Building a gaming PC for the price of an Xbox One S

Insomnia PC
Insomnia PC

The Xbox One S might seem like an expensive console, or perhaps a waste of money compared to a more powerful PC. But with a starting price of $300 it can be difficult to cobble together a gaming PC that can match Microsoft's console at that same price point. But we like a challenge, so we decided to take a look at just how affordable and capable of a gaming machine you can put together.

Under $400

AMD GPU

AMD GPU

It's possible to collect various components into a shopping basket for just over $300 that should run games at decent quality settings, especially if you're able to grab a processor or graphics card from wholesale. However, looking at just the online retail giant, Amazon, we were able to put together a capable machine for just shy of $400, which isn't such a leap from the price of an Xbox One S.

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ComponentIdeal PickPrice
CaseFractal Design Core 1000 (opens in new tab)$27
PSUEVGA 500 W1 (opens in new tab)$35.98
MotherboardMSI Intel H81M-E33 (opens in new tab)$44.99
CPUIntel G3258 Pentium (3.20GHz) (opens in new tab)$66.99
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper T2 (opens in new tab)$16.99
RAMKingston HyperX FURY 8GB (opens in new tab)$37.99
StorageWD Blue 1TB (opens in new tab)$49.99
GPUASUS AMD Radeon R7 250 (opens in new tab)$79.99
TotalRow 8 - Cell 1 $359.92

Grand total of $359.92. Unfortunately, we don't have support for 1440p gaming, let alone 4K and HDR. Also, one has to take into account Windows 10 license and peripheral costs. That said, you have room for improvements to be added, be it a new CPU or GPU which would boost performance considerably. And you get to use it as a desktop PC too.

Under $450

GTX 1050

We're keeping most of the components from the above listing, but are switching out the R7 250 GPU for a new NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti from EVGA.

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ComponentIdeal PickPrice
CaseFractal Design Core 1000 (opens in new tab)$27
PSUEVGA 500 W1 (opens in new tab)$35.98
MotherboardMSI Intel H81M-E33 (opens in new tab)$44.99
CPUIntel G3258 Pentium (3.20GHz) (opens in new tab)$66.99
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper T2 (opens in new tab)$16.99
RAMKingston HyperX FURY 8GB (opens in new tab)$37.99
StorageWD Blue 1TB (opens in new tab)$49.99
GPUEVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (opens in new tab)$149.99
TotalRow 8 - Cell 1 $429.92

That upgrade alone brings us up to $429.92, a slight increase in investment, but the returns are huge. The GTX 1050 is part of NVIDIA's latest line-up of GPUs and is a substantial upgrade over the R7 250. Gaming at 1080p should be far more fluid and responsive.

Under $500

RX 480

Most of this rig remains the same as before — it's plenty capable already, but a GPU upgrade is again in order, this time to an RX 480 by AMD. This brings us up to VR-capable territory. It's worth nothing that at this stage you'll absolutely need to be overclocking the Pentium 4 processor to get the most out of any powerful GPU like this one.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ComponentIdeal PickPrice
CaseFractal Design Core 1000 (opens in new tab)$27
PSUEVGA 500 W1 (opens in new tab)$35.98
MotherboardMSI Intel H81M-E33 (opens in new tab)$44.99
CPUIntel G3258 Pentium (3.20GHz) (opens in new tab)$66.99
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper T2 (opens in new tab)$16.99
RAMKingston HyperX FURY 8GB (opens in new tab)$37.99
StorageWD Blue 1TB (opens in new tab)$49.99
GPUXFX AMD RX480 (opens in new tab)$209.99
TotalRow 8 - Cell 1 $489.02

This build hits $489.02, just under our $500 limit. Gaming should be vastly improved at this point. The next component to upgrade would be a boost to 16GB of RAM. If you have some $50 more to spend, I would actually recommend stripping out the Intel CPU with an AMD FX- CPU (along with compatible RAM and motherboard) with the extra 8GB of RAM that should provide yet more improvements to experiences in-game.

More builds

Have you put together your own build at similar price points? Think we need to switch some components out? Have a glance at our roundup of the best graphics cards and sound off in the comments!

