System Buyers Guide: PCs under $800

by Wesley Fink on 3/16/2009 2:00 AM EST
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  • pirspilane - Saturday, May 09, 2009 - link

    I got the M3N78 motherboard, and the instructions recommend a max of 3 Gb of RAM using Vista 32-bit.

    Are you using Vista 64-bit?

    If you're using 32-bit Vista, does the system utilize the additional Gb of RAM?

    Or maybe dual-channel memory doubles the amount of memory Vista can address?

    Does anybody know?
    Reply
  • rokstomp - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I am looking at doing my first ever build and was extremely pleased to stumble across this guide. Since I'm new at this I've only got a fair amount of research and no practice, so I apologize if this is a dumb question.

    I noticed that the AMD Phenom II X3 710 requires an AM3 socket, but the ASUS M3N78-EM is AM2/AM2+. Is there a compatibility issue?

    I just wanted to double-check everything before buying. Like I said, I'm a build n00b.
    Reply
  • swamytk - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    I too had doubt on this. Then understood that AM3 processors are compatible with AM2+ sockets, but not vice-versa.

    Then AMD clarified this with the following link.
    http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/CPU-6-s...">http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pa...lus-phen...

    Reply
  • yanman - Thursday, March 26, 2009 - link

    We do! Please spare a thought for your many non-US readers. Us Aussies along with our Euro brethren on DVB-T standard still rely on card or USB TV-tuners. Reply
  • eyeguy - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    anyone have ideas for a windows home server box? Something low power but not as future limited by memory and slots. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    I can go on ebay and buy any old athlon X2 computer with 2 gigs of RAM and then go to newegg and buy a monitor and an ocz vertex 30GB, and have a computer that is faster than all of those computers for under $500. In fact I just bought an old P4 2.8 system for $50 and I bet its faster than all those computers once the SSD is installed. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, March 23, 2009 - link

    Faster at what? Boot/application launch possibly, though I wouldn't bet too strongly on it. Obviously at anything that actually uses the CPU 3 Phenom cores at 2.8GHz or 2 Penryn cores at 2.93GHz are going to be faster than 1 P4 core at 2.8GHz. Reply
  • Proteusza - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Everyone and their uncle has a build that they think is way better, its been 2 months and the prices have changed OH NOES redo the entire article.

    If you think really your dream machine is so great, then go build it. AT guides are just that - guides. Use them, dont use them, its up to you. I look at them as more of a "what can I get for my money" type article than "buy these exact parts" article.
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I agree most of these posts are the nerds-nit-pick special! I'm sorry but if you're whining about $15 here and $20, get a clue and get a REAL JOB or start saving/studying for certs/school and make some real money.

    This shoe-string budget crap, for a so-called "gamer" box is plain stupidity. If you're hurting over $600-800 MAX limit, sounds like you have your financial PRIORITIES out of whack! Nobody is "gaming" for long with a $600 box. It's a fool's investment and will have you stuck with a sub-par performing machine, rapidly. Oh and don't even think about resale, you're stuck with the low-end junk.

    While mirroring the car market: UPSCALE cars/PC builds lose a small percentage of value as soon as you buy them, BUT they hold top value over the coming months Vs this low-mid-level junk that immediately loses an chance of resale value. Have you seen how many stupid people are on Ebay that overbid even for those relic 8800s?!
    Who's going to buy your used, non-warranted (many manu's do require proof of purchase these days) 2nd rate card for ~$30 less than RETAIL? Pawning that off to ebay noobs is your only hope to recoupe your losses. Be smart people.

    If you're maxing out around $600 = STOP and rethink your finances... $800? Might as well save and get an Icore. Geesh, oh and don't forget about TAXES + initial cost of hardware lol. Not to mention if something goes wrong and you have to RMA = how you gonna afford S/H if you can barely afford a paltry $600-800?

    Flame time...
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Damn this stupid comment board, always 2x posting. No editing...? Reply
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I agree most of these posts are the nerds-nit-pick special! I'm sorry but if you're whining about $15 here and $20, get a clue and get a REAL JOB or start saving/studying for certs/school and make some real money.

