Building a new PC may seem complicated for some, but it’s a fun thing to do, even if you’re building your first one and are still learning. What’s arguably less fun is choosing the components to go in that PC. This is even more true when you’re limited with your budget and don’t really know where your money should go. Well, our $700 Intel build guide aims to answer some of those questions.
We’ll be taking a look at a list of rather balanced components, without bottlenecks, and without components that you can’t take advantage of, like a powerful GPU and an insufficient CPU. We will also touch upon what you could realistically expect from this build, and what you can use it for.
One thing to keep in mind is that we made sure to guarantee compatibility with the components and leave a bit of room for upgrades. We’ll suggest a few of them later on, which should give you a good idea of what you can buy if you’ve got a bit of extra in terms of budget. But, without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at our $700 Intel build.
One of the things that might spring to mind when you’re this limited with your budget is the fact that your gaming experience might be subpar. And that’s where you’d be wrong. This is a build that’s absolutely capable of 1080p gaming, whether you’re playing competitive titles at higher framerates, or AAA titles with slightly lowered settings.
Of course, just how many frames per second you’ll get, and how high you will be able to push the details does depend on the games you’ll be playing, as well as how demanding they are. But the PC is made to handle most of today’s modern games.
To further sweeten the pot, this is a PC that’s also great for getting some work done. Whether you’re doing something basic, or you’re editing photos and videos, the system can handle that. Note that rendering in high resolutions may not be all that fast, but as long as you set reasonable expectations, you’ll be surprised at what you can get from the $700 Intel build.
Now that you know what you can expect, and what the build can be used for, let’s take a look at the components.
Even though this isn’t part of the latest, 10th generation, it’s exactly that which makes it a great choice – it comes at a great price, and gets you excellent performance. The Core i5-9400F is a six-core CPU that’s capable of handling today’s modern workloads. Whether it’s gaming or getting some work done, you’re covered.
The base frequency is 2.9GHz, but Turbo Boost gets you up to 4.1GHz, which is no small feat. What’s also nice is that you have support for Intel’s Optane memory, and you also get Intel’s stock cooler included in the box. For a locked CPU with no overclocking, it does a great job.
You will also need a discrete GPU since this is an F series processor, but we’ve got one in the build, so this isn’t a problem.
With a locked CPU, all you need is a motherboard with a reliable power delivery system, and support for all the components you’re planning on using. For our $700 build, Gigabyte’s B365M DS3H is a great choice, as it’s a budget motherboard that checks all the boxes.
To begin with, you have four DIMM slots. Even though we’ll use a kit with two sticks, this does give you room for upgrades down the line, and you can add another kit. You also have an M.2 slot that allows you to install fast storage on your system, as well as a high-quality audio section.
The B365M DS3H also comes with things like RGB headers with support for the RGB Fusion software, as well as excellent LAN connectivity. There is also Smart Fan 5, which automatically controls your fans, getting you a great balance between noise and low temperatures.
Intel CPUs aren’t demanding at all when it comes to memory, so the Vengeance LPX 16GB kit at 2666MHz is a great choice, and it saves you a few bucks, too. This is one of the most reliable kits out there, and even though it doesn’t have RGB heatsinks or incredible speeds, it does a great job.
The kit itself comes with two 8GB sticks, so you get dual channel. There’s also C16 timings, which are pretty much standard. In terms of performance, there’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a good performing, reliable kit.
The big thing about it is that it comes with a heatsink that’s really low profile. This allows you to fit pretty much any size cooler on your CPU, which is great. The black color also blends in with just about any aesthetic, making this an overall great choice.
This is one of those areas where you want to spend as much as you can, especially on a budget, since the GPU makes a massive difference in gaming performance. The GTX 1660 Super is an excellent midrange graphics card that can handle just about any modern game, even though some more demanding ones might require that you tone down the settings a bit.
You’re looking at 6GB of GDDR6 memory with a core clock sitting at 1830MHz. Pair this with 1408 CUDA cores, and all things considered, you get a respectable performer for 1080p gaming. Gigabyte has given it its dual-fan WINDFORCE 2X cooling system, which keeps the fans quiet when they aren’t needed.