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

109 Comments
  • You don't need a cooler in these builds because the cpu comes with its own fan. I have the same cpu (G3258) overclocked to 4GHz running under the stock fan. I'll be getting the 1050 Ti soon.
  • that's too much for that fan. you're going to burn out your system. If you're oc'ing you really should get a better fan.
  • What are the acceptable cpu temperatures in idle and under load? When I go home I'll check, but I'm sure my cpu temperature is just about 60* C (140* F) under load.
  • You'd want to be under 65 c under load. Was thinking about it, and that's a pretty small chip. You'll probably have the fan going loudly constantly, but there isn't likely too much silicon under there to heat up.
  • I installed a bigger fan in my case, and used the stock case fan to pull air in from the side. Yeah I agree need to be below 65 and I think I'm. No plans to overclock any higher than 4Ghz.
  • Tech report has a solid review of overclocking that chip http://techreport.com/review/26735/overclocking-intel-pentium-g3258-anni...
  • Someone mentioned on a site that the chip starts throttling at 100C.  Obviously you don't want to run it near that temp., but it does show where Intel thinks damage will be done.  60C is plenty low. Even 80C shouldn't be a problem.
  • Stock fans are pretty decent nowadays. I mean, they probably won't be quiet under load but they are "enough" in most cases even with moderate OCing
  • Fully disagree. I've built literally dozens of pcs over generations. Chips are cooler, and fans are smaller. The gains are in CPU efficiency more than anything. I wouldn't oc basically anything on the intel or amd side with a stock fan. I HAVE, especially when younger and poor, but wouldn't now.
  • It's only too much if the temps are too high.
  • Exactly
  • ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2 is a low priced cooler that would be a better option than a stock cooler. I use them on every build.
  • Can you also create the AMD-based builds as alternatives?
  • for people who like to buy terrible products? have you seen the last time their chipset was updated?! friends don't let friends buy amd cpus/mobos
  • What's this? Fanboyism with processors and such isn't productive. I also prefer Intel, however AMD offer many alternatives that are classically more power per dollar.
  • Power? For sure. You're right. They're absolutely more power hungry, and perform far poorer. Fanboyism it is not. They're a fundamentally bad purchase. This isn't a pc site, so don't feel bad. There literally isn't an amd CPU worth buying, even without their chipset woes. Nothing fanboy about cold hard metrics.
  • This isn't a console site either? Thought we were a friendly community that wasn't limiting itself. If AMD was a fundamentally bad purchase every time, they wouldn't be in business. Furthermore, the Xbox One has an AMD CPU and GPU. Those are my cold-hard metrics.
  • You joking?!?! AMD HAS BEEN BLEEDING BILLIONS FOR YEARS. THEY ARE A FUNDAMENTALLYBAD PURCHASE FROM A CPU/CHIPSET PERSPECTIVE. Might change with zen, but zen looks like a haswell competitor, and haswell launched 2014. Priced right could be decent as haswell is fast enough for most things. I never said amd gpus suck. I have a 290, and a 1060. But let's be clear, even their gpus are hotter and more power hungry than NVidias despite being on a smaller node. The cpu in the Xbox one is an amd jaguar based 8 core. Jaguar is amds intel Atom competitor. Atom vastly outperforms jaguar at a far lower power consumption. Intel killed it because it sucked. Exactly how many other devices run jaguar besides ps4 and xbone? Almost none. The reason is because amd made a ton of them but no other oem wanted them because they were poorly performing given the heat/perf ratio. It was killed for other markets. Sony and Microsoft got it CHEAP. It's a poorly performing cpu, which is largely holding back the two systems. Your position isn't an argument for anything. They weren't chosen because they were the pinnacle of pc performance. They were chosen because superior intel/nvidia parts would have cost more money.
  • While AMD does offer an alternative and competition to Intel, it's true that AMD has been on the decline lately. You need only to look at their stock price over the past decade to see how far they've fallen. There's also the fact that AMD chips are well documented to run a lot hotter than Intel chips. Anybody that uses Intel CPU's would tell you that the stock fan is more than enough to keep the system cool, but AMD users will tell you they need additional coolers like liquid cooling, etc. This is partially because Intel has managed to always stay ahead of AMD with their fab processes which is about to enter the 10 nm size next year where AMD will finally just reach 14 nm. This size difference is what allows Intel chips to not only run cooler, but use a lot less energy too.
  • It's part of why they run cooler, but not all of it. They're currently vastly better engineered. WAY higher IPC allows them to drop clocks and reduce voltage for the same perf. Better designed chips with superior power gating and fewer leaks means better perf/w
  • And yet... you're the one claiming stock cooler isn't enough when the talk was about intel CPUs.. Admittedly OCd ones
  • I wouldn't run an ocd chip on a stock cooler. Again, I HAVE, but it wasn't ideal. I took a pentium d to 4.3ghz and ran it that way for a long time. It did end up dying. Stock speeds? Go to town on a stock cooler. Over clocking? Get a better cooler. Plus, stock coolers are loud.
  • Running a CPU on a stock cooler while overclocked isn't inherently bad.  It is strictly dependent on temperature. If you killed your CPU by OCing on a stock cooler, it's because you weren't paying attention to temps.
  • Of course that's the case. What's your point?
  • You are basically telling people not to do any OCing on a stock cooler.  That is wrong.  OC your heart out as long as temps are okay.