    This shoe-string budget crap, for a so-called "gamer" box is plain stupidity. If you're hurting over $600-800 MAX limit, sounds like you have your financial PRIORITIES out of whack! Nobody is "gaming" for long with a $600 box. It's a fool's investment and will have you stuck with a sub-par performing machine, rapidly. Oh and don't even think about resale, you're stuck with the low-end junk.

    While mirroring the car market: UPSCALE cars/PC builds lose a small percentage of value as soon as you buy them, BUT they hold top value over the coming months Vs this low-mid-level junk that immediately loses an chance of resale value. Have you seen how many stupid people are on Ebay that overbid even for those relic 8800s?!
    Who's going to buy your used, non-warranted (many manu's do require proof of purchase these days) 2nd rate card for ~$30 less than RETAIL? Pawning that off to ebay noobs is your only hope to recoupe your losses. Be smart people.

    If you're maxing out around $600 = STOP and rethink your finances... $800? Might as well save and get an Icore. Geesh, oh and don't forget about TAXES + initial cost of hardware lol. Not to mention if something goes wrong and you have to RMA = how you gonna afford S/H if you can barely afford a paltry $600-800?

    Flame time...
    Reply
  • nubie - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    I did get an e5200, for $59.

    But the motherboard I chose was not using single channel ram, or onboard video. I got an 8600GTS (the GTS is important, it has much more memory bandwidth - 2000mhz DDR3) for $43.

    I would like to note that new systems with any sort of budget should be built with a quad-core (unless you need that 4.0ghz clocked Wolfdale for gaming of course.) The Q6600 is only $160 on ebay, and it is a really solid performer.

    Kudos to showing how to build a system for people new to the task (and it is infinitely better than letting the newbs pick their own stuff, like 3GB of ram and a 9800pro for example.)

    I guess ultimate hard-core system building isn't your cup of tea, maybe we need a "Reader's Rigs" section where we can duke it out with budget builds to see what can really be done. (I would cheat, there are P6N OEM boards for $40 on ebay, and MSI should RMA them for functionality with 45nm processors, it already took a Celeron 440 to 3.33ghz without even a voltage bump!! Ironically Speedstep now starts at the 2.0ghz rating of the chip, so it cycles up less than before.)

    Reply
  • Knowname - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    The only future proof quad cores right now are the i7's, even the Phenom 2's will choke under a very taxing 4-core+ program. The proof is in the cache, where even the Phenom's 6mb (shared) is just too little for a fully multicore aware program. It is for this reason that the Core2Quad's 2mb or 4mb cache per core is just TERRIBLE future proofing.

    Then again, you have to ask yourself... just how much future proofing do I need? When we are in an era of replacing ENTIRE computers every 9 months.
    Reply
  • Knowname - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    well my point was it may actually be better for somebody looking to future proof at these prices to buy a e8xxx rather than a q6xxx... JMO. Reply
  • nubie - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Well, for these prices I would recommend that somebody wait for i7.

    If they are really on a budget there are 650i OEM motherboards for $40 on ebay, and look for a good deal on a Wolfdale ~$60-70, or overclock the heck out of a Celeron 430/440 (my last two were fine at 3 and 3.33ghz respectively.)

    My definition of budget is being out of steady work for ~3 years, so the value for money needs to be very high, and the e5200 and Core2 Celeron are very good in that regard, with 70% overclocks the norm.

    My budget systems come in around the $300-350 mark, not the $500+ segment, and yet I would say that they offer the same functionality for gaming and general use (and as I said, I would go Q6600 if I could, probably will when everyone moves to i7 and the prices drop below $100)
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Great deal I saw on Fatwallet the other day if you are a student (or know someone whom is). This would drop another $35 bucks which would allow for some much needed flexibility especially on the entry-level systems where that difference is ~7% of the build price.

    Oh to be a student again.....

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsv...">http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsv...
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Wanted to mention that page also includes Office Ultimate 2007 for $60 if you are an active student. Not bad for someone who needs Office (I personally use OpenOffice).

