What I really like about the modern market concerning PC building is that it’s cheaper than ever to build something that truly is fast.
A few notes before continuing:
- NewEgg will be used to list parts and prices. This is not me telling you to shop there as some of you prefer TigerDirect, eBay or other local-to-your-country vendor.
- I have tested absolutely none of these products unless otherwise noted.
- Not all items are low-as-you-can-go concerning the price, because I was doing my best to eke out some decent speed out of this computer box.
- This is absolutely not the lowest-priced PC you could build, but it is on the lower end of the price spectrum concerning DIY PC builds.
- Prices don’t include shipping for the ones that have shipping costs.
- Prices are rounded (e.g. if it’s $99 or $101, I list as $100).
- Some links may have different prices as NewEgg does offer specials on particular items from time to time.
- I will not be including any additional cooling fans in the list as the prices for those vary wildly. It will be assumed that you will add in the fans of your choosing based on the brand you prefer.
- I will not be including input peripherals (keyboard and mouse) because everybody has different preferences concerning that. Some like wired, some wireless, some like ‘natural’ shaped, others prefer click-clacky, etc.
Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW
This is a widely-used case and has a solid reputation for being sturdy and easy to work on. Drive bays do not require tools to access them; a big plus.
Power Supply: APEVIA ATX-CW500WP4 500W
Definitely not the cheapest, but is well known to run quiet and just plain work so you don’t have to think about it.
Motherboard: BIOSTAR A770E3 AM3 AMD 770
This is a bottom-rung motherboard. Not too many frills here, but it can house 16GB of RAM. No USB 3.0 here, just 2.0.
CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz
Leave it to AMD to offer a great quad-core CPU for just 100 bucks. This is a full-boxed retail version that includes heatsink and fan.
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB)
I specifically chose this RAM because it’s an 8GB set and cheap. This is slower 1066 RAM, but hey, it’s 8GB for 60 bucks with free shipping so you really can’t complain.
Hard Drive: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM
It’s not required to have a 1TB drive in a new build, but for 55 bucks, why not? This is an instance where you could go cheaper with a 5400 or 5900 RPM drive of lesser storage size, but I really don’t see the point in doing that considering the price point is so low.
Optical Drive: ASUS 24X DVD Burner
I own one of these. Bare drive, so you’ll need the data cable. Works like it should and never complains, which is all you ever ask out of an optical drive.
Graphics card: EVGA 01G-P3-N959-TR GeForce 9500 GT 1GB
You could go a lot lower in price than this, but it’s worth it to have a graphics card to allow you to play today’s modern video games – and this card is definitely up to task in that respect. Important note: This card has no VGA ports; it has two DVIs and one HDTV/S-Video.
I wrote an article last year explaining what an OEM (i.e. a System Builder’s) license of Windows is. If you want a transferable license, get the Retail version. If not, go OEM. However I strongly suggest you read the linked article so you better understand why an OEM license is not for everyone.
No operating system (or Linux): $440
With Windows 7 64-bit OEM: $540
With Windows 7 64-bit Retail: $630
There are places where I could have knocked off several dollars from the price and still ended up with a relatively speedy PC.
I could have gone with a $35 case, $20 PSU, $60 CPU, $40 hard drive and $40 graphics card. In total I could have shaved off $115 from the cost of the hardware, bringing the hardware-only price of $440 down to $325.
How low can you go with a build that’s considered "fast"?
Would you agree the $440 build is a fast computer? If not, what would you change and/or recommend?
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