Building a Computer for Esports for $250


by in General | Dec, 2nd 2018

Just a year or two ago, you could build a $250 PC, but it would mainly serve as an office machine. Playing games on such a configuration would be downright impossible. But, in 2017, AMD had a huge breakthrough on the CPU market with their Ryzen series of processors.

They started offering exceptional performance for a fraction of the price Intel was asking for. The CPU market changed completely, and AMD didn’t stop there. For years, the only viable option for integrated graphics were the ones from Intel. They got the job done; in fact, they’re still found in most of today’s ultra-light and portable laptops, but they were never strong enough for some light gaming.

AMD, on the other hand, announced their Vega integrated graphics alongside Ryzen, but no one really thought they would revolutionize the integrated graphics market — at least not to this degree.

Even the basic Vega 3 integrated GPU wipes the floor with Intel’s best offering, which would be the UHD 630. It’s still not the best integrated graphics to go for overall, but it’ll get the job done, especially if you’re not particularly keen on playing at the highest possible settings…or selling a kidney to finance a full-fledged high-end GPU.

We’ve reached a fascinating point in time where the price of almost all important components hit their lowest point in years. Ryzen processors have been declining in price (but not in performance) since launch, and RAM memory finally hit an acceptable price point.

One of the best aspects of this ultra-low-budget build is the fact that you’re not buying a dedicated GPU, and while that will affect your performance, it’ll also cut down the price of the overall build by a considerable margin.

This is the perfect build if you want to buy a solid foundation from which to build upon in the future. This is the build if you want to scratch that gaming itch and you don’t mind playing on medium/low settings as long as you get a solid frame rate. Or perhaps you want to build a PC for your kid and don’t want to spend a small fortune.

We’ve reached a point where you can spend a somewhat trivial amount of money and build a PC that can run today’s most popular titles. So, without further ado, let’s focus on the ultra-budget-friendly $250 PC!

Breaking down the Configuration

With this build, you’re literally getting everything you need to start playing. Assuming you have the operating system, that is. First of all, this isn’t your typical gaming machine, far from it.

You’re getting a fairly low-end CPU, a solid mid-tier motherboard, some good, fast DDR4 RAM that you won’t have to upgrade in the foreseeable future, a great SSD, and a sufficient power supply along with a solid enclosure.

In a way, feels surreal just how much you’re getting out of a $250 PC. While this isn’t a beastly machine, you’re getting a device that’s upgradeable and has more than enough power if you’re looking to play esport titles.

So what’s our CPU? We’re going with the latest AMD Athlon 200GE. From the moment it was released, this baby was praised for its overall value, although many reviewers found it a bit on the weaker side. That’s pretty much expected when you’re getting a CPU for less than $60, but make no mistake — this is a very adequate processor. It’s not going to be mind-blowing, but it doesn’t have to be.

It just has to get the job done, run a couple of games, and be good enough for media consumption and some web browsing.

The integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega 3 graphics were received pretty much the same. A lot of bang-for-the-buck, but not that impressive for gaming. But the thing is, it’s only not impressive when you compare it to a dedicated GPU or even a top-tier integrated GPU like AMD’s Vega M series.

When you look at it without comparison, you realize it’s more than capable of supporting esport titles, and that’s the only thing that matters.

As long as you’re getting satisfying frame rates, and you’re able to get good enough graphics, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a low-tier solution.

Alongside our CPU, we have a standard A320M Ryzen-compatible motherboard —ASRock – A320M-DGS. This is an entry-level motherboard, and it’s priced accordingly. It’s a Micro ATX format, so it’s smaller than your default ATX motherboard, it has the AM4 CPU socket, so it’s fully compatible with all current AMD Ryzen processors (and our Athlon 200GE), and you’re getting two RAM slots that support memory running at up to 3200Mhz.

Since it’s so dirt-cheap, you’re getting some pretty underwhelming input/output options — two USB 2.0 ports for your mouse and keyboard, a PS/2 port (which is pretty much a relic of the past at this point), a single DVI port for your integrated graphics card, four USB 3.0 ports, a single ethernet port, and your standard audio jacks.

This is basically the cheapest motherboard you can get and still complete the build, but whether or not it’s the best one is questionable. Does it have all the ports you need? Can you live with just a single DVI port? If the answer is “yes” then it’s a great pick-up.

That said, if you have 10$ to spare, the best motherboard to go for would be the MSI – B350M GAMING PRO. It’s a B350 chipset, instead of an A320. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, in short, the B350 chipset allows you to overclock your Ryzen CPU.

