Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/10/20 9:37 a.m.

I've been curious about "real" gaming for years, but the last time I owned any sort of tower was back in elementary school. I remember being proud of its 300mhz CPU... Consoles are just cheaper and easier, so they're what I've played on ever since.

But a person can only watch all of their friends play on PCs and all racing go to iRacing for so many months stuck home before they do something about it. I stumbled across this article:

https://www.tomshardware.com/how-to/350-pc-build

And was like... Darn I could do that!

So I did. This is the story of my $350 computer. 

The Basics:

The article I linked above goes into more detail, but here's the basic plan: Buy an old tower from a school or office or whatever with decent specs, put a decent graphics card in it, and play modern games with ease. At least in theory. My goal was something that would beat my Xbox One for less money than a new console and without a week's worth of work or a computer science degree. 

The Subject:

After cruising eBay for a few days, I found what I was looking for: Lots of ram, nicely-built case, decent specs. I picked this up for $175.

Did I get a great deal? Who knows, but this seemed to be priced inline with whatever everything else was selling for, and the keyboard and mouse were a nice bonus that saved me from buying them separately. I figured that even if I didn't end up keeping the guts long-term, I'd still have a case and a copy of Windows 10. 

The Additions:

Next, I needed a graphics card. I pretty much copied the suggestion from that article and bought a GTX 1650 Super for $169.99. More card would have been nice, but I didn't want to get into upgrading the power supply or spend more money than this. 

At this point, well, that's about it for big stuff. I grabbed a few more odds and ends, including a wifi PCIE card since I don't have ethernet at my desk, and a SATA to 6-pin adapter to power the graphics card. From my own stash I grabbed a 750GB SSD and a 3TB HDD, which should give me plenty of storage for years to come. 

The Work:

Honestly, the hardest part of setting everything up was messing around with my Ubuntu server to steal its big SSD and replace it with a smaller one. After that I cloned Windows onto the new SSD, threw it and the HDD into the case, and then plugged in the graphics card and wifi adapter. After an hour or two getting accounts setup, downloading the graphics driver, connecting to wifi, etc. it was done!

The Performance:

So, is it any good? I'll preface this with a disclaimer: I have no idea, I haven't played on anything except consoles for years, I haven't found any free benchmarking tools and the only game I've finished downloading so far is Warzone.

But this thing is AMAZING at that. Granted, I don't have a 4k monitor (mine is 2560x1080), but this cruises through that game at a mixture of normal and high settings at 55-60 FPS. Compared to my Xbox One? Not even a comparison. The graphics and controls and framerates are so much better.

The Next Step:

Well, Flight Simulator is downloading now, and I'm really excited to start iRacing, too. I'm sure those will be rough on this hardware, but so far I'm impressed with how good this runs for how little it cost. Bottom line: PC gaming doesn't actually have to be that expensive or that difficult, go grab an old office computer and have some fun!

 

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
10/10/20 9:31 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

3D Mark has a free Timespy demo to run and it will give you a good idea where you land. I can run it on my two machines as a reference point.

I've been doing a bunch of digging on this subject lately myself because it's the GRM mindset applied to computers and it's interesting. I was looking to do some stuff with my mini PC idea.. but ended up dropping the idea and got a new laptop on a steal in the same way I bought my desktop through a friend at Dell/Alienware.

 



 

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe PowerDork
10/10/20 9:48 p.m.

Flight simulator is going to be interesting to run on that card. 

Seriously check out the epic game store. New free games every week or so. 

If you have a controller and you are in any way interested in rogue likes or isometric fighting games. HADES is by far the best game released in the last couple years and I am obsessed with it right now. 20xx pops up free every now and then as well and its fantastic. Same with Enter the Gungeon. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/10/20 10:12 p.m.

Thanks for the tip, Spacecadet! Timespy benchmark is running now...

And I'm assuming that once I'm a bit further down this rabbit hole I'm going to look back on this rig and think "wow, I can't believe those graphics impressed me," but I guess I'm just used to low bars after so many years on my Xbox. 

 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/10/20 10:19 p.m.

The results are in! I'm not sure if it matters, but I didn't close all of the various helper apps (iCloud, Dropbox, Adobe, etc. etc.) before running this, as they'll run when I'm gaming, too.  I scored 4481!

What's this mean? I have absolutely no idea. 

