I used to keep a series of posts going on in the forums about what kinds of hardware gamers and PC enthusiasts could afford to squeeze into a rig for a set amount of R100 bills. Its rather difficult to search through online reviews and put it all together to get an idea of what you want to buy, hoping to hell there’s no bottlenecks, or you’ve made a crucial mistake and missed out on a better deal elsewhere. Well have no fear no further, for I’ve been doing all the searching for you to educate buyers on exactly what they should be looking at!

Every enthusiast's wet dream - those first 30mins spent opening those boxes!

First off, though, I’ll still keep the Intel builds on the System Builders Thread on the forums going as normal because most of the info stays the same with the exception of a chipset and processor change. I’ll also look at getting the most out of your rig – if that means sacrificing a few gigabytes of storage, one extra PCI-E slot and that extra DIMM module (RAM for you noobs) for the luxury of an SSD, then so be it. If I have a choice of an Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon Tri-core, I’ll always go for the AMD; mostly for the extra core, but also the scaling the system will allow, as the extra core gives it more longevity and will help you stave off a very expensive part of the upgrade path.

But onto the rigs! Every second month I’ll have a look at laptops for a change in specific budgets. For those of you new to this (and don’t read Tom’s Hardware), I’ll be looking in the R4000 to R15,000 price range in R2k intervals. This week, I’m looking at the budget builds most people can afford. It’ll be a complete tower – just the box and no other frills like monitors, keyboards or software.

Budget: R4000 max

MSI NF725GM-P31 @ R440

AMD Athlon X3 455 3.3Ghz @ R846

Patriot Signature DDR3-1600 4GB CL9 @ R220

Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 500GB SATA HDD @ R802

Gigabyte AMD Radeon HD5750 1GB DDR5 @ R1003

Cooler Master Extreme Power 460w @ R430

Cooler Master Elite 310 @ R350

Total : R4279

Going a bit over budget with the entry-level rig, I’ve settled on something that I myself started out with – and mostly still have. We’ve got a decent entry-level board from MSI, a triple-core Athlon with a very high clock speed, 2GB of RAM and all complemented by a Radeon HD5750 – don’t knock its age, this baby still kicks ass in its price range. Right now, AMD has the budget bracket cornered and you’d be nuts to go to Nvidia at this point because the other cards can’t quite compare. Unfortunately the entire build is unsettled by the huge price hikes on hard drives. If you’re getting a new one now, make sure it was manufactured before December 31st 2011 – Western Digital and Seagate have since slimmed down their warranties to a single year to make up for their operating losses since the floods and earthquakes in the East.

Budget : R6000 max

MSI 970A-G45 AM3+ @ R1082

AMD PhenomII X6 1055T 2.8Ghz @ R1271

Mushkin Silverline DDR3-1600 4GB  @ R308

MSI AMD Radeon HD6770 1GB DDR5 @ R1279

Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 500GB SATA HDD @ R802

LiteOn 24x SATA DVD-RW DL @ R188

Coolermaster RC-370 @ R444

Cooler Master GX550W @ R729

Total: R6103

Spot the pattern, anyone? I would have gone with a Sandybridge processor here under normal circumstances, but AMD’s Bulldozer has created a fantastic opportunity – here’s a genuine six-core processor for you for nearly R1300. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t choose it, and stocks are running out fast. While Bulldozer gets the job done, its slower in almost every aspect when compared with the previous-gen Phenoms. I also added in a much better board with the 970 chipset, slided in some very nice Mushkin RAM (its Mushkin, you’d be crazy to say no) and the venerable Radeon HD6770. If hard drives weren’t so expensive you probably would also have seen an SSD squeezed into here either as a boot or cache drive. Either way, this system will be going until you upgrade in two year’s time.

Hoped that helped, everyone! Tune in this column next week for the R8k and R10k price brackets.