How old does a budget PC have to be?

How did we get here?

The term budget PC can actually be a bit misleading. It’s very possible to have an extremely high budget, where financial constraints don’t matter, but most of us think of budget as spending less money. Budgets are typically associated with financial management, and living within your means. Corporations and Governments also have to adhere to budgets, though the latter doesn’t seem to think they have to. (Different subject, altogether).

If you are a PC enthusiast at all, you are typically trying to get the best performance for the lowest price. This may come in the form of buying a part used, or in some cases, refurbished. It may also come in the form of buying a less expensive part, seeking to upgrade later. This works well for newer parts, but it becomes more difficult with older ones. But what if your PC has a mix of both?

Can a new graphics card do well with an older processor. Is it even practical? In some cases, yes. Pairing a newer RX 6400 graphics card with a sixth generation Intel i5 in a PC sold as ‘broken or parts only’ is an example. I planned to put a mid tier graphics card in it, but the case was small, and I needed a low profile option. Older low profile cards just don’t do the trick, but I took the risk and was able to fix it. With a graphics card and a few other things, we had a two hundred dollars gaming PC. I used both newer and older parts.

Well, there’s your answer. New and Old.

Well, yes and no. Obviously mixing the age of components isn’t our only option. Using a different case, allows for a better graphics card and for a bit more, we can have a better PC. Our challenge there is to have the money we spend, show in the performance. Does going from spending two hundred to three, give us at least fifty percent better gaming? Chances are that it won’t.

Now, in most cases, one of the easiest upgrades will be to use a solid state drive instead of the hard disk drive, so yes we are mixing old and new. The memory modules can be new, but built on the older technology, reliable, but for this argument, old. There is also an influx of remanufactured older technology emerge in graphics cards and motherboards. That’s a harder one to call, but I have to group that with the memory, old.

What about our budget PC?

It actually gets more complicated. Some newer platform parts are available for the same prices as newer remanufactured ones. Both Intel and AMD have options for CPUs and motherboards for a hundred USD or less, each. That makes the core of the platform not too much more expensive than older systems, with better performance. So, maybe the way to go is new parts.

The honest truth is, older parts don’t give much of an upgrade path, but finding an old workstation or a PC that is ‘broken or parts only’, could be a great find, if you are careful. In my case, I saw a few things in the photos that helped me diagnose the issue before I bought it, and a twenty dollar SSD made my starting price 60 USD. If the case were bigger, the whole gaming PC could have been less than 175 USD, and done quite well. The only problem I have now is what to do with it.

I am finding the more I buy to tinker with, the less shelf room I have. I don’t seem to sell them as quickly as I buy, test and shelve them. Maybe that’s a different blog. We are getting to a point where PCs from even a few years ago, though, might outlive their operating systems, presenting a different problem. These systems are still solid and can perform well. I guess to answer this question, we may have to wait to see how long the software itself is supported.

The video that prompted all of this is here, but here are others and I will have to make a playlist.

There is also more written on the 40 dollar PC here.