While carefully researching and selecting the components for your next PC in accordance with your budget can be an enlighting experience, there is something exhilarating about taking components someone threw away, putting them together and trying to breathe some new life into the result.
I recently started a series of videos where I experiment on building PC based on components fans had salvaged from scrapyards or that friends were throwing away for space.
A couple of weeks ago I was searching through an app commonly used to sell used nicknacks in hopes of finding a PSU (Power Supply Unit) that I needed when I saw someone selling what seemed like an almost entire PC for €25. According to the seller, he was trying to get rid of a bunch of components for space so it was either a cheap price or throwing the whole thing in the trash.
What I got from that purchase was a P8H61-MX motherboard with an Intel Pentium G860, a rather beefy aftermarket CPU cooler, a 500W PSU and a cheap "cooler master" case.
The G860 is a 2013 speedy (3 GHz) dual-core from the Sand Bridge generation aimed at budget users. It comes equipped with an Integrated second generation IntelHD so it can be operated without a dedicated GPU.
It was missing two key components. RAM and a Hard Drive.
RAM is tricky to find on a budget. There is an ongoing shortage of NAND memory modules that have been driving up the prices of DDR3 and DDR4 ram sticks. The best I could find was one 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 stick for €20 (Almost as much as the CPU, Motherboard, PSU and Case).
Finally, finding out a hard drive was significantly easier. I managed to find an old WD 320 GB hard drive for €10. It is usually worth being careful when buying used Hard Drives. Mechanical drivers do eventually fail after a certain amount of use. If there are a fair amount of clicks of coming from inside the drive during operation it is not in the best shape, but they do ok for testing purposes.
All together the whole thing comes to about €55. Impressive considering it is under the price on one AAA game on launch.
Let's try some games.
I recently did a video on some of the changes that can be done on Indie Cute-as-heck platformer Hat in Time in order to get decent framerate on low-end PC, and the same configuration file worked perfectly for this computer, with performance around 30 fps and manageable platforming challenges.
If you are interested in the full article on this game, click here.
The original release of Skyrim was another interesting one. On a resolution of 960x540 and using the super low graphics mod the game manages to also maintain about 30 fps in big towns and even in combat.
The super low graphics mod reduces the game's configuration file to its absolute minimum, which can be a bit startling at first but provides a really good performance boost while being surprisingly still readable and understandable as a game.
Since I recently wrote an article on some of the tweaks you can do on the first Crysis game to take it to the lowest for maximum performance.
While this game is not exactly playable in this state it does make for an interesting benchmark. The G860 managed to maintain close to 30 fps on 720p.
A more realistic test scenario for a device like this is Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO). This competitive team shooter remains one of the staples of E-Sports and one of the first choices for budget-oriented gamers.
I put the game on the user made benchmark map and limited resolution to 960x540 with the lowest settings. The result was an average of 27.77 FPS. This average seemed accurate for a casual test on Dust 2 during a multiplayer game.
Since I would ideally want more than 30 fps average before considering this low-end gaming experiment I success this was a great opportunity to test Overclocking.
While the Pentium G860 has no overclocking support for the CPU the P8H61-MX support integrated GPU Overclocking. Entering the advanced options in the BIOS allowed changing the clock speed of the GPU.
The second generation intelHD has a stock max clock speed of 1100 MHz, but I managed to rise it to 1600 MHz before causing game crashes.
This 500 MHz difference pushed the CSGO benchmark all the way to 35, which is also reflected in the gameplay, a small but important boost for this game.
It is very obvious that the old intelHD GPU is the main limiting factor for this PC, not only in performance but also in straight game compatibility as it does not support DirectX 11 and will simply show an error when trying modern games like Overwatch.
However, given its low price, this would be a prime candidate for the first step in a larger journey. How far could a cheap dedicated GPU and some extra RAM take us?
I am afraid you will have to wait until next week for that, as this experiment will continue in the next episode.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.