Can a Forty Dollar Bust become a great gaming PC

How did we get here?

In recent weeks I purchased a forty dollar, non-working PC from eBay, then cleaned it up and fixed it. That was actually the easy part. The more difficult part is to see if that can’t become a budget gaming pc. It is a sixth generation i5 6500 with four cores and four threads, which is solid, but the case doesn’t leave room for a graphics card. It also has a low wattage power supply, so the graphics solution has to be efficient.

A low power, low profile card is the best choice, but that leaves us only a few options. Low profile cards are expensive even if they are older and not great. Cards with no external power also retain their value, and getting one with good performance is a challenge. We do get left with a few choices, but some are better than others for our use case.

Nvidia makes a great option with the RTX A2000. It’s not actually a mainstream gaming card, but it’s power efficient and low profile. The pairing of that and the i5 6500 is a bit unbalanced, but definitely a gaming PC. The problem? It cost 150% more than the budget for this project. At three hundred to three hundred fifty dollars, it’s just not a good choice.

Likewise, with the older GTX 1050 low profile. Believe it or not, this card, though older, still goes sometimes for around two hundred fifty dollars. Yes, you read that right, 250. It’s not because it’s an outstanding product, (though it is solid), it’s because it is a product that remains in demand. To go cheaper in this generation of graphics cards, you have to settle for a GT1030.

Isn’t there anything cheaper?

As mentioned a moment ago, you can go with a GT1030, but that also has problems, and a twist. The 1030 comes with half of the memory of the 1050 models AND there are two different models, one with DDR4 instead of DDR5 memory. This combination actually makes it worse than integrated graphics on more modern CPUs. Yes, worse.

AMD does have a pair of options in a similar price range (less than $80). The RX550 and RX560 can be found very reasonably, but they suffer from the same problem the GT1030 does. They lack memory and they just aren’t high performers, at all. They are usually a bit easier to find, though, with the RX550 still available brand new.

There isn’t going to be a forty dollar graphics card to match with the deal found on the PC. One of the main reasons is that it is much easier to diagnose a PC with a set of pictures and tell what doesn’t work than its components. At best, you may be able to find something described as ‘running hot’ and take a chance on replacing thermal paste. With a PC, if they post pictures, there are things to look for that give an indication of the problem may be.

What about my forty dollar investment?

It’s in great shape. It may be a slim line PC, but there is at least one option to keep the total investment under two bills. The AMD RX6400 low profile has entered the chat.

Originally sold for around two hundred fifty dollars, the same price as the Arc A750, this card has come down and can be found used for about one thirty. It sells for a bit more brand new, but we are on a budget, here. A budget that sees us spend twenty bucks for a 256 GB SSD and twelve dollars for another stick of memory. That gives us a total of two hundred, two dollars. The price is slightly more using a site for a discount windows key, but sacrificing the additional 8GB of memory keeps the price at 200.

How does it perform, though? Actually, quite well, for what it is. Or, more accurately, what it was, broken. Benchmarks will be in the YouTube video coming up, but 60 fames per second can be hit in many triple A titles at 1080p. One issue is that the PCI bus speed is 3.0 instead of 4.0 . That’s important because the card uses the same number of lanes as an NVMe drive. Most cards use sixteen lanes instead of the four that the RX6400 has. It is an impact to performance, but it still outperforms other options. That means on a newer platform, performance is better. Still, we are on a budget.

So, can you build a gaming PC for two hundred dollars? Yes. Will it be enough to rival spending only one hundred more? That will be the next subject. Next we look at a two hundred dollar build versus a three hundred dollar. Come back soon to find out.

The video for this is live here.

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Make The Most Of 40 Bucks: Waste Or Treasure?

How did we get here?

How do you spend 40 bucks? Gas, a meal out? The water bill? If you are lucky enough, you may be able to find a broken PC on eBay. Or, a non-working PC that isn’t broken. Technically, the listing was non-working, for parts, final sale, so I took a chance.

This started when I was looking for an ultra cheap alternative to building a PC and ended up with a server and a 300 budget PC, both. I decided to build the cheapest full system I could, and ended up scoring free accessories. A keyboard and monitor came from a corporate IT department, so I set my sights on the PC.

My goal was to find a non working prebuilt with an identifiable issue. After a bit of digging, I found one. For sale on eBay, a 5040MT Dell Optiplex, non-working, for parts. The pics showed a missing HDD or SSD, and a decent i5 with memory, so for 46 dollars, including the tax, I bought it. It even came with free shipping. Deal.

40 bucks Non-working, no returns

I was sure I knew what the problem was and it would be an easy fix. SSD’s are cheap, with a 500Gb going for around twenty eight dollars. A have a mouse and free accessories, so if the SSD worked, it would mean I now had a working computer, although a filthy one, for about 80. After a clean up, it will handle most tasks well, but I want more.

I have to admit, this PC, though non-working, came well packed like a new unit. Both happy and surprised, I have set to work cleaning it up and will test the ‘base’ model when that’s done. The video for the PC itself is here, but that’s not where it ends. This needs to be an ultra budget gamer; this is just the start.

The next part will be finding a video card that fits in the slim case and more memory. A few non traditional upgrades, and this thing will have a whole new life playing games. It may also see a renewed life as an office PC, but a month ago it was trash. Not a bad turn for the old Optiplex.

So, What’s next?

I will finish a good cleaning, and testing, then put the extra memory and SSD in with a fresh install of windows. I have two choices of video cards that fit, so I will try them both. Then I will test it against the $300 budget build that I didn’t get a chance to write about, so I will cover that in the next blog. It promises to be fun.

After that, I’m not sure. New homes are an option, or I can sell it to a small business on a budget. I almost always have at least one office computer around just for that reason. Come to think of it, I almost always have at least one spare older laptop. There’s a video in there somewhere. Later, but not too much later.

With care and a good eye, you can find a great deal that most people will miss. Getting the free accessories from the IT department was as easy as asking. The accessories came from the e-waste stack, and have a new home and even the monitor is a great find at 24 inches with a built in webcam. All because I asked for an older keyboard. You just never know. Now, I have to get back to cleaning this thing. It was a good 40 bucks.

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