The Entry-Level Rig
Moving from the Budget Box we are spending twice as much on the Entry-Level Rig. This PC would be an excellent companion for running general applications and should make quick work of most games, including demanding titles. Chances are, the components you choose will be from this system or our Enthusiast's PC if you are looking for good value.
|Processor||Intel Core i3-6100||$120|
|Motherboard||MSI H110M Pro-VD||$56|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws V 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-2133||$40|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon R9 380||$170|
|Storage||Samsung 850 Evo 250GB||$80|
|Storage||WD Green 2TB||$92|
|Case||DeepCool Tesseract SW||$30|
|Power||FSP Group AURUM S 400W||$55|
|Monitor||Acer G276HL Gbd 27" IPS||$160|
|Speakers||Cyber Acoustics CA-3602||$40|
|Peripherals||Microsoft Wireless Comfort 5000||$40|
Core System Total
Core System + Monitor and Peripherals
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
The dual-core Core i3-6100 is perfect for our Entry-Level Rig, providing users with four threads via HT. Time and time again we've found that the Core i3 is able to deliver performance similar to the more expensive Core i5 and Core i7 processors when playing most PC games. Furthermore, the Core i3 is snappy when it comes to general computing tasks.
Given Skylake's solid performance and that its platform is very current, it's hard to recommend anything else -- including AMD's Bulldozer chips. If you plan to overclock heavily or need support for multiple graphics cards we suggest upgrading to the i5-6600K and the motherboard in our Enthusiast's PC.
As for the motherboard, ideally LGA1151 owners will want to get their hands on a Z170 board, but because those start at $90 they aren’t always the best option for a budget build. If you are happy to spend that much on the motherboard then you will receive a number of noteworthy features such as CPU and memory overclocking, multi-GPU support as well as M.2 storage support.
For a few dollars less a H170 motherboard can be had, though we feel they are pointless as some important features go missing for no real saving. That leaves H110-based boards which start at just $56 and the MSI H110M Pro-VD is one of the best budget examples. Out of the box the board supports DDR4-2133, four SATA 6Gb/s ports and USB 3.1.
Normally we allocate ~$150 for the GPU in our entry-level system but with Gigabyte offering their R9 380 for just $170 we couldn’t help but spend a little extra. In our last guide update we had gone with the more efficient GTX 960 but at current prices the faster R9 380 makes more sense.
Opinions vary when it comes to the necessity 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. If you disagree and you have the cash to burn, by all means buy an audio card.
For our entry-level rig we have allowed for a budget of $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 budget builds.
The Samsung SSD 850 Evo is an ideal SSD for this build and incredibly $80 buys you a roomy 250GB model. Since the budget allows we are also going for a larger secondary hard drive, in this case the WD Green 2TB.
You may think a 500W power supply isn't up to snuff for a new gaming rig. If that's the case, we invite you to take a look at some of our recent GPU reviews which show system power consumption rates. Our Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition/GTX Titan X-packing test machine only consumed 331 watts at full load. If you need a little more proof, electricity load meters start at about $20. The FSP Group AURUM S 400W offers solid parts, 32A on the +12V rail and an extensive five-year warranty.
There is now a wide range of impressive budget cases and few are as good as the DeepCool Tesseract SW. For just $30 it comes loaded with two 120mm fans and a case window. The case offers plenty of room for radiators, can handle full size 310mm long GPUs, 165mm tall CPU coolers and 230mm long power supplies. Those are some pretty good specifications for a relevantly compact mid-tower that weighs just 5.1kgs.
There are tons of monitors on the market suitable for the Entry-Level Rig, but making the right choice simply boils down to your budget and taste. A 23-24" display is worth the money and will provide a better experience than something in the 20-22" range, especially if you're considering high resolutions. The budget pick is a good one to get started with an IPS panel on a budget, check out the Asus VS239H-P 23" monitor.
However if you want to stretch your budget further, the Acer unit we've selected is a budget-minded IPS panel that measures in at 27 inches for just $160. Yes, this is only a 1080p monitor but that is the perfect resolution to use with the Radeon R9 380.
Budget 2.0 and 2.1 setups from reputable companies such as Logitech, Altec Lansing and Cyber Acoustics can be found at $20 to $40 and some of the more popular models include the LS21, VS2621, and our recommendation, the CA-3602.
Mouse & Keyboard
This time we have gone with the Microsoft Wireless Comfort 5000 as this is another keyboard/mouse combo that I have a lot of experience using and very much like it. At just $50 it's relatively cheap given what is included.