  • I'm telling people that stock coolers are generally not made for overclocking (they aren't) and that anyone doing so on a stock cooler is doing something that the cooler wasn't engineered for (it wasn't) and is increasing risk. If they're on a budget or new at it (which is likely, since if either of those things wasn't true they'd likely just pay the small amount more for a decent cooler) then they're likely ill prepared for any issues that arise. And i'm right.
  • Then tell people not to OC at all unless you read into the process. I would not suggest anyone listen to someone who admittedly killed their own CPU by not managing temps.   Just because someone is on a budget, doesn't mean they don't know about OCing. OCing on a stock cooler is perfectly fine if you're managing it.
  • You're arguing a foolish position over a technicality. Yes, it's possible you could have a small overclock which isn't greatly impacting your performance or heat on a stock cooler. It's also basically a waste of time. WOW I got 100mhz! yay! who cares.
    ​Anyone doing any real overclocking (on amd that's a lot of people, and some of amd's coolers are built better since amd's cpu's are terribly hot and inefficient) isn't going to use a stock cooler. It's generally a bad idea. end of story.
  • You are so worried about being right, you present a tone that says "I'm better than everyone, don't bother replying." Simply reacting with more civility helps the conversation. I agree that typically people don't use a stock cooler when OCing is the plan.  That said, when every dollar matters, there are places to cut corners.
  • Right, and the place to cut isn't the safety of your parts. Let's be clear: Based on the conversations on this subject on this page so far ​I am more knowledgable on the subject. ​That's just the reality.
    ​I generally agree that genial discussions are the way to go. I don't think i've been uncouth.  
  • Again, if you pay attention to temps, your CPU is in zero chance of danger. So how are you cutting corners on safety?
  • AMD won the low bid for the consoles. The CPUs are pitiful. It basically exists because Intel would be attacked for being a monopoly without them, same for Nvidia. It's like decades ago, when MS had to partially bail Apple out to avoid monopoly status.
  • Why this guy reply to every comment? He thinks he is an PC expert, but only shows that he not have a clue about PC's...
  • Classically, but not any longer. Sure, they are more bang for the buck if you are using onboard graphics, but the minute you buy a GPU then the performance per dollar is clearly in Intel's court these days. That said... AMD supposedly is re-entering the performance market again. This might help them retake the !/W crown again. It has been too long!
  • It's a waste of time. AMD just doesn't put out good CPUs, and its processors are very power-hungry. MAYBE you can do something with an APU, but IDK how good the latest ones are.
  • Why comparing with $299 model? All the builds here have 1TB storage. Xbox One S 1TB is $349. Also your choice of GPU isn't good.
  • Pentium 4? Long live Netburst! As usual, the comparison falls short since you still need an OS license and a way to provide input to the PC. Buy an Xbox, get a controller and probably even a handful of games to get started. I think your best chance is to get an AMD A10-7890K setup. Microcenter offers bundled discounts, so you might be able to swing buying an OS and mouse and keyboard for the money. 
  • It isn't a pentium 4, that's a typo. it's just a pentium, dual core, no hyper threading haswell based. There is literally NO reason to go with an amd build at this time. recommending amd for gaming is a terrible decision. Perhaps when zen launches, but amd cpu's haven't changed since literally 2012, when they were already far behind intel. the amd 1090t is still basically their fastest consumer cpu and it launched in 2010.
  • That's more my point--you must really start compromising to get to the price point. These comparisons always leave out the $100 OS, but it must be included since in theory you are starting with a blank slate. The console covers all costs in one package, the homebuilt PC does not. 
  • Yeah, I agree with you. It's a disingenuous article, but a common one.
  • Who buys brand new Os every build? You literally take it with you from motherboard to motherboard, some mother boards have it built in the bios for free.
  • You have no idea what you are talking about. You are an idiot. I have an fx8120 16 gig ram, 1070 video card. All new games run maxed out at1920 resolution at over 60 fps.. Cpu usage clocks at 35/ 45 percent. Amd is totally capable. Previous video card was 770 and was also excellent. So there is no reason not to given how cheap chips are.
  • Not sure what to tell you. You're massively under using your 1070. Thats a terrible setup. Your usage being at 25% means you're playing older games. I have a vastly faster 4790k over clocked to 4.5ghz and newer games push that puppy high on at least a couple threads.
    There was a reason amd pushed mantle to lower cpu use, and it wasn't because it would have helped intel. They're hot, slow, and their chipset is literally half a decade behind intels. Because you put a 1070 in there doesn't make you right. It makes your planning poor. There is PLENTY of objective evidence to backup my position that amd is hotter, slower, and generally a poorer purchase than intel in every price bracket currently.
  • I have no problem with intel. They are a better cpu, but too pricy for me. With the right mobo, ram, cooling. I have cool master 120 rad water cooler with push, pull config. Amd perform just fine. Been gaming since dx2 66 days. 1st gaming card voodoo geforce 1 so i have been gaming on pc for a long time. I upgraded for quantum break, runs 60fps flawlessly. I have fallout 4, witcher 3, doom, tomb raider, the devision etc All maxed out on highest setting on highest resolution. All games over 60 frames no slow down. So yes with right cooling amd do not run hot. It's a 3 year old cpu that with the right support does run all current games with no issues. What more can I ask for. For me to upgrade further you are talking 500 plus and I will not see any performance increase. Intel is not the be all, and end all, cpu is not as important as long as its a higher end 6/8 core. With the right video card, even my 770 most games run fine. The only reason I upgraded was for quantum break and it's day and night. So again a 3 year old amd will play any game on the market on max settings. I also use 3d monitor and software to emulate as it gives better results. I am expecting to upgrade in the next 2 years, but to have cpu last 5 years given the price, you can not ask for more. Amd is a capable cpu for gaming. I do it every day and have for the last 3 years. I don't care about specs on paper. I give a damn about real world gaming and one upgrade to my video card has given me at least two years of life to a 3 year old cpu. I don't need more than 60 fps maxed out settings at 1920 res. So I don't need intel at the moment. Amd performs just fine
