Value 1080p Gaming Performance for $300-$325:
While it may not seem like a lot of money, going from our $200 build to $300 build makes a world of difference in terms of performance. In this case, it takes us from an APU build to a dedicated CPU and GPU build.
In the past, I’ve heard from many gamers that it’s simply not worth it to build a PC unless you’re willing to spend $500. As a result of this build, I feel that this mentality might change. Perhaps it’s Intel’s G3258 that makes this all possible or even that graphical performance per dollar has climbed upwards while graphical requirements for games haven’t kept up. Either way, the Gaming PC at this price range is not only possible, it also greatly outperforms the likes of consoles in this same price range.
G3258 Vs. Athlon 750k
Even at stock speeds, the G3258 performs better than the 750k overclocked in Battlefield 4, a game that should be able to take advantage of the 750ks additional cores. While this flip flops on a few games, the Intel Pentium G3258 is nearly always the winner with a reasonable overclock.
While some might point out that the Athlon 750k can be overclocked with a cheaper motherboard, the same can now be said about the G3258. This is because BIOS updates from motherboard manufacturers now allow overclocking of the Pentium G3258 on H81, B75, H87, and H97 chipsets. Considering the G3258 is found as low as $55 while the 750k is $70 at the time I’m writing this article, this decision has become an easy one.
What about the Athlon X4 860k?
Even when compared to the Athlon X4 860k the G3258 still strongly outperforms it without an overclock. Again, despite the lack of cores, the G3258 is the best low-end CPU you’ll find for the money because of its solid single core performance in games. Any step up from here, in my opinion, should be in the form of an i3 with hyper-threading. Specifically, I’d choose the Skylake i3-6100 over even an 8 core CPU like the FX 8320. Recent benchmarks show that it’s the way to go.
How well does the G3258 overclock with a cheap motherboard?
When put with a high-end machine the G3258 can safely overclock to about 4.7GHz. Results for this may vary based upon the quality of the CPU you get and the hardware you use; however, for this build using a high-end setup simply doesn’t make sense. Instead, we’re left trying to get the motherboard that will give us the best overclock or value for the money. In the Tom’s Hardware article, I quoted above the MSI H81M-P33 was used to overclock the Pentium G3258 to a stable 4.5GHz at 1.3 volts.
This gives you an insane amount of performance for what could even be under $100. It’s a safe bet that there could be another motherboard out there that can give equal or better performance to this one at the $50 price range; however, in the research I’ve done, I haven’t come across it. This Anandtech thread should give you a very good idea of the performance testing that’s out there so far.
Stretching the Budget $50 for a More Future-Proof Rig
The i3-6100 should definitely be a consideration here as well. If you go with it and a cheap H110 motherboard here you’ll be on the latest generation of processors, be able to use DDR4 memory, and have a much more capable CPU to use as your daily driver.
A Good Under $300 to $350 Gaming PC Build with Parts List:
|CPU||Intel Pentium Processor G3258||Incredible overclocker and will overclock with certain budget boards. A Bios update may be required for some.|
|Graphics Card||Asus GTX 750 Ti or |
Sapphire Radeon R7 360
|You'll get fantastic performance for around $100 after rebate from either of these cards.|
|Power Supply||EVGA 430w 80 Plus PSU||A good value for the money. Also look for sales on the CX 430 as well as the 500w version of this same model.|
|Motherboard||MSI MATX Motherboard H81M-P33||A 4.5GHz overclock is possible with this motherboard.|
|RAM||Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB (2x4GB) 1600 Memory||Nothing special about this ram. Fast and cheap. If it's not on sale, find something similar.|
|Hard Drive||320GB WD Caviar Blue||I like this series because it's reliable and cheap. You can also tripple the capacity for double the price here.|
Best $100 Gaming Graphics Card for the Money Q1 2016
If you’re looking hard in this price range, then most likely you’ll find three options that stick out above others; the R7 260X, the R7 360, and the GTX 750 Ti. All of these can be found in a similar price range of around $89 after rebate. If prices are similar, the 750 Ti is probably the one I’d go with although the R7 360 has a case in very specific games. Still, the low energy output and high overclocking potential of the 750Ti will be appealing to most.
R7 360 vs 750 Ti
For a further analysis of the R7 360 vs the 750Ti take a look at the following benchmarks from Digital Foundry. They compared the R7 360 and the 750 Ti across multiple games. For their test, they tested with an i3-4130 and an i7-4790k to show the difference in FPS performance across CPUs. The CPU performance differential seems minimal.
Benchmark Disclaimer: As you can see it’s a good performer overall. These numbers are indicative of using a higher-end CPU but should still give you a good reference point since they’re using a stock card without an overclock.
If you’d like to compare the 750 Ti and the R7 360x. here’s a good source.
Power Supply Options Under $25 to $30:
While I’d recommend a pricey power supply for builds in the $1,000 price range, it’s hard to justify for a build that costs between $300 and $350. That being said in the $30 range you can still get a 400+ 80 PLUS certified option from a decent manufacturer.
This month I’m going with the EVGA 430 Watt PSU, but this option might change for you based upon what’s available. If you plan on expanding much in the future, the 500w version of this power supply might well be worth it for $10 more.
Thoughts for the Rest of the Parts:
Everything else for this build should meet a small budget. For Hard Drive, I recommend the Western Digital Caviar Blue series. The 320 GB version starts at around $25 moving up to the 1TB at $50.
For memory, the ideal option here is to go with 8GB of memory. This is all the memory you’d ever need for the build and as memory seems to be cheaper per stick by purchasing in kits of 2×4, I recommend you go this route. Those who are fine sticking with 4GB of memory may be able to keep this build around $300 while those who go for the 8GB of RAM as I suggest, should end up around $325.
There are several kits that would work well for this. G. Skill Value, Kingston HyperX, and Corsair Vengeance kits have all come on sale within the last few months. If none of these are available, just find another quality manufacturer to take its place.
For your case, you’ll want to find something that’s both inexpensive and good. For my $200 PC Build and Cheap $150 gaming PC, we used the Xion Micro ATX case. It’s cheap and has a lot to offer. That being said, as I’m recommending the H81M-P33 motherboard from MSI it should be known that this case has USB 3.0 ports in the front I/O while this motherboard is without USB 3.0 headers. You can get a cable to convert them if you’d like or just ignore them altogether.
Overall Thoughts on the $300 to $350 Gaming PC Vs. Xbox One and PS4:
Price and performance for this build are really off the chain in comparison to the $300 build we featured earlier this year in our top gaming computers series. If you want to extend the budget for this build, I’d consider upgrading the graphics card first before the CPU. It’s hard to not get excited for a fun build like this one but as always I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the open discussion area below this page.