Building a low-cost PC always forces us to make certain sacrifices, although if we know where we have to cut In the end we will not have any problem, and we will be able to shape a fully functional, reliable team that is well adjusted to our needs.
This is something very simple that, unfortunately, not everyone is clear about, in fact it is still very common to find serious errors in low-cost PC builds that, in the end, can not only end up negatively affecting the user experience, but can also compromise the stability and security of the equipment.
I am aware of the importance that this has, and for this reason today I want to share with you a guide dedicated to reviewing five serious mistakes that we should not make when assembling a low-cost PC. at each point I will explain the most important details of that specific errorand I will tell you how we can avoid it.
The guide will be clear, simple and easy to understand, but if you have any questions when you finish reading it you can leave it in the comments and I will be happy to help you solve it. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
1.-To think that a low-cost PC will work with any power supply
It is important to make it clear, before delving into this error, that there are many types of low-cost PCs, and that therefore there may be cases in which a specific assembly does work with any power supply. Nevertheless, even in these cases it is advisable to choose a source that offers us a minimum of qualitysince this component will be in charge of supplying the equipment with the energy it needs, and if it suffers a critical failure it can take other components with it.
A poor quality source it’s a time bomb, and in the end it is only a matter of time until it explodes. With this I do not mean that you need a particularly expensive power supply to build a low-cost PC, nothing is further from the truth, but be clear that those models that offer a power of 500 or 600 watts for 15 euros or less are a option to avoid.
Think about the actual power needs of the PC you are building, something that is very easy if you start from the base requirement of the graphics card you are going to use, and buy a power supply that slightly exceeds that requirement. A power supply of acceptable quality and with a minimum of reliability It will always have a reasonable price for its power.
So, for example, a 500-watt source should be around between 35 and 45 euros in its cheaper versions. Keep in mind that you will not need to mount a 100-euro power supply to enjoy a good user experience, and that there is life beyond premium brands. Without going any further, the Nox and Aerocool sources have given me good results. If you have doubts about which power supply you need follow this link.
If you are not going to mount a dedicated graphics card, you will not need a particularly powerful source, in fact in these cases a model of between 300 and 350 watts is almost always sufficient. However, you should not trust yourself and go with the cheapest power supply you can find. At this level it is normal to find reliable models from 25 euro.
2.-Do without a dual channel memory configuration
It is common to find this error because many believe that by using a single channel configuration they do not lose much performance, save a few euros and they only take up one memory slot on the motherboard (this is important because most low-cost motherboards only come with two slots). Obviously, this is a serious bug, and we’ll see why.
It is true that not all applications and games benefit equally from a dual channel memory configuration, but currently this type of configuration is key for processors to develop their full potential, thanks to the use of a 128-bit memory bus that we achieve by configuring the RAM in dual channel. With a single channel configuration we would have a 64-bit bus.
Thanks to the 128-bit bus communications between the processor and RAM memory are carried out at a higher speed, and this has a positive impact on its performance, especially at low resolutions. There are also professional applications that greatly benefit from dual channel.
If it happens that we are going to use a integrated GPU this mode will make a huge difference, as it determines the total memory bandwidth and can drastically reduce or increase the performance of the integrated graphics core (it uses RAM as graphics memory because it lacks it, which is not the case with a dedicated graphics card).
The price difference between buying one or two RAM memory modules will be minimal (less than 10 euros) and the loss of performance that we will have to face it won’t be worth it, so do not skimp and mount two memory modules in dual channel, even if you have a low budget. With few exceptions, it is the best option.
When choosing RAM memory, we must prioritize the quantity and the dual-channel configuration, these two points cannot be discussed, but we must not forget about speed and latency either. If we talk about capacity, the ideal is to mount at least 8 GB for an office PC and 16 GB for a dedicated gaming PCboth configurations must go in double channel.
When it comes to speed, a low-cost PC for office and basic tasks won’t benefit as much from faster memory as a gaming PC, so It is a more “expendable” point. However, in the case of a gaming equipment we should not go below a frequency of 3,200 MHz and CL16 latencies in the case that we use DDR4, and 5,200 MHz and CL36 in case we mount DDR5.
3.-Buy the cheapest motherboard available
This is another of the components that we do not usually give the importance it really deserves, and it is a topic that we have already touched on in our guide to motherboards, but when we talk about building a low-cost PC it becomes a much more problem. important because, in the end, it is the one that usually suffers the most cuts, and this can end up giving us more of a headache.
