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 3 2200G or Core i3-8100||$96 / $118|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte AB350 Gaming 3 or MSI Z370-A PRO||$85 / $100|
|Memory||Patriot Viper Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2400||$83|
|Graphics||PNY GeForce GTX 1050 OC 2G||$140|
|Storage||Crucial MX500 250GB||$70|
|Storage||WD Blue 2TB||$60|
|Case||NZXT S340 ATX Mid Tower||$69|
|Power||SeaSonic S12II 520B 520W||$41|
|Monitor, Keyboard & Mouse (see notes)|
Core System Total
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
For a few years and numerous guide updates, the Core i3 has headed up the entry-level rig. Most recently AMD took all price points by assault with Ryzen 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 20 dollar price difference that doesn't matter much until you factor in the Ryzen 3 2200G's superior integrated graphics. If gaming is second on your list of priorities you might be able to get by on the 2200G's integrated GPU and save yourself the cost of a discrete GPU. As far as productivity and general use, both CPUs are evenly matched, although when overclocked, the 2200G usually comes out ahead.
So in short, if you want to play games first and foremost (on a budget) go Intel, if you want desktop performance for productivity and general use, the Ryzen 3 might serve you better. Both CPUs are overclockable, too.
The Ryzen 3 2200G is a fully unlocked true quad-core with an integrated Vega 8 GPU. The lower power draw of the 2200G means it works very well with affordable B350 motherboards like the Gigabyte AB350 Gaming 3. For a sub-$100 motherboard the Gaming 3 offers a very impressive feature set, like the dual BIOS for those wanting to overclock without risking a bricked motherboard. There are some other unexpected features as well, such as an M.2 slot for high-speed SSDs, a water cooling pump header, and the RGB Fusion lighting system.
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 speedy GTX 1060 3GB and right now we'd feel happy with recommending the Radeon RX 570 for its official $170 price tag. However, availability of AMD graphics cards is terrible due to cryptocurrency mining, so we've 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 ~$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 MX500 250GB is an ideal SSD for this system and the budget allows for a roomy 250GB 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 520B "Bronze Power Supply" features a pair of 17 amp 12v rails and as the name suggests is bronze certified. The 520w output is more than ample for this build and at just $40 the S12II 520B 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 NZXT S340 seems like a well equipped and cost-effective chassis, offering a beautiful tempered glass window, a PSU shroud to keep things tidy, support for 2 120mm/140mm radiators or a single 240/280 at the front, 161mm tall CPU coolers, any length power supply, seven expansions slots and plenty of storage options for a case of this size. Other good options for a bit less/more include the Corsair Carbide Series 200R and the Phanteks Enthoo Pro.
Monitor, Keyboard & Mouse
We've dropped specific recommendations for monitors and peripherals in the PC Buying guide, but remember we have dedicated buying sections for keyboards, mice and monitors in TechSpot's 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.
If you want the cheapest possible mechanical keyboard, we went out looking for that last year and came back surprised when reviewed the $40 GranVela MechanicalEagle Z-77. You can find it on Amazon for about $33 right now and know it doesn't dissapoint (for the price). The budget-oriented Logitech MK530 is another keyboard/mouse combo that we very much like and have a lot of experience using. At just $40 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.