So you’re looking to start streaming, but you don’t have a PC yet. You’re on a bit of a budget, and you’ve heard it’s cheaper to build it yourself than to buy something pre-built. This guide is written for the absolute beginner: I’ll be explaining what each component is and what it does, breaking down all the strange jargon so you can have an idea of what they mean.
Now is a particularly bad time to be building a PC. Demand for parts is high while supply is low, so prices are heavily inflated. We’ll do our best to give our best recommendations, as well as provide good resources to do your own research and pick your own parts based on your needs. Let’s get started!
Before you start, I recommend making an account on PC Part Picker and starting a New System Build so that you can build along with the guide.
Budget Streaming PC Components
This post will go over what the streaming PC components are as well as tell you the best budget option for each of the following:
Best Budget CPU
The processor is essentially the place where all the magic and calculations happen. It truly is the “brain” of the computer. Right now, AMD is the king when it comes to power-per-dollar, and I cannot recommend them enough. Confused by the terminology? “Cores” and “threads” basically refer to how many calculations the computer can perform at once, and “clock speed” is how quickly it can do each one. Generally higher numbers for each are better!
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
The best CPU you can get on a budget is the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X. Typically this will run for an affordable price and blows everything in its price class out of the water. When purchasing this CPU, you will receive the following:
- Ryzen 3 3300X 3.8GHz 4-Core AM4 Processor
- Wraith Stealth Cooler
- AMD 3 Year Limited Warranty
The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is an unlocked version of the 3300G. It is easy to install and is a good budget processor for gaming. The CPU comes with a high-performance cooler that will keep things cool and efficient while remaining quiet. With the extra processing boost, your computer will be able to smoothly run more tasks without issues.
The slightly-less-powerful Ryzen 3 3100 costs less and will deliver similar performance. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, many people have taken advantage of these bargains, pushing the budget CPUs out of stock and up in price. If you can’t find one of those or have a little more room in the budget, the best thing to buy is the Ryzen 5 3600.
Best Budget GPU
The graphics card will often be the most expensive component. Unfortunately, the last several months have been among the worst times to buy graphics cards in recent memory. The low supply of the most recent series of cards has driven prices sky-high for both professional and budget cards from each of the last several generations of the product.
EVGA GeForce GTX 1070
The EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 comes with the cooling technology you need to overclock. The optimized fan curve will keep your computer running quietly while still allowing you to enjoy your game in full graphic detail. You can also customize the RGB LED lighting if you want to show it off through your clear case.
The truth is that there’s no great solution for this right now, and my best suggestion is to try to pick up a used GTX1070 (or similar) for $200 or less, then save up some money to buy a nicer card when prices come down later. Search for deals on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and r/HardwareSwap.
Best Budget Motherboard
This is one of the simplest components to choose. For the most part, your motherboard doesn’t matter — its job is to get your other components working together. For all but the most-dedicated of power users, the motherboard is mostly arbitrary, so we can select one of the cheapest options. The main concerns you have with your motherboard are going to be size, RAM slots, and the chipset. Let’s break that down real quick:
There are three main sizes of motherboard: ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Due to size, cost, and functionality, I always recommend Micro-ATX for budget builds. (And just in general, really.)
You only need two RAM slots on your motherboard. However, if you want to leave room to upgrade your PC with more later, it may be worth investing a little bit more into a board with four slots. That way, instead of buying all new RAM, you can simply supplement what you already have.
The “chipset” is just about compatibility and features. Since we’re looking at the Ryzen 3000 series of CPUs on a budget, we only need to look at motherboards labelled B450 and B550.
ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0
Asus Prime B450M-A/CSM
If you’re looking to do a complete rebuild at some point in the future with all brand new parts, a B450 motherboard will get the job done. They’ll cost less and get the work just fine. Snag yourself an ASRock B450M-HDV R4.0 for around $65, or the $78 Asus Prime B450M-A/CSM if you want four RAM slots for future upgrades.
If you may want to upgrade to a nicer, newer processor without doing a complete rebuild, get a B550 motherboard. Still budget-friendly, but forwards-compatible to newer hardware when you want it. (Such as the Ryzen 5 5600X). At a reasonable $90, you can pick up an ASRock B550M Phantom Gaming 4, which also includes 4 RAM slots for future upgrades.
Best Budget Memory
Your computer’s RAM is fast, temporary storage, used for moving data from place to place. Almost any game will run on 8GB, though it may struggle at some points. I recommend buying 16GB, which is perfect for gaming and will get the job done for streaming. If you opt to get a motherboard with 4 RAM slots, you can easily add an additional 16GB if you choose to upgrade later.
Team T-Force Vulcan Z 16GB
All RAM compatible with this system will be of the “DDR4” variety. We can pick whatever is the cheapest 16GB set of RAM that’s at least DDR4-3000. At the time of writing this, that’s the Team T-Force Vulcan Z 16GB (2x8GB) set. We opt for two 8GB sticks instead of one 16GB stick to take advantage of something called “dual channel” — don’t worry about what this means, just know that it helps give your memory a little extra kick!
