at 475 bucks, this looks like a decent build. unfortunately, it seems to perform pretty poorly for most games (under 40FPS, is unacceptable in my opinion), especially when set below max and without AA. For the price, a PS3 or 360 still takes the cake. If you wanna game properly on a PC, you're gonna have to take the hit and spend twice the amount of money. On the upside, a PC does more than play games and movies.
Valve might be taking its sweet time building a Steam Box, but Mark finds that you can build your own living-room gaming rig for a mere £300.
A few months ago, rumours suggested that Valve--makers of Half-Life and the Steam download service--was about to enter the hardware market with its own PC-based console. It was said that Valve's "Steam Box" would include an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU, which would make for one hell of a gaming rig, but not exactly an affordable one. Even at the most optimistic of component prices, such a system approaches the £600 ($946) mark, making the PlayStation 3's £425 ($600) launch price look a bargain. Valve could potentially soak up some of that cost for a more appealing RRP, but there are limits.
That got us thinking: with all the fantastic games available exclusively on PC right now like Diablo III, Starcraft, Counter Strike, DoTA, and Guild Wars II, why wait around for Valve to release something? What if it were possible to build your own gaming rig, powerful enough to run those games, but at a price comparable to that of a games console? With that in mind, we set about trying to build such a rig for the princely sum of £300 ($474), and discovered that it isn't the fevered dream of a cash-strapped console gamer, but an entirely realistic proposition.
To build the Steam Box we had to lay down some ground rules, most importantly of all, the budget of £300. It's a price that compares favourably to the launch/mid-lifecycle price of a games console, and is well within the reach of the average gamer--any higher and it wouldn't have the same kind of mass-market appeal. Secondly, we had to decide what we didn't need: a display, keyboard and mouse, or even a controller was out of the question at such a price. But with the box intended for life in the living room attached to a TV, and given the sheer number of old keyboards, mice, and game controllers (the Bluetooth based-based PS3 controllers and wired Xbox 360 controllers work a treat on PC) knocking about in most living rooms, we figured it was no great loss.
An optical drive, while not the priciest of components, wasn't a necessity either. This is, after all, a Steam Box, and the vast majority of games would be obtained via download. What we were left with were the necessities: a case, motherboard, CPU, PSU, RAM, hard drive and a graphics card.
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 - £29.98
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D2V Gen 3 Micro ATX - £39.13
CPU: Intel Pentium G840 Dual Core - £55.01
GPU: Zotac Nvidia GT 640 2GB - £75.17
RAM: Corsair XMS3 4GB DDR3 1333 Mhz CAS 9 - £17.28
Hard Disk: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.D 500GB - £49.07
PSU: Powercool PSUPC450AUBAM 450W Modular - £31.90
That gives us a total spend of £297.54, which is just under our target price. It's worth bearing in mind that prices on components can fluctuate dramatically, so while these prices are accurate at the time of publication, you may find they've gone up, or indeed down by the time you get around to buying them.
It should also be noted that you'll need an OS--namely, Windows. A retail box of Windows 7 costs around £70, but there are deals around (particularly if you're a student) that makes it cheaper. There's also the Family Pack upgrade for Windows 7, which lets you install it on up to three computers. Or, if you already have Windows on an old PC, you can move the licence to your new one without issue.
So the ultimate gaming machine is PC? Gotta agree on you that, I chose recently PC Gaming because i had the choice to do anything i can plug in my X360 Pad any time and Play FIFA or just pick up my Wireless Mouse and KB and play BF3, Its all about choice.
This is the one of many advantage in PC gaming - building a machine that suits not only your gaming desire but also your pocket. it's true that pc gaming is relatively more expensive than console gaming but that's because the pc gaming age stretch longer. it's more likely for console to release a new gen in a short time. in contrary you still can play few recent games with a 4-6 year old pc. i myself still use my 2008 rig with phenom2 x4, GTS 250 and a couple of budget RAM and manage to run Sleeping Dogs, Skyrim, Hawken awesomely.
and if you think your rig doesn't have enough juice, you can just upgrade a few part rather than buy a whole package.
in the end, regardless intel or amd, pc gaming will last longer than console gaming but, it also comes with a price.
@alvizzei I do not know, I think your view is a little more simplified then you might think.
PC gaming has its hurdles - tech, knowledge base, cost, and very focused gaming. And alot more disadvantages with pc gaming. I feel it will always be a small market of those with the education, money, or geekness that will truly be able to take advantage of pc gaming. Mean while the masses will have to use something less tech.
I mean - okay take a look outside your home for 5 miles - up and down. Now think of all those people (young and old ) who of those do you think could buy, build, maintain, tweek, use steam, connect controllers, patch, run emulators, and then upgrade a pc like yourself could. How many of the masses would have the skill to consistently use a pc to game on (families included). Okay look up and down the street or road, how many can buy a console stick a disc in and play? (then probably throw a wii remote into the tv).
