The Budget Box

• Decent Performance • Good for Everyday Computing • Very Lightweight Gaming

If you just want to watch YouTube videos and check your email, you could probably get by with a tablet. However, if you follow our budget build, you'll have a system acceptable for any role besides running graphically intense applications. Throw a budget graphics card into the mix -- which can be had for less than a $100 -- and you'll have a humble solution to gaming as well.

Component Product Price
Processor AMD A8-7650K $100
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A78M-HD2 $45
Memory G.Skill Sniper 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-2400 $41
Graphics Integrated $0
Sound Integrated $0
Storage Samsung 850 Evo 120GB $67
Optical Samsung SH-224DB/BEBE $20
Case Cooler Master Elite 350 + 500w PSU $60
Monitor Asus VS239H-P 23" IPS $141
Speakers Logitech Z150 2.0 $20
Peripherals CM Storm Devastator $30
Core System Total
$333
Core System + Monitor and Peripherals
$524

Motherboard, Processor, Memory

AMD reclaimed a seat in our Budget Box back in 2011 with its A8 Fusion APU (Llano) and has since maintained that position with Trinity, Richland and now Kaveri chips. The Kaveri-based APUs have been shrunk down to the 28nm process and as a result consume considerably less power.

In our Kaveri review, we found the part's general execution to be slower than Intel's offerings while consuming more power, but its integrated graphics core was significantly faster, exceeding some entry-level discrete graphics cards. At ~$100, the A8-7650K is a great solution for budget system builders, especially if you intend to run some lightweight games without a dedicated graphics card.

However, if you do plan to employ a discrete GPU, we'd opt for Intel's $110 Core i3-4150 that is more efficient and performs better, particularly with single-threaded tasks. The i3-4150's integrated HD 4400 IGP is serviceablefor basic tasks but not for gaming. We'd pair it with the Gigabyte H81M-S1 motherboard ($40).

While you could save a little cash by purchasing 4GB of RAM for basic productivity and browsing, the chosen Gigabyte F2A78M-HD2 board only has two RAM slots. That being the case, it seems like a better idea to fill them with at least 8GB instead of potentially shorting yourself. Likewise, given how AMD APUs scale with higher frequency RAM, you might as well buy 2400MHz modules over 1600MHz or even 1866MHz ones.

Graphics, Sound

This build is not intended for graphically demanding tasks, but adding a relatively low-cost GPU like the Radeon R7 370 will bring a serious boost in frame rates. If that's still outside your budget, you can expect fairly acceptable performance in many PC games when playing on the AMD A8-7650K, especially if you're into free-to-play. Along with the APU's integrated graphics, the chosen motherboard has a 8-channel Realtek ALC887 audio chipset and integrated sound is more than sufficient for a basic machine.

Storage

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. If you're certain you won't need the additional storage, you can save a couple bucks by choosing a less capacious drive. If you happen to have a storage drive laying around, it'd probably make sense to invest the cash in a low capacity SSD boot drive instead.

Starting from scratch we suggest two options depending on your needs and they both cost ~$70. If storage capacity is a priority then the WD Green 1TB is a wise investment. However if you can get away with 120GB of storage, we highly recommend the Samsung SSD 850 Evo 120GB as it will make this budget build fly.

Power, Case

For budget builds I have always gone for cases that come with a power supply. There are plenty of case and power supply combos to choose from and to be honest, most of them are paper thin, razor sharp cases packing featherweight power supplies.

However, the Cooler Master Elite series features relatively high quality cases with decent PSUs. I have purchased several dozen of these for friends and family and one has yet to fail. It's possible to purchase the Cooler Master Elite 350 complete with a Cooler Master 500w power supply for just $60, a combo that's hard to beat.

Monitor

A 20" display doesn't sound like much these days, so we've dropped our previous Viewsonic recommendation in favor of the larger Asus VS239H-P 23" monitor with a 1920x1080 IPS panel, which is as good as it gets for less than $140. With very positive feedback in hundreds of Amazon and Newegg user reviews, you can't go wrong with this one.

No sub-$150 screen is going to have superb imagery, though it should be noted that with an IPS panel, this Asus monitor is bound to have better colors and viewing angles than others that carry a standard TN-based panel at the same price point. Another good alternative, for about the same price and size with an IPS panel is the Acer G237HL bi.

It should be mentioned that neither of these monitors have built-in speakers, so you'll have to purchase an external set -- a move we're confident you'll be happier with anyway, as integrated speakers are rarely enjoyable.

Mouse & Keyboard

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 Logitech's budget MK260 wireless combo, which features 128-bit AES encryption, a handful of multimedia and web keys, as well as a spill-resistant design. The keyboard gets up to two years of battery life and the mouse can last about five months.