How to Build a Gaming PC for $600

Looking to build your own gaming PC? Here's everything you need to know!

*Disclaimer: Some knowledge and research is required for proper set-up and install.*

With the upcoming release of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor due out on October 7th, we at GameSkinny thought we'd break down what it'd take to build a gaming PC to run it...for $600. Um, did you say a gaming PC for $600? YES, yes I did.

I used the site pcpartpicker.com to build a gaming PC. The site is great and is widely used by everyone, from average folks to IT professionals. You'll find absolutely everything you need to build the gaming PC of your dreams on any budget.

First, let's breakdown the essentials for every PC. Here, you'll find all you need to know about choosing the elements for your machine, followed by the machine I did build. The specs and parts of the $600 Gaming PC I put together are listed at the bottom of this article.

 

Choosing the CPU

When it comes to choosing the best CPU for gaming, it can be quite confusing if you don't understand much about CPUs and what's happening in the PC market. There are many different models to choose from, all with different features and speeds, so how do you know which CPU is right for you?

So what exactly is the CPU anyway? The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is one of the most important components in any computer system, and could be described as the brains of a computer. It contains the logic circuitry that performs the instructions of the software you run. The performance of your games and other applications will be directly related to this tiny little microprocessor.

Picking the latest, fastest or most expensive processor on the market won’t always result in the right CPU for your particular system. The first thing to know is that you'll need to make sure the CPU you choose will match your motherboard. Not all CPUs work with all motherboards, so you should check to see that your CPU has the same 'processor interface' as your motherboard.

There are two companies that dominate the CPU market, Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). Both make a range of different processor models at different price ranges. For example, Intel have the Core i7 , Core i5, and Core i3 processor models, while AMD have the Phenom and FX series.

The Intel vs. AMD debate is a highly popular one. Both have excellent processor models out on the market right now. So it all depends on your price range, for example if you're on a tight budget lean towards an AMD processor, but if you have the money to spend, then Intel is the way to go with their i7 range of high end chips.

The best CPUs produce so much heat they require their own cooling system. Processors usually come with a default heatsink/fan to help cool itself down. If you feel that the stock fan won't cool your CPU enough, then it can replaced with a better-performing aftermarket CPU cooler if you want improved cooling, which I highly recommend. If you're going to be really using your CPU overtime, then chances are you'll need to get a better cooler than the standard CPU cooler.

 

Choosing the Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the most important components in any computer, and it can make or break a system. You can have the best CPU, RAM, and graphics card in the world, but without a quality motherboard at the core of your system you are limiting yourself...period. If you think of the processor as the brain of a computer, then the motherboard could be described as the heart and/or central nervous system. The motherboard represents the core of a PC and is responsible for relaying information between all the internal components. In other words, it’s the hub of the computer, where all other components connect to.

Since the motherboard is so crucial to your system, buying the best motherboard you can afford is a good investment if you want a gaming system that will last. The first thing you need to be aware of when choosing a motherboard is compatibility with the CPU you plan on using. A motherboard will generally only support either Intel or AMD CPUs, and only certain models too. Checking for compatibility between a particular motherboard and a CPU is very simple, all you need to do is check to see if the motherboard and CPU both have the same 'processor interface'.

The motherboard you choose will dictate the type and amount of RAM you can have. These days you will want to get DDR3 RAM, and at least 4GB for the best gaming performance to play the latest games. So ensure your motherboard will support this type and amount of memory, but most boards these days will so it's very rarely an issue. Most motherboards will come with built-in audio so getting a dedicated sound card is completely optional. I would recommend investing in a sound card if you want the very best experience from your games, or if you want to take full advantage of high quality speakers or headphones.

If you need extra PCI ports for other cards then make sure your motherboard has this. You should also consider the number of USB ports you need, and whether you need a Firewire port (used for video capturing and editing). Also, be sure there are enough PCI-Express slots for your needs. You'll need a PCI-Express slot for your video card, or two slots if you're going to install two video cards in your machine. If you decide on getting a dedicated sound card, then you'll need another PCI-Express port for that too.

 

Choosing the RAM

RAM (Random Access Memory) is the memory in a computer used to store running programs, and the more RAM you have, the faster your games and other programs will run. Investing in a decent amount of RAM made from a trusted company is a smart idea. The performance of your gaming computer will be greatly affected by the type and amount of RAM you have on-board. There are different types of RAM you can buy for your computer, such as SDRAM, DDR2 RAM, and DDR3 RAM. When selecting the type of RAM for your gaming PC, make sure your motherboard supports that particular type and speed of RAM that you plan to use. The latest type of RAM out on the market is DDR3 and this is the type of RAM I would recommend for gaming.