Best Budget Storage
There are two main categories of storage drives: Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SSDs). Don’t worry too much about the differences — all you need to know is that these days, SSDs are the way to go. There are three main options for budget-friendly SSDs. They’re all about the same price, speed, and reliability, so pick whichever one you can get the best deal on.
I recommend the 500GB model, which is enough to store several large games at once while staying at a reasonable price. If you feel like you need more, you can always upgrade to 1TB – but the price will double with it!
Best Budget Power Supply
Your power supply (PSU) is something that you should never skimp on. Wattage is easy – look at your processor and graphics card and find out the minimum amount of power you need to be pushing. Even if sources online tell you that your components will only pull 350W of power, you’re better off following your components’ guidelines for safety. The power supply that you need depends on the other components that you purchase, so it’s tough to make a specific recommendation. You may need to do a little bit of research on your own.
While I always recommend going with a fully modular PSU if you can afford it due to ease of use, we can settle for less for a budget build. Here are a couple recommendations for power supplies of different wattages, depending on what else you put into your PC:
- 500W: EVGA BQ 80+ Bronze ($55, semi-modular)
- 600-700W: Rosewill 700W 80+ Bronze ($70, semi-modular)
Best Budget Case
The case is another easy place to cut costs. Some people will spend hundreds on a case… We can settle for less. Rosewill sells some nice, cheap cases that you can find for very little. My choice for a budget case is the Rosewill FBM-X1, which can currently be purchased for $27. It’s possible to go cheaper, but this one has a nicer look to it, complete with a glass side-panel allowing you to see the components on the inside.
Don’t like the look of this one? As long as they have decent reviews on websites like Newegg, Amazon, or PC Part Picker, mostly anything should be fine! There are tons of options under $50 to match your style with varying different shapes and colors.
How to Research and Pick Your Own Components
When choosing a motherboard, RAM, power supply, and case, prices aren’t static. There are many comparable options to the ones that I picked, and prices will fluctuate! For this, PC Part Picker is an amazing resource.
In the System Builder,selecting your processor will limit all of your motherboard options to be compatible. Use the filters based on my recommendations above (B450/B550, 2/4 RAM slots). Sort by lowest price. Look at the ratings for the top few on Newegg and Amazon. Anything with 4 or more stars should be fairly reliable.
Repeat this process for the other components. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole system ready to be purchased! PC Part Picker will also show you price comparisons from a variety of sources so you know you’re getting the best deal if you’re purchasing from a major parts retailer.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Streaming PC?
Based on the parts we picked in this guide, you can build a PC for gaming and streaming for a little under $600 plus the cost of the operating system. A new copy of Windows 10 will cost about $100. You can often find cheaper keys for sale online, such as on eBay – this has mixed success rates, but if they cost $5 or less, it could be worth trying your luck if you’re on a budget.
Should I Build or Buy a Gaming PC?
Building a PC will typically save you hundreds of dollars compared to buying a new, comparable machine. You also gain the knowledge and experience required to diagnose, fix, and upgrade it later if you need to. If your main priority is sticking within a tight budget, this is definitely the right option.
But if ever there was a time to buy a pre-built system, it’s now. With the massive inflation of new graphics cards, the price gap between the two is smaller than it’s ever been. Buying a PC from a site like iBuyPower or CyberPowerPC will give you a hassle-free experience and a warranty covering the entire thing, often for longer than the individual parts you’d buy.
What Games Can I Run and Stream With These Parts?
A PC built with the components recommended above should run most modern games at 1080p on medium settings or higher. The newest games on the market may require you to turn some settings further down to keep a stable 60FPS.
If you intend to stream, you may need to turn the quality down further to both maintain your gameplay experience and avoid dropping frames. There is no exact science to this; test playing while recording your gameplay through your streaming software, and see how it does.
How Do I Increase My FPS?
The quickest, simplest, and totally-free way to get better numbers: Turn down your settings.
For a minimal investment, you can look into overclocking. Typically when people talk about overclocking, they’re talking about their CPU. This is done by tweaking some settings to make the processor run at a higher clock speed. Doing this causes excess heat, meaning you will need to invest in a nicer CPU cooler than the one that comes out of the box. A cheap and reliable option is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO.
Other components that can be overclocked are your GPU and your RAM. You can eke out a bit more performance from each, once again by tweaking some settings to make them quicker. These aren’t as common or as straightforward,
Keep in mind that while overclocking can give mild-to-moderate performance benefits, it may also decrease the lifespan of the product. Running at temperatures and speeds outside what they’re designed for can permanently damage components if you’re not careful, and burn them out more quickly even if you are. For some people, that’s a risk worth taking; I don’t typically do it myself.