And I disagree with a pc rig longevity, If a hardcore gamer has a pc gaming rig that can play the lastest games - they will always be tweaking and upgrading every couple of years. Consoles are sold at a loss and then just keep getting lower. PC rigs start at a high cost - while they should be able to last - most will not quit opening that case door.
Next-Gen consoles did arrive in 2012 after all ;-)
Could be a nice alternative for a console-gamer-because-of-budget-restriction like me, I'll give it a nights sleep!
Hi all, I've made a quick tutorial on Youtube on how to set up a SteamBox, software-wise, so you dont have to use anything but your controller from boot to in-game. Please head over and check it out, leave comments n'stuff :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MXMR29bDudk
Just a question; is this motherboard up to scratch? planning out a rig based on this but with more money spent on CPU and GPU, so far I'm looking at;
CPU: Intel i5 2500
GPU: an hd 7850 (as mentioned by chaos_power)
RAM: G.Skill F3 -12800CL9T-6GBNQ 6gb
Gonna need an HDMI port, and still figuring out a PSU...
Any help would be hugely appreciated without diving into the forums...
Building a £300 is a waste of money. I do realize the idea here was to build the best pc you can for as little money as you can. But all you're doing is basically building a new computer that will perform no better than a 4 year old gaming computer...
for £200 more you'll be able to build a gaming pc that will last you for years to come.
The g840, although it can be said that it is close in performance to the i3, the gap in perfromance between it and the i3 compared to gap between the i3 and the i5, is much larger, and therefore it justifies buying the I3. An Ivy bridge i3 3220 will cost you £40 pounds more than a g840 and will provide much better performance.
The hd 7850 is now offered for a great price and it performs in some games up to x4 times better than the GT640. It's a great card that can now be found for about £140, only £65 more than the GT640 and it performs similar to how former £400 cards like the GTX 580 performed. Add an H77 motherboard that natively supports Ivy bridge, and a better PSU to support the HD7850, and you got yourself a computer that will perform admirably for years to come for just £200 more than the one offered in this article.
One thing this article didn't mention is that even the cheapest of PCs can easily, conveniently, attractively, compactly and QUIETLY replace every other piece of equipment in your home entertainment system. My $800, nine-month-old desktop is currently the only thing hooked up to the HDTV and speakers in my living room, because adding a DVR or BluRay player would be redundant and I can't stand consoles anymore. In comparison to my PC, their graphics look like week-old manure and their cooling fans sound like freaking jet engines.
@jerrycrazywheel GPU stands for "graphics processing unit." Some CPUs have GPUs integrated into them, but "discrete" GPUs (add-on cards like the GeForce in this "Steam Box") can be much more powerful.
Why not use an AMD Phenom II Quad-core? that isn't very expensive and a lot faster than that intel processor they put into this.
@MrOnage AMD process burn out fast.
@jerrycrazywheel @MrOnage Sorry, but that is pure ignorance. AMD's processors are just as durable as Intel's. I've had several of them in my machines over the last decade, and had zero problem with them. Whether you buy AMD or Intel, your processor will probably be running long after you've upgraded.
Sorry Jerry, he's right. Have you ever owned an AMD product? I've been building PC's for about 12 years, and I base them on AMD components 90% of the time because AMD products are 300% cheaper and perfectly reliable. Intel CPU's might perform better across the board, but the jump in performance still isn't worth the price tag. My newest AMD budget machine runs current games on ultra dx11 graphics at about 50 fps. Why would I spend more? Just like PutU2REM said, it doesn't matter what you buy, you'll be upgrading long before the thing burns out.
Now, if you had said "AMD CPU's burn out fast [when you overclock them too much with no cooling and don't know what you're doing]" that would have a been a true statement I could get behind.
You don't have to reply to me because i didn't say anything negative about AMD.
Has nice a system it seems. But why intel ? What of the AMDs APU that would save from using the grapgics card.
@cras5 Don't make me laugh, the AMD APU's are crap compared to dedicated cards.
the problem is what you call cheap in usa or europe may be a 3 monthes of hard work salary in egypt even for an engineer ......... egypt s*ks in prices
Even within the budget, better cards can be had.
Yeah, I know: The point of the article is to show what kind of performance can be had with third-string (albeit modern) components and two month's worth of saved lunch money. The results are glorious when one realizes this set up delivers similar performance 2006's top-of-the-line stuff with roughly one tenth of the cost and a quarter of the power usage.
GTX 460's are as common as cold sores on Craigslist and are routinely $50 to $60. 6870's show up less frequently, but the one or two a week I do see are sinking to a sub-$100, asking price.
