Here’s the deal:
In this article, I’ll be teaching you how to build a dirt cheap gaming PC in 2018 with the Broke Boy Method.
Just how cheap is dirt cheap?
Well, this PC is only going to cost you a mere $300, and you’ll be able to game in 1080p with high settings and respectable framerates!
Evidently, building a capable gaming PC for just $300 is no easy feat – that’s why I asked 5 experts in the PC gaming community for their advice.
Now, I’m not saying this PC is going to be rocking an overclocked Intel Core i7 CPU with 32GB of RAM and two Titans running in SLI for just $300. However, you’ll have a capable gaming PC that is able to run new titles in 1080p with playable framerates. You won’t have any issues with games like GTA V, Battlefield, PUBG, Fortnite, Rust, COD, CS:GO, etc.
So, if you want to learn how to make the most out of your PC gaming buck, keep reading!
Chapter 1: How to Maximize Your Money
PC gaming has become increasingly popular – I receive questions every day from people who’d like to build a gaming PC, but they don’t know where to start. Building a computer can be daunting, especially if it is your first time.
Firstly, you have to learn about PC components, and there’s a lot to learn. Different CPUs and socket types, motherboards and form factors, RAM speeds, GPUs, cases, power supplies – you get the idea.
Now I want you to forget about all of that. That’s right, forget about it. The Broke Boy Method is simple, and you won’t be needing any excess information.
Here’s what you need to know:
When it comes to building a gaming PC, the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is the most important component. As their name implies, GPUs are tasked with handling graphics and 3D rendering. If you have a worthy graphics card, you’re off to a good start.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a good processor for gaming. I’m not saying you’ll be gaming in 1080p with a Pentium processor – what I’m saying is, your processor just has to be good enough, not amazing and insanely expensive.
Actually, if you’re on such a tight budget, your entire PC (besides the GPU) just has to be ‘good enough’. As long as your processor doesn’t bottleneck your GPU, you don’t have to buy an expensive Intel i5 or i7 CPU.
In the video below, several different games were played using the Intel i3 8100 and the Intel i5 8400, both coupled with the GTX 1060. As you can see in the video, despite the Intel i5 8400 being a superior CPU and significantly more expensive, the difference in performance was miniscule:
Your CPU just has to be fast enough to keep up with the GPU, which usually means you can get away with a cheaper, older CPU. In fact, you can usually get away with a cheaper and older PC. As long as your GPU is up to par, you’re good to go.
Again, this isn’t necessarily the case if you want to game in 1440p with max settings. On the other hand, if you want to play in 1080p on an incredibly tight budget, you can easily build a gaming PC for less than $300 using the Broke Boy Method.
What’s the main takeaway here?
Focus on the GPU, save elsewhere.
Chapter 2: Expert Advice
I asked experts in the PC gaming industry for their number one tip to avoid overspending on your first gaming PC! Here’s what they had to say:
Branton, Founder of PC Game Haven:
The best way to avoid overspending on PC hardware is to have a plan based on research. You wouldn’t buy a house, a car, or even a TV without a bit of research and planning beforehand, so the same should be said for computer hardware!
Before you buy anything, you should gather a basic understanding of the parts used to build a PC. That includes the various tiers, recent generations, and even compatibility concerns. You don’t have to become a master, but you should know what each part does, how it could impact overall performance, and what its compatible with at the very least.
Once that’s out of the way, you’ll be much better equipped to avoid overspending. Whether you’re building a new computer or just upgrading a single component, you should always have a plan in place. This is when you want to be looking at benchmarks, reviews, and comparisons; it’s also when a basic understanding of generations, tiers, and compatibility comes in handy. Forming a plan means either determining what a good upgrade path would be, or what the best price vs performance build would be.
If you can form a plan based on effective research, you’ll probably never have to worry about overspending.
Alan Bradley, Games Journalist for Rolling Stone:
My top tip for building a new PC, for first-timers or for veterans, is research, research, research. It may sound time-consuming or intimidating if you’re first starting out, but once you’ve gotten a handle on some of the basic technical terms it’s much less work than you think, and proper preparation can actually save you time (and a lot of money) in the long run.
Use a good parts picker website, read reviews and recommendations online, and always make sure the parts you’re buying are compatible with one another and will fit in the case you’ve chosen. When I first started building PCs years ago I was in such a rush (and didn’t have access to all the internet resources available now) that I ended up returning, or even worse damaging, a bunch of parts in my ignorance. Learn from my mistakes and do your homework — you’ll thank me later!
