We asked Maximum PC’s Will Smith to describe the cheapest PC you can build, and he said he’d do it, if only to talk you out of spending so little. Here’s what you gain – and lose – by going ultra cheap.
Over at Maximum PC, we just posted a guide that shows you everything you need to know to build the cheapest PC I’d recommend to anyone for use as his or her main PC. It’s a surprisingly beefy machine, capable of playing games, ripping DVDs, editing video and photos, and playing 1080p video with nary a dropped frame. For a mere $US647, we managed to pack a quad-core CPU, a great video card, 4GB of memory and Windows 7 Home Premium into a surprisingly fashionable mid-tower. However, if you don’t need as well-rounded a general purpose PC, you can go cheaper, especially if you’re willing to make some sacrifices. Let’s take a look at the parts we used, and then we’ll start making cuts.
Since you won't be creating content, there's absolutely no reason to spend big bucks on a massive 500GB hard drive. In fact, you could probably even get by installing Windows on a decent-sized flash drive, but that's more expensive than what we have in mind. It's tough to beat a more-than-adequate 80GB drive for a mere $US35. Oh, and while we're at it, you should ditch the optical drive. Odds are, you won't need it for anything after you set up your machine, and it's easier and faster to install Windows from thumbdrive (which you probably already have anyway).
If you're just going to browse the web on this machine, why spend money on a real CPU? A Foxconn Atom motherboard that comes with the CPU costs a few bucks less than our AMD motherboard alone, so it's time to trim the fat, yet again. Sure, we could spend a few bucks more and get the same CPU in a motherboard equipped with Nvidia's Ion chipset, but EVERYTHING MUST GO!
Will Smith is the Editor-in-Chief of Maximum PC and has been building PCs longer than he cares to admit. He enjoys long walks, Rock Band, and is anxiously awaiting the first great Android Phone and the Apple Tablet.
Top image by Tim Rogers/Flickr, used under CC License