Hardware sources – Readers
Ed Note: I received the following email:
“My son is 14 in April and he really wants to make his own computer and he’s saved up £350.00, but I’m not sure whether this is enough for a decent computer. Please please can you tell me the best parts to buy for gaming in this budget.”
Our UK readers rose to the task with the following:
I live in the UK, and while I’m not going to lend any specific advice on what hardware to buy, I’d warmly recommend buying it from Komplett.com.
I have as of yet not found any consistently cheaper place in the UK, and they deliver within days every time. There’s no better place to buy whatever hardware he decides on.
I am from the UK and the best sites to get things cheap from, IMO, are:
I would get the following:
- 128 MB 6600GT – about £75
- AMD 3000+ CPU – £70 (overclock it)
- Good quality HSF (for oc) – £15
- Cheap SLI mobo – £75
- 2 x 512 MB RAM – £50
- Good quality psu – £60
- DVD drive – £10
- Old/cheap case
- Cheap 60 GB HDD
- Soundblaster 7.1 sound card – £20
I know it is a little more than £350, or go for the PC Deal on Scan.co.uk, but for £350, you are not going to get very much.
The most expesive part of the upgrade is probably the GPU, so that seems a good place to start: An ATI GTO2 can be had for £130-150, an entry level Opteron (overclock like hell) will put you back £100, and a basic motherboard and RAM you can get for £120-150.
For just under 400 quid, upgrade + old spare parts, I think you could get a very good medium range overclocked games machine.
Mark (aka Easybeat)
The cheapest place to buy parts I have found is Ebuyer.co.uk – as a package, I have never been able to beat them for price and I have used them extensively with only minor niggles. I build a lot of systems and for a cheap, reasonable gaming rig I would tend to go something like this:
- Ebuyer Extra Value Kg-188 ATX Midi Tower Case In Black, with USB/Audio, No Psu (063768 66): £12.99
- Ebuyer Extra Value 500w ATX Power Supply in Blue, with Dual Fans (061309 489): £10.99
- GECUBE RADEON 9800 PRO 128 MB AGP (088233 2): £70.89
- Corsair (VS512MB400) 512 MB, DDR400 / PC3200, non-ECC, 184 DIMM, unbuffered, CL2.5 (048122): £23.82
- LG GDR-8164BL 16×52 DVD-ROM Internal IDE (Black) – OEM (098199 246): £12.31
- Seagate ST380011A Barracuda 80GB 7200RPM ATA/100 2MB Cache (OEM 036369) £30.59
- AMD (Venice) Athlon 64 Bit 3200+ Socket 939, 512k L2cache 90nm Retail Boxed Processor (088109 136): £95.85
- ECS KV2 Lite SKT939 AGP LAN 6channel audio ATX (100512 77): £38.29
Total before tax: £295.73; Shipping Band: £7.24;
Shipping Surcharge: £0.60. SubTotal: £303.57, VAT £53.18 – Total: £356.75
Hopefully I have not missed any important item! This is not a top notch system and does have some cheaper components, but it will definitely play every game on the market to a fairly good level.
In one word, his situation is impossible.
British markup on all foreign goods is obscene – a $60 water gun in Canada is £60 in the UK. Add VAR, and, well…You can’t build a gaming PC for $350, let alone build one for £350. His only hope is to get a PSP with earlier firmware, mod it, and load a whole bunch of classic Nintendo and Genesis games on it. In the same vein, a used PC with 15″ monitor could play those same emulator games as well.
I saw your article “a gaming system for 350 quid” and thought that would be a challenge well worth taking up. I came up with the shopping list pictured below:
The total of £311 includes Tax, but not shipping, which would be another £5-10. If the guy needs a monitor, it is tougher, but I’m sure that he could pick up a 17″ CRT on eBay for not much money.
Hopefully, that should live up to his needs, and would be good enough for basic gaming. The 6600 is the DDR2 model, so a bit of subtle overclocking would of course help matters further, and the Sempron 2600 and 6600 DDR2 are a perfect base for raising MHz with very little fuss.
Just thought I’d let you know I looked into building a £300 gaming PC last month. It turned out it wasn’t overly worth it in the long run, as anything with decent kit that was upgradeable was £500 minimum. It works out cheaper just to buy a second hand PC around the 2.6 – 3 GHz range with a decent AGP card already in it.
I”m not saying it can’t be done – I’d spend a lot more on a motherboard and a power supply than a lot of people would. That said, the system was priced without a DVD, as the guy I was going to build it for has a spare. In the end, I spent £200 on a hard disk, 6600GT and 3000XP and stuck it all in the shell of a 1.4 GHz Athlon I had sitting about – it’s really no slouch. I bet with downmarket kit, you could build the rest for £150.
There is the famous Opteron 146 too… but this required a new mobo, so it was out. I was also going to set up raid 0, but he couldn’t afford another HD.