  • You're right that it'll play games. You're wrong that it's a better buy in terms of perf/$. Sure, you built your system 3 years ago. 3 years ago amd was selling LITERALLY THE SAME CPUS THEY'RE SELLING NOW. We aren't talking about buying amd three years ago. Your past purchase isn't relevant
    As for your 60fps, sure. That's fine, and sufficient, but you should be getting BETTER THAN THAT WITH A 1070. that's a 1440p-4k card. You're claiming that it is enough, and it is for your setup. But you've clearly made poor choices maxing a cpu which would be burdened by a 1060 with a 1070. Will it run quantum break? Yes. Are you silly for suggesting that it's a sane choice today? Yes.
  • You are an intel fanbox and an idiot. The average person at lower lvls would be totally happy with amd. We are talking console comparisons', see article. Yes if money is no object then I agree intel is far superior. The low end duel core Pentium's are garbage. FX is so much better for price building a low end system. FX with amd480 and 16 gig of ram will out perform current console. If you have 600+ for intel parts etc, go ahead. But for a low end system amd fx 8 core still petform better than intel duel core junk.period. And again how is my system a poor choice. Can't see more than 60fos. Did not have to spend 600 on new mobo, ram and CPU as there is nothing currently on the market that I can not play. FX is still a good chip for lower end gaming. You do not use one, own one. Again you are a fanboy
  • Lower end, where we aren't concerned with heat and noise, and for some reason comparable i3s (which vastly out perform amd) aren't available, sure. It will work. That's low end. Pairing an amd CPU with a 1070 is a poor choice. Upgrade that CPU in a year or two and enjoy your new video card which will finally run at the speed it was meant to.
    Call me a fanboy. Cool. Doesn't make me wrong. and of course you can see more than 60fps. That's a falsehood spread to justify poor quality. THERE IS A REASON AMD HIRED THE HEAD OF TECHREPORT.COM TO TAKE OVER THEIR GPU FRAME TIME TEAM. IT WASNT BECAUSE 60FPS WAS PERFECTION.
  • Unless you are on a 120hz monitor all the fps in the world won't help you above 60. As well, until you hit 200, amd still has a performance per dollar value. I don't think about wattage when I plug in a pc, servers etc, sure...but 125w vs 85w? Nah.
  • Of course you're wrong. Frame times aren't a far better metric than fps. enough that EVERY single GPU company now uses it as the metric. lower frame times = smoother gameplay always.
  • To me it seems you literally don't know what "literally" means..
  • I find it funny how you're complaining that AMD processors haven't changed since 2012.  For most users, this wouldn't matter.  For non-gamers, you can do everything on older hardware and not even notice.  For gamers, as long as you have decent graphics, it's sufficient.  Even the PS4 and XBone are using these older processors, and they can handle the graphics and gaming requirements.
  • My position isn't that they incapable. it's that they're out of date and ​a poor purchase today based on what else is available at their price points. ​They'll work. You'd just be silly to buy one given the chipset, power, speed, cost vs the competition.
  • I agree; it's obvious you make a sacrifice when you look for the lowest price possible.  You're either buying a bad Intel CPU or a semi-decent AMD CPU for the same price.  But I think the argument that it's out of date is lacking.  Even Intel, when introducing their recent CPUs, had to compare them to 5-6 generations ago to justify the performance differences.  There have been very few improvements worth the upgrades.
  • Yeah, since Haswell, Intel has largely been targeting the mobile segment, especially ULV. Not to say that desktop hasn't seen any benefit, but the IPC gains have been rather small from Intel lately. Some of that may be from lack of competition in this space, but the days of the 65-95W desktop CPU in every home are long gone. It's 7-25W laptops now--if people even turn to those machines instead of their phones. It's another place where the console offers a benefit, as the HTPC never really panned out, maybe because consoles did a good enough job instead. Plugging in your gaming machine into your HDTV has its limits as well, so now we're talking about buying a decent monitor for gaming. 
  • True; intel struggles to compete on the mobile field, especially with ARM, so that's where they focus development.  But as you say, with the lack of competition, there's not much improvement. Personally, I'd love a HTPC like that cancelled $100 XBox device that was supposed to appear this year.  I guess I should look elsewhere for my needs, as there are plenty of options outside of the Windows environment.
  • You're comparing intel to amd and that's a problem. Intel has been posting 15% gains per year for roughly the last 4-5 years, at least since sandy bridge. AMD has posted no gains, and the chips specifically targeted in this article, the FX-8120 (launched in 2011, 125w), by another poster, has literally 60% of the single core performance of a $20 cheaper (according to newegg.com) i3-6100 (35w). Now, there is something to be said for multicore gains, but the i3 has 2 physical cores and hyperthreading​. It's also clocked quite a bit higher. There is no question it will stomp on the FX and do so at literally 1/4 the power usage.
    ​intel has been making slower gains than years and years ago. it's still vastly​ faster than amd, or anyone else in the business, including arm.
     
