Inexpensive doesn't have to mean cheap. The myth persists that you can't save money building your own PC, particularly a budget system. In fact, it's easy to match the price of a mass-market commercial system with a home-built system that uses higher-quality components. Of course, you could instead match the quality level of a mass-market commercial system by buying the cheapest components available and save a few bucks by doing so, but we don't recommend doing that. We think there are good reasons to build inexpensive systems, but no reason at all to build cheap systems.
We define a budget PC as one that seeks the maximum bang for the minimum buck, consonant with good component quality, reasonable performance, and high reliability. A budget PC uses good-quality components throughout, but those components fall on the low end of the performance range. They may even be a generation or two out of date. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. Last year's models are are every bit as good this year as they were 12 months ago, and you can save a lot of money if you don't insist on the very latest components.
In pursuit of low prices, we don't hesitate to buy components that are discontinued and on sale. There are few disadvantages to doing that. Discontinued products nearly always carry the full manufacturer warranty, and function as well as they did when they were the latest and greatest products available. Judicious shopping can easily knock $50 or more off the total cost of a budget system. That's nothing to sneeze at when your total budget is only a few hundred dollars.
In this chapter, we'll design and build the perfect budget PC.