The Entry-Level Rig
This cost-effective PC is an excellent companion for running general applications and should make quick work of most games, albeit with some of the eye-candy dialed down. If you're looking for the best value, you'll want to pick and choose from the components on this system and our Enthusiast's PC.
|Processor||Ryzen 5 1400 or Core i3-8100||$160 / $120|
|Motherboard||Asrock AB350 Pro4 or MSI Z370-A PRO||$96 / $120|
|Memory||Patriot 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2400||$85|
|Graphics||MSI GeForce GTX 1050 OC 2G||$110|
|Storage||Crucial MX300 275GB||$95|
|Storage||WD Blue 2TB||$65|
|Case||Fractal Design Define S||$75|
|Power||SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W||$40|
Core System Total
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
For a few years and numerous guide updates, the Core i3 has headed up the entry-level rig. Recently AMD took all price points by assault with Ryzen 3, 5 and 7, and we were wholeheartedly recommending the capable Ryzen 5 1400 until the newer 8th-gen Intel Core i3-8100 arrived offering not only competitive gaming performance but also a sweet, sweet price point.
The Core i3-8100 is a bit special at $120, a price that nearly makes it a Ryzen 3 killer. I say nearly because right now we're missing one key ingredient: affordable motherboards. It appears that Intel won't be releasing H370, H310 or B360 motherboards until Q1 2018. Only then will the i3-8100 truly shine as a budget offering along with sub-$100 motherboards.
So in short, if you want to play games first and foremost (on a budget) go Intel, if you want desktop performance with more threads, then Ryzen 5 will serve you better. Both CPUs are overclockable, too.
The Ryzen 5 1400 is a fully unlocked true quad-core with SMT support for 8 threads. The lower power draw of the R5 1400 means it works very well with affordable B350 motherboards like the Asrock AB350 Pro4. For a sub-$100 motherboard the AB350 Pro4 offers a very impressive feature set, like the 9 power phase design for those wanting to overclock. There are some other unexpected features as well such as dual M.2 slots for high-speed SSDs, USB Type-C, and ELNA audio caps.
We inherit the same 8GB DDR4 kit from our budget PC designed to operate at the 2400 spec.
Usually we allocate ~$150 for the GPU in our Entry-Level System. Last time we stretched that to a full $200 to secure a GTX 1060 3GB card and right now we'd feel happy with recommending the Radeon RX 570 for its official $170 price tag. However, availability AMD graphics cards is horrible at the moment due to cryptocurrency mining, so we have settled for the GTX 1050 to keep the total build cost within budget.
The GTX 1050 is very capable at 1080p using medium to high quality settings in most games, but if gaming is your main concern, then stick with the GTX 1060 for a reasonable price, that's our next step up in the Enthusiast's build.
Opinions vary when it comes to the need of a dedicated sound card. While integrated solutions were less viable for serious computing setups a decade ago, we think they're fine for entry-level or even mid-range usage today.
Our entry-level rig is allotted a budget of around $200 for storage and these days that opens the door to some impressive options. Years prior we were strictly limited to disk drives, but as SSDs have continued to drop in price and increase in capacity, they should be a given even in lower-end builds.
The Crucial MX300 275GB is an ideal SSD for this system and the budget allows for a roomy 275GB model. Also since the budget allows for it, we're also going for a larger secondary hard drive, in this case the WD Blue 2TB.
SeaSonic's S12II 430B "Bronze Power Supply" features a pair of 17 amp 12v rails and as the name suggests is bronze certified. The 430w output is more than ample for this build and at just $40 the S12II 430B is hard to beat in terms of value. For peace of mind, SeaSonic backs this unit with an industry leading five-year warranty.
Since we're going for a ATX build, the DeepCool Tesseract BF seems like a cost-effective chassis, supporting 310mm long graphics cards, 169mm tall CPU coolers, any length power supply, seven expansions slots and plenty of storage options for a case of this size. Other good options include the Corsair Carbide Series 200R and our favorite pick for this build, the Fractal Design Define S.
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...
The ViewSonic VX2757-MHD is 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. This is still a 1080p monitor but that's the perfect resolution to use with the recommended GPUs which will provide enough performance for nearly any game.
Budget 2.0 and 2.1 setups from Logitech, Creative, and Cyber Acoustics can be found at $20 to $40 and some of the more popular models include the LS21, VS2621, and our top recommendation, the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602.
Mouse & Keyboard
The budget-oriented Logitech Wireless MK345 is another keyboard/mouse combo that we very much like and have a lot of experience using. At just $35 it's very affordable given what is included. However at this point investing an extra $100 on a mechanical keyboard or higher-end mouse is certainly worth it.