First up, our budget gaming rig of no more than S$1,000. It is often assumed that decent gaming requires big budgets. With this setup you should be able to play most games at medium to high settings up to 1600×1200. If your monitor choice was a 24-incher and you want to play at 1900×1200 you will need to turn down the eye candy settings. This setup should also see you through the next year, or even the next two if you’re willing to put up with less eye candy on future games.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 [~S$210]
A wide range of motherboards play host to Intel’s P45 chipset, from the wallet-burning to the no-frills types. Since this is a budget outfit we’ll be going for a cost effective piece – the Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3.
Somewhat unusual for its price is Crossfire support, albeit in dual x8 mode due to the limitations of the P45 chipset and for some a bonus are the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. While we won’t be taking advantage of the Crossfire functionality it might come in handy for future graphics card upgrades.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 [~S$180]
Despite having only half the L2 cache (3MB instead of 6MB) of the more expensive E8XXX range, the E7200’s gaming performance is far from dismal. In fact the E7200 can overclock quite well if you’re willing to give it a go.
Memory: 2x2GB Kingston ValueRAM DDR2-800 CL5 [~S$75]
Even though DDR2-1066 prices have dropped, moving to that would still cost significantly more (at least in the scope of this budget setup) in return for rather limited performance gains. Hence we recommend sticking to the slower DDR2-800 RAMs. Kingston’s ValueRAM series is one of the cheapest brand name memory around, and it comes with lifetime warranty to boot!
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9800GT 512MB or ATI HD4830 512MB [~S$200]
Both the 9800GT (pictured) and the HD4830 have similar performance, so either one is a good choice. The older 8800GT is virtually identical to the 9800GT in terms of performance, so if you can grab that for less, go ahead.
A little more can be saved on the graphics card by selecting one of the no-name manufacturers. These may have shorter warranty periods and/or fewer bundled accessories so check things out before you decide.
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B 500GB SATA [~$100]
Similar to memory prices, hard drive prices keep falling so there is little reason get anything smaller than 500GB since this range nets you the most gigabytes per dollar. The Hitachi 7K1000.B is a mainstream drive with good performance.
Of course, get a larger drive if you think you’re going to need one.
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S203B [~S$40]
DVD technology has already matured to a level where most DVD writers out there perform more or less the same in terms of speeds and quality. Still, there are some minor differences, and the Samsung SH-S203B is on the right side of those. It uses the SATA interface, which is a good things since IDE is well on its way out. And anyway SATA cables are far easier to manage.
Power Supply: Enermax Pro82+ 425W [~S$130]
The power supply is often the most overlooked, yet vital, part of any system. Scrimping and getting a cheap, nameless power supply might mean inefficiency, excessive noise. In the worse case a bad power supply might just go up in smoke and take the rest of your components with it to hardware heaven.
Of course, not all branded power supplies are necessarily good either. But the one we are recommending is one of the better budget power supplies around. Enermax’s Pro82+ is efficient, reliable and near-silent.
Casing: Cooler Master Centurion 5 [~S$75]
It’s hard to go wrong with the Centurion 5. It may be cheap, but it isn’t barebones at all with tool-free installation. If you’re a frequent lanparty-goer, spending more to get an aluminum casing (such as the ~S$135 Lian-Li PC7+) may better suit your needs.
Of course there are many many more casings out there that are worth considering. Just bear in mind that cases from lesser known brands may be somewhat less user friendly (read: sharp edges, impossible-to-reach screws).
(excluding monitor & peripherals)
Okay, so we broke our below S$1,000 budget a little, but if you buy several parts together from the same shop you should be able to get a discount off the listed price. In any case you can always put your bargaining skills to good use down at your local computer shop or mall.
If you don’t want to reuse your old monitor, we recommend getting a 20 to 22-inch widescreen. 24-inch TN (Twisted Nematic) panel LCDs are also now widely available. They do suffer from poor colour reproduction, but purely for gaming purposes they represent great value.