Maximum PC - - BUILD A $599 GAMING PC -

WHEN WE SET OUT to build our bud­get ma­chine a year ago, we turned to AMD for the brains of the op­er­a­tion. Given that we set our­selves an even tighter over­all sys­tem price this year, you would be for­given for think­ing that AMD would be an ob­vi­ous choice this time around, too. How­ever, it’s ac­tu­ally In­tel that holds our bud­get hearts right now. Its Pen­tium brand has been get­ting us hot un­der the col­lar for a while, and this G4600 man­ages to check a sur­pris­ing num­ber of our es­sen­tial boxes, given its lowly price tag.

There are ac­tu­ally plenty of choices at the bot­tom of the pro­ces­sor mar­ket, with older AMD Sem­prons vy­ing with In­tel Celerons, start­ing from as lit­tle as $32. Such chips lack any­thing ap­proach­ing real oomph, though, with low core counts and low, low op­er­at­ing fre­quen­cies hold­ing your gen­eral com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on the back foot. In fact, it isn’t un­til you get closer to the $100 price point that the sil­i­con be­gins to de­liver where we need it.

This quad-thread Kaby Lake chip (two phys­i­cal cores) boasts a healthy op­er­at­ing fre­quency of 3.6GHz, crams the In­tel HD Graph­ics 630 into its sil­i­con, has 3MB of L3 cache, and a ther­mal de­sign power of 51W. Ob­vi­ously, we have no in­ter­est in us­ing the in­te­grated graph­ics, be­cause we’ve bud­geted for a dis­crete graph­ics card from the off, but it’s al­ways good to have a backup, in case any­thing goes wrong.

An im­por­tant fac­tor when choos­ing this chip is the in­her­ent up­grade path on of­fer, thanks to the fact that it uses the LGA1151 socket, which means that, at a later date, you could drop in a Core i5 or even a Core i7 for a huge speed boost. The fact that the Pen­tium G4600 sup­ports up to 64GB of DDR42400 mem­ory gives you an­other up­grade op­tion, too.

For now, at least, the Pen­tium fam­ily gets the nod for any bud­get build. But it shouldn’t be long be­fore we see AMD APUs cou­pling Ryzen brains with Vega brawn to power a com­pletely dif­fer­ent kind of bud­get gam­ing ma­chine, so watch this space.

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