At the end of the day, each component adds up. To get a system I’d be happy for someone to have for a few years, £500 just gets it. Otherwise, just sticking a 6600gt or if you can find one, a cheap 9800pro, in any half decent £250 second hand system will see good results.
What I would do is compare a £500 opteron system with overclocking to a full on mega bucks gaming rig, and see if it’s actually worth spending thousands or not, or maybe compare a 3800×2 too, as they are supposed to clock well for the money. It can be done for £350, but I don’t really think it should be at the end of the day.
That is tight but not impossible. If we are looking at a base box excluding Screen, Keyboard, Mouse & Speakers:
- Case & Power Supply: Antec SLK1650B Black Quiet Mini Tower Case – 350W SmartPower PSU: £46.94
- Motherboard: Asus K8N4-E nForce4 4X (Socket 754): £64.57
- CPU: AMD Sempron 64 2800+ 1.6GHz: £53.99
- Graphics: XFX GeForce PCX6600 Extreme Edition 512MB DDR2 TV-Out/Dual DVI: £88.07
- HD: Western Digital Caviar Special Edition 80GB 800JD SATA 8MB Cache – OEM: £39.66
- DVDR: Sony DRU810A 16×16 DVD±RW Dual Layer ReWriter – Retail (CD-043-SO): £39.89
Add in delivery and you have a base box including taxes @ £350
I currently subscribe to Maximum PC here in North Carolina, USA, and in the most recent issue, they build a budget gaming PC for $300. Here are the specs:
- CPU: AMD Semperon 2800+: $75
- MOBO: MSI RS480M-IL: $80
- MEMORY: Generic 512MB PC3200: $38
- HDD: 80GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 SATA: $45
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 16X DL: $42
- Case: Generic ATX Case: $30
- OS: Ubuntu Linux: Free
Now I figure you could “borrow” a copy of Windows if need be; however, in that same issue they walk you through how to install Ubuntu Linux. However, I know gaming on Linux is still in its infancy, but growing. That mobo has onboard video but also has a PCI-E slot in case if in the future he/she wants to add in their flavor of graphics card.
That price is also $50 below your target of $350, so you have room to play with those components or go for an extra 512 MB of RAM for an even Gig, which wouldn’t be too shabby, considering this is a budget GAMING rig. Hope this helps 🙂
I am not exactly English, but I regularly check
English on-line stores that ship to “Continental”
Europe. Here’s what I could put together in 5 minutes,
taking a “Value” no constraints approach:
- AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Venice 90nm (Socket 939) – Retail
- PowerColor ATI Radeon X800 GTO 128MB DDR TV-Out/DVI
(PCI-Express) – Retail
- Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 10 NCQ 80GB 6L080M0 SATA 8MB
- OcUK Value 512MB (2x256MB) PC3200 184pin DDR Memory
Dual Channel Kit
- Asus DVD-E616P1 16X DVD-ROM / 48X CD-ROM – Retail
- Asus A8N-E nForce4 Ultra (Socket 939) PCI-Express
- Optronix Midi Tower Case – 400w PSU
Missing is a monitor, shipping and Operating System… but hey,
it’s a good start in my opinion!
I started a thread HERE in Frontpage Discussions with a few suggestions for a build; however, they are largely based on second hand or refurbed bits.
Very tight budget to work on here – several months ago, I did a sytem for £650 where we were able to focus on just a box, so ended up with a A64 3500 and X800 XL, etc, but lets see how it goes:
- 16X LG DVD-ROM: £10.85
- Generic PS2 Scroll Mouse Black: £2.00
- AMD Sempron 3000 [1.8GHZ,754]R 64 Socket 754 64bit: *super special* £51.25
Asus K8V-MX 64 BIT, DDR400, COOL+QUIET, SATA RAID, 6 CH AUDIO, 10/100 LAN, 4 x USB, 3 x PCI: £31.50
- 17″ Hyundai Imagequest V773: £58.95
- Aria Value Beige MIDI 400W ATX: £17.00
- 80GB Maxtor DiamondMAX+10 133/7200 2MB Buffer *super special*: £29.95
- Arianet Lifetime 512MB PC3200 DDR Lifetime Warranty Retail Boxed *super special*: £25.40
- Aria Value Beige Multimedia KB PS2: £2.30
Depending on the reader’s preference of graphics card, the choice proved are:
- PNY Verto/GeForce 6600 8xAGP @ £70.29 inc vat
- PowerColor Radeon X700 256MB AGP @ £76.32
- Or a 9600pro 256MB RAM £51-£58, depending on make preference
Personally I would bite the bullet and go for the X700, but then all my systems go over budget ^^. One question I do have is an OS expected? That would mess this up a tad. All these prices are off Aria.co.uk. I think this is about as cheap a system I could do – hope this is of use.
