Assembling a cheap gaming PC may seem like a simple goalespecially if we go by the classic myth that says that we should spend almost everything on the graphics card and forget about the rest of the components, but if we do that we will be making a big mistake, and we will have to deal with serious imbalances that will make the performance leave much to be desired, and our user experience will be, therefore, very bad.
If we aim to assemble a cheap gaming PC while maintaining the right balance we will get good performance, and the user experience will be quite good, but we will have to make more complicated decisions and we will have to spend more time searching and comparing different components in order to choose only those that really offer a good price-performance value.
We may also be tempted to cut costs on certain components to improve others, which may be a good idea in some cases, but may not be a good idea in others may end up being a terrible decision in others. Think, for example, of a PC that has a very powerful graphics card but has a CPU that doesn’t even meet today’s minimum gaming requirements.
I know that this is a complicated issue that worries you a lot, and that is why I wanted to share with you this guide, where we are going to see several red lines that we should not cross when assembling a cheap gaming PCif we do so, we would be making serious mistakes.
1.-Low quality power supplies and cheap gaming PCs
They are a combination very dangerousespecially if we use graphics cards that have relatively high power requirements, which can easily happen if instead of mounting a current graphics card we go to the second hand market, where we could find interesting models for performance although less efficient than the current generations.
I will never tire of repeating that the power supply is one of the central pillars of any computer, and that we must give it the importance it really deserves, even if we are going to build a cheap PC. In most of the cases, the user gets carried away by the various, and is limited to look for the power supply that gives the most watts for the price it costs. Obviously, this is a mistake, and can be very expensive.
For example, a 500 watt power supply costing 14.54 euros, such as this L-Link, may seem a more attractive investment than the Nox Urano SX which is also 500 watts and costs 31.99 euros. However, the former has a much lower quality of construction, an amperage of only 25A and only comes with one 20+4 pin connector and two SATA connectorswhich means it does not even have a 6-pin connector to power a graphics card.
By contrast, the Nox Urano SX goes up to 36 amps, has 10 advanced protection systems against power surges and dips and comes with four SATA connectors, a 4-pin CPU connector, two 4-pin molex connectors and a floppy connector. If we mount a graphics card that needs additional power we could resort to an 8-pin adapter and connect those two 4-pin molex.
Cutting corners on the power supply can lead us to buy one that does not have the connectors we need, or one that offers such low power and amperage that we end up putting the integrity of our equipment at risk. If this happens, when the power supply â¤½diesâ¤, it will be a good thing it could take other components with it.
2.-Two-core, four-wire processors
They no longer have a place, not even to build a cheap gaming PCunless we don’t want to play titles released after 2017. Right now the minimum recommended standard to enjoy any current game is a configuration of four cores and eight threads, as long as it has some IPC, although in some cases it is starting to be recommended to have six cores and twelve threads.
We may be tempted to cut back on the CPU to fit a more powerful graphics card, and it may be a good idea, but as long as we don’t cross that red line, that is, as long as we don’t mount a processor with less than four cores and eight threads. If we do so, we will be creating a huge bottleneck and we will have very serious problems in games, among which we can highlight inconsistent performance, with very low minimum FPS rates and very sharp peaks, stuttering and constant jerks.
If you are wondering where the minimum is the answer is very simple, to assemble a cheap PC for gaming you should at least go for a Core i3-10100Fa chip that has a good IPC and adds 4 cores and 8 threads. It is very economical, since it costs 73,70 eurosand is perfectly capable of running any current game without problems. You can pair it with a mid-range graphics card like the GeForce RTX 3050 or the Radeon RX 6600.
3.-Memory configured in single channel
With the prices of today’s two-module memory kits, this is a mistake that no longer makes any sense, and it is that the price difference in the end ends up being minimalhowever, the performance improvement that we are going to notice can be remarkable, especially if we use processors with integrated graphics, since these use RAM to use it as video memory, and the bandwidth of this is determined by its frequency and by the activation, or not, of the dual channel.
If we have the RAM memory working in single channel its bus will be 64 bits onlywhich will reduce bandwidth and negatively affect both CPU and integrated GPU performance, if we have one. The impact on processor performance can vary greatly depending not only on the model we have, but also on the game we are using, but its impact will be huge on the performance of the integrated GPU.
Considering that the price difference between a kit with one memory module and a kit with two modules can be only a few eurosbut it is not worth giving up the value that today’s dual-channel mode offers. By activating it we will create a 128-bit bus, i.e. we will be doubling the RAM bandwidth, and we will notice a considerable performance improvement.
4.-Slow RAM memory and/or insufficient capacity
Cutting RAM memory costs is something very common when building a cheap gaming PC, and not only because of what we have already mentioned about dual channel, but also because of the issue of operating frequencies and capacity. We already have a red line that we should not cross, the dual channel, but there are still two others that we are going to join in a single point, capacity and speed.
