Ultimate 20K Budget Gaming PC Guide

Ah, yes. It’s that damn time of the year again where the people of the Republic of the Philippines has the extra cash to spare on new things to buy whether it’s a smartphone, a new gaming console, or a pricey pair of kickers. Although we are not here to complain about the things that you want to buy, we are here to offer you a Gaming PC out of a 20K Pesos budget in an attempt to check if it’s worth-it to build a Gaming oriented PC for that amount of cash.

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Since this is going to be a full guide, emphasizing on the components – assessing their strengths and weaknesses is a must. In addition, our guide will also show you how to plan the build, what tools you need to accomplish the task, where to buy them, as well as guides on choosing a secondary option if the component isn’t available. Building the Gaming PC is also included in this guide together with the gaming performance results to check out if our 20K Pesos build is worth the trouble for every penny.

Planning Phase: Maximizing our 20, 000 Pesos Budget

Initial planning is a must, as charging head-on without over-thinking what to and where to buy, isn’t exactly what you wanted to do. Charging head on to a store with your penny-full wallet will only result in a disaster, and the parts you might have bought will most likely result in an unbalanced build. Surely, you do not want a 20K PC that’s only good for spreadsheets, no?

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To avoid looking like a noob when you shared your very first Gaming PC build to any Facebook group or forums, you have to plan several things. First is the budget which is 20K on our side. Second is what components to choose or buy which will be provided by yours truly. Third is where to buy the components, plus the contingency plan if this or that component isn’t readily available, so it’s always better to call the store first hand before heading out. By following those rules, even when shit hits the fan, your shopping spree should result in a happy ending. SHOULD.

Planning Phase: The Components

The parts below, together with their price and place of availability is where we will start, together with secondary choices should things turn to worst. You could simply stop here if you’re interested in the list alone. By the way, the prices listed are based on the lowest retail price from re-sellers found inside SM Fairview’s Cyberzone Area and Fairview Terraces’ IT shops at the 3rd floor. Gilmore IT Center should also be a spot to look out for, those who are in the metro.

COMPONENT PRICE WHERE TO BUY
CPU: AMD FX-4100 3.6 GHz 4, 080 PHP PC Domain
MB: GIGABYTE 78LMT-S2 2, 220 PHP PCHub, PC Domain
GPU: Zotac GTX 950 2GB 7, 530 PHP PCHub
RAM: CORSAIR VENGEANCE 1600MHz (2x2GB) 1, 420 PHP PCHub
PSU: Corsair VS450 (450W) 1, 730 PHP PCHub
STORAGE: 1TB Hitachi Ultrastar 7200 RPM 32MB 1, 980 PHP PC Domain
STORAGE: 32GB Sandisk SSD 799 PHP PCHub EDGE
CASE: Deepcool Smarter 990 PHP PCHub, PCX
GRAND TOTAL 20, 749 PHP +749 PHP

The build shouldn’t be that complicated, as emphasizing on graphics performance is our primary concern whilst secondary would be the CPU performance. Memory performance is the least of our concern here as budget AM3+ motherboards could only support 1333MHz max without overclocking. In addition, 1333MHz DIMMs and 1600MHz DIMMs for the record features the same price point so we didn’t bother going with 1333MHz kits. You could however, save hundreds of Pesos with generic modules though.

UPDATE: We do want you guys to take note of the Sandisk 32GB ReadyCache SSD. Sure it’s not the best SSD out there, but for a boot drive it should suffice, and helps to take out the stress from your mechanical drives. The Sandisk ReadyCache SSD can only be used as a cache drive as pointed out by our reader. Meaning, you cannot use it as a boot drive. With that said, it’ll only improve your experience with frequently used files. We still have to check it out and maybe on our next build, we’ll try to utilize it.

Planning Phase: The Intel Alternative

If the sight of any AMD related hardwares leaves a sour taste on your mouth, then an Intel alternative might do. It’s basically the same build, but with an Intel Core i3 4170 3.7Ghz instead which is a little faster than our AMD CPU, and is also marginally more power efficient. Board of choice is the Biostar H81MHV3, which is great especially since it’s under 2, 000 Pesos at the moment. At the expense of the Corsair VS450, you could get the Intel alternative at just around the same price point.

