Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trying to build a $500 gaming computer

EDIT: I bought it. I went with a $10 cheaper processor (the E2180) and TigerDirect had a "Google Checkout" with a $10 discount promotion, so my final bill (after rebates) is $452.68

Last April, Tom's Hardware published an article about building a $500 gaming computer, and I've been stuck on the concept since (see: the summer plans blog below). My budget lately has been especially tight, but I figured with the help of selling my XBox 360 and some frugality, I could put this whole thing together.

The whole thing centers around an Nvidia 8800 GT 512MB graphics card, a cheap, overclocked Intel Dual Core (not Core 2 Duo), and a P35 chipset motherboard.

Keeping things under $500 is not easy, even a few months after the original article was written--they list components at cheaper prices than I can find them at now. I've been using NewEgg; a friend of a friend suggested that I try Let's see how cheap I can build my system using both:

Tom's Sub-$500 PC (circa April)

  • Asus GeForce 8800 GT 512MB - $160 (But it has a $30 mail-in rebate, making it $130)
  • Lite-On 20X DVD Burner - $22
  • Rosewill ATX case + 450W PSU combo - $60 (this is about the same price TH paid for theirs, but theirs had a much weaker power supply. Rosewell seems to have a good reputation based on the buyer reviews.)
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-S3G ATX Intel Motherboard - $75 (this isn't the "Ultra-durable" variety that TH recommends, but as I am not taking my computer off-roading any time soon, I think I can save $15 here)
  • Intel Pentium E2180 2.0GHz - $70 (Everything I read says this is a great place to skimp if you don't mind overclocking)
  • Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro - $27 (I don't know what makes a good heatsink/fan combo, but this one gets recommended everywhere and has a 5-star rating after 1, 797 reviews).
  • Western Digital Caviar 160GB 7200RPM hard drive - $45
  • Wintec 2x 1GB PC2 6400 RAM - $40 (again, a case where most were $40, so I went with the one that had the most positive reviews).
  • Total: $498.92 + $14.31 shipping - $30 mail-in rebate = $483.23
Now, let's see if TigerDirect can do any better:
  • XFX GeForce 880 GT - $160 (also with $30 rebate)
  • Lite-On 20X DVD Burner - $25
  • Power Up Black ATX Mid-Tower Case with 450-Watt Power Supply - $40 (Big savings here; TD seems to have completely different brands of cases than NewEgg, most of them cheaper. Had a 4-star rating from 13 users--not a lot, but Tiger Direct doesn't get the volume that NewEgg does--this is their most popular case).
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-S3G ATX Intel Motherboard - $75 (From NewEgg. Unfortunately, TD has a terrible selection of P35 motherboards. Their cheapest was $90, and all of them received lousy reviews as regards its overclocking ability.
  • Intel Pentium E2200 2.2GHz - $70 (There seemed to be a $10 discount for several processors, so I treated myself to a $10 upgrade).
  • Masscool 8W553 Intel Socket 775 CPU Fan - $20 (I don't know much about this brand, but it was popular and well-regarded. TD didn't have Tom's or NewEgg's recommended models).
  • Western Digital Caviar 160GB 7200RPM hard drive - $50 (Yup, same drive, $5 more).
  • Corsair Dual Channel TWINX 2048MB PC6400 - $57 ($32 after $25 mail-in rebate).
  • Total: $421.93 + $82.58 (NewEgg mobo) + $26.77 shipping - $55 mail-in rebates = $476.28
OK, so the TigerDirect PC actually turned out to be a little cheaper. It has a slight better processor, and some not-so-great deals in other places. What happens if I buy the best parts from both venders?

NewEgg: Mobo, Graphics, Cooling, Harddrive, and DVD for $309.80 after shipping and rebates.

TigerDirect: RAM, Case+PSU, and CPU for $162.88 after shipping and rebates.

New total: $472.68 shipped.

Not bad, I'd say. Leaves room for a keyboard and mouse. :)

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