Build A GeForce GTX 950 Micro ATX PC For Under $450
While four-thousand dollar rigs with all their top-end parts and shiny extras are certainly fantastic, they’re financially out of reach for most. But that doesn’t mean you have to do without the latest tech—far from it! With the recent release of the GeForce GTX 950, you can now play many of today’s most popular games at 1080p resolutions on an affordable budget.
If you’re a die-hard MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) fan, the GTX 950 is a dream come true. In blockbusters such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of the Storm, you’ll be lavished in silky smooth framerates that rest well above the 100 mark. In addition, the GTX 950 and GeForce Experience optimize input and rendering latencies to ensure you have the competitive edge in each MOBA match.
Plus, with the GeForce Experience Early Access Share Beta, you can access GameStream Co-Op, which lets you add one of your pals into the current game you’re playing. While there, they can watch your exploits unfold in real-time, or even take direct control whenever you need a hand (they can also play along with you in supported games).
In addition to costing only $159 (depending on the manufacturer), the GTX 950 supports DirectX 12, and it’s constructed from the technologically advanced Maxwell architecture, which unlocks VXGI (Voxel Global Illumination), MFAA (multi-frame anti-aliasing), DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution), NVIDIA G-SYNC, and more. To top it all off, the GTX 950 only requires a single 6-pin power connector and a 350 watt power supply.
So what do all of those features translate into, aside from terrific value? Simple: great gaming experiences. As seen in the chart below, you can expect to run Battlefield 4, Grid Autosport, Tomb Raider, and many more games at 1920x1080 at over 30 frames-per-second, and MOBAs at over 100 frames per second.
Of course, as blistering fast and economical as the GTX 950 is, it won’t do you much good just sitting on your desk like an intricate hood ornament. No, you’ll need a good system to place it in, complete with similarly affordable components, including a motherboard, case, PSU, RAM, storage, CPU, and CPU cooler.
Worried? Don’t be. Building a PC these days is a walk in the park compared to decades ago, where drawing blood from sliced fingers and realizing certain parts just refused to work with particular brands was commonplace. Most modern PC components come with clear instructions on installation, and there are a plethora of quality tutorials at your fingertips on the internet. Our very own GeForce Garage contains many such helpful tools, including how to pick the best parts for your build and how to create an effective build log.
Still, in-depth research takes time and effort, especially in the entry PC realm, where cost and reliability are critical. After all, just because a component costs less doesn’t make it a winner. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and taken care of all the hard work for you. Listed below are all the best components we could muster up without going over a total budget $450 (at the time of writing). The added bonus is that unlike consoles, you'll always be playing at 1920x1080, performance and graphical fidelity will be better, and you’ll always be able to upgrade each part whenever you see fit. And with useful tools such as GeForce Experience you’ll be able to automatically apply optimal in-game settings with a single click.
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 950 Superclocked||$159.99|
|Chassis||Cooler Master N200 Micro ATX Mini Tower||$44.75|
|CPU||Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor||$64.88|
|Motherboard||MSI H81M-P33 Micro ATX LGA 1150||$39.99|
|RAM||Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory||$39.99|
|Storage||Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive||$46.99|
|PSU||EVGA 430W 80+ Certified ATX||$37.99|
*Please note: all prices listed correct at the time of writing. Shipping and handling fees may apply (though we've attempted to account for that by selecting sites with free or minimal shipping).
EVGA GeForce GTX 950 Superclocked: $159.99
The EVGA GTX 950 SC is equipped with an 1152 MHz base clock, 1342 MHz boost clock, and a 6610 MHz memory clock. It’s also currently the most cost-effective GTX 950, weighing in at just under $160. Though it’s a dual-slot GPU, it’ll fit into the MSI H81M-P33 Micro ATX motherboard with ease, thanks mostly to its low-profile 6.8” length and 4.3” height. The card’s total power draw is only 110 watts, and all you’ll need to get its engine running is a single 6-pin power connector. Because of that, there’s no need to buy a high-wattage PSU—a 430 watt power supply is more than enough—which saves you considerable money.