COMPONENT PRICE WHERE TO BUY
CPU: Intel Core i3 4170 3.7Ghz 5, 280 PHP PC Domain, PCHub
MB: Biostar H81MHV3 1, 995 PHP PC Domain, EasyPC
GPU: Zotac GTX 950 2GB 7, 530 PHP PCHub
RAM: CORSAIR VENGEANCE 1600MHz (2x2GB) 1, 420 PHP PCHub
PSU: Deepcool DE500 (350W) Case Bundle PCHub, PCX
STORAGE: 1TB Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM 32MB 1, 980 PHP PC Domain
STORAGE: 32GB Sandisk SSD 799 PHP PCHub, EDGE
CASE: Deepcool Smarter w/ PSU 1, 850 PHP PCHub, PCX
GRAND TOTAL 20, 854 PHP +854 PHP

What We Ended Up With:

As expected, shit hits the fan as soon as we checked for the component’s availability, especially at PCHub & PC Express. We felt betrayed, and broken inside. On a more serious note, we were still pretty happy with the results from our shopping spree, even though we have to sacrifice the 32GB ReadyCache SSD and the ZOTAC GTX 950 – a leeway for the 20K budget.

COMPONENT PRICE WHERE TO BUY
CPU: AMD FX-4100 3.6 GHz 4, 080 PHP PC Domain
MB: GIGABYTE 78LMT-S2 2, 220 PHP PC Domain, PCHub, PCX
GPU: GIGABYTE GTX 950 WF OC 2GB 8, 450 PHP PCHub
RAM: CORSAIR VENGEANCE 1600MHz (2x2GB) 1, 420 PHP PCHub
PSU: Deepcool DE500 (350W) Case Bundle PCHub
STORAGE: 1TB Hitachi Ultrastar 7200 RPM 32MB 1, 980 PHP PC Domain
CASE: Deepcool Smarter w/ PSU 1, 850 PHP PCHub, PCX
GRAND TOTAL 20, 000 PHP PARANG SINUKAT

We also had to ditch the initial plan to use the Corsair VS450, as the Deepcool Smarter case we got is the version with the DE500 PSU. We already got the Corsair VS450, but we will cancel its bearing on the build as we will focus on the acquired components, and will simply regard our purchase of the VS450 as if nothing happened. We do however still recommend the Corsair VS450 PSU + Deepcool Smarter (w/out PSU) combo.

Our Chosen Components Explained:

The AMD FX-4100 is an old yet still a capable beast at 4, 080 Pesos. Sure, the Intel G3258 might win on the single core performance, but this one is good enough of a choice, since it is a Quad Core CPU with a  headroom for overclocking.

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The GIGABYTE 78LMT-S2 is our primary choice for a board to go along with the AMD FX-4100, even though we consider it as the bane of the build simply because it’s lacking SATA III & USB III controllers, plus the limited 1333MHz DIMM support. It does however have merits, especially if we’re going to talk about the price point which is around 2, 220 Pesos. Even with limitations, our build is limited to a 32GB SSD + 1TB HDD in the first place, so a SATA III controller wont have much of a difference. With a trusted GIGABYTE RMA model in the Philippines, we barely had any choice. Limited board, but a very very solid one.

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We initially thought that we could go barging in and buy the 7,530 Pesos ZOTAC GTX 950 at any resellers, but since it’s out of stock for no apparent reason, we took the GIGABYTE GTX 950 Windforce OC for a slightly higher price. We also did a review of it so we’re pretty sure that it will perform great at any games we throw at it with a 1080P resolution. At 8, 450 Pesos this one is hard to beat.

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A single 4GB stick vs a dual 2GB stick in terms of price would save you a few pesos, but the benefits of running DIMMs in Dual Channel mode is a bit better – hence, the reason why we took the Corsair Vengeance DDR3 kit at 1, 420 Pesos. We initially thought that 1333 MHz is enough, even generic ones, but the warranty with genuine Corsair DIMMs cannot be bested by generics so we took the 1600 MHz kit in a heart beat. If you can’t find these modules at the said price, the 2x2GB Kingston Value RAMs at 695 Pesos each will do. Just make sure to get Two. A little note though: If you’re planning to upgrade the system’s memory, you should go with a single stick of 4GB RAM which should be around the 1, 200 Peso mark.  There will be a small performance hit, but if adaptability is a must, then prepare to lose some.

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At 1, 950 Pesos, the Hitachi HGST Ultrastar with 7200 RPM and 32MB of cache is hard not to notice. SATA II is the interface of this 1TB HDD but it’s enough for our cause. It’s one heck of a buzzer though so a secondary option like the pricier but a more power efficient, & silent WD Green 1TB at 2, 380 Pesos should also be on your list.

