A former co-worker/student/underling texted me out of nowhere late this afternoon. At first I thought he was going to inform me that one of my programs blew up and I’ll have to go to the office to fix it. Fortunately it wasn’t the case (on the contrary, he informed me that my program was bug free all this time… riiiiight) and he was just asking for suggestions on building a gaming PC with PhP 50k.

I’m bored so what the hell. Here’s my take on building a system with that budget.

This first post will be partida*: I won’t be using parts from PCO, PC Hub or PC Express. Instead, I’ll be using parts from VillMan Computers. Their parts are more expensive and they have a narrower range of products, but as Lex mentioned, their customer support is better.

Think of this post as the safe approach in building the gaming PC.


ATI Radeon HD4850

Video Card: PowerColor ATI Radeon HD4850 512MB PhP 9,588

The video card is the most important part of a gaming PC. Period.

A PC with most expensive processor, motherboard, RAM, and hard drive, but only has a cheap video card will be left in the dust by a PC with a mid-range (i.e. somewhere between cheap and very expensive) video card and the cheapest possible compatible parts.

Since its debut last year, the ATI Radeon HD 4850 is still one of the best choices for a video card in a desktop gaming PC. This is because it sits in a “sweet spot”: go any cheaper than the HD 4850 and you’ll get a large decrease in performance, but going for even a slightly more powerful card will give you a large increase in price.

The ATI Radeon HD 4870 is also a good choice. However, my Pinoy conscience is telling me that shelling out around 50% more for a performance increase of just around 25% is just being careless.

Intel Core 2 Duo E7300

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 (45nm) PhP 9,588

Without AMD offerings, we’re pretty much stuck with Intel Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad. The Core i7 is just too expensive since it requires DDR3 RAM, while nobody in their right mind would choose the budget Celeron chips or the Pentium D of the previous generation.

I chose the E7300 just because it fits our budget when everything is considered. Its 45nm fabrication process also makes it a bit more energy efficient than the older Core 2 Duo processors.

ASRock 4Core1600Twins-P35

Motherboard: ASRock 4Core1600Twins-P35PhP 4,488

Motherboards are mostly boring if you’re not into overclocking because the feature sets of different products are usually the same. My rules of thumb for choosing motherboards is to make sure that (1) the board is obviously compatible with our other parts, (2) it’s using a relatively new chipset, and (3) it’s not too expensive when compared with other products with the same chipset.

The motherboard above fits the three criteria. It’s using the Intel P35 chipset, which is a generation up from my lower limit, the Intel P965 chipset. It’s also cheaper than the P35-based Intel motherboard on VillMan’s list. It also supports DDR3 RAM, but I personally don’t care about that.

Kingston 2GB DDR2 800

RAM: Kingston 2GB DDR2 800 x 2 – PhP 3,098

DDR2 RAM is cheap nowadays even with brand name RAM like Kingston and Corsair. Getting 4GB of RAM doesn’t require much thought from a system builder.

Seagate Barracuda

Hard Drive: Seagate 1TB SATA 32MB 7200RPMPhP 6,488

Like the processor decision, this is more of a “get the largest hard drive that fits your budget”.

Before you tell me otherwise, I’d like to say that one terabyte of storage is not overkill. You could probably fill that up with games or videos in just half a year.

Gigabyte Superb 550

Power Supply Unit: GIGABYTE Superb 550PhP 2,888

Most people don’t care about PSUs even though a crappy PSU can single-handedly destroy your expensive system. I’ve already posted something about this before.

The unit above is sitting dangerously on the fence of branded and generic power supplies. It’s a decent PSU according to this review so it should be ok for this system. I think.

ASUS Vento TA-651

Case: ASUS Vento TA-651 CasingPhP 1,788
+ 2 x 120mm fans from CD-R King or any store – PhP 160

Like motherboards, casings are usually boring if you’re not into high end Lian Li stuff. In other words, we’re stuck with rules of thumb for this part.

There are basically only two things I look for in a non-enthusiast level case: (1) the parts we have should fit in the case (long video cards are usually the problem here), and (2) it should support 120mm intake and exhaust fans. The first criteria is obvious, while the second one might require a bit of explanation.

A gaming PC produces more heat than the usual PC. Because of this, ventilation is an important consideration when building one. There are many sites that have articles and discussion groups that talk about proper ventilation. The simplest and most effective ventilation solution for a typical PC is to have one fan in front of the hard drives drawing air in and one fan at the back of the case, below the PSU, blowing the air out.

In case ventilation, 120mm fans are preferred over its smaller counterparts because they blow more air and produce less sound. I chose the TA-651 case because it’s the only one in the list that supports front and rear 120mm fans.

The case also has a CPU air duct. You can leave it on to allow the stock CPU fan to draw in cool air from outside of the case. Oh, and don’t forget to throw away the generic PSU that comes with it.

Genius KB-110 USB Black Keyboard

Keyboard: Genius KB-110 USB Black KeyboardPhP 325

It’s a generic USB keyboard. IMHO gaming keyboards aren’t worth it. On the other hand…

Genius KB-110 USB Black Keyboard

Mouse: Logitech G5PhP 2,888

A 3k mouse. Nice.

This decision might be a bit controversial. I’ve been using an expensive gaming mouse for so long that I personally don’t know if there’s a difference between a generic optical mouse and a high-end laser mouse.

You can choose a generic optical mouse if you can’t stomach the price. Note that the G5 isn’t just simply a high-precision mouse, it also has buttons which you can configure for tasks outside games. By default, the “thumb” buttons can be used to go forward or backward in browsers. They’re surprisingly useful that often I found myself missing those buttons when I’m using an office computer for work.

and finally:

Samsung 2333SW

Monitor: Samsung 2333SW 23” Widescreen LCDPhP 11,988

It’s a 23 inch full HD 1080p (1920 x 1080 resolution) LCD monitor. Reviews are sort of okay, but it’s the high resolution we really care about. At 1920 x 1080, the HD 4850 might not be able to even produce decent frame rates at higher settings. When the settings are playable, though, you will be surprised at the amount of detail that will be displayed on your screen when playing games.

Total Price: PhP 49,698

Note that I didn’t include a DVD-RW drive. I’m assuming that you have a drive from an old PC already. If you don’t, you can follow my advice in the mouse section and trade the gaming mouse with a generic mouse. That should give you enough money to add a DVD-RW drive.

Another thing to note is that I didn’t include the cost of the OS because there are ways to get Vista for less than retail price. I would suggest getting the free Windows 7 release candidate over buying Windows Vista. Just make sure you use the 64bit version of the OS because we’re using 4GB of RAM in our system.

This build shouldn’t be taken as it is–I would prefer that you customize the choices according to your needs.

If you want to get a taste of quad core performance, you can go ahead and reduce the hard drive size and salvage the keyboard, mouse, and DVD-RW drive from an old PC in order to upgrade to a Xeon X3210 or a Core 2 Quad Q6600.

If for some reason 4GB doesn’t seem to be enough, go ahead and downgrade some parts to buy two more sticks of 2GB RAM.

For peace of mind, you can upgrade the PSU to HEC WinPower 550W.

and so on…

But don’t touch the HD 4850. 😛

The next post will use PC Hub’s price list (aka the risky approach), and maybe some adjustments based on my friend’s feedback.

*partida – a slightly arrogant Filipino term for “handicap”

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5 Responses to Gaming PC Builder Challenge, pt 1

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