That’s one heck of a challenge you’re posing.
This is the best that I could do for all new components with one of the major British online retailers Dabs.com – assuming that there is no need for keyboard, mouse or screen. If you could do without the Windows XP disk because you had a spare install disk, you could get much closer to the desired figure.
- Maxtor DiamondMax Plus9 80GB UDMA133 £29.00
quicklinx:24YHWS | Mfr#:6Y080L0
- Sony Floppy Disk Drive Silver £5.57
quicklinx:33PGWS | Mfr#:MPF920
- CLUB3D GeForce PCX6600GT 128MB PCI-E DVI-I VO £84.68
quicklinx:3VCXWS | Mfr#:CGNX-G668TVD
- Sony 16x DVD-ROM 40x CD-ROM OEM Silver £12.67
quicklinx:38DPWS | Mfr#:DDU-1615-SV
- Corsair Memory VS512MB400C3 PC3200 512MB CAS3 £24.94
quicklinx:33JJWS | Mfr#:VS512MB400C3
- Gigabyte nForce 4 S939 PCIE MATX Sata Raid 8CH Micro ATX £48.93
quicklinx:3XGSWS | Mfr#:GA K8NMF-9
- AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Socket 939 512KB Inc Fan £97.46
quicklinx:3P7BWS | Mfr#:ADA3200BPBOX
- DabsValue Midi Tower 400W Silent – Silver £21.69
quicklinx:39MTWS | Mfr#:8001B3
- Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 Single OEM £56.35
quicklinx:3TSQWS | Mfr#:N09-01528
The trouble is that, while you could drop the price by going for a Sempron, you sacrifice any chance of an upgrade path, as you are forced to Socket 754. I’d tend to start with a 6600 as the baseline for a modern gaming rig, but if you wanted to, you could squeeze the price further by going for a Connect 3D Radeon X300SE 128MB PCI-E DVI-I VO (quicklinx:39V4WS | Mfr#:3001), at £29, which would drop the total including VAT to £382.60 or thereabouts.
eBay.co.uk can be a source of cheap components; unfortunately, I find there can be quite a low signal to noise ratio.
There are always bargains to be found at computer fairs – the best organised and most reputable are to be found through Britishcomputerfairs.com.
Most kit sells in the UK for the same number of pounds that it sells for dollars in the US – £350 for a gaming PC is very ambitious! Probably more a case of “find-highstreet-offers” than DIY. That said, it’s probably just about possible:
- Boxed Sempron 2600+ S754: £45
- ECS S754 NF3 mobo: £32
- 512 MB Crucial Value DDR400: £28
- Pioneer DVR-110D DVD+RW: £29
- Maxtor DM10 80Gb SATA: £39
- Antec SLK1650 w/ 350W 12vATX PSU: £45
- PNY GF 6600GT AGP 128MB: £100
- Logitech Keyboard: £6
- Logitech MX-510: £29
Total: £353, including VAT but not delivery.
I got all the prices from ebuyer uk.. No speakers, monitor or floppy drive included. To squeeze those in, you’d have to get a cheaper GPU, and you can’t really call a PC with less than a 6600GT a “gaming PC” anymore, unless he only wants to play solitaire
I am responsible for buying hardware for Lionhead Studios, a UK based games developer (Black & White 2, TheMovies, Fable). My suggestions for a cheap gaming PC would be:
- Ebuyer Extra Value PC-326 (3 in 1) ATX Middle Tower Case/Wireless Keyboard + Mouse + 11-1 Card Reader in White/Gray with P4 350W PSU (No Power Cord)
- ECS K8 NVIDIA Socket 754 DDR400 AGP (P21110) NFORCE3-A ATX Retail Box
- AMD Sempron 3300+ (SDA3300BXBOX) 64Bit Architecture 2.0Ghz Skt 754 Boxed
- Viking 512mb DDR PC3200 400MHz 184pin Memory Module
- Western Digital WD800BB Caviar 80GB 7200RPM ATA/100 2MB Cache – OEM
- LG GDR-8164BB 16x52x DVD-ROM/CD-ROM COMBO Internal IDE (Beige) – OEM
- Gecube X800GTO 128MB 256 bit 400MHz TV DVI Silencool Uniwise fan AGP
Total: £338.47 – include VAT + p&p and you have £350 🙂
I deal with a few people in the UK at work and generally in the UK, you’ll pay £1 per $1 that we pay in the USA. I’ve saved some of the guys there considerable amounts of money by shipping from the US to the UK.
One wanted a Nikon SLR camera which he did his best to find for 1000UKP, I found the same on Newegg at the time for $999. At the time the exchange rate would have had him paying $1700 for the same item across the pond. Maybe they should look for people in the states that will ship to the UK. Probably cheaper, even with the shipping.
Thanks to all who took the time to help a mom’s a young English PC enthusiast!!