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The DeepCool Smarter is probably one of the things I bought that surprised me. For starters, even without the PSU combo version, it features a 2.5″ bay for SSDs, and 3x 3.5″ bays for HDDs. For a budget mATX form factor case, the Smarter also features a rather pleasing motherboard tray area with a protruding side panel for cable clearance and built-in cable holes at the tray for management. Adding to that, the case also feature a USB 3.0 controller at under 1, 000 Pesos. It however, does not feature an extra auxiliary fan. You have to buy one yourself. Not a bad trade-off.

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The DeepCool Smarter we got has the DE500 PSU bundled which is rated at 350W with a peak power at 500W. It is currently sold for cheap at 1, 100 Pesos which is mainly due to the fact that it is already a discontinued product with the DN & DA Series taking its place. We saw this PSU retailing at 1, 450 Pesos so with a bundled price at 1, 850 Pesos (Smarter Case), this is a steal. Do note that the DE 500 has an electrical efficiency of up to 80%, is designed with less than 1w of consumption during off-mode, which meets the standards of ErP. As long as we don’t go beyond the 300W mark, the build is perfectly safe. The PSU also has a year of warranty by the way.

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This build is good enough, however we still recommend the Corsair VS450 + Deepcool Smarter (w/out PSU) combo especially if you snagged a ZOTAC GTX 950 to make way for the extra 1, 000 Pesos that could be used to procure the VS450 & an auxiliary fan without going beyond the 20K limit. We got one 120mm fan for 200 Pesos just to make sure the airflow inside the case is adequate.

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Building the Damn Thing:

PCHub and other similar PC components retailers could build your PC for you if all the parts are bought from their store. With that said, that’s an easier choice for newbies, but be wary that they may charge you if you bought the parts from another store. Alright, time to build. But first thing’s first and that’s safety. Make sure that when you’re working with components, get yourself grounded to a metal object, and never operate on an enclosed environment as static build-up could be remedied by the natural moisture in the air so open those windows up and get a breather as well. A fan / good flow of air should also help to cool your body down so sweat wont build up. Do refrain from touching you hair as it could build up static easily. Tools required are screw drivers for the screws, a set of cable ties to keep the PSU cables in place, and a wrench / pliers for stand-offs or metal parts that wont cooperate. We also had a USB drive with a Windows 7 installation ready since our budget can’t meet the cash needed for an optical drive. Now let’s get it on!

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The most important thing to do first when building the PC pieces by pieces is to read the manuals. It never is too late to read especially if you’re not familiar with the board. Sliding in a CPU to a socket is an easy feat for us, but for novices whose going to do these things for the first time, you guys better check the CPU socket’s orientation guide which is denoted by a downward triangle (◣). Basically your CPU’s orientation guide (◣) should match your motherboard’s CPU socket. CPU cooler installation should follow and it’s just a matter of lining up the locking pins from both sides. It requires force but do not over exert it.

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Installing the DIMMs on the slot are rather easy. Just match the latches and the gap between the pins of the stick and the board. Do not force the DIMMs.

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Next up is the installation of the board. Pretty easy as it only requires to put the board in place. Make sure to remove the unnecessary motherboard tray standoffs as unaligned standoffs might hit the back of the board resulting in a grounded PC or worst, they might short your board and fry it. On our case, no pun intended, we just re-positioned the lower right standoff to align with the motherboard’s lower right screw holes. Also make sure to install the backplate prior to the installation of the board.

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Other components are easier to work with, as they only require you to place them on their designated slots. Do note that with the Deepcool Smarter case, you have to remove the break-away PCI slot covers to make way for the graphics card. Putting the GFX card and the HDD are just like putting lego pieces so it should be easy. Refer to the manuals should you require further assistance. Do remember to slot in the 24-pin MB & 4-pin CPU power connectors on the board, along with the 6-pin GFX card power cable. Shit wont booth without them in place together with the SATA power and SATA cables. Same thing applies to the front panel connectors. Again, refer to the manuals.

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Cable management is pretty easy with this case, as zipties are already provided and could be used to tie the PSU cables with ease due to the DeepCool Smarter case’s built in ziptie holes. A clean build, such as pictured above will also aid heat dissipation, making the whole system cooler and also easier to clean. To learn from a more elaborate medium, check THIS GUIDE from LifeHacker.

Booting it up & Installing the OS:

Once everything’s installed, it’s time to boot up! But before installing any Operating Systems, you have to enter the BIOS first to make some small changes. The changes we are talking about are the SATA II interface values where AHCI should be enabled over IDE prior to the installation of the OS. HDDs wont benefit much from AHCI but if you’ve got yourself an SSD, especially the 32GB one on our guide, then it would be beneficial.

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Installing the OS is simple, as you only need to follow the on-screen instructions from the installation medium. Refer to THIS GUIDE from WikiHow on how to do it yourself. Also, since we’re installing from a USB, you might want to check the guide from MaximumPC.

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Assuming that the installation of the OS is finished, you can now download the drivers of your newly built PC. Get the drivers for the GIGABYTE board HERE, and download the Nvidia Driver for your GTX 950 HERE. Since the PC has yet to be connected to via the LAN port, you have to copy/download the files from another PC. You might also want to check out Back2Gaming’s simple guide on How To Optimize Your OS For Gaming.

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The 20K Gaming PC we got features Nvidia’s GTX 950 that also supports Nvidia’s Shadow Play for seamless gameplay recording which should prove handly for gamers who wants to show off their skills. In addition, Nvidia’s GeForce Experience also offers game optimization right off the bat, so if you have plenty of games that you do not know to to tinker with, chances are you’re better off using the built-in tool. For an indepth information about the software, check out THIS LINK.

Testing Our 20K Gaming PC’s Performance:

Our Gaming PC might have the looks and the components of a proper Gaming PC, but can its performance match? This is what we’re going to check out, with games such as DOTA 2, LoL, The Witcher III, & Battlefield 4. Since we are focusing on 1080P gaming performance, all tests will be run with the said 1920 x 1080 resolution with varying in-game settings, and see what this 20K Pesos build could do.

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No other softwares should be running while the benchmarks are on going, unless it is needed, or stated. Games without benchmarking tools of their own will have the results recorded with FRAPS. Below are the test system’s specifications:

CPU AMD FX-4100 3.6GHz Quad Core
MOTHERBOARD GIGABYTE 78LMT-S2
CPU COOLER Stock AMD CPU Cooler
MEMORY CORSAIR VENGEANCE 1600MHz (2x2GB)
GRAPHICS CARD GIGABYTE GTX 950 WINDFORCE OC 2GB
INT. STORAGE 1TB Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM 32MB
PSU DeepCool DE500 (350W PSU)
DISPLAY 27″ DELL U2715H WQHD IPS Panel
OS Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 (Updated)
SOUND CARD Onboard Realtek
EXT. STORAGE 2TB Western Digital My Passport

WHAT IS FPS ANYWAY?

For refreshment purposes, let us talk for a moment about FPS or Frames Per Second. Also known as Frame Rate, FPS is the general unit of which we measure a graphics card’s capabilities. Generally, the higher value, the smoother the gameplay should be, since higher FPS means higher frames are rendered each second. Higher FPS doesn’t just improve your gaming experience, as it also helps you to react faster especially in First Person Shooter & Racing Games. Please do note that Resolution and in-game settings has a huge effect too in any system’s frame rate. Better yet, check out the difference of 30 and 60 FPS here: LINK.

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BELOW 30 FPS: ABYSMAL GAMING EXPERIENCE. YOU EITHER NEED TO TONE DOWN IN-GAME SETTINGS TO ACHIEVE A HIGHER FPS COUNT OR JUST DON’T BOTHER GAMING AT ALL.
30 – 40 FPS: PLAYABLE, BUT GAMEPLAY IS CHOPPY. CONSIDER UPGRADING OR TONING DOWN THE SETTINGS FOR BETTER EXPERIENCE. *COUGH*, CONSOLES.
50 – 60 FPS: GOOD GAMEPLAY EXPERIENCE. USUALLY THE SWEET SPOT OF MID-RANGE GFX CARDS. NOTICEABLE IMPROVEMENTS OVER 30 FPS.
ABOVE 60 FPS: YOU HAVE ASCENDED INTO A BEING FAR BEYOND HUMAN RECOGNITION WITH SILKY SMOOTH GAMEPLAY EXPERIENCE. YOU ARE NOW A PART OF THE PC MASTER RACE.