The backplate does add a bit of structural rigidity to the GPU itself, which is a nice addition. A great GPU for 1080p gaming on a budget. If, however, you want a bit more in terms of performance, take a look at our list of the best GPUs of 2020, and choose the one that fits your needs best.
The motherboard we opted for has an M.2 slot, so we’ve decided to populate it with one of the best M.2 SSDs out there. We’re talking about Samsung’s 970 EVO, in a 500GB capacity. This is an excellent SSD with great speeds, good thermal performance, and a very reasonable $/GB ratio.
First things first, the capacity. With modern games taking up a lot of room, 500GB is a necessity. This is especially true when you’ve got an OS to install, as well as a few apps here and there. But you should be covered in this regard.
And then there’s the performance. Even though this isn’t Samsung’s highest-end SSD, it gets you excellent read and write speeds. This directly translates into great day-to-day performance, both when gaming, and doing just about anything else. It’s pretty much the go-to SSD nowadays, with plenty of good reasons for that.
While the total power consumption is somewhere in the vicinity of 275 to 300 watts, we’ve decided on a 500W PSU from EVGA for the $700 Intel build. This gets you two major things. First, it makes sure the PSU isn’t under full load for extended periods. And second, it allows you to upgrade your components without needing a more powerful PSU.
The 500 W1 is EVGA’s best selling budget power supply. At 500 watts, it can handle most modern builds, and it’s also 80+ certified. This does give you some peace of mind because you’ve got yourself a quality power unit.
Last but not least, there’s the price. When it comes to budget builds, you don’t want to skimp on the PSU. The 500 W1 is a reliable, proven choice for a price that’s more than reasonable.
Considering the $700 Intel build comes with a micro ATX motherboard, and a rather low profile CPU cooler and GPU, a micro ATX case is all you need. Thermaltake’s Versa H15 is one of the best picks on a budget, for a multitude of reasons.
While there is no tempered glass or acrylic on the side, the case does look neat. It doesn’t have anything unnecessary, and it’s rather subtle in its entirety. The front is a mesh panel with a dust filter. This means plenty of air can go inside the case and get you good cooling. There are two exhausts as well, so a balanced setup is easy to achieve.
Inside, you get quite a lot of room for cable management. Considering there’s even room for a 240mm AIO, you can build a pretty high-end rig inside the Versa. And our $700 Intel build fits perfectly.
Even though this is a fairly balanced build, there are a few things that you could potentially get if you want to get a bit more out of it. Of course, this is provided your budget allows it.
The first thing you might want to get is a better cooler for the CPU. Make no mistake, Intel’s stock cooler does a great job with non-overclockable CPUs. However, if you want even lower temperatures, a good air cooler will do wonders. You don’t have to spend too much on it, and no, you don’t need an AIO liquid solution.
Next up, you could add more fans to your case. We’ve reviewed some pretty good ones, so you can pick out from the list. The case comes with a single 120mm fan. Therefore, adding more to get a balanced setup with two intakes and two exhaust fans is a nice idea.
Then there’s Wi-Fi. Even though for gaming, you need a wired Ethernet connection, Wi-Fi is oftentimes a neat addition. A good Wi-Fi card isn’t expensive, and you do have room in your case to install one. Just make sure you get one with a high gain antenna, for better reception and signal strength. We’ve got a few options you can take a look at.
Last but not least, you could check out a different case. The Versa H15 is a great choice because of its subtle aesthetics and great performance, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some might prefer tempered glass on the side, to showcase their components. Some might go for a more quiet option as opposed mesh at the front. It’s an individual thing, but if your budget allows it – feel free to switch it out for something else. We’ve got a great list for you, too.
When all is said and done, a $700 Intel build can get you a lot of pleasure when gaming. The components we’ve chosen get you a balanced system that’s great for 1080p gaming, as well as getting some work done. And best of all – there’s always room for upgrades.
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