Build A Sweet 1080p Gaming Rig For $600 With These Holiday PC Parts Deals

Zalman S2 ATX Mid Tower Case news
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, yet there are still great deals you can take advantage of to build a get entry level PC for just around $600. Though this PC build guide doesn't make use of the latest hardware, it certainly will offer great performance for a very economical price point. Additionally, it offers an attractive upgrade path that can keep your PC running well even a couple years or so down the line.

In order to get the right balance between price, performance, and upgradeability, we had to make some compromises on this build that, while not ideal, will result in the best overall combination of parts, generally speaking. However, there's no real need to stick to this guide for every single part; there might be some better deals we missed, after all. Also, this build guide doesn't include the cost of an operating system or peripherals, which may bump up the price a tad if you don't already own any.

The CPU - Great Gaming Performance For Under $100

For budget CPUs, you really only have a few viable choices: the Ryzen 5 5500, the Ryzen 5 5600, the Core i3-12100F, and the Core i3-13100F. Although the 5500 and 5600 are very affordable and offer both good gaming and productivity performance, they're on the old AM4 socket which has an extremely limited upgrade path. The 12100F and 13100F are on the much newer LGA 1700 socket, but since the 13100F is essentially a more expensive 12100F, we're going with the 12th Gen Core i3-12100F for just about $93.

Although the 12100F is equipped with a mere four Golden Cove cores, it's actually quite potent in games. Most reviewers agree that it's significantly better than the Ryzen 5 5500, and it's not far behind the Ryzen 5 5600 either. 120 FPS isn't even out of the question in a majority of games, and even the most intense titles in the worse case scenario will likely still net playable performance on this four-core Alder Lake CPU.

The Motherboard - A Worthwhile Investment For A Great Upgrade Path

You might be tempted to buy a cheap motherboard to go with your cheap CPU, but you'll want to avoid doing that if you ever plan on upgrading your PC, especially the CPU. It's far better value to buy a slightly more expensive motherboard just once than a bottom-of-the-barrel board once and then a better one down the line. ASUS's TUF Gaming B760-PLUS WiFi D4 is one of the best midrange LGA 1700 motherboards on the market right now, and it's just $140.

The crucial component on motherboards that determine whether it can handle a CPU or not are VRM stages. Intel's 12th, 13th, and 14th Gen CPUs are particularly power hungry, so you'll need lots of stages. Thankfully, the TUF Gaming B760-PLUS has a 12+1 stage configuration, which should be good enough to power all Core i3 and Core i5 chips on the LGA 1700 socket. The board technically supports Core i7 and i9 CPUs as well, just don't expect to break any overclocking records.

This motherboard uses DDR4 memory, which has greater bang for buck than DDR5 without losing much if any performance in games. There's also three M.2 slots that support PCIe 4.0, so there's plenty of space for speedy SSDs. The rear I/O is also decent, with six USB ports (including one Type-C), WiFi-6 antennae, a 2.5-Gigabit Ethernet port, and the six standard audio jacks. Having only six USB ports is a bit mediocre, but it's definitely sufficient and worth it for all of the other advantages.

The Memory - Dirt Cheap With Great Performance

DDR4 is obviously the kind of RAM we want for this build, because it's not that much worse in gaming than DDR5 while costing significantly less per gigabyte. Plus, with our budget, it's pretty hard to fit a good 16GB DDR5 kit, and you don't want to go with a single stick, as that means even worse memory bandwidth. The king of cheap, value-oriented DDR4 is Corsair's VENGEANCE LPX, which comes in multiple variants. The one you'll want for Intel CPUs is the CMK16GX4M2E3200C16 model, though the 3600MHz LPX kits are also an option.

Although 16GB is getting a little on the lean side these days, it's still perfectly fine for gaming with lower-end hardware using discrete graphics. Its speed on the other hand is excellent, as a 3200MHz frequency plus CL16 timings gives a low 10ns first word latency. Even if you later upgrade your CPU to a Core i5-14600K, you probably won't feel that the RAM is a significant or even minor bottleneck while gaming.

