AMD Entry-level PC

A year ago our entry AMD was single-core, last December 40% less money bought a 2.6GHz dual-core system, and today's AMD entry system uses a Black Edition unlocked 2.7GHz dual-core that costs a few dollars less than our choice just three months ago. That is certainly increased value in an economy that forces most buyers to look closely at price. With memory so cheap we have continued our recommendation of 4GB at a kit price of just $37. You can go with 2GB and save $18, but that money is well spent in doubling memory. The hard drive remains at 500GB.

AMD Entry-level PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz Black Edition
(2.7GHzx2 95W 2x512KB L2)
$60
Cooling CPU Retail HSF $-
Video On-Board $-
Motherboard ASRock A780GXE/128M 780G $80
Memory G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-800 $37
Hard Drive WD Caviar GP WD5000AACS 500GB $60
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S223Q $25
Audio On-Board $-
Case SIGMA La Vie ABWBP Black Aluminum/ SECC ATX Mid Tower with 500W Power Supply $60
Power Supply Included with Case $-
Base System Total $322
Display Hanns-G HB-175APB Black 17" 8ms Widescreen LCD Monitor Built in Speakers - Retail (1440x900) $99
Speakers Built into Monitor $-
Input Microsoft CA9-00001 Black PS/2 Standard Keyboard and Optical USB/PS2 Mouse - OEM $16
Operating System Microsoft Vista Home Premium OEM $99
Complete System Bottom Line $536

Prices on all processors are continuing to drop in the face of the aggressive pricing strategy adopted by Intel in entry to upper midrange processors. The $60 AMD 2.7GHz dual-core is a faster CPU at a slightly lower price than our December guide. Not only is it faster but it's also a Black Edition (unlocked) CPU. Most have been easily running at 3.0GHz just by increasing the multiplier. If you want even more power the Phenom 8750 triple-core Black Edition is a good value for just $44 more ($104). However, for most users the Athlon 64 X2 7750 provides plenty of power for an entry system. If you're counting pennies you could drop down to a single-core 2.6GHz Orleans 45W processor for $42 and save $18.

The 780G chipset is one of the best budget IGP designs we have worked with over the years. This is the chipset that made integrated graphics relevant again. One of the best boards in this price category is the ASRock A780GXE. The A780GXE features AMD/ATI Radeon 3200 integrated graphics. ASRock loads the board with six 3Gb/s SATA ports featuring RAID 0/1/10, 5.1 HD Audio, Gigabit LAN, two PCI-E x16 slots, one PCI-E x1 slot, three PCI slots, and support for 16GB of memory. Durability is addressed with solid capacitors for CPU power and duracap long-life capacitors for the rest. This board has been rock solid for us and supports AM2/AM2+ and the newest AM3 CPUs. The A780GXE has 128MB of sideport memory for additional performance. It fully supports the 140W Phenoms, and it can do dual x8 CrossFire. The A780GXE used to be a $100 board, so it is a good value at the current $80 price. It is ATX format, and ASRock also manufactures the A780FullHD motherboard, which at $57 may be a better choice for those pinching pennies. However, the extra performance of sideport memory and the better chipset for the $23 price difference is worth it in our opinion.

The case and power supply are the Sigma 500W La Vie mid-tower. This case and power supply are currently on sale after a $25 rebate for $40. Sigma makes both decent cases and decent power supplies that are sold separately. While no one will mistake this case/PSU combo for one of the premium Sigma offerings, it is still good quality and good value for a very reasonable price. Even if you pay the regular price of $60 to $65 you will get good value in this combo. We have built several entry systems with the Sigma case and PSU and had good results and stable performance. The only caveat is to check out the case when it arrives as shipping can take its toll on the case front door.

If you prefer a smaller case to mate with your Micro ATX motherboard the HEC 6K28BSOH48D Micro ATX mini-tower used in the Intel entry system is a good choice. It is a solid small case with a power supply from HEC, which is one of the world's best PSU makers. You should generally go for the best case and power supply you can reasonably afford, so you should also look at the cases and power supplies recommended for more expensive systems if you plan to keep your case/PSU and merely upgrade other components in the future.

