Is PC Gaming affordable in Australia?

There’s been a debate for years (among those for whom these things are a concern) regarding the apparent superiority of PC gaming over console gaming — desires for higher frame rates, better graphics and wider variety of titles drive the debate, but something that’s prevalent within each argument is cost, from peripherals to internal hardware.

Today, consoles a largely marketed around their exclusives; Sony has made a name for itself by providing a premium gaming experience with titles you can’t get anywhere else. 2018 alone has seen the launch of God of War, Detroit: Become Human and Spider-Man, with more to come in 2019.

Of course with a console, or a pre-built PC, the hardware is acquired then-and-there, barring any controllers, mice and keyboards you might want to pick up. To whit, we’re going to be looking at the entry level costs to get into PC gaming in Australia.

When I designed my original PC build six years ago, I didn’t need much from my computer. I was really only playing Team Fortress 2, so I got went for a fairly average graphics card, with an AMD FX-8350 CPU — then the second-from-top-of-the-line AMD chip — with a cheap case, motherboard, 2TB hard drive, a pretty basic keyboard and mouse combo and a pair of monitors.

It set me back $1,200 AUD, monitors and peripherals included, which is around three times what a PS4 console would cost someone if they were to walk into an EB Games right now. At the time, this was a fairly cheap build, as I wasn’t looking to build anything too powerful. I wanted entry level. Since then, I’ve spent around another $800 on improvements to my PC.

So today, right now, what does ‘entry level’ cost someone in Australia? This article will be looking to create a gaming PC that’s affordable and can run well, and able to upgrade in the future. We’ll be looking at price estimations made on the websites PC Case Gear, Scorptec and Umart. For all of these, do keep in mind that cables may or may not be included with some models and makes.

Keep in mind, for entry level builds, you’ll need a software license for Windows. A Windows 10 license starts at $150, but you can only get it for that price if you purchase it with either a hard drive, a motherboard, or a processor.

Let’s start with something simple and foundational: a case. Really, nobody needs anything flashy; the case is largely a cosmetic part of the PC designing process, and isn’t massively important to the build. Keep your eye out for cases that don’t have good air flow, though. Smaller, mini (or micro) cases appear to be at their cheapest at the $39 – $49 marks, with mid-sized towers starting at around $50. Mini-sized towers do provide you a fair amount of room for parts, but if you’re looking to save money down the line if you’re going to get bigger parts, it might be worth while to get a mid-sized case.

Keyboard and mouse next. Really, you don’t need anything flashy – so a keyboard that has buttons and comes with a mouse tend to stick around the $20 – $30 area. Keyboards that are targeted to gamers tend to start at $50; the one I’m typing with was $69 when I bought it 3 years ago with my upgrades at the time.

We’ll do monitors next. Depending on how you sit at your desk, you may need a bigger or smaller monitor, but really it boils down to personal preference. Cheaper, but smaller, monitors start around $100, but it might be worth conasidering going up to $150 for bigger, better performing monitors.

Onward, let’s talk motherboard. There was recently a jump to a new standard dubbed ‘DDR4’, which applies to Ram – newer motherboards can only run this new standard, and considering how new it is, it’s probably best to go with this standard. Cheap AMD (A4) DDR4 motherboards tend to stay around the $80 – $100 marker, but again, you’ll need to seek more expensive variants if you want to do crazy builds down the line. Alternatively, cheap Intel motherboards start at $90 – $110. Personally I run AMD, and everything’s fine and cheaper. Whilst we’re here, let’s talk Ram (Memory) – games are starting to demand 16GB’s of it these days, So we’ll look to buy that much. Immediately, 8GB ram sticks are around $100, so two of those makes $200. Again, we’re looking at value for money ram; if you want something that’s fabulous and lights up, look for more expensive options. Do make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of ports your motherboard provides.

CPU is next up. AMD’s Ryzen series makes it a clear consideration today for builds, I totally recommend it. A cheap Ryzen starts at $150, which would make a decent entry-level CPU. Alternatively, Intel 1151 8th Gen starts at $199 with their i3 line, which is understood to be a decent place to start with builds. Again, we’re not looking to build anything massive here.

Onto Graphics Card. Reasonable graphics cards are cheap as chips these days with the recent 1050 Ti and the AMD RX 560, which both perform at running games fairly well. 1050 Ti cards start around the $250 mark, whereas RX 560 cards start at $200 – again, maybe it boils down to personal preference; but both cards have had great things said about them.

For Hard Drives, you’ll want a 3.5″ drive; that’s the desktop standard. Solid-State drives are getting cheaper, but they’re still fairly expensive when compared to hard drives in terms of size; you could pick up a 1TB hard drive for $60.

Power Supply also ties in if you’re looking to build a better machine down the line; some supply’s don’t come with enough cabling for much modification, but for the sake of this article, we’ll stick by the cheapest. A fairly average 450W power supply tends to stick around $50, but it might be worth dedicating up to $100 to this area, just to make sure your supply is quiet, and has decent reviews.

Sound Systems might get past overlooked, but they’re important. Cheap speakers start at $20, but if you’re looking for a headset, with a decent microphone, you might end up out of pocket up to $70 – to get a decent one.

Finally, accessories. Monitor adapters might set you back up to $10, depending on where you go, what monitor you go with, and what adapter you want to use. DisplayPort cables tend to be highly regarded, but I’ve had no problems in the past with PCCG and VGA cables, especially for when my computer was originally built. Wifi cards, whilst not necessary, might set you back up to $15.

So, estimated, by Australian prices, that’s a PC build at $1,044 for new parts. That’s not cheap at all, it’d be much cheaper to go console, however, keep in mind the costs of online subscriptions on consoles – a yearly subscription to Playstation Plus is $79 for a full year, although there are free games that come with the said subscription. Although, even past that, there’s a multitude of free games on PC that can’t be accessed on console.

Buyer beware when building a PC; it’s not a cheap endeavour, but it’s fun for enthusiasts. I’d recommend it to anyone that’s interested.

Zachariah Kelly

A Journo from Sydney who loves looking into the why's who's and what's of Video Games.