You're probably wondering how much RAM you'll need for high-performance gaming. The best answer is “as much as you can afford." Adding memory to your system will show real results. RAM prices these days can be quite cheap so adding it to your system is a very cost-effective way of increasing performance. To just run Windows 7 properly, which is the operating system I use for my gaming PC, you're required to have at least 1 gig of RAM. If you’re a gamer, then you'll require more RAM than the average computer user.

To play the latest games now and the future, having 4GB is the absolute minimum. With 4GB of decent quality RAM in your gaming system you shouldn't have any problems playing even the most demanding games. RAM is quite inexpensive these days and makes such a difference in performance. Most of you will want more RAM (6-8GB) to make your PC run even faster and make for an even more future-proof build. Remember, the more RAM the better, just make sure your motherboard will support more RAM you put in. Most motherboards will support up to 16GB, it's always wise to double-check and also note how many RAM slots your motherboard has.

 

Choosing the Video Card

There are so many different graphics cards out there, all with different specs and features, it's hard to know what to spend your hard earned cash on. our gaming video card will be responsible for producing the dazzling 3D graphics and effects seen in the latest PC games. A better graphics card makes for a better 3D gaming experience, so in general I would recommend gamers to choose the best video card they can afford. Also, the better the card you buy, the longer it will last you without having to upgrade.

Selecting your video card comes down to your own needs and budget. Just like most other PC components, you usually get what you pay for so I would recommend gamers to purchase the best video card that they can afford. You definitely don't want to skimp on the video card if high-end gaming is your aim, as it is widely regarded as the single most important component in your gaming system.

Similar to the CPU market, there are two companies that dominate the world of gaming video cards, ATI and NVIDIA. They make the best video card chips in the world. ATI is responsible for the Radeon series, while NVIDIA is behind the GeForce line of cards. Despite ATI and NVIDIA making the graphics card technology you see in all the latest cards, they don’t usually sell them themselves. They license their best video card chips to companies such as EVGA, Sapphire, and ASUS (just to name a few popular ones) who then sell their own variants on the original technology.

The speed and efficiency of your video card isn’t the only thing that counts. The latest 3D games and software make use of advanced 3D rendering effects such as anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, bump-mapping, pixel shaders and much more. If you run a game that was written with such features in mind, and your graphics card doesn’t support them, you'll experience a significant performance loss, or worse--the game won’t run at all. The best gaming video cards on the market try to keep up with all the latest 3D rendering techniques in the software world.

Video cards contain a host of different features, options, connections, etc. Here's an outline of the main factors you need to consider when choosing your video card for gaming:

  • Video Memory: The video RAM is the amount of memory your video card holds on-board for processing 3D images, and in general the more the better. The amount of video RAM you need depends on what video settings you want to play your games at, the resolution you will be playing at, and also whether you have AA (Anti Aliasing) enabled. I would recommend a video card with 512MB of video RAM as the minimum for gaming these days, and 1GB or more if you want to play your games on the highest settings.
  • DirectX 11 Support: If you want to be playing the latest games now and into the future, you will definitely want to make sure your gaming video card supports the latest DirectX 11 technology to be able to render all the nice and fancy features that game developers use. Most video cards on the market today will support DirectX 11, but be sure to check just incase.
  • SLI and CrossFire: This isn't necessary yet, NVIDIA's SLI and ATI's CrossFire technologies allow you to pair up either two ATI cards, or two NVIDIA cards to essentially have two GPUs working for your system. These features are aimed for those who have a little more to spend on their gaming system and want the very best graphics performance possible.
  • DVI: This is a higher-definition output used with newer monitors and some high-end TVs. Connecting to your monitor via DVI offers better image quality than the standard VGA connection. If you want to take advantage of DVI, buy a graphics card and monitor that supports it.
  • HDMI Connection: HDMI is the default connection on new HDTVs, Blu-ray players, Apple TV, many new computers and graphics cards, and a range of other video devices. If you need to connect your video card to a TV via HDMI, then obviously make sure to check that your video card has this feature.
  • Dual Monitor Support: If you looking to split your video output across two monitors, you'll need dual monitor support on your graphics card. This feature is useful for developers, engineers, designers, and multi-taskers who wish to view many different windows on their desktop at once. Sometimes, one output will be VGA and the other DVI.
 

