The Budget Box
Granted, if you just need to create a few documents, watch YouTube videos, and check your email, you can get by with a simpler setup. However, our budget build gets you a system acceptable for any role apart from running graphically intense applications. Throw a budget graphics card into the mix and you'll have a humble solution to gaming as well.
|Processor||Intel Pentium G4600||$89|
|Motherboard||MSI H110M Pro-VD Plus||$53|
|Memory||Patriot 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2400||$85|
|Storage||Crucial MX300 275GB||$94|
|Case + PSU||Silverstone SST-PS14B + EVGA 430w||$75|
Core System Total
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
Although the Pentium G4560 has championed our Budget Box since it was released (it's essentially a 3.5GHz Core i3), originally it cost $64, which was a real steal for a dual-core with Hyper-Threading support. The key thing to note here is the price, because we've been unable to find these popular Pentiums selling for less than $90-100 in the last few weeks.
At that price point the most affordable Ryzen, the R3 1200 is a superior option, but you'll need to add a discrete graphics card to the build which will inflate your budget considerably. If you were going to buy a GPU in the first place, definitely go for the Ryzen 3 and read our graphics picks below, or check out our Entry Level PC for further context.
But in order to stay in budget, ultimately we've gone with the Pentium G4600 which is a slightly faster version of the G4560 (faster clock speed, faster integrated graphics) but is selling for less because it's not as demanded.
Another advantage to the Pentium is that it can be installed on an inexpensive $50 Intel H110 motherboard. We tried to come up with a similarly cost effective board for Ryzen 3, and while you can find inexpensive AMD A320-based solutions that support basic features and no overclocking, we sided with a more robust option like the ASRock AB350M Pro4 which is $76 but still packs 4 DIMM slots (up to 64GB DDR4 3200), USB 3.1, four SATA 6Gbps ports, 2x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots, 7 USB 3.0 ports, Realtek 7.1 channel audio and Gigabit LAN.
Memory pricing has been fluctuating a lot, and this impacts all platforms. Right now 8GB of DDR4-2400 memory costs $85 making it almost as expensive as our CPU. You could save a little money and get a 4GB kit, but we strongly recommend a minimum of 8GB, especially for a system with just two DIMM slots.
This build is not intended for graphically demanding tasks, but adding a relatively low-cost GPU like the GeForce GTX 1050 will bring a serious boost in frame rates. If you're going for a Ryzen build, then a discrete GPU like the GTX 1050 or a GT 1030 is a must.
Intel's integrated HD Graphics 630 aren't suitable for gaming, certainly not at 1080p. In some games you will be able to achieve decent performance at 720p. Along with the integrated graphics, the chosen motherboard has an eight-channel Realtek ALC887 audio chipset and integrated sound is more than sufficient for a basic machine.
The way hard drives are priced these days, a few extra dollars can yield a 50% increase in storage space -- and gigabytes disappear faster than you think. Starting from scratch we suggest two options depending on your needs and they both cost ~$70. If capacity is your first priority then the WD Green 1TB is a worthwhile investment. However, if you can get away with 275GB of storage, we highly recommend the Crucial MX300 that will make this budget build fly.
For budget builds I have always gone for cases that come with a power supply, if you want something basic the $70 Rosewill R536-BK has decent looks and includes a serviceable 500w-rated power supply.
Alternatively, you can buy separate and we'd start with this EVGA 430w power supply that's just $32, and then choose an affordable standalone case you like from Newegg. Options below $50 which would keep us within budget include the NZXT Source 210, MasterBox Lite 5 and SilverStone SST-PS14B.
The aforementioned power supplies are rated for 400w or above, and this build won't be pushing it anywhere near that figure even with a GTX 1050 aboard.
Monitor, Keyboard & Mouse
In this latest revision of the PC Buying guide we've dropped specific recommendations for monitors and peripherals, separating these from the core PC build which is the main concern of the guide. This is by design, as most of you already have favorite brands and models for input devices, and you may already have them from previous builds.
Remember we have dedicated buying sections for keyboards, mice and monitors in our Best Of section. With that said, we'll still drop a few hints on recommended devices given a certain budget...
We wouldn't go anything smaller than 22-23" for a new monitor today. The Acer R240HY bidx is a basic but very recommended 23.8-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS monitor, which is as good as it gets for $130. With very positive feedback from hundreds of Amazon user reviews, you can't go wrong with this one.
The next step up would be the ViewSonic VX2757-MHD, our budget recommendation in the Best Monitors guide. For less than $200 you get a 27" monitor with FreeSync, a 75Hz max refresh rate, and a 2ms response time.
Unless you intend to use this machine for lengthy productivity sessions or heavy gaming, you can probably get by with a basic wired or wireless keyboard and mouse set. We recommend Microsoft's budget Microsoft Wired Desktop 600 combo, which features a sleek design that is also spill resistant. Then again, we don't blame you if you prefer to save on performance or storage in favor of spending $50-100 extra on premium input devices.