Well, since my $1000 gaming system update was so much better than the previous one, I thought I would see what a person could do with $400 again.
OK, here we go:
I start off with the same case and power supply from Rosewill:
Rosewill R103A Black Steel Case with 350W power supply - $29.99
This is a very popular budget case with excellent customer reviews - 561 reviews with 88% 4 0r 5 eggs. I've used quite a few of Rosewill's products over the years and I've never been disappointed in their quality or performance.
Next comes the motherboard and processor. I went with a GigabyteSocket AM2+ motherboard this time around, with the AMD 740G chipset and SB700 Graphics chip. Seems to be a good solid board with good rewiews. Coupled with an AMD Athlon 64X2 5000+ processor running at 2.6 Ghz, and you'll have a pretty powerful machine - its the same processor I selected for my "$1000 dollar Gaming Build" post in june of 2007. You could use a Sempron chip and save about $25, but the performance hit would be pretty big. At $49, the 5000+ dual core chip is a no-brainer.
Gigabyte GA-MA74GM motherboard - $54.99
AMD Athlon 64X2 5000+ CPU - $49.50
Next comes memory - in summer of 2007, PC2-6400 RAM was selling for $50-$70 per GB, making it difficult to get more than 512 MB in a budget build like this one. But at todays prices we can pack 2 GB of RAM into this build and spend less $$ than last time!
Kingston 1GB 240 pin DDR2-800 RAM (x2) - $18.98
Next we need to add some drives. I selected the Seagate SATA 3.0 Gb/s 80 GB hard drive. Its actually a dollar cheaper than its IDE counterpart. If you are willing to splurge and go over your $400 budget, you can get the 160 GB model for merely 5 dollars more.
Seagate 80 GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s hard drive - $36.99
OK, now for the optical drive. Last time I went with my old workhorse, the LiteOn 52x combo drive. This time I was able to work in a 20x DVD burner from LiteOn.
LiteOn 20x DVD Burner - $20.99
That takes care of the case andthe internals - all that left is the peripheral items - monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers.
For the monitor, I chose a 17" WS monitor from Hanns-G. Its a steal at $99.99.
Hanns-G 17" widescreen monitor - $99.99
For mouse and keyboard, I went with my usual, the ergonomic comfort curve keyboard from Microsoft with mouse included.
Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 keyboard and mouse - 21.99
Last of all, we need some speakers. One of the best deals I have found on speakers is the Altec Lansing BX1020. Small and lightwieght, but they have the best sound quality I have ever heard in the sub $20 dollar price range. I've got a pair of these on my gaming system and they sound great.
Altec Lansing BX1020 2.0 Stereo speaker pair - $15.99
Alright - this gives us a subtotal of $348.41, with a shipping cost of $53.89. Thats just slightly higher than our budget of $400, by $3.30. But since newegg is constantly shifting prices by adding discounts (the gigabyte motherboard had a $5 discount when I selected it, but its gone now) and offering free shipping, you may be able to squeeze under the $400 limit.
This machine is actually quite powerful - its essentially just a video card away from being my current gaming rig, in fact. You could probably shop around a bit and find some cheaper components, getting the cost down another $50 or so, but the performance hit you would take doing so is pretty huge. You'd have to drop down to a single core Sempron processor, and use less RAM. Both changes would reduce the performance considerably.