For approximately £300 (exluding monitor and speakers) you can build a gaming PC that will play the latest games well at 1080p resolutions. When I read the latest PC Format (Jan 2015), I was blown away by their article on this.
If you've always wanted to give PC gaming a go, now is a great time to give it a go. I recommend you buy/subscibe to the magazine to support the authors, and bask in a little of the culture portrayed by a mature bunch of passionate gamers.
My reason for writing this post is to share what I think is an incredible milestone in lowering the barrier to entry for gamers who fancy trying something a little different, not to mention combined with the regularly heavily-discounted game sales on Steam, we now have a modern platform with excellent value for money.
When last I wrote significantly about PC gaming (27-Jan-2013 blog post), I had not yet built the gaming PC I now own; that was completed in August 2013, somewhat following the advice of my younger self:
“A computer is required then, but how expensive does it need to be? Well, what are you going to use it for? Today’s cutting-edge games require today’s cutting-edge hardware (to be played as intended). Whereas games of five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago don’t. Highly capable hardware will set you back £700 to £3,000 (you could probably get something pretty amazing on the price/performance curve somewhere in-between).”
I researched and evaluated the price/performance curve for each component, and bought specific components that would allow the PC to fake being an Apple computer, aka a Hackintosh, via some software and a easy-to-follow guide from the website tonymacx86.com. This allows me to utilise the Mac-only software I have previously purchased and use, while also being a powerful gaming computer (by default it boots into Windows 8.1, however I can hit F12 to select my Mac boot disk at startup).
How amazing then in the 2 years since writing that post, one can now spend ~£300 to enjoy the very latest games without compromise to the experience (obviously—to an extent—it'll look prettier the more you spend).
How to Build a ~£300 Gaming PC
Again, I would encourage you to buy/subscribe to the UK PC Format Magazine, where I read their article “Build a £300 Gaming PC” PC Format (Jan 2015, pp. 52–57).
I have saved the components required to build that gaming PC to the following Amazon Wish List
- This includes a keyboard and mouse, however you will also require a monitor and speakers/headphones (or hook up to your TV via a £5 3 metre HDMI cable).
- You'll need another machine to prepare the Windows Installation onto a USB stick. Windows Technical Preview is a full, legal and free Windows from Microsoft (until Spring 2015). Download Windows Technical Preview and use the Microsoft Windows USB/DVD Download Tool to create a bootable 4Gb+ USB Stick (as your ~£300 gaming PC does not have an optical DVD/blu-ray drive, though you can easily add one for £20-50 at a later date).
You can YouTube how to put the components together. It's a fun process that reminds me of playing with Lego, which I very much enjoy doing with my young daughter.
The only tricky bit being that you must remember to apply the thermal paste between the CPU and CPU cooler to ensure the heat can be conducted away from the CPU effectively.
Some tips on the construction process:
Put everything together outside of the case first and make sure it powers on. Remember to use the thermal paste and plug in the CPU fan before powering on.
Move everything into the case. Screw the motherboard into the chassis of the case at the mounthing points.
Connect Front panel connectors to motherboard using the motherboard manual for reference.
Connect keyboard, mouse, monitor, network and leave side panel off case for now. Power up and check all fans are spinning. Press the 'DEL' key or 'F2' key when powering up to enter BIOS settings.
Navigate to CPU settings and ensure temperature is in or below the 30's (Deg C). You can overclock by increasing the CPU Clock Ratio. The CPU listed above can usually do a stable overclock to 4.2Ghz without having to upgrade the CPU cooler.
Install Windows, some antivirus of your choice, Steam, and have fun.
Set aside £84 for when the Windows Technical Preview runs out (late Spring 2015), so you can purchase a copy of Windows 8.1 for ~£84 online.
The system can easily be upgraded in the future , piece-by-piece. For example:
- An extra 4Gb RAM for the other slot would be £30 (buy the same make and model as they operate best in matched pairs).
- A SSD would be ~£80 and load games and photos much faster
- Spending ~£200 on a GPU rather than ~£100 would yield much higher framerates
- The motherboard can support a much faster CPU, which in a year or two would be a much cheaper and very good upgrade
But remember, as it is, your new £300 PC can enjoy new games as-is, as well as a huge back catalogue of…every PC game ever made. It can easily emulate most old gaming consoles and computers too. That's 30 years of gaming at your fingertips, be it with keyboard and mouse hunched over a desk and monitor, or connecting to your TV and kicking back with a pad on the couch.
Couch Gaming with your new £300 gaming PC
Treat yourself to a £5 3 metre HDMI cable to hook-up to your TV. Comibne with an official XBOX 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver For Windows, and a pad or two, and you have all that you could ever need for excellent gaming, for the rest of your life.
You now have a competent and stable gaming portal to other dimensions, that can be accessed from your desk or couch. I hope you have lots of fun.