' Thread" stickyed in the PC section with loads of information that constantly gets chatted in. I routinely check that thread daily

Edited by shrike4242, 07 December 2012 - 03:58 AM.

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#18 itachiitachi

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:31 AM

If you are building from scratch, going for indie games, and have time I would camp one of the other deal site and wait for parts to come up. It's not uncommon to see a decent Mobo, gbu, or ram go for $25.

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#19 JBaz

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:41 AM

what's gbu?

#20 evilw0n

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:28 AM

He meant GPU = graphical processor unit (card).

#21 JBaz

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 05:15 AM

I think its actually Guided Bomb Unit

#22 Cheaplikeafox OS X

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:41 AM

Alot of good advice here.

Here is the guide I used when building my PC:

http://www.hardware-...g-pc-july-2012/

The site also has how to guides and things like that.

Keep in mind that the prices here and on most guides do not include things like Monitor, Mouse and Keyboard, and Operating System.

So if you intend to keep your budget under a certain amount make sure you take that into account.

Do you have any particular indie games in mind? I only ask because I recently bought a laptop for around $400 with integrated graphics, but it is able to play most indie games fine as long as you are not into running graphics at the highest settings.

That would be another option if you are not trying to run the latest games.

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#23 JBaz

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 04:49 AM

+1 for the Mods cleaning up this page!

^also, buying a cheap laptop is another good option if you don't need something super powerful. Shit, I have a 2 year old Asus A8 quad core 15" laptop with dual GPU's that plays any modern games at 720p on medium or high settings for $450... 2 YEARS AGO!!! Still plays games fine on the battery for 3 hours too.

AMD A series APU's are awesome if you need a cheap gaming HTPC or laptop; other then that, it completely sucks, but I love them. lol
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#24 rrpwiii

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 05:04 AM

I think its actually Guided Bomb Unit


I am not sure I need one of those but I guess if they are cheap enough I could consider it.

CheapLikeAFox, Seems like a decent site, I will give it some time tomorrow when my head is a bit more...awake. Getting a laptop is tempting, videogames would make my already easy job ridiculously so. But I worry I would feel guilty about getting paid (quality problems I suppose). Also your fox tongue thing freaks me out.

The more I read about this nonsense the more I want to partake, I am trying to learn enough so that I can make a semi-informed purchase before the new year.
Again thanks to all who have aided me in my quest to be less of an idiot, I appreciate it.