Welcome to the Budget and the Beast, our new monthly column that lists the components for two different gaming PCs. Our Budget box is priced around the US$750 point (based on real e-tailer pricing), but is still powerful enough to deliver a rich PC gaming experience, albeit with a couple of minor compromises. The Beast is a slightly more expensive behemoth built for those who can’t live without every setting cranked to Ultra, but it’s not insanely expensive, at just US$1500. Let’s see what your hard earned can buy you in October 2011.

 

The Budget Box
CPU: Intel Core i5-2300 2.8GHz Quad Core
The basis of any good system is a good processor. This popular Intel CPU has enough power to keep things moving smoothly in even the most demanding games, while not breaking the budget.
Price: $179.99

CPU Cooler: Intel Retail Stock Cooler
Keeping your chip cool is of utmost importance. Considering we’re not overclocking our CPU, the stock “in the box” Intel CPU will do the job nicely.
Price: $0

Motherboard: ASRock P67 PRO3 SE
This sub-$100 motherboard offers all of the features we need for a good budget gaming rig without piling on features we don’t need. It has SATA 6Gb/s support as well as USB 3.0 for super speed data transfers. The Pro3 SE is geared toward gaming, thanks to the dual PCI Express x16 slots, perfect for upgrading to an SLI system in the future.
Price: $89.99

Graphics: ASUS GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II
Going big is the only way to succeed when choosing a video card for a gaming rig. The ASUS GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II offers outstanding performance, overclocking options and a top notch, quiet cooler to keep you in the zone.
Price: $244.99

RAM: Crucial Ballistix sport 4GB DDR3 1600
Four gigs is the minimum we’d expect in any gaming rig these days, and it’s hard to go past such a great price. These Crucial sticks aren’t just cheap, they’re also excellent quality and offer a little headroom for overclocking, if you’re that way inclined.
Price: $29.99

Storage: WD Caviar Blue 750GB SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
With enough capacity for even the most dedicated game collector, and certainly enough speed to cut down those loading screens, this drive offers enough dazzle to earn a spot in our budget gamer.
Price: $59.99

Optical Drive: LG CD/DVD Burner GH22NS70
Unfortunately we can’t do away with the DVD drive like we did the floppy… just yet. This burner is perfect for loading new games off disk (how archaic!) or backing up your game saves.
Price: $18.99

Power Supply: Cooler Master GX 450W
Skimping on your power supply is the worst possible decision when building a budget buster. There’s nothing more irritating than tracking down a power problem, so buy quality every time.
Price: $49.99

Case: Cooler Master CM Storm Enforcer
Beauty isn’t everything – but it counts. This case has enough room to keep all of the components cool and comfortable, while still looking great and offering room for expansion.
Price: $79.99

Total cost without accessories: $753.92

Accessories:
Keyboard: Microsoft SideWinder X4
The best gaming rig in the world is no good without some serious peripherals. This keyboard gives you all the functionality needed to be competitive. Can anyone say macros?
Price: $49.99

Mouse: Logitech G500
With a gaming grade laser and more buttons than you have fingers, the G500 is a huge step up from your average twin-button desk surfer.
Price: $59.99

Monitor: Acer B223WGJbmdr 22in LCD Monitor
It’s not the fanciest monitor out there, but this 5ms screen is fast enough for gamers, and the fully adjustable stand means you can be comfortable for gaming marathons.
Price: $169.99

Total price including accessories: $1033.89

The Beast
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K
This CPU might not be the fastest off the shelf but it represents great value for money if you don’t mind a bit of easy peasy overclocking (we’ll have a guide on how to do this in the coming months), where it’ll easily hit 4.5GHz, faster than Intel’s $1000 CPUs. Squeeze more speed out of this sucker and watch your framerates fly.
Price: $219.99

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master V10
This is the key to bringing the Core i5-2500K to life. It’s a thermo-electric cooler that actively gets colder to keep the CPU cool even under intense enemy fire. Just like water cooling, minus the hassle.
Price: $129.99

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD
This board is a weird one, but a boon for gamers. The motherboard has a built in 20GB solid state hard drive, which is used to boost the performance of your normal hard drive, while letting you get away with not having to buy an expensive SSD!
Price: $239.99

Graphics: ASUS MATRIX GTX580
If you though the GTX580 was a fast GPU, then you’re in for a surprise. This card is built for speed, with overclocking software built in to the firmware, along with card mounted voltage control and a top end cooler. Normal 580s are fast, this one is stupid speedy.
Price: $529.99

RAM: G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2x4GB) 1866 PC314900
With an overclock friendly CPU, there’s no point in skimping on the memory if you want an extra boost. These high quality DIMMS from G.Skill give you that extra bit of headroom. If you want to go truly overboard, pick up two kits for a total of 16GB.
Price: $69.99

Storage: WD Caviar Blue 750GB SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive
It may seem strange we’re not recommending a performance SSD here, but the motherboard picks up the slack from this spinning disk. Remember, SSDs rarely give you a single frame more once you’re in-game.
Price: $59.99

Optical Drive: LG CD/DVD Burner GH22NS70
Unfortunately we can’t do away with the DVD drive like we did the floppy… just yet. This burner is perfect for loading new games off disk or backing up your important files (save games).
Price: $18.99

Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro 700W
Powering this system requires some serious oomph. The cooler and graphics cards especially use a lot of juice, so keeping them happily supplied requires a quality PSU.
Price: $119.99

Case: Cooler Master HAF X
Go big or go home. This huge case has all the top features you’d expect from the Beast. Multiple fans, huge cooling potential, USB 3.0 front panel support and enough expansion space to house a family of raccoons.
Price: $189.99

Total cost without accessories: $1578.91

Accessories: Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Ultimate USB
Mechanical keyboards are as good as it gets for gamers. Sure, they’re loud, but they’re also precise, comfortable and seriously hard to damage.
Price: $119.99

Mouse: Razer Lachesis 5600
This is a love it or hate it mouse for a lot of people. The unique design means it’s very comfortable for long gaming sessions, and the 5600dpi resolution makes it well equipped for the perfect headshot.
Price: $69.99

Monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24in LCD Monitor
We’re going to get a lot of talk about this choice. This monitor uses an IPS panel (in plane switching), which means it’s got amazing color reproduction and wide angled viewing, but it’s a little slower to refresh. We think it’s worth it, as it’s an amazing screen and we didn’t notice any ghosting when testing it.
Price: $349

Total including accessories: $2117.89