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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