  • I'm not sure if you are trolling or really believe what you're saying.  Comparing Intel to AMD is the only comparison possible; what other x86 CPU maker is out there to compare an Intel chip to? I agree that AMD desktop processors use more power than similar Intel ones.  Although your numbers are off (the i3-6100 uses 51w, not 35w), they also provide more overall performance than similarly priced Intel chips.  That's why PassMark's benchmark lists have AMD processors higher than any new Intel processor, in the charts of price/performance.  Only old (first and second gen) Core chips and old Xeon chips compete on that level. Face it: Intel is vastly overpriced for what they offer.  Yes, their CPUs are great, but their prices don't justify that performance.  AMD should be an option when building a console-priced gaming PC.  That's why Sony and Microsoft both did that.
  • Yeah, i accidently grabbed the 6100t w. sorry about that. My point was that amd and intel are in different leagues. AMD hasn't updated in almost half a decade. they're not competitive. full stop.
    They don't provide more permance. If you factor in the multicore benchmarks than amd becomes somewhat competitive. If you look at single core, which is still the most important metric for games, they get slaughtered.
    ​I'd like cheaper cpus too. However, intels prices do seem to justify performance, and the best way to confirm that is by checking market share and profitability: it isn't in amd's favor.  
  • I'm sure Intel has deals with OEMs to vastly undercut their resale prices on their CPUs, which probably fit a better price level.  I'm just not one to go solely with market share and profitability, especially having that discussion on a site that reviews Windows phones. ;)