Choosing the HDD

The hard drive is where all your files, programs, and games are stored. Obviously, the bigger the better, but there are other things to consider when choosing the right hard drive for your needs. Hard drives store information by manipulating magnetic fields over the moving surface of a disk coated with a magnetic material. This use of magnetism to store information is very similar to how tape or video recorders work. Each individual disk inside a hard drive is called a platter.

Large hard drives contain several platters and use both sides of each platter for storage. The drive contains a motor that spins the platters at speeds from 5400 to 15,000 rotations per minute (RPM). Basically, the faster a drive spins, the faster you can access and transfer data. Most of the best hard drives these days have a speed of 7200rpm. You don’t want anything less than this, as you will notice annoying delays between reading and writing data, eg when loading your games.

Hard drives usually come with extra cache memory built into the drive for even faster loading. Drives with 32MB or even 64MB of cache will usually run very fast, but you don't need huge amounts of cache memory in reality, and picking a hard drive with less cache memory such as 8MB or 16MB is fine. The hard drive interface is the hardware that manages the exchange of data between a computer and the hard drive. The most common interface used is ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment). ATA comes in two forms, the original ATA (also known as Parallel ATA, or PATA) and the newer, faster SATA (Serial ATA). When choosing your hard drive, make sure your motherboard supports the interface of your hard drive which will most likely be SATA.

Hard drives come in all different sizes, but if you are playing the latest games I would get a decent size to store your games as they can take up quite a bit of space. You want to consider how many pictures, videos, and music you will be storing on the computer also. For a gaming PC where you'll be installing many large games, I would suggest getting at least a 250GB hard drive, or 500GB or more to be even safer and more future-proof.

The price of solid state drives are slowly coming down, but they are a great choice if you have a little extra to spend on your custom PC because the advantages over standard drives are very noticeable. What a lot of people do these days is buy a smaller SSD for loading the OS, and use a larger standard hard drive for your files.

 

Choosing the Power Supply

The computer power supply (also known as the PSU) is an often-overlooked yet important part of your custom gaming PC. Without a power supply, your computer would just be a box full of metal and plastic without power. the computer power supply is the metal box usually located in the corner of the computer case. In many systems the power supply is visible from the back of the case because it contains the power-cord connector and the cooling fan. The main purpose of the power supply is to convert AC power from the mains to usable low-voltage DC power for the internal components of the computer.

The power supply gives out three different DC voltages to your computer, 12VDC, 5VCD, and 3VDC. These three voltages are used for different components in your system. For example, the 5VDC voltage powers the motherboard, voltage regulators, serial and parallel ports, and PCI and AGP ports. Each power supply has a certain wattage based on their maximum output power. Common wattages range from 300W to 500W, although for a high-end gaming power supply wattages of 600W, 700W, and even 800W are common. Some units even go up to 1 kW of wattage, but this amount of power isn't necessary for normal users.

For a typical gaming computer I'd recommend at least 500W of power, although you may need more or less depending on your system. Note that even if a certain component lists its required wattage, it won't necessarily use that amount of power.

 

Final Results

The game I chose, as stated, is the October 7th release of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. It will be available not only on PC, but on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PS3 as well. The game aims to bridge the gap between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Saga.

Fight through Mordor and uncover the truth of the spirit that compels you, discover the origins of the Rings of Power, build your legend, and ultimately confront the evil Sauron in this new open-world chronicle of Middle-earth.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • OS: 64-bit: Vista, Win 7, Win 8
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom II X4 965, 3.4 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 | AMD Radeon HD 6950
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • HDD: 25 GB available space

I used the minimum system requirements as my foundation to build the machine around. This allowed me to really know which area to maximize and concentrate on. This also allowed me to know where to focus my dollar amount. Anyone who knows computers when it comes to gaming will tell you to concentrate on the CPU and Video Card, so that's exactly what I did.

  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Graphics: Asus Radeon HD 7770
  • HDD: 1 TB

The end result was a machine that will run Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, The Witcher 3, and then some for the end price of $591.22 Here are the final specs:

Here's the same specs with the listings. Beneath are direct links to each part.

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz: SuperBiiz
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-970A-D3P ATX AM 3+/AM3: Amazon
  • Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600: Newegg
  • Storage/HDD: Hitachi Travelstar 5K1000 1TB: OutletPC
  • Video Card: Asus Radeon HD 7770: SuperBiiz
  • Case: Apevia X-Cruiser2 Black ATX Mid Tower: Mwave
  • Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W: Amazon
  • Optical Drive: Asus DVD: NCIX US
  • Wired Adapter: Edimax EN-9130TXL: Mwave
  • Wireless Adapter: Cisco AMIO: Micro Center

Keep in mind this doesn't include your add-ons like your Windows license, mouse, keyboard, monitor, headset, speakers, and anything else you can think of. I use Windows 7 for my OS on my rig (which I recommend) and am a huge fan of all Razr products.