As a recent PC convert, I still love my consoles for exclusives, but I've certainly seen the light. Ardent consolites should take heed when reading articles like these. The price of entry is lower than ever and the rewards far outstrip any minor technical headaches.
Very good points. I've been a PC plus console gamer for a long time now, and have been recently trying to make the argument that you can get a good PC gaming setup for about the same price as a good console setup. Unless you're okay with playing consoles on a tiny standard definition TV, you're going to spend about the price of a good computer on just your TV.
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This is all well and good, but I would bet my last dollar that the £300 machine they built themselves won't last the same as a console life cycle... if you take a shorter cycle expected of 6-7 years, there is no WAY that six years down the line, that £300 PC will be capable of playing recently released games.
The bottom line is - PC gaming IS awesome. But it also IS expensive VS console gaming, even if you try your best to be frugal.
Not all PC games are Crysis or BF3. There is an ocean of new and old games that can play on very dated hardware. Nice try, though.
@SicklySunStorm Huh? It's not a fair comparison.
Recently released PC games are hard to play for old PCs because the games have made such huge leaps in graphical power over the course of 6 years. Console games have some graphical power growth but not that much... 6 years pass, the tech is still the same in the 360, of course.
It's like you're saying that when a person buys a PS2, and they want to play PS3 games, they should be able to play it on a PS2 still.
@Charliesix No, you're missing my point entirely. The point of this article was to demonstrate to those that think building a gaming PC is too prohibitive cost wise, that they CAN build one for about the same money as a console.
So the article demonstrates that it can be done, and what I was pointing out was, yes, you can build a £300 gaming PC and it will run the current games for you, whereas if you spent £300 on a console, then assuming the console was at the start of it's life, you would get your 6-7 years out of the console for your £300, whereas your £300 PC will last NOWHERE near as long as 6-7 years. THAT'S what I was pointing out.
No matter how you cut it, PC gaming is considerably more expensive than console gaming overall, even if you try to be frugal and get just OK parts.
I game on PC, consoles, everything, so i'm not being biased to one or the other, just pointing out facts.
@SicklySunStorm Can't say I fully agree with you. First of all, CONSOLES don't even last a console life cycle, so that argument is moot. Ask any console gamer how many X360's or PS3's they've been through since it released. 90% of them will tell you they've had to replace it at least once in this cycle.
Next, the argument of PC gaming being more expensive is getting weaker by the minute. The price of quality PC components is dropping so that the entry point is much lower. Meanwhile, HDTV prices are still rising as 3d Technology fleshes out.
Just like I said in a previous comment "Unless you're okay with playing consoles on a tiny standard definition TV, you're going to spend about the price of a good computer on just your TV."
I'm like you, I have a gaming PC, XBOX360, and a PS3, so I don't speak out of bias. If I add up the worth of my components, my console setups are actually WAY more expensive than my PC setup just because of the screen! My fault for having a $2,000 TV, but you get the point.
Some might say "well that doesn't count because the TV can serve multiple purposes!" By that logic, a PC is still more worth the price because you can do WAY more with a $2,000 computer than you can do with a $2,000 TV. You can even "watch TV" with it.
Regardless of whether Steam manages to make their Box, the price argument is over. I think we're about to move into a very level and tumultuous period of the gaming market. The next console cycle could be VERY interesting. Regardless, I thinlk gamers are going to reap the benefits of a healthy and competitive market.
all i can say is this is a low end end class computer, you can get it in many computer shop these days. and btw, Onboard sound isn't interest enough and you didn't even add a speaker. I guess we don't need music and sound from the game. Finally, the pricelist of 300Euro is not worth it.
@Totoran bro you are aware that graphics cards can play audio through hdmi ports right? similar to a console thus eliminating the need for even Onboard audio plugs.
@Totoran The only thing I'll add to what everybody else has beat into your head, is that you will NEVER be able to get the same value from a computer shop that you can get from building it yourself. Computer shops have this little thing called "profit" that they are obligated to pursue.
@Totoran nowadays sound cards are just necesary if you work with sound. Even low end mo-bos bring pretty good internal audio chips.
@Totoran You stick the audio jacks into the TV, lol. Consoles don't come with speakers either. And for the same specs we're talking £450+ in a PC shop..
@Totoran I've been a PC enthusiast for around 12 years. I haven't bought a sound card in around the last 8 years. If you buy a decent motherboard at the start, on-board sound will be perfectly fine.
@Totoran Onborad is fine for most people.
If you get the article's computer, make sure you get a monitor that has a native resolution around the 720p mark. I have a 1080p native monitor and all 720p gaming looks terrible on it. My PC is only able to play games comfortably at 720p unfortunately :(