The $500 Gaming PC Upgrade: Call of Duty 4, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3 Performance Explored
With both Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 recently going gold, and Call of Duty 4 shipping to stores as we speak for next week’s release, there’s a ton of new really good games that gamers will have to choose from hitting retail shelves shortly.
At their highest settings, all of these games feature beautiful graphics which will bring many gamers existing PCs to their knees, which will of course send them scurrying to Newegg, Zipzoomfly, TigerDirect and tons of other e-tailers looking for hardware upgrades, as well as brick and mortar stores such as Fry’s. This brings us to today’s article: exactly what kind of performance can you expect in these games if you’ve got $500 to spend on upgrading your existing PC?
Generally this is a loaded question to answer. What is the state of your current PC? For example, do you need to upgrade your entire system, or just the CPU and graphics? Perhaps you are gaming on a 3-year old Pentium 4 or Athlon XP system with AGP graphics and need to upgrade your whole rig?
There’s a silly misconception out there that you need to spend $1,500 or more to own a decent gaming rig. This is just nonsense, especially if you know how to build your own computer. If you know the right components
to focus on, and pick them wisely, you can get by spending half as much as $1,500, if not more. In this article we’re going to make an argument that $500 is all you need
. That’s just $50 more than an Xbox 360 Elite, and the same price as an 80GB Playstation 3. With this $500 investment, you’ll have a PC system capable of dishing out graphics that are better than either game console.
“$500 is all you need? You’re insane!”
Many of you probably think we’re crazy to suggest that $500 is all you need to build a decent gaming rig. With gaming systems from Alienware/Dell, Falcon Northwest, and HP/VoodoPC selling for thousands more, this just doesn’t sound feasible. However, this simply isn’t true. In fact, thanks to rapidly falling hardware prices, building a powerful PC for gaming has never been easier!
You see, in the PC hardware world, the rate of innovation on the hardware side far exceeds the gaming industry. This hardware innovation leads to the aforementioned price cuts. A year ago quad-core CPU sold for over $1K, now thanks to those cuts, Intel’s Core 2 Q6600 can be found for under $300. Likewise, dual-core CPUs from AMD can be easily had for under $100! These aren’t gimpy CPUs either, with two processing cores running at 2.1GHz, AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 4000+ is a fine processor. This CPU is the foundation of our $500 build.
Again though, in order to build a good gaming rig with a $500 budget for upgrading, it’s critical that you prioritize the components properly that are most needed for delivering a good gaming experience. The most critical component is definitely the GPU, followed shortly thereafter by the CPU, you can then save a little money by either re-using existing parts in your current PC such as the hard drive, keyboard/mouse and monitor. We’re going to assume you need new RAM and motherboard and include those in the $500 budget. We’re using Newegg and Zipzoomfly.com as our e-tailers in this article, because they are companies we know and trust, and have bought from for our own personal systems as well as PCs we’ve built for friends and family. Let’s get started…