But, according to the internet, I'm not far off from a new gaming laptop, and waaaaaaay better than a normal office computer. So I guess I'll call that a victory? Honestly I'm new to all of this, somebody please tell me if this is a decent showing or not. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
10/10/20 10:39 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

And I'm assuming that once I'm a bit further down this rabbit hole I'm going to look back on this rig and think "wow, I can't believe those graphics impressed me," but I guess I'm just used to low bars after so many years on my Xbox. 

 

That happens.  The biggest difference is going to be frame rate and the fact that you can tweak things to keep it at tolerable levels, unlike a console where you are stuck with what the developers chose.

That said, I think in recent years consoles have hit a turning point where 30fps titles are no longer acceptable.  Developers might not hit 60 all the time but at least they seem to be targeting it.

 

That's a decent build for $350.  Not to critique, but the 1650 has pretty 'meh' reviews.  The 1660 is <$50 more and has a LOT better performance - so long as you have the power supply to support it.  Most 'workstation' class cases would I imagine, because they are often offered with Quadro GPUs.  What's the wattage you have?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/10/20 10:46 p.m.

I only have a 320w power supply, so didn't think I'd be able to go to a 1660 without replacing it. So suddenly the $50 increase turns into more like a $100-$150 increase. And from what I saw the cards were about the same:

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
10/10/20 10:48 p.m.

Doh, I missed the 'super' part!  Yeah, that is pretty low wattage, you are right you would be pushing it and a new power supply would be a lot of scope creep.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/10/20 10:53 p.m.

Oh, okay, you scared me there! Yeah, I'm usually not very good at limiting scope creep (see: any of my cars) but in this case I had a hard budget and free time limit and was determined to stay under it. All of the scope creep ideas will be saved for version 2.0. 

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
10/10/20 11:06 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

The results are in! I'm not sure if it matters, but I didn't close all of the various helper apps (iCloud, Dropbox, Adobe, etc. etc.) before running this, as they'll run when I'm gaming, too.  I scored 4481!

What's this mean? I have absolutely no idea. 

 

But, according to the internet, I'm not far off from a new gaming laptop, and waaaaaaay better than a normal office computer. So I guess I'll call that a victory? Honestly I'm new to all of this, somebody please tell me if this is a decent showing or not. 

 

So my own machines are as follows

2020 Dell G3 15 3500 with an i5-10300H and a GTX 1650 Ti mobile GPU with 4Gb of Vram. I pulled out the stock 8gb of DDR4 Ram the laptop came with, and put in 32Gb of ram and the motherboard caps it at 2666Mhz.

My timespy score came back at 3782 on it.

So Hooray for the Budget desktop! it actually held its own against a very competent PC, laptop or not! And scored a victory!

my new Alienware R10 Ryzen edition desktop I bought over the summer has a lot more Horsepower.

Ryzen 9 3900 and an RTX 2080 Super with 8Gb of Vram, with 32Gb of DDR4 ram at 2933Mhz.
 

Ran the same benchmark and it pops out a score of 11388.

Through some well timed sales and a discount from a friend at Alienware, my desktop was $1600. You could have built one yourself for similar prices over the summer if you could find the components in stock. With the 3000 Series Nvidia cards and the Ryzen Gen 3 5000 series CPU's now both having debuted, the prices on the 3000 series CPU's and the 2000 series GPU's will fall in the coming months and year... hopefully....
 

But for $350 bucks.. I think you have a winner on your hand.

Also, intentionally or not.. you picked one of the GPUs Linus Tech Tips recommended for this kind of build.. where PSU capacity is limited and you're working on a budget.

 


I'm curious how your PC will do with iRacing and I hope it doesn't choke to death on Flight Simulator..

sleepyhead the buffalo
sleepyhead the buffalo Mod Squad
10/11/20 2:04 a.m.

time for a new desk too?

 

also, I'm curious to see how it handles iRacing.  I need to pull a similar thing sometime, since sleepykid#1 keeps bugging me to setup the wheel & pedals again.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) UberDork
10/11/20 5:53 a.m.

Watching with interest. At least I can follow this conversation.

My 16 year old is a major computer nerd, and totally incapable of discussing anything else but computer hardware and comparative specs.

When he started high school, he went into the engineering academy. Their first assignment was to plan a computer build. He'd been refining that particular project for two years already.

Eventually, I hope to have enough money to spend to set up a Sim outfit.

slowbird
slowbird SuperDork
10/12/20 2:21 p.m.

