Build an $800 Gaming PC

By Jason Cross  |  Print this article Print


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Build It: Last year's $800 gaming PC was a bargain, but had significant compromises. This year's model is an $800 hot-rod gaming rig that offers impressive performance. What a difference a year makes!


ComponentProduct (with review link)PriceSummary

Athlon 64 3000+ (socket 939)$143 ( check)Great for games, but down the line you’re going to want to move to a dual-core CPU.

MSI K8N Neo4-F$85 ( check)Gets you into nForce 4 on the cheap, and is ready for dual-core CPUs later on.

1GB Kingston PC3200 (512MB x2)$82 ( check)Not very low latency and not much overclocking headroom, but these DIMMs will give you 1GB without breaking the bank.

XFX GeForce 6600GT 128MB$163 ( check)You’ll definitely want to upgrade this as the mid-range cards using the next generation of PC graphics chips hits the market, but for now it’s a great deal.

Sound card
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Value$50 ( check) If you’re into games, it’s a sound investment (pardon the pun). We wouldn’t recommend it for home recording and the like, though.

Microsoft Natural Multimedia$20 ( check)Microsoft makes reliable and comfortable keyboards with good software. The large media keys are more useful than you think.

Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical$15 ( check)It's not a cutting-edge 1600 DPI gaming mouse, but it's reliable and responsive, good for left or right-handed users, and includes side buttons.

Hard drive
Hitachi Deskstar 7K80 80GB $58 ( check)Storage is like money – more is always better. You’ll probably grow beyond 80GB before long. For now, the performance and price are great.

Optical drive
Lite-On SOHD-167T $30 ( check)It’s a cheap optical drive with pretty good performance, but it’s certainly worth it to spend more for a CD or DVD burner.

Antec Performance TX 640B with SmartPower 2.0 400W$95 ( check)This isn’t Antec’s most handsome case, nor its quietest, nor the most full-featured. But it’s solid, priced well, and includes a decent 400-watt power supply.

Operating system
Windows XP Home$74 ( check)If you're into games, you want Windows XP. The Home Edition gives you everything you need, and costs a lot less than Pro.


Okay, so the final price did creep over the $800 mark, but just barely. In a couple weeks, some of these components will drop in price even more. Note that these prices don't include tax or shipping—trying to predict that when every location has different tax rates and laws and will be ordering from different vendors, is an exercise in frustration.

Also note that, as is our way with the $800 Gaming PC build, we didn't include the cost of monitor and speakers. Most users looking to replace their gaming PC on the cheap have already got those and will continue to use them with their new system. Now let's take a look at the individual components.

Jason Cross Jason was a certified computer geek at an early age, playing with his family's Apple II when he was still barely able to write. It didn't take long for him to start playing with the hardware, adding in 80-column cards and additional RAM as his family moved up through Apple II+, IIe, IIgs, and eventually the Macintosh. He was sucked into Intel based side of the PC world by his friend's 8088 (at the time, the height of sophisticated technology), and this kicked off a never-ending string of PC purchases and upgrades.

Through college, where he bounced among several different majors before earning a degree in Asian Studies, Jason started to pull down freelance assignments writing about his favorite hobby—,video and computer games. It was shortly after graduation that he found himself, a thin-blooded Floridian, freezing his face off at Computer Games Magazine in Vermont, where he founded the hardware and technology section and built it up over five years before joining the ranks at ExtremeTech and moving out to beautiful northern California. When not scraping up his hands on the inside of a PC case, you can invariably find Jason knee-deep in a PC game, engrossed in the latest console title, or at the movie theater.


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