With DDR2 prices so very low, we went for 4GB of DDR2-800 this time. This is double last year's entry recommendation for less than half the price. This 50% to 75% drop in DDR2-800 memory prices in the past year is why you're not seeing much memory advertising these days. RAM prices as a whole are certainly in the commodity category as of late. We recommended the G.Skill 4GB DDR2-800 CAS 5 kit, but you could just as easily choose OCZ, Kingston, Corsair, Crucial, Geil, Patriot, A-Data or any other quality DDR2-800 name and shop for the memory based on a combination of price and the company's support reputation. Again, if you are truly pinching pennies you can save about $18 by going with a 2GB DDR2-800 kit instead at $19 to $20.

Hard drive capacity continues to grow, as you can see in our selection of the Western Digital Caviar 500GB for our entry system. It seems a waste to choose a lower HD capacity when 500GB is now available for around $60 - even from www.amazon.com. While there are differences between hard drives, outside of running benchmarks most people aren't likely to notice the difference in performance between Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung, Hitachi and other major brands. All are worthy of consideration if the price per gigabyte (or terabyte) is right.

For the optical drive we went for value with the dependable Samsung 22X DVD. With the rise of the 25GB/50GB Blu-ray burners, DVD writers have continued to drop in price. A DVD writer that supports double-layer and 22X DVD writes for $25 is a bargain indeed.

The last major component to discuss is the display, and here the tilt was toward price. $99 is a really low price for an LCD monitor, and the Hanns-G is a 17" widescreen that supports a native resolution of 1440x900. This is the resolution supported by most 19" and 20" widescreen monitors. You will not give up resolution with this monitor, but things will be a bit smaller.

If your budget allows, you can choose the 19" Acer X193Wb with the same 1440x900 resolution at $120, or a 21.5" Viewsonic VX2233wm with true HD 1920x1080 resolution at $170. 21.5"/22" True HD is today's sweet spot, since the next step up to 23.6"/24" starts around $250. If your budget can stretch to $170, that is money well spent on a 21.5" 16:9 HD widescreen display.

Index Intel Entry-level PC
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  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Did you read the article? They gave an explaination (whether you agree with it or not):

    [quote]"Since most end-users are on cable or satellite for TV, we will make no recommendations at all for a TV tuner. Of the many possible uses of an HTPC the great majority of end-users store, play, and stream movies with their HTPC computers. That is mostly what their HTPC systems are used for and that is where we have concentrated our recommendations. In general the processing power in both systems has increased since our December 2009 guide, but costs have gone down a bit."

    "As we discussed in the HTPC introduction, we did not include a TV tuner in the configuration since most end-users are now using their cable and satellite feeds. Few users, therefore, have any real need for a TV tuner card." [/quote]

    As for the beefy processor I somewhat agree with you. If all you are doing is playing movies and such then a lowly cpu is all that is needed due to the mobo. But any form of heavy processing work such as encoding to highly compressed formats, or multitasking while watching a video and it makes sense. Having the better cpu certainly gives you the flexibility to do more than just watch movies.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    What's the point of an HTPC if you're just watching movies on it? Just get a $300 blu-ray player and a $200 Xbox 360 to stream movies from your existing PC.

    The only reason I would build an HTPC is to do the above PLUS act as a DVR. For that you need a tuner card, even if you're not using the actual tuner on it.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Interesting. How many tuner cards support CableCARD's? I don't really know of any that you can buy yourself (without the rest of the computer from an OEM, that is). If I want to watch some encrypted stream (like HBO, Comedy Central, etc), there aren't any options.

    Therefore, the ripping aspect is what I'd wind up using the HTPC for, I'd imagine. That, or the ubiquitous hulu or other ... ahem ... legal means for watching TV shows...

    :)
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Don't know why you guys didn't include a gaming machine for this price point... so I'll list out some components for you.

