Budget PC & Budget Gaming PC
Top
Bottom
Top

Feature Article
Budget PC & Budget Gaming PC

June 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

Note: This is the last in a series of articles on building and overclocking PCs. You can read the previous articles in my archive section. I tell you this because what follows was written over two months before it was posted on the web. All prices were verified at the time of writing as accurate and in stock. However, with the volatility of PC hardware pricing, I imagine you should be able to beat these prices or get better components at the same price when reading this.

I once wrote about sub $1,000 computers. I put them down for being cheap computers with cheap components. I also stated they lacked upgradeability.

That was many months ago. In building my computer I discover that a lot of parts can be had for very little money, if you shop around. I encouraged my sister-in-law to let me build her a computer. I will describe the system I built for her here. I built her system for a total of $1,135 including shipping and sales tax.

In this article I will also tell you how to build a good computer for around $1,000. This will be based on some minor changes to the system I built for my sister-in-law. Also, I will outline a great gaming machine that you can build for under $1500, based on the information I learned building this and my own system.

The $1,135 System

Sony - 15" .25mm Trinitron Monitor - 100ES           $153.95
DFI - P2XBL Motherboard                              $ 90.95
WD - 8.40GB EIDE ULTRA-ATA/66 5400RPM                $144.95
Intel - Celeron 366MHz Slot 1                        $104.95
PNY - 64MB PC100 SDRAM (2@$113.95)                   $227.90
Diamond - Stealth II G460 8MB AGP2X                  $ 63.95
Turtle Beach - Montego A3D 64-VOICE PCI              $ 38.95
HiVal - 40X CD-ROM EIDE                              $ 56.95
Teac - 1.44MB Floppy Drive                           $ 15.95
Logitech – Cordless Keyboard & Wheel Mouse           $ 73.95
Antec Case (bought locally)                          $ 99.95

Total                                               $1072.40

There are two things to note about the above list. No modem, and no speaker. My sister-in-law had these. I had given them and extra 28.8 modem I had a while ago, and they add a set of Sony speakers attached to their old computer as well.

For those of you that followed the build op of my computer… I bought all these parts, except the case, from BuyComp.com. (Go to Buy.com) They have a flat shipping fee. Their shipping charges are based on the entire order and its weight. When I bought my system I bought most of it from HardwareStreet.com. HardwareStreet.com processes each item as a separate order, and shipping is priced at $4.95 for the first pound of each item. Buy.com adds up the weight of the entire order and charges for shipping accordingly. This was a huge savings. I spent $88 shipping from HardwareStreet.com for fewer components. Buy.com had everything for my sister-in-law’s computer and shipping was $29. Very Cool.

Buy.com is now my favorite and most recommended online mail order vendor. Get this. I ordered the parts from their web site during my lunch break on a Thursday. 4 of the items showed up on Friday. Very Cool. Buy.com lets you start tracking shipments 48 hours after you place your order. Heck, the stuff was arriving before they had it tracked on their web site. Talk about fast service. Highest Recommendation.

The system went together mostly uneventful. It ran fairly fast, and is being successfully run at 412MHz. They are very impressed and satisfied.

So how do you get the price below $1,000 or build a better gaming machine while staying under $1,500? Let’s take a look at a couple of components that didn’t make the cut, and see if we can squeak in a modem.

Before I detail a $1,000 machine, let me explain a couple of choices I made. When my sister-in-law raised the bar to $1,100 the first thing I did was bump memory up to 128MB. This is probably one of the best things you can do for a computer. Above 128MB is questionable, but if you can afford it get 128MB. You won’t be sorry.

I went with the true Sony monitor to play it safe, and it was so cheap I couldn’t believe it. Since their computer was going to be on in their kitchen on a built-in counter desk, I felt that the cordless keyboard and mouse would be best to keep as many wires off the desk as possible. It was a good choice for them.

So let’s see what to do for a $1,000. I originally had selected a MAG Innovision monitor for them. Model XJ500T was bouncing between $123 - $130 (at Buy.com) while I was planning this system. It has a trinitron monitor with the .25mm dot pitch. It should perform about the same as the true Sony monitor.

