PC gaming takes a lot of knocks for being an expensive and complicated endeavor but with 500 bucks and a little time and patience, just about anyone can put together a very decent PC game system.

Most critics of PC gaming attack the platform on two fronts: Expense and complexity. A good video card costs more than an Xbox 360 Pro, the argument goes, and you need a degree to operate the thing. The very idea of assembling your own is enough to strike fear in the hearts of hard men, who view such arcane skills as the exclusive domain of MIT-educated warlocks. But as a new article by Maximum PC shows, five C-notes will buy all the stuff you need to build a solid gaming PC and it doesn’t take rocket appliances to put it all together.

There are limitations, of course; 500 bucks is a pretty tight budget for a gaming rig no matter how you look at it. The price doesn’t include an operating system or a monitor, nor does it feature any high-end, enthusiast parts. The system is built around an Intel Pentium E5200 CPU, an ATI 4870 video card and two gigabytes of Crucial RAM sitting on an MSI motherboard. A 320 gigabyte Western Digital hard drive, Samsung DVD drive and a cheap Rosewill case and power supply round out the components.

The process of assembling the pieces is fairly straightforward and the article takes neophytes through it in clear, well-illustrated steps that require nothing more in the way of tools than a screwdriver. When all is said and done, users are left with a very respectable gaming platform: Not a top-of-the-line thoroughbred “tiny god” by any stretch, but a unit more than capable of pulling its weight in demanding environments.

How capable? The Maximum PC project was able to run the notorious hardware hog Crysis in DirectX 9 mode, high detail at a resolution of 1900×1200, at 36 frames per second without stuttering. The system wouldn’t run the game in DirectX 10 mode because the builders installed Windows XP instead of Windows Vista but as they noted, most people looking to build a PC in this price range are most likely going to be running XP anyway. “If you’re a hardcore gamer who demands nothing less than DX10 gaming on ‘Very High’ detail, you probably aren’t building a sub $800 machine,” the article said.

500 bucks for a system that will let you edit photos, email your aunt, bring your work home from the office and play Crysis? That sounds like a pretty reasonable investment to me.

via: Ars Technica

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