    *Seems like the Vista Ultimate might be an upgrade version and not the full version. It's difficult to confirm as the main page that is linked doesn't mention which version but if you click on it it shows upgrade with sp1. Someone less of a hot deal if it's the upgrade only.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Anand see if your weight in the tech industry will allow you to aquire for testing one of these puppies:

    http://www.dailytech.com/Fusionio+Claims+Worlds+Fa...">http://www.dailytech.com/Fusionio+Claim...lds+Fast...

    I'd love to see it put through its paces, even though it is in a completely different class ($5000 for lowest model).
    Reply
  • scwtlover - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    For the entry-level AMD system, you recommend G.Skill 800-DDR2 RAM at $37. It's timings are 5-5-5-15 and 1.8V, but it does not come with a heat-spreader. Should we infer that a heat-spreader is unnecessary?

    mushkin 1.8V memory, with 5-4-4-12 timings and a heat-spreader is available, after rebate, for only $3 more.

    And, how significant is 1.8V? At 800-DDR2 Newegg sells OCZ with a heat-spreader and 5-4-4-15 timings, but 2.1V. It's $24 after rebate. Corsair's offering, after rebate, is only $20. It has heat-spreaders, and is 1.9V. The timings are 5-5-5-18? How significant is 12 v. 15 v. 18?

    If we look at 1066 DDR2 RAM, the OCZ sticks you recommend cost $28, after rebate. You advise: "Just be sure to look for RAM with better timings if you can afford it." The OCZ is CAS 7, with 7-7-7-20 at 2.0V. For $30, after rebate, Newegg sells OCZ2P10664GK. It's CAS 5, with 5-5-5-18 timings at 2.2V. For $8 more than that, you can get the same RAM plus a bundled XTC memory cooler. How important is voltage versus timings? For $34, that is, $6 more than the OCZ, Newegg sells OCZ Reaper with 5-5-5-18 timings at 2.1V
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Traditional "Plate stuck on each side" heatspreaders do almost nothing to cool the ram. in fact sometimes they hold in heat and are actually worse than no heatspreader at all. Some more exotic HS designs used in more expensive RAM that is run at higher voltages sometimes do help cool the RAM.

    The OCZ is DDR2-1066 with slower timings and the 5-5-5 and faster is DDR2-800. The same 7-7-7 1066 memory often runds fine at 5-5-5 at DDR2-800. Higher speed usually means slower timings. If you can find faster RAM like DDR2-1066 at CAS 5 at a similar price then buy it.

    As I said in the article quality RAM at the same speed can be selected from any of the major memory providers. Comparing two at the same price look at highest speed combined with reasonable timings. If the two memories are the same price and the same speed then timings (and warranty support) should be your main considerations.

    We try to select reasonable choices we have personal experience in using at AT. But there are many rebates in memory right now - and they change daily. You need to be flexible if you are looking for memory that is the best value.
    Reply
  • scwtlover - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Thanks. Do you have an opinion regarding the significance of voltage? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    At the same speed or overclock lower voltages that actually work are always better. Higher voltage allows some incredible performance but high voltages shorten component life. If two memories are honestly rated at the same speed and timings but one is lower voltage at that speed, the low voltage is the better choice.

    There are fewer variations in memory speed, timings, and voltages than you might imagine, though. Almost every memory vendor buys memory chips on the open market. When one company stumbles onto a terrific new chip or PCB it isn't long until most of the major players have the same thing. Expertise in PCB design and SPD programming can matter in performance, but not nearly as much as the actual memory chip and binning used.
    Reply
  • scwtlover - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    I apologize for not asking my question more clearly. I understand your general point regarding lower voltages putting less stress on computer parts. I see, however, that while I can get quality 800 DDR2 RAM at 1.8 volts and CAS 5, to get quality 1066 DDR2 RAM at CAS 5, the RAM spec will be 2.0V or even higher. What considerations come into play in making this choice for an AMD system? Reply
  • erple2 - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    By "incredