Since I often get questions and requests related to selecting components for different types of desktop PCs, I thought I would put together a few quick build guides for some different categories of machines at different price points.
Any desktop machine is going to need these basic components from seven different categories, broken down below.
- CPU and cooler
- Power supply
At certain price points, you may be able save some money by getting components that combine extra functionality into a single component. A good example is a CPU with integrated graphics that also has a decent CPU cooler included. Because of ongoing competition between Intel and AMD, combined with falling RAM and NAND SSD prices, you can build a very capable system for a lot less money than you might expect.
Entry-Level 1080P AMD Gaming PC Build
This is intended to be an affordable machine that can easily play eSports type games at 1080P (1920×1080) resolution. It also has enough CPU/memory capacity and storage performance to handle typical desktop usage scenarios with very good performance. Even though it is a budget machine, it may be faster than many older high-end desktop machines from years past. Here are the main components:
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G 3.7 GHz 4C/8T Processor
Despite the 3400 series name, this is actually a 12nm Zen+ processor rather than a 7nm Zen 2 processor. Still, it does have 4 cores plus SMT, so you get eight threads total. It runs at a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and has a Max Boost Clock of 4.2 GHz. It also has integrated Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics to handle 1080P gaming. It has an AMD Wraith Spire CPU cooler included in the box.
This is a relatively modest but still capable B450 chipset motherboard that has four RAM slots. It has four SATA3 ports along with one Ultra M.2 PCIe NVMe slot and one M.2 SATA3 slot. It also has a decent amount of USB 3.1 Gen2 and Gen1 ports and a Realtek Gigabit LAN port. A B450 motherboard can support most current and past generation AMD AM4 socket Ryzen desktop processors, so you have an upgrade path. You will need to have BIOS version 3.30 or later in order to use the latest AMD Ryzen processors.
Most games run perfectly well with 16GB of RAM, and I consider 16GB of RAM to be the bare minimum that you should have for general desktop usage. You also want to have at least two sticks of RAM so that you will be running in dual-channel mode. Since this B450 motherboard has four memory slots, you can add more memory later if you need it without having to replace your current memory.
AMD Ryzen processors are relatively sensitive to memory speed and performance, and this is especially true of Ryzen processors with integrated graphics that use system memory. G.Skill has a good reputation and seems to work pretty well with AMD Ryzen processors.
I believe that a 500GB SATA SSD is pretty much the bare minimum you should consider in terms of capacity and performance when it comes to a boot drive. For NAND-based SSDs, you should avoid getting a drive that is smaller than 500GB, since you will give up a lot of performance while only saving a very small amount of money.
An entry-level system may get along just fine with a single 500GB drive, but you can always add additional drives or go to a larger size if you need more space. You can also step up to an M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive for more performance. Personally, I really like Samsung NAND-based SSDs, since they are just a known good product that I have a lot of experience with. The 860 EVO series gives nearly the same performance as the higher-priced 860 PRO series. The free Samsung Magician software is an added bonus that makes it easier to manage your drives and install firmware updates.
The selection of a case can be fairly subjective. People often have quite strong opinions about the sort of aesthetic they are looking for. Depending on your preferences for thermal performance and noise, you have a huge number of cases to choose from.
The case I picked here is very affordable, and is relatively low key as far the stock appearance. It is possible to add some color to this case with RGB case fans. Adding additional case fans would also be a good idea if you want better thermal performance, since this case only comes with one 120mm rear case fan.
Seasonic 520W 80+ Bronze Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
Your power supply is not a good place to cut corners on. A good power supply is going to make your system last longer and use less electricity. I really like fully modular power supplies, so that I have less cable clutter inside the case (because you only install the cables that you actually need). SeaSonic is one of the best power supply makers out there, even though this is a lower-end model.
Having a lower watt capacity power supply for a system like this will actually save on electrical usage compared to a much higher watt capacity power supply, since efficiency is higher when the power supply has a slightly higher percentage of its rated output. A 520 watt power supply will still have some extra headroom so you will be able to add a mid-range discrete graphics card later.
This machine has a total price (as of this writing) of about $450.00. That does not include sales tax or an operating system. I think you will want Windows 10 Home or Professional. If you do use Windows 10, make sure to get version 1903 so that you get the AMD scheduler and CPPC improvements. You also want to make sure you get the latest BIOS version and the latest AMD chipset and All-In-One Driver versions.
Depending on your budget, you can add more RAM or storage right off the bat. You also have a very good upgrade path going forward. For example, you could upgrade to a 6C/12T or 8C/16T 7nm AMD Ryzen 3000 series processor using this motherboard. If you did that, you would have to get a discrete graphics card. You can also go up to 64GB of RAM with this system.
Please let me know if you are interested in more posts like this. Thanks for reading!
The PCPartPicker parts list for this machine is here.