The GTX 950 is a champ when it comes to MOBA games such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of the Storm. That’s because in these games performance coupled with latency are paramount to success; a lagged mouse click or errant button press can spell certain failure. In fact, through use of one-click Optimal Playable Settings in GeForce Experience, the GTX 950 enjoys up to an 2x faster response time in DOTA 2 compare to GTX 650, which wasn’t exactly a slouch to begin with.
But even if you’re not into MOBAs, the EVGA GTX 950 SC has your back. No matter what your go-to genre is—FPSes, RTSes, RPGs, MMOs, strategy games, or others—you should be able to play them all at 1920x1080 and enjoy stutter-free framerates. And if you’re looking for a different cooling solution, clocks speeds, PCB size, or price, there are plenty of other custom GTX 950s from other manufacturers. While each of these cards vary in styles and clock tweaks, they all contain the core NVIDIA features that make the GTX 950 shine, such as MFAA, DSR, and NVIDIA G-SYNC.
Cooler Master N200 Micro ATX Mini Tower: $44.75
For the reasonable asking price, this Micro ATX/Mini ITX case offers a heck of a lot. Though compact in size, there’s ample enough room for installing your components without feeling like your hands are locked in restraints.
You won't have to wrack your brain over proper cooling either. Out of the box, the case has a 120mm intake fan and a 120mm rear exhaust fan, and support for all in one water coolers boasting 240mm radiators.
Storage-wise, there are plenty of hard drive mounting spots, and if you opt to add an SSD, there are dedicated spots for them in the case.
The front of the case has two USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.0 port, but you’ll need a USB 2.0 motherboard header to USB 3.0 case adapter to get the USB 3.0 functioning with the MSI H81M-P33 mobo we’ve selected. Luckily though, such an adapter costs next to nothing—you can get one on Newegg for just a few dollars.
Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor: $64.88
If you’re primarily a MOBA gamer, or a casual or retro gamer, the best CPU to support your GTX 950 is the dual-core Intel Pentium G3258. This 3.2 GHz processor is a steal at $64, and overclocks like a beast when paired with an optional CPU cooler like the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus (currently $20 after a rebate).
If you think you'll be playing the latest highly-demanding blockbusters like Star Wars: Battlefront, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Grand Theft Auto V, you should seriously consider the $175 i5-4460 instead. A Quad Core CPU, the i5-4460 will improve frame rates and frame times in the aforementioned games, perform well in multi-threaded DirectX 12 games, and prevent bottlenecks when using a more powerful GPU.
Moreover, it is fully compatible with the other parts used in this system guide. However, given the increased heat output from the chip, and its higher levels of performance, you'll want to include a CPU cooler like the aforementioned Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus in your build.
MSI H81M-P33 Micro ATX LGA1150: $39.99
Since the G3258 is an LGA 1150 CPU, it needs an LGA 1150 motherboard to go with it. And while motherboards such as ASUS’s ROG Maximus VII Hero are admittedly great, they’re outside of our budget. The Micro ATX MSI H81M-P33, on the other hand, fits our needs quite nicely.
At roughly $40, the H81M-P33 gets the job done without any of the bells and whistles or eye-candy that the higher-end boards tend to boast. And yet this versatile little motherboard still has everything you’ll require, including up to 16 GB of max memory with two RAM slots, DDR3 1600/1333/1066 support, a PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, two embedded USB 3.0 ports, two SATA 6 Gb/s ports, two SATA 3 Gb/s ports, and the Intel H81 chipset.
It's not fancy, but it does the job. And GeForce.com's own Andrew Burnes recently used it in a G3258 build for his parents, finding it perfectly adequate for the task at hand.
Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory: $39.99
RAM prices are fickle, and they've fluctuated heavily throughout the years. Luckily, we're at one of those points where it's affordable to get a good amount of DDR3 memory. And 8GB of 1600 MHz RAM is enough to handle most gaming sessions, as well as other more common PC tasks.