Katharine Castle, Hardware Editor for Rock Paper Shotgun:
For gaming PCs, the resolution of your monitor is the single most important thing in helping you decide what other components need to go in your system. If you’re buying a 1920x1080 monitor, for example, then you don’t need a wildly expensive graphics card that’s intended for 2560x1440 or 4K resolutions. Everything else falls into place from there.
You also don’t need a super powerful CPU for gaming at 1080p - an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 is more than enough for the job. Just make sure that whatever CPU you do end up getting is compatible with your motherboard and CPU cooler (some CPUs come with one in the box), as you don’t want to buy the wrong type and put yourself out of pocket or delay your PC building any further. Otherwise, storage and RAM are all much of a muchness these days when it comes to speed, so just get whatever’s cheapest and it will do you just fine.
Matthew Hanson, TechRadar Computing Editor:
I think the best thing is to think carefully about what you want f rom your PC and set a budget. From there you can start planning a PC that doesn’t go over budget, but won’t let you down either.
What’s the main takeaway here?
Conduct thorough research prior to purchasing components, keep your intended gaming resolution in mind, and don’t overspend on unnecessary components like the CPU or RAM!
Chapter 3: The Broke Boy Method
Now that you know the GPU is the most important component, it’s time to introduce The Broke Boy method. After just three easy steps, you’ll have yourself a gaming PC capable of 1080p gaming with 60+ FPS!
You’ll see benchmarks later to prove my point!
Step 1: Find an old desktop for sale on eBay
The first step to building a dirt cheap gaming PC is finding an old desktop on eBay.
You’re going to have to filter through lots of desktops. This may take some time. Using eBay filters is a great way to speed up this process.
Try to find a desktop with at least 8GB of RAM and a 500GB, 7200RPM hard drive. Most of the time, the PC you purchase will already come with Windows which is going to save you more money.
You’re also going to want to make sure the processor is adequate. Just because you don’t need an expensive CPU, doesn’t mean you can get away with an Intel Core Duo or Penitum. Look for an older generation i5, if possible. 3rd generation i5 CPUs seem to be common.
After 10 minutes or so of browsing eBay listings, I found this PC for sale.
The PC is listed for $135 which is great price considering what’s inside.
Make sure the PC doesn’t have anything wrong with it, and check out the specs of the PC.
This HP 8300 Elite PC has:
- Intel Core i5-3570 Quad Core Processor (3.4 GHz)
- 8GB of DDR3 Ram
- 500GB Hard Drive
These are the main specifications that you have to look out for, because they’re going to have the most significant impact on gaming performance. It’s important to keep in mind that, these three components aside, you’re also getting a useable power supply and motherboard.
Step 2: Buy a GPU
We’ve purchased a desktop with adequate specs, but we’re missing the GPU. You can search for GPUs on eBay. On an ultra-cheap budget like this, I’d recommend buying a used GTX 1060 on eBay.
As you can see, I managed to find a used GTX 1060 3GB on eBay for $150. That’s pretty darn good! This GPU is more than capable of gaming in 1080p with medium-ultra settings (depending on the game). This GPU usually retails for around $200, but if you’re lucky you can find it on sale or used for a lower price.
Let’s do the math here:
You’re paying $135 for a processor, motherboard, power supply, ram, and hard drive. The GPU is an additional $150, for a grand total of $285. For less than $300, you have yourself a PC capable of 1080p gaming with Windows included. It’s also important to note that this PC is not just a gaming PC, but a PC in general! This means you can use it to surf the web, edit videos, watch movies, etc.
Step 3: Buy a Case (Optional)
Depending on the desktop you purchase on eBay, it may be wise to purchase an ATX mid-tower case. You can buy a small ATX case, or a large ATX case – it really comes down to your own budget and preference.
I decided to buy an extra case for this PC because the case that the original desktop comes is too small to fit the GPU. Moreover, it doesn’t look visually pleasing either.
After a few minutes of browsing eBay listings, I found this case:
It has several case fans with RGB LEDs included and a nice side panel window. It has a spacious interior to promote airflow and it can accomodate the GPU. Best of all? It’s only $30!
If your old desktop has a case that’s big enough for your GPU, there’s really no need to upgrade your case. In my scenario, I had to. Otherwise, my GPU wouldn’t fit inside. This means you’ll have to open up the desktop you purchase from eBay, remove the components, and install them in your new case. Luckily, this process is pretty easy, and it can be done quickly.