The performance of a PC improves when dual-channel is enabled because it doubles the bandwidth, and the speed of the memory also increases bandwidth. Mounting a very slow RAM memory trying to save a few euros will make us lose valuable performance, and will be a bad choice, something that we can also apply to the issue of capacity, although in this case the problem can be so severe that it is possible that some games may not even workor they may be jerky.
This minimum speed that we should not go below varies depending on the processor we are going to use, but since we are talking about assembling a cheap PC we can set it at 2.666 MHz for processors such as the Core i3-10100F and de 3.200 MHz for AMD’s Zen 2-based alternatives. On the capacity side, 8 GB is currently the red line not to cross when building any cheap gaming PC.
5.-Forget the SSD and mount an HDD
I understand that HDDs still offer excellent value on a cost-per-gigabyte basis, but HDDs are becoming less and less important in the gaming world, and more and more developers are are focusing their efforts on optimizing games for SSDs. This, coupled with the situation we currently have, with a new generation that will not take long to complete the classic transition period, makes mounting an SSD a must even in a cheap gaming PC.
SSDs have a higher cost per gigabyte, but they offer much better performance, and this makes a huge difference in games that goes beyond load timesit also affects the ability of the graphics engine to work at full speed loading game assets in real time. In titles like Cyberpunk 2077, for example, the SSD makes a huge difference by eliminating load times and allowing the graphics engine to load all elements at the appropriate speed, so that the game can be played in real time we have no popping or texture loading issues.
Even if you can’t afford a 1TB SSD you should consider mounting at least a 512 GB drive as your primary driveand pair it with an inexpensive HDD as a secondary drive, so you get the best of both worlds and don’t have to put up with long loading times and those annoying popping effects that occur with hard drives. Even mounting an inexpensive 240 GB SSD, which cost less than 30 euros, will make a huge difference, so much so that it is a red line that we should not cross.
6.-Cheap motherboards, not all of them are a good buy
It is true that when we are going to assemble a cheap PC for gaming the motherboard is on the back burner, but this does not mean that we should go for the cheapest model and poorer in performance, in fact if we do so we may end up having major problems, and its useful life may end up being very short.
So, for example, buying a motherboard which does not have passive cooling on the VRAM will give us nothing but headaches, as the temperature that will reach the CPU power system will be very high, and this can reduce performance. This is known as thermal throttling. We may also encounter other important limitations in terms of connectivity and support of important standards.
Needless to say, all of the above can also greatly limit the upgradeability of our PC. Today, fortunately, most manufacturers comply with some minimums even in their most economical models, so it is difficult to go wrong, but this does not mean that there are not some models to avoid, such as this Asrock H310CM-DVS, which offers a very poor value for â’¬47.31.
If you are going to build a cheap gaming PC today look for a motherboard that has at least, passive dissipation at key pointsincluding the VRM, which is equipped with a PCIe Gen4 x16 connector and has all the USB ports you will need to connect the peripherals you plan to use.
7.-Mounting the wrong graphics card
Yes, you can mount the wrong graphics card in a cheap gaming PC, in fact nowadays it is unfortunately easier than ever to make this mistake, due to the tendency of NVIDIA, and especially AMD, to launch models that only work in x4 or x8 mode under PCIe Gen4. When running on PCIe Gen3 standard, their bandwidth is significantly reduced, and this ends up causing them to lose performance.
Thus, for example, mounting a Core i3-10100F with a Radeon RX 6400 graphics card would be a serious mistakeas it would work in PCIe Gen3 x4 mode, and its performance would drop significantly. In this case, it would be better to turn to the second-hand market and directly mount a Radeon RX 580, for example, as it would work in PCIe Gen3 x16 mode.
We can also make a mistake when choosing the graphics card by installing a model that is far below what we really need, or the other way around. For example, mounting a GeForce RTX 3080 to accompany a Core i3-10100F and play in 1080p with a 60Hz monitor makes no sense, and neither would mounting a GeForce GT 1030 to play with that configuration, as we would not have enough power.
8.-Insufficient cooling system
Normally a cheap gaming PC does not generate much heat, as its components offer a more modest performance than more expensive configurations. However, this does not mean that it is not necessary to maintain a good component dissipation, or that we should not have enough fans for generate a constant airflow inside the chassis.
We can use a processor such as Core i3-10100F with the reference fanand the same goes for other chips with more cores, such as the Ryzen 5 4500, but it is important that we have good cooling in general so that all the components we have mounted can work optimally.
It is understandable that we cut corners on the quality of the chassis and the cooling system in a broad sense, but there is always a red line that we must not cross, and that is defined in two very simple keys: have at least one fan at the front pulling in cool air and one at the rear pulling out hot air, and use a tower that allows for convenient and tidy mounting.