The Gaming Performance Test Results:

First up on our test is DOTA 2 Reborn, where we practically hit 120 Frames Per Second most of the time without even a hint of dipping below the 60 Frames Per Second mark at the highest settings. Low, Medium, and High seems to feature an absolute 100+ FPS dominance, while the Highest Setting averages around 114 Frames Per Second. A great start!

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League of Legends on the other hand is ummm…  I think we should skip on this one. Seriously, do we need to test it? No offense but if a PC could play DOTA 2 fluidly, so is League of Legends by a magnitude. Even 2560 x 1440 should be easy with our 20K system.

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The Witcher III is the most graphically intensive game we have here, even beating GTA: V’s graphical prowess by a pulp. On our 20K Gaming PC, The Witcher 3 ran pretty good but still far from a monstrous Gaming PC. Even my GTX 970 based test system cannot fluidly run The Witcher III at full settings smoothly, so there’s that for reference.

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Battlefield 4 is a FPS that demands higher frame rate for a competitive gameplay. On our 32v32 server test, the 20K Gaming PC passed with flying colors, even able to run the game fluidly at Ultra Settings which is great nonetheless.

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Temperature & Power Consumption:

It isn’t enough to build a Gaming PC and just focus on the performance, as temperature & power consumption holds importance too in a system. For an instance, if your system’s temperature isn’t that good enough, chances are your CPU & graphics card will start to throttle down, and that is detrimental to a stable gaming experience, ultimately dropping your frames or should I say, your PC’s performance. In addition, component longevity will be affected too as heat is the number one enemy of any PC hardware. Power consumption comes next, sicne you do not want to stress your Power Supply Unit. Our DE500 PSU from DeepCool for example, could output 500W of peak power, but is actually rated to run a constant 350W of power only, so we would want to check if our system is running at full load below the 350W mark for safety and stability.

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Our system stability test is based on AIDA64’s System Stability Test Suit – which enables us to stress each components in one go, simulating a heavy usage – and I mean heavy freakin’ usage like you can’t even run any other programs after you started the test. From there on, we will take results for the power and temperature with a stress test duration of 15 minutes. Idle temperature & power consumption should be taken when the system is idling for 15 minutes, and then we will, again, record the results.

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Based on our tests, the 20K Gaming System with only a single 120mm intake fan is able to achieve a an adequate cooling performance be it for the HDD, motherboard, GPU, and CPU. Nothing’s alarming about these results and we’re pretty happy with what we achieved to be honest.

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The AMD FX-4100 has a 95W TDP, plus with the GTX 950 with 90W TDP,  the total theoretical power of both components should be around 185W. If we’re going to based from these shabby info alone, then the system’s HDD, RAM, coolers, and other peripherals only consumes 13W in total. The real deal is are not those theoretical power outputs, but the 198W total power consumption of the system at load which is 152W less than the DeepCool DE500 PSU’s power threshold. Idle power consumption is also great. Nothing to worry about here.

Is The Trouble Worth-it?

Oh yes it is – as building a 20K Gaming PC that could handle our games at 1080P almost flawlessly is a joy that brought tears to my eyes. Seriously it doesn’t, but it’s still good conclusion that with your 20K Pesos, you could build a Gaming System right now that could surpass the same 20K gaming system of the yesteryear. And that’s even with flaws on our build.

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There isn’t much to say about our build, except for a few pointers that I want you guys to know. First off is the rig’s ability to play MOBA games at 2560 x 1440 resolution or WQHD for short. We enjoyed gaming on it, as far as MOBA is concerned on our Dell U2715H at its full resolution. The second thing I wanted to point out is the performance of the Hitachi Ultrastar. It ain’t fast, and is certainly not quiet neither and if you mount this thing without vibration dampening, it will annoy you a little bit in a quiet room.

20K-Gaming-PC-Benchmarks-1 Overall, even with our flawed build, unable to attain that tasty sub 1, 000 Pesos SSD as a boot drive, we are impressed with the build. For 20K Pesos the gaming performance of this build surpassed its small caveats. The only thing you need to consider is what kind of display and peripherals to buy. Maybe you’ll get enticed by our review of the ASUS VX239H IPS Panel? The Dell S2340L is also a good alternative if you are looking for an IPS display.

A 20K budget gaming PC to fuel your gaming needs this coming holiday season is a very nice gift to yourself, and I hope that our small guide helped you even for a bit even it’s nowhere near perfect. I guess this is it then – Have fun hunting these components!

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