Save $150: Alternative parts
That $850 total for a 4-core, 8-thread gaming PC is pretty damned competitive, especially compared to a similarly equipped Core i7-7700K rig. But you can drive the price down even further if you’re willing to make some minor compromises.
The most obvious place to start is the graphics card. While MSI’s 8GB Gaming X is a beast, if you’re planning to stick to 1080p gaming alone, a 4GB version of the Radeon RX 480 should do you just fine—and save you a bundle. The 4GB Sapphire RX 480 Nitro costs just $200 on Amazon, and at the time of writing a mail-in rebate knocks another $15 off of that, bringing the total down to $185. Hot damn. That’s a whopping $55 in savings compared to the 8GB model we’re using here, though the MSI Armor’s cooling solution isn’t quite as robust as the Gaming X’s. If you plan on gaming at 2560x1440p resolution, stick to an 8GB Radeon RX 480.
You could also save some money on the processor and motherboard. The Gigabyte GA-AB350M-HD3 ($85 on Newegg) is a bit more basic than the Gaming 3, and it lacks the pricier board’s snazzy Realtec ALC1220 HD audio chip and integrated RGB lighting. That said, it’s $25 less than the Gaming 3 and should still hold up fine in a straightforward gaming rig like this.
You could recoup another $20 by “downgrading” to the Ryzen 5 1400, AMD’s other 4-core, 8-thread processor. It lacks the 1500X’s XFR support and is clocked at a slower 3.2GHz to 3.4GHz, but if you’re not afraid of overclocking, that might not matter. Ryzen 5 processors use the same dies as the Ryzen 7 chips, with half the cores disabled. Virtually all Ryzen 7 processors have had no problems overclocking to the 3.8GHz to 4.0GHz (all cores) range. You’d need an aftermarket cooler to push the Ryzen 5 1400 that far, though. That would wind up costing you more than you’d save by switching to the Ryzen 5 1400, but if you plan on picking up a third-party CPU cooler anyway, that doesn’t matter.
The Corsair Spec-Alpha’s $80 sticker price is already damned affordable for a decent gaming case. Spending less than that often means sacrificing a lot of functionality and performance. All that said, the utilitarian Cooler Master Master Box 5 won a Recommended award from Tom’s Hardware, and it costs just $55 on Newegg. As I’m writing this, Newegg’s tossing in a $10 rebate as well, bringing its total price to a mere $45 (excluding shipping).
I wouldn’t recommend changing out the power supply, as it’s already in the price-to-performance sweet spot for a PSU from a known company with an 80 Plus rating. Nor would I recommend changing out an SSD for a mechanical hard drive in a gaming rig, though doing so can certainly up your system capacity while saving you money… by greatly sacrificing overall system speed.
The swaps I recommended lower the grand total of the PC by roughly $135 (including rebates), down to pretty much $700 on the nose. That’s damned attractive for a 4-core, 8-thread system. You wouldn’t be giving up much 1080p gaming performance either, especially if you overclock the rig—though you would lose out on several quality-of-life features.
But enough talk about what might be! Let’s roll up our sleeves and build the $850 all-AMD system in our hands today.
Next page: Building the beast