Recently, a couple of friends have tapped me (or did I volunteer?) to spec out parts for a new gaming rig. The first friend was looking in the $500-600 range in order to get his League of Legends on, the second wants to replace his aging PC before the WoW expansions drops in a week or two. I figured I would capture here what I came up with.

The $500 (oh, okay, “sub-$600”) gaming rig.

This did prove a little challenging. The price point is low enough where some serious consideration has to be given to where to cut corners and still outfit what can be considered a complete PC. Admittedly, I assembled this list a few months ago, so prices may have dropped and “best value” components shifted a bit since then (gotta love technology).

Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 R2.0 Socket AM3+ ATX ($90)

CPU: AMD FX-6300 Vishera 6-Core 3.5GHz (4.1GHz Turbo) Socket AM3+ ($110)

Video Card: EVGA 02G-P4-2742-KR GeForce GT 740 Superclocked 2GB 128-Bit DDR3 ($90)

Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) ($80)

Power Supply: CORSAIR CX series CX600 600W ATX12V v2.3 ($80)

Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA ($55)

Optical Drive: Asus or Samsung ($20)

Case: Antec Three Hundred ($65)

Total cost: $590


Upgrades that could be made to the above:

Video Card: EVGA 03G-P4-2667-KR G-SYNC Support GeForce GTX 660 FTW Signature 2 3GB 192-bit GDDR5 (+$90)

CPU/Motherboard: Upgrade to Intel i5 (+$150)

New total cost: $830


Downgrades that could be made to above:

Motherboard: Asus to MSI (-$20)

PSU: 600w to 500w PSU (-$15)

Memory: 8GB to 4GB (-$40)

New total cost: $515


The $1k gaming rig.

A little more breathing room here, but (and it’s a big ‘but’) this particular friend has his sights set on a Core i7. There goes about a third of the budget.

He was also looking at a pre-built (some great values to be had here) system, the ASUS M32AD-US032S Desktop PC, selling for $969, which comes with the following specs:

Intel Core i7 4790 (3.6GHz)

Chipset: Intel H81


Windows 8.1 64-Bit

NVIDIA GeForce GT 740 4 GB

300W PSU

I sought to come up with a similarly priced alternative that might be more tuned to the discerning builder/gamer. A few notes driving my decision-making:

  • The box above is put together by Asus, and Asus knows what it’s doing. I’m fairly certain it’s going to run your games just fine, and right out of the box, no less. That said…
  • 300w struck me as a borderline. Again, I’m sure the PC is going to run fine, but how about a little overhead for those future upgrades?
  • I couldn’t find much information on the specific components actually used…I’m going to go ahead and venture they’ll be mainly Asus, but who knows. When *I* build a system, though, I _do_ know.
  • There is some real value here to those who need a Windows license, which are running north of $100 a pop right now. I disregard such license in my builds, but if you need one, that’s $100 right off the bat.
  • Input devices. It’s not much of a consideration for me – I like to latch onto my own – but the Asus prebuilt comes with keyboard and mouse.

My answer to the Asus pre-built:

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790 Haswell Quad-Core 3.6GHz LGA 1150 ($310)

Video Card: EVGA 03G-P4-2667-KR G-SYNC Support GeForce GTX 660 FTW Signature 2 3GB 192-bit GDDR5 ($180)

Motherboard: ASUS Z97-A LGA 1150 Intel Z97 ($150)

Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) ($80)

Power Supply: CORSAIR CX series CX600 600W ATX12V v2.3 ($80)

Hard Drive: Seagate Hybrid Drive ST1000DX001 1TB MLC/8GB 64MB Cache SATA ($80)

Case: Antec Nine Hundred ($95) or Antec Three Hundred ($65)

Total cost: $975

The above gets you into features offered by the Z97 chipset that the H81 does not have. I also give the video card a pretty serious bump. I cut corners with memory, going from 16GB to 8GB. Some people will scream about this, but 8GB is going to be fine right now and RAM is a straightforward upgrade down the line. I spec a robust power supply with room to grow, and an accompanying big, cool, quiet Antec Nine Hundred. I sacrificed some storage in exchange for the speed benefits of Hybrid. If you’re hoarding media, that might prove unpalatable, but I might also recommend going out and getting a giant, slow(er) drive for such things (unless you’re doing a bunch of editing of said media, etc., in which case you’re peripheral to my target audience, anyway).


As usual, I’m amazed at the caliber of hardware that can be gotten for a reasonable price. I put a rig together about four years ago, in that ~$1k range, and it still goes strong with WoW (the only game I still really play, on occasion) cranked. The more demanding games, running at higher resolutions (1080p widescreen, etc.) than what I’m running would make it sweat, I’m sure, but my general point is that you can reasonably expect to get some quality time from a system in this range. Even the “sub-$600” system offers some upgrade paths that will keep you chugging for a bit.