Memory. If you really want name brand parts in a sub $1,000 machine you will need to stick with only 64MB of memory. That’s savings of $113 in our example. The Microsoft wheel mouse was going for $15-20 when I checked. I saw some nice keyboards at Best Buy for around $20. That would save another $35-40. After putting together two systems, I preferred the ASUS case to the Antec, and it was $81.99. We’ll put that in. And don’t forget we want to try and get a modem in there. Let’s see what we have.

MAG Innovision XJ500T .25mm Trinitron Monitor      $124.95
DFI - P2XBL Motherboard                            $ 90.95
WD - 8.40GB EIDE ULTRA-ATA/66 5400RPM              $144.95
Intel - Celeron 366MHz Slot 1                      $104.95
PNY - 64MB PC100 SDRAM                             $113.95
Diamond - Stealth II G460 8MB AGP2X                $ 63.95
Turtle Beach - Montego A3D 64-VOICE PCI            $ 38.95
HiVal - 40X CD-ROM EIDE                            $ 56.95
Teac - 1.44MB Floppy Drive                         $ 15.95
Microsoft Wheel Mouse V1.0                         $ 13.95
Keyboard (local)                                   $ 20.00
ASUS T-10 Case                                     $ 81.95
3Com - U.S. Robotics 56K V.90 WinModem             $ 62.95

Total                                              $934.40

Goal achieved with room to spare. You should be able to find a decent pair of speakers with the $65 left. That leaves shipping and tax. Go through Buy.com and that will be minimal. You can probably get the processor cheaper as the 433MHz & 466MHz units have been released and helped drive down the price of the 366 & 400.

I was successfully able to run the 366Mhz Celeron at 457 MHz with an 83Mhz bus. A few bucks for a couple of fans (one to push air into the box, and one to draw air out) and you could be running the same performance as a PII 450 for under $1,000. With all name brand parts. You could save more, but that would probably risk reliability. This system is also fully ready to accept Intel’s latest PIII 550MHz chip, and hopefully their upcomeing 600MHz PIII.

Let’s look at the sub-$1,500 gaming machine. The biggest thing you don’t need that I got was a CD-Writer. That will save you about $250. Also, MAG had a 17" trinitron monitor considerably cheaper than the true Sony I got. I was able to save my sister-in-law about $60 on memory by using 2 - 64MB modules instead of 1 - 128MB module. Let’s see were that leaves us:

MAG Innovision XJ700T .25mm Trinitron Monitor        $255.95
DFI - P2XBL Motherboard                              $ 90.95
WD - 13.0GB ATA/66 5400RPM                           $228.95
Intel - Celeron 366MHz Slot 1                        $104.95
PNY - 64MB PC100 SDRAM  (2@$113.95)                  $227.90
Creative Labs – Graphics Blaster RIVA TNT AGP        $104.95
Creative Labs - Sound Blaster Live! Value 256 Voice  $ 80.95
Creative Labs - 48X CD-ROM                           $ 62.95
Teac - 1.44MB Floppy Drive                           $ 15.95
Logitech – Cordless Keyboard & Wheel Mouse           $ 73.95
ASUS T-10 Case                                       $ 81.95
3Com - U.S. Robotics 56K V.90 WinModem               $ 62.95
Altec Lansing - ACS 45-B 3-Piece w/sub               $ 66.95

Total                                               $1459.30

Bingo! We have a very good gaming machine for under $1500. The biggest sacrifice I made with this setup was the WD hard drive. It is an ATA/66, but not a 7200 RPM drive. Figure at least $50 more for a 7200 RPM drive (I was not having much luck finding a 7200 drive under $300 the day I wrote this).

I verified all these prices when I wrote this article. Most of these prices are from Buy.com, but a couple of items are from HardwareStreet.com or Insight. You should not have any trouble matching these prices.

Well, I have had enough looking at computer prices. It makes me want to do this over again. If you want me to build you a system… I doubt it. I can’t get software cheap enough to keep the total cost down. Also, there would be double shipping (from the vendors to me, and then me to you). Sorry. Build it yourself. If you need any help, please feel free to e-mail me and I can give you some pointers.

Next Month...

I promise, next month’s column will have nothing to do with building, buying, upgrading, or overclocking a PC. Maybe I can tackle the MP3 or Y2K issue.

Bottom