For what it's worth, I play iRacing with a graphics card from 2012 and it still runs fine. I don't have the graphics on max, but they're not on minimum either. They're pretty good about keeping it playable on lower-end computers.

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
10/12/20 4:25 p.m.

Assetto Corsa can also go pretty low end, but can be turned up (with add ons) to look very close the latest sims.

One thing to consider if you want to do any driving games, a wheel (with pedals of course) is likely to cost you a couple hundred.  Finding a good used one is of course the most economical way.

I find sim driving WAY more fun and interesting with a shifter and clutch.  If you grew up with or only drive automatics, that may not be an issue.

minivan_racer
minivan_racer UberDork
10/13/20 4:42 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

The results are in! I'm not sure if it matters, but I didn't close all of the various helper apps (iCloud, Dropbox, Adobe, etc. etc.) before running this, as they'll run when I'm gaming, too.  I scored 4481!

What's this mean? I have absolutely no idea.

Yeah, but can it run Crysis?

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
10/13/20 11:58 p.m.

Very nice budget build Tom!!!    Asseta Corsa is by far my favorite pc sim.  The user created content is huge and very good. You should have no problems running it. 

Sidewayze
Sidewayze New Reader
10/17/20 11:42 a.m.

I'm really looking forward to hearing how Flight Sim works on this.  I haven't had a gaming system in years, but the new 64 and Dirt Rally have me getting really interested again.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/17/20 12:10 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I only have a 320w power supply, so didn't think I'd be able to go to a 1660 without replacing it. So suddenly the $50 increase turns into more like a $100-$150 increase. And from what I saw the cards were about the same:

The last desktop PC I bought had a 100W power supply, and the vendor laughed when I asked about moar. I think he may have offered to upgrade it for free if I ever maxed it out. That thing played Doom 1.666 over a null modem cable just fine, thank you very much :) Even had a Roland Sound Canvas midi card so the music sounded good. Only cost $2700 plus the SC.

 I'm a little out of date...

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
10/18/20 9:08 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
Tom Suddard said:

I only have a 320w power supply, so didn't think I'd be able to go to a 1660 without replacing it. So suddenly the $50 increase turns into more like a $100-$150 increase. And from what I saw the cards were about the same:

The last desktop PC I bought had a 100W power supply, and the vendor laughed when I asked about moar. I think he may have offered to upgrade it for free if I ever maxed it out. That thing played Doom 1.666 over a null modem cable just fine, thank you very much :) Even had a Roland Sound Canvas midi card so the music sounded good. Only cost $2700 plus the SC.

 I'm a little out of date...

I remember I having to install a Sound Blaster Cd drive/sound car combo in mine to get sound for Doom.  I also paid ~$150 to upgrade from 4mb to 8mb of ram.  I think at one point I went from 486sx33mhz to dx66mhz, and later even to '586' 133mhz (Cyrix processor).

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/18/20 2:58 p.m.
Sidewayze said:

I'm really looking forward to hearing how Flight Sim works on this.  I haven't had a gaming system in years, but the new 64 and Dirt Rally have me getting really interested again.

Oops! I never replied to this, sorry.

I only have maybe an hour of time on Flight Simulator so far, but with the settings basically at "normal" across the board, it hits 40-55 FPS. So not great, but super super playable and I have no plans to upgrade at this point.

adam525i (Forum Supporter)
adam525i (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
10/18/20 8:41 p.m.

Nice budget build! It's pretty similar to my laptop (I have a slightly faster CPU and a lower GPU) and it did well on iRacing for a solid year first with an ultrawide single monitor and then it scraped by with VR for a bit (not recommended as you'll end up spending a lot more on a PC after trying VR lol). You will have a good experience on a monitor with this.

If you can hold off until your Thanksgiving there is usually a pretty good sale on iRacing subscriptions. I'd also recommend figuring out how to get an Ethernet cord over to it, Wifi just adds latency and instability to your connection and that is not what you want with iRacing. Blinking cars are the worst and you do not want to be one of them.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
10/18/20 9:06 p.m.

Oh. I did not see you were using WiFi. Yes get a wired connection. Your sim racing friends will thank you. 

gunner (Forum Supporter)
gunner (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
10/20/20 8:00 p.m.

Just a friendly PSA here, on Reddit, check out r/buildapcsales and r/hardwareswap for retail parts at a discount and pc parts swapped and sold between redditors respectively. I highly recommend both.

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