For each component in the build you should be shopping around for the best prices and rebates, and this is especially true for RAM, where the crown for 'best value kit' changes from hour to hour. Currently Crucial's kit is cheapest, but yesterday it was Kingston's. By the time you read this something else will undoubtedly be cheaper. In a budget build, any of the known-name manufacturers will suffice as performance is similar across the board, and advanced features like heat dissipation and overclocking don't come into play at this price-performance level.
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive: $46.99
Contrary to what some might suggest, hard drives aren’t dead, and $47 for a terabyte of storage is one heck of a deal.
Of course, pairing up an HDD with a mid-range SSD is the preferred method, but that would have bumped us over our target budget. Still, if you can manage to squeeze out a few extra bucks, adding an SSD such as Crucial’s BX100 is a smart move, especially for running your OS and some choice games.
EVGA 430W 80+ Certified ATX: $37.99
For a scant $38, EVGA's 430 watt 80+ is a reputable and hearty power supply. EVGA has a superb three-year warranty and RMA policy with this model, and 430 watts of juice through a single +12 volt rail will keep this system more than happy. The EVGA 430W 80+ isn't modular, but it's also not gigantic, and you shouldn't have too much trouble tucking away unused cables into our chosen chassis. Furthermore, the extra power capacity (approximately 180 Watts is unused) gives you the option of adding additional drives, and more powerful GPUs and CPUs at a later date.
If this is your first build, or perhaps your first foray into PC gaming, be sure to check out the extra hardware and software items below.
- If you don’t already have an OS, you’ll want to buy a copy of Windows 10. If you already own Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. This is definitely recommended if you want to take advantage of the GTX 950’s DX12 functionality.
- For CPU overclocking and improved cooling you may wish to pick up the $20-$30 Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus, one of the best bang for buck CPU coolers ever made. If your budget extends further, and you want even quieter and cooler performance, consider an All In One Closed Loop Cooler instead (AIO CLC).
- Optical drives are slowly vanishing in favor of USB sticks and broadband downloads, but if you still need one, check out ASUS’s 24X DVD burner—it’s incredibly affordable. Alternatively, consider an external drive that connects to your PC via USB.
- There are plenty of budget monitors out there, but for the money, the Viewsonic VX2263Smhl is a fine choice. It’s an IPS panel, it has a 22” screen at a 1920x1080 resolution, a 60 Hz refresh rate, a 5 ms response time, and it’s only $124 on Amazon (with free shipping). PC Gamer called it “The best 1080p monitor for gaming.”
- Gaming mice are ubiquitous and awesome, and there are loads of different styles to suit just about any style. For about $36, you can treat your hand to the Turtle Beach Grip 300, and it should work well in most games. If you’re extra strapped for cash though, you can always pick up a basic PC mouse for less than 10 bucks.
- Mechanical keyboards (the preferred choice of most gamers) are hard to come by in the budget realm; the lowest-priced decent option is Cooler Master’s QuickFire Rapid, and it’ll run you a cool $79. That said, a gaming-themed mechanical board is by no means required—a quality membrane keyboard will do in a pinch. For just $8.49 (plus shipping), you can call Logitech’s K120 keyboard your own.
By building a PC based off the parts in this guide, you’ll have unrestricted access to playing all your favorite games at 1920x1080 with great performance, and all for under $450. If you’re addicted to MOBAs, as millions of folks already are, a GTX 950-powered Micro ATX rig such as this is just what the doctor ordered, thanks to the GPU’s latency optimization and high framerates in League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of the Storm.
Additionally, many of your games will be enhanced by awesome features such one-click optimal play settings, GameStream Co-Op, MFAA, NVIDIA G-SYNC, VXGI, DSR, and more. The GTX 950 is affordable, power efficient, and just plain fast, making it a no-brainer for the budget-minded gamer who doesn’t want to sacrifice frames-per-second for a lower price. And with so many different custom GTX 950 cards to choose from, you’re sure to find one that’s just right for you.
Think we should have used different components? Share your $450 or cheaper budget build in the comments section below.