Buying a cheap motherboard to build a low-cost PC is an excellent idea, but we must be careful and not go directly for the cheapest model we can find. Before choosing you have to consider some things that are basic:
- Will the motherboard I’m going to buy fit in my PC case?
- Is it compatible with all the components that I am going to use?
- Do you have a VRM powerful enough to drive the CPU I’ve chosen?
- Do you have enough connectors and ports?
- If I’m using an integrated GPU, do you have the image connectors I’ll need?
If you do not take all this into account, you may end up buying a motherboard that is not capable of optimally moving the processor you have chosen, and in extreme cases this could give you stability problems. There is also the possibility that it is not compatible with the standard of the SSD that you have chosen and that it ends up working at a lower speed, or that it does not have the image output you need to connect your monitor if you use an integrated GPU.
Choosing the wrong motherboard it can limit you a lot and give you serious problems, so be careful and always try to leave a small part of your budget reserved to choose an economical model that is well adjusted to your equipment and your needs. You could also run into other minor but very annoying problems, such as the motherboard you have chosen not having enough USB ports to connect all your peripherals.
4.-Unbalancing too much in favor of a component
When we have a limited budget, choosing the components to assemble a low-cost PC becomes very complicated. Since not all assemblies have the same objective, it is normal that in some we prioritize certain components and that we invest a greater amount of money in them, but We must not go to the extreme of incurring in serious imbalancesbecause in the end it will be counterproductive and we will not enjoy a good experience.
I could give you many examples, but the most frequent and serious are the following:
- Mount a very little powerful processor and a powerful graphics card, and vice versa.
- Reduce the investment in RAM memory and stay below the recommended minimum (mount 8 GB instead of 16 GB if we are going to play, for example).
- Choosing a cheap cooling system that will not be able to keep the temperatures of our processor at acceptable values.
It’s okay to prioritize a component, but do not go to the extreme of neglecting others which are also important. For example, if you want to build a low-cost PC to play games, the processor must be at least at the level of a Ryzen 5 3600/Ryzen 5 5500 or an Intel Core i7-8700/Intel Core i3-12100.
Continuing with this example, we can say that a low-cost PC for gaming would have a serious imbalance if it is configured with a dual-core CPU, or even if you use a four-core, four-thread chipsince none of these processors reaches the recommended level of 6 cores and 12 threads, nor the minimum of 4 cores and 8 threads if it compensates with a very high IPC.
The truth is that with the prices that are currently in the CPU sector there is no point in giving up those minimums, since the difference between a processor with four cores and eight threads and another with six cores and twelve threads, both with a good IPC, is around 30 euros. That saving will not allow us to improve other aspects of the PC that compensate for the loss of performance that we will have to assume.
5.-Forget about the SSD and mount only one HDD
In this case I can come to understand that having to choose between performance and capacity, and the latter being such a limiting factor, some users still think that it is better to mount a 2TB HDD than a 512GB SSD. In terms of capacity, yes, the first is the better option, but when opting for a mechanical unit we will be giving up many things:
- An SSD offers near-instantaneous access times, thanks to minimal latency. So that we understand each other, the access times of an HDD are measured in milliseconds, while those of an SSD are measured in microseconds.
- The difference in terms of overall system fluidity and power up and power down times that an SSD makes are huge. The performance of an SSD is also light years ahead of that of an HDD.
- An SSD drastically reduces the load times of applications and games, and allows graphics engines to better develop their potential at the level of streaming and loading of assets in real time, which translates into greater fluidity and fewer popping problems.
- They are completely silent in operation, and make an ever-increasing difference in games and applications.
If you are really concerned about storage capacity, you could opt for mount a 256 GB or 512 GB SSD and accompany it with a 1 TB HDD as a secondary drive. This would allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds with a fairly cheap investment. If you have doubts about which SSD you should choose, I recommend that you consult this guide, where you will find five mistakes that you should not make when choosing your new SSD.
In extreme cases where the budget limits us a lot, it would even be better to mount a 128 GB SSD and accompany it with a 1 TB HDD unit, although we have to limit the former to the operating system and basic applications. Today, not mounting an SSD is a very serious mistake, even in very low-budget configurations, so be clear.