    Part : Price
    Antec 300 Mid-Tower computer case : $60
    Scythe S-FLEX SFF21D 120mm Case Fan : $15
    Silverstone ST70F 700W PSU : $125-rebate=100

    GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3R Intel P45 : $115-rebate=100
    Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz : $165
    Kingston HyperX 4GB(2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 : $48

    XFX GS250XYDFC GeForce GTS 250 512MB : $130 w/ free game
    Seagate ST3640323AS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache: $70
    LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Blk : $24

    Grand Total= $752 Total with rebates= $712

    Throw in a second hard drive and set up a RAID 0 configuration for 50 percent faster load times and your total is still only $782!!!!

    Add SAMSUNG 2233SW Monitor for $200 ($180 after rebate) and Logitech S-220 17 Watts 2.1 speakers for only $23 and your total is still only $915 or $985 with RAID!!!

    You can even add a TV Tuner for $50-$80 and make it a media pc as well and ur total is STILL only about $800.

    Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1250 Hybrid Video Recorder 1196 PCI-Express x1 Interface
    Hauppauge WINTVHVR1600 Dual Tuner White Box 1101WB PCI Interface
    Reply
  • Knowname - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    I just bought the Tuniq Potency 650w PSU, it's got 2 pcie connectors (one is 8 pin) and is like 88% efficient at the low end. for $45 after $40 rebate it's a pretty darned good deal. Much more bang for your buck than what you got.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    here is another one that is 630w, modular, 80-plus bronze efficient, 2pcie's and only $40 after rebate. I've not tried it but it's got good reviews.


    Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    yeah, both of those seem pretty good, but they both have fewer 12V rails, they both have less total Wattage and they both have a shorter warranty or none at all. Not to mention Silverstone is reliable high quality, honestly I don't really know if those are any good, in todays market I assume they're not terrible; but the silverstone one hav tons of wattage plenty of amperage, it's modular, it's 88 percent efficient; and that's a reliable number, and it's quiet. I don't know how stable the voltage is on those psu's and I don't know how loud they are. But 100 bucks for a high quality 700W PSU with 4 12V rails that runs silent and has 4 PCIEx6pin and 1PCIEx8 pin connectors is very fair. The other ones only had two PCIE-connectors, so you won't be SLI'ing any 9800GTX+'s or GTX260's. Don't every skimp on mobo or PSU, EVER! Reply
  • Knowname - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    If your really concerned with noise, you should get this case.
    NZXT HUSH Black SECC Steel/ Aluminum/ Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    it's awesome and priced fairly.

    Don't care about noise and want good cooling? Get one of these.
    Thermaltake V9
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    or
    Antec 900
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    You can take another ten bucks off that price if you use this case instead: Thermaltake WingRS 201 VJ60001N2Z Black, it's $50; but it's out of stock right now. Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Not really dude: If you want to game, spend an extra 20 bucks and get the Wolfdale CPU, double the cache and a faster FSB AND a higher clock speed. They've got you spending an extra 20 bucks on the motherboard for no reason, there's no reason to their Gigabyte board instead of the one I listed. They have you paying for 1066MHz DDR2 instead of DDR2 800, which doesn't matter if you don't wanna overclock; and I'd rather have Kingston DDR2800 over any other brand of DDR21066 if the prices are about the same.

    With my system you get an extra 140GB of storage for only 10 bucks and your getting Seagate instead of WD, that doesn't really matter as far as quality, but Seagate generally has a better Warranty. They've got you buying a Samsung DVD drive when for one dollar less you can get an LG drive; so that's a pretty obvious choice, LG beats ALL!

    I've never liked Cooler Master cases, every single one I've worked with has felt like is was built using cheap materials. Antec 300 is a much better choice for cooling quality noise and room. The power supply they use costs less, but it's lower wattage which means more noise, and the fan makes more noise. The Silverstone 700W PSU, that anandtech reviewed, is almost always the way to go; unless your building a low end system or stupidly high end system.

    I don't know if any of you have tried to deal with Viewsonic when you have to return one of their products or get warranty work done, but they're impossible to work with. We used to use them at the computer store I worked at, but we switched to only Samsung and LG because even though Viewsonic is cheaper, their warranties are worthless because they just won't help you; and the quality is lower. For 5 bucks I'd rather have the speakers I picked, but those are good too. I didn't list a keyboard mouse combo, but Logitech all the way. The one they used for HTPC computers was a good choice at a good price.
    Reply

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