Well, there you have it folks. Hope this helps anyone out there looking into building their own gaming PC. The great thing about PCs is that you can always upgrade each part as you can afford more, so you can always have the latest/baddest machine out there. This is something that consoles cannot do.

Featured Columnist

Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.

Published Jun. 18th 2020
  • gabfran
    This is an excellent article with great attention to detail on explanation in layman for average people who don't quite understand. I for one am not able to build my own for lack of skills, it's a good thing I know people like you!
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you, much appreciated and yes I guess it does help lol at least when you're visiting.
  • Jerome Phiffer
    Great article. This is probably the only well written gaming PC article I have read. While budget gaming PC's are possible, I come across a lot of articles that spread misinformation due to poor research. Definitely not a problem here!
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you so much Jerome. That is by far the best compliment I've received. Very much appreciated :)
  • james sigle
    my neighbor's step-sister brought home $20864 a week ago. she has been making cash on the internet and bought a $519900 home. All she did was get lucky and apply the advice exposed on this link.www.jobspeg.com
  • ConnorHagen123
    Could you post a link to the parts list? (ex. https://pcpartpicker.com/b/L7Yrxr I just took a random link, and this is not meant to advertise in any way.)
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Each of the parts I listed has the direct link.
  • Jake_4003
    The motherboard is kind of iffy. The lower end motherboards nowadays are still really nice. Usually you can pick up a processor and get a relatively basic motherboard that you can still overclock for free. I built my first PC almost five years ago and am still rocking the cheapest motherboard from back then. Also a quad core AMD processor. 4 GB ram is probably all you need, 8 is more than enough. I have 12 for bragging rights. The biggest speed I've noticed in my PC is when I installed a solid state drive. Much faster than your normal hard disc drives. Also you can always find some old 550 ti invidia video cards and sli(link) them together. They actually work really well together and you can find them for $50 each.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Great advice Jake!
  • Chai Chien Liang
    Contributor
    Well this PC looks like it could work for 2 years then you can always upgrade or replace it

    Might be a good idea to invest in a power supply with more juice as it's something that will last for quite a long time and you can stick with the power supply when upgrading
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    True, the great thing about PCs, is that you can upgrade each part at any time as you can afford to.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Thanks for the article! It was obviously a lot of work. :)

    But there's always this-

    "*Disclaimer: Some knowledge and research is required for proper set-up and install.*"

    This is exactly my problem. I don't know anything about computers, nor do I want to. Everyone who always tells me I can build a great gaming PC for the cost of a console, I have to respond: "No, YOU might be able to." ;)
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Yes point taken, it's easier said than done, especially if you don't know about PCs, thus the disclaimer. Thanks so much for reading! :)
  • jsoftcheck
    We need more articles like this one to debunk the $3000 gaming PC myths. A number of folks at reddit/r/pcmasterrace have built potatobox killers for $500.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you very much. It's much appreciated.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    Some good stuff here, but I would mention that there a few practical things to consider too.

    Choosing the right case can also impact your build. How many expansions slots does it support? How much ventilation? Ease of access. Will your components all fit in it?

    I have a smaller mid-sized tower and picked up an AMD card that not only took up TWO expansion slots BUT also required a 2nd power connection to drive it. It just fit inside my smaller case. Lesson learned there.

    Seems like a lot of motherboards limit their expansions too, so be sure you'll have enough PCI slots and the right type of PCIs to fit all your components.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    All excellent points! Thanks :)
  • Nostromov
    Nice article, except not too carefully written, like 1GB video ram being enough (for anything, let alone highest detail) and a few other things. In any case, a gaming PC for $600 can only be a tragedy. My specs are following, and it's just BARELY enough not to feel like this computer will get run-over in the next year, or so:
    Z68A-G43 (G3) - i7-3770 - Vengeance 2x4GB 2133MHz - GTX 650 Gainward - WD 1TB 64MB SATA - Win7 Pro/64 SP1 / Trusty Xfce AMD64
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    The point of the article is that you can build a descent machine for $600 if you're tight on a budget. I think you're missing the point.

New Cache - article_comments_article_15051
Related