The Graphics Card - A Super Affordable Radeon RX 6650 XT

Unfortunately, the latest GPUs from AMD and Nvidia cost at minimum $250, which is just a little too high to fit into our $600 budget. Thankfully, we were able to find this great deal for a last gen Radeon RX 6650 XT, which performs basically the same as the current gen Radeon RX 7600 with only slightly-worse power efficiency. PowerColor's Fighter RX 6650 XT isn't the fanciest nor does it offer a particularly amazing cooler, but it should be perfectly sufficient to deliver great framerates at 1080p and 1440p just like other RX 6650 XT models.

The only other realistic alternative is Intel's Arc A750, which is definitely a great GPU and can even be found for $180 right now. However, it's typically a little slower than the Radeon RX 6650 XT and also has much less mature drivers. Intel is definitely working on improving its drivers, but it's probably worth spending an extra $40 just to make sure your gaming experience is as smooth as possible. With that said, if you know the Arc A750 works well in your favorite games, and you really want to save $40, feel free to go with Intel instead

The SSD - Adata Saves Us From Overpriced SSDs

Unfortunately, SSDs are no longer as cheap as they were for much of the year. Ironically, prices began increasing just before Black Friday, and it will probably be a very long time before we see 1TB SSDs going for $40 again. For this PC build, we're just going to have to settle for a 500GB SSD, and ADATA's Legend 850 LITE 500GB is a pretty good choice. It's gotten pretty positive reviews and boasts decent PCIe 4.0 speeds, which is more than enough for lower-end PC gaming. There are 1TB SSDs out there for $50 or a little more if you can afford it, though, like Crucial's P3 Plus.

The Case - Inexpensive Doesn't Mean Cheap

Usually, it doesn't really matter what case you get for a PC, but given we're working with such a limited budget and need a case that fits an ATX motherboard, our choices are very limited. Thankfully, Zalman's S2 is retailing for $50 right now, which is great since it's a good case in its own right. It only comes with a 120mm rear exhaust fan, but given how little power this PC will consume, that's okay. There's plenty of room for larger CPU air coolers and more fans, too.

The CPU Cooler - Free If You Buy The Zalman S2

At the time of writing, Zalman also has a promotion on Amazon that allows you to get the company's $18 CNPS4X CPU cooler for free. It's by no means an amazing cooler, but it's definitely much better than the stock Laminar cooler that comes with the 12100F. Not only will this allow the 12100F to operate coolly and quietly, it also makes upgrading to a better CPU down the line much easier, though don't expect to it to cooler anything higher-end than a Core i5 particularly well.

The Power Supply - Reliable Without Breaking The Bank

When it comes to low-priced power supplies, Thermaltake has pretty much cornered the market. Its SMART series of PSUs are affordable budget models, and even the 600-watt unit is just $42 right now. That's more than enough power for the 12100F and the RX 6650 XT, and it'll even give you some room for higher power upgrades down the line. It's not a modular PSU, so clean cable routing will be difficult, but that's definitely worth it for a PSU you might not have to retire for a while. As far as we can tell, this is basically the best ~$40 PSU you can buy right now. Unfortunately, there aren't any particularly-good alternatives from trustworthy brands.

Slot Product Name  Amazon Price
CPU Intel Core i3-12100F $92.98
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS4X $0
Motherboard ASUS TUF Gaming B760-PLUS WiFi D4 $139.99
Memory Corsair VENGEANCE LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 2x8GB $39.99
Graphics Card PowerColor Fighter RX 6650 XT $219.99
Storage ADATA Legend 850 LITE 500GB $33.99
Case Zalman S2 $49.99
Power Supply Thermaltake SMART 600W $41.99

At just a little over $600, this PC is both pretty powerful and cheap even if its components don't boast the latest tech. However, thanks to the Core i3-12100F and RX 6650 XT, you should be able to run games with high graphics settings at more-than-playable framerates as long as your monitor isn't too high-resolution (i.e. not 4K UHD or similar.) There's quite a bit of room for future upgrades, too: a better CPU, a faster GPU, or more SSDs with better performance.