Now, you’re not buying a Ryzen CPU for this build, but if you plan on upgrading in the future then shelling ten dollars extra would be a lot smarter. You also get HDMI which is an added benefit, alongside DVI and VGA ports. It’s also an ATX motherboard (rather than a Micro ATX), so if you decide to go the B350 route, you’re going to need a bigger case.

It’s the better chipset to go for in the long run and having the ability to get that extra (free) oomph out of your processor is extremely valuable.

It really depends on what you need. Plan to upgrade in the future? Get the B350. Don’t want to spend any more money? The A320 will be enough.

Rounding out the build, we have a single stick of G.Skill Aegis 8GB DDR4 RAM running at 3000Mhz. You need some really fast RAM because your integrated graphics take a portion of your RAM in order to work. Furthermore, the faster the RAM, the stronger your integrated GPU will be.

The best case scenario would be a two-stick DDR4 set-up. So two sticks of 4GB running at 3000Mhz or even higher. That way your RAM can run in dual-channel mode, and you’d be getting a lot more power, but a two-stick set-up is much more expensive than a single stick of memory.

If you can spare the money — great, if not, this will suffice.

In essence, we’re trying to cut corners wherever possible and still get good results. If you can spend a bit more, getting a dual-channel setup would be for the best. Either way, you won’t have to upgrade your RAM in the foreseeable future, regardless of the option you go for.

Finally, we have a 128GB 2.5” ADATA SSD (Solid State Drive), a very attractive Thermaltake Core V21 MicroATX Mini Tower Case, and a Corsair CXM 550W 80+ Bronze Certified power supply.

You absolutely need an SSD in this day and age, it’ll not just make your games load, run, and install faster but it’ll also speed up your overall OS responsiveness. While 128GB might not be enough for a huge game library, it should be enough for two or three games, as well as an operating system.

It’s not the biggest capacity in the world, but it’ll be enough unless you’re hoarding tons of files. If necessary, you can always shell out a small sum for a 1TB hard drive.

The case we’re going for is beautiful, it has a clean aesthetic, and it’s incredibly well built. A 550W PSU (power supply unit) is going to be more than enough for an integrated graphics card, and it’s bronze certified, so it will waste 20% less energy and heat, thus reducing electricity bills and improving overall energy efficiency.

Game Benchmarks

The most important moment for every gaming build. So how does our $250 PC perform in esport titles? Far better than you’d ever expect for this price point!

  • League of Legends runs in 1080p, with well over 80 FPS on high. That’s an astonishing result given the fact that it’s running on an integrated GPU. While League is a well-optimized game, running it with such satisfying results is still an achievement.
  • Dota 2 runs in 1080p, at around 60 FPS on the lowest settings and 100% resolution scale. Now, you could decrease the resolution to 900p and up the graphics quite a lot, but it’s perfectly playable regardless.
  • Heroes of the Storm runs in 1080p at around 90 FPS on average, almost all settings on low and some on medium. If you want better graphics, you can always upgrade the quality and lose a bit in the FPS department, but that doesn’t matter because you’ll have frames to spare.
  • Fortnite runs in 1080p, 30-60 FPS with most settings on low and ~60% resolution scale. It’s perfectly playable, and due to Fortnite’s “cartoony” graphics, the game still looks pretty good, even on lower settings.
  • Rocket League runs in 1080p, with most settings set on high at over 40 FPS. Overall, it’s a very smooth experience, and if you tinker with the settings a bit (and lower the visual fidelity), you can achieve 60 FPS pretty easily.
  • Paladins runs in 1080p with maximum and very high settings at well over 50 FPS.

Need More Power?

You could get the Ryzen 3 2200G if you want better performance and higher frame rates. It costs twice as much as the AMD Athlon 200GE, and for that price difference, you will be getting a noticeable bump in performance. The 2200G has integrated Vega 8 graphics whereas the 200GE has Vega 3. The numerals tell the whole story.

That said, if you need a seriously cheap PC for some light gaming, there’s really no reason to go for the 2200G. Sure, you’d be getting a much stronger processor with four cores rather than the two you get on the Athlon, but if the 200GE gets your job done, then anything above that could be deemed overkill.

You could also save the money and invest in an even stronger AMD processor further down the line. The nice thing about the motherboard you’re getting is the fact that it’s compatible with the current AMD Ryzen lineup, and it’ll be relevant for years to come.

You can find individual parts and prices for every component by going to PC Part Picker. Buying these components over the holiday period would be for the best because you’ll be able to get various discounts and perhaps even save a couple bucks.

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