If you are thinking about buying a new PC, you are usually faced with the crucial question of “all in” or “low budget”? Especially if you don’t earn your money with your PC and are not a “hardcore gamer,” an inexpensive solution is often sufficient. But what should you look out for in detail?
Save money, but in the right places
Of course, savings need to be made on inexpensive PCs and it is not uncommon for system integrators to cut corners in such cases. The question is, however, in which areas have savings been made and does this have an influence on the performance and future security of the PC? Here’s a guide on what to look for in your major components.
The processor (CPU)
The processor, the so-called CPU (Central Processing Unit), is the brain of every PC and offers enormous savings potential. If you are neither a gamer nor a content creator, you do not need a processor with 12, 16, or 32 processor cores, but it is still worth taking a look at the underlying architecture.
Cheap ready-to-use PCs are often equipped with older-generation processors, but you should not accept this for a low price. The CPU should be from one of the last two generations, otherwise you will lack features later on.
If you are currently planning to buy a low-priced PC, you should consider the following CPU series and architectures:
- AMD Ryzen 5000 (Zen-3 architecture)
- AMD Ryzen 6000 (Zen-3+ architecture)
- AMD Ryzen 7000 (Zen-4 architecture)
- Intel Core-i-12000 (Alder Lake)
- Intel Core-i-13000 (Raptor Lake)
These five model series and architectures promise performance and an up-to-date feature set, which can also be important for accelerating videos and streaming services and enable you to perform more demanding multimedia and content creation tasks. On the other hand, the specifications offer potential for savings.
If you buy a low-priced PC, you do not necessarily need up to 16 processor cores and 5GHz clock frequency, but you should not go below the following minimum requirements:
- A current CPU from one of the last two generations
- A current architecture (e.g. Zen 3, Zen 4, Alder Lake, Raptor Lake)
- At least 6 processor cores with a total of 12 parallel threads
- At least 4.0 to 4.5 GHz maximum clock frequency (“boost”)
- An adequate CPU cooling solution for the TDP class
Further reading: Best CPUs for gaming 2023
The graphics card (GPU)
An even greater savings potential is offered to system integrators in the selection of the graphics card, which they also exploit to the full. It is not uncommon to find comparatively old graphics cards in ready-made PCs, which is why you should take a very close look at the specifications here.
Of course, you can’t expect a flagship à la Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 or AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX in a low-priced PC, but a modern architecture should still be available.
You should insist on the following graphics card series and architectures, even on a cheap build:
- AMD Radeon RX 6000 (RDNA 2)
- AMD Radeon RX 7000 (RDNA 3)
- Nivida GeForce RTX 3000 (Ampere)
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 (Ada Lovelace)
Your low-budget PC should at least have a graphics card of the calibre of an AMD Radeon RX 6650 XT, the current price-performance winner of the editorial team. Alternatively, the Intel Arc A770 and A750 can also be a good choice, with a particularly favorable price.
Further reading: Budget GPU battle: GeForce RTX 3050 vs Radeon RX 6650 XT vs Arc A770
Main memory (RAM)
Especially with inexpensive PCs, RAM is another area where people tend to save money and only install the absolute minimum.
Avoid computer systems with less than 16 gigabytes of RAM and opt for a capacity of 16 to 32 gigabytes.
Whether these are DDR4 modules or the faster and more modern DDR5 memory does not play a major role for the cheapest possible PC. The capacity is crucial and systems with just 8 gigabytes are no longer recommended these days.
Other components where you have to cut back, but still pay attention to quality and the right performance class, are the following:
- Power supply: Look for a brand-name power supply with a high efficiency rating (at least 80Plus Bronze) and at least 400 watts — see power supply ratings explained.
- Motherboard: Make sure it is a branded motherboard with sufficient internal and external connections.
- Case and cooling: Make sure you have a stable case with a sufficient and quiet cooling solution.
- Peripherals: If you are buying a complete PC, take a close look at the peripherals (e.g. mouse and keyboard). You use these to operate your PC, which is why you should not skimp on quality when it comes to input devices – find the best gaming mouse and the best gaming keyboard.
- Monitor: The monitor should be at least 24 inches and have an IPS display (“panel”). Full HD resolutions with 1920×1080 pixels are sufficient and do not put too much strain on the graphics card in particular — find the best gaming monitor and best budget monitor.
- Storage: You will want a storage drive that is sufficiently fast and capacious for the most optimum experience. Fortunately, SSDs have come down it price, making them accessible to even budget builders — find the best SSD for your build.
This article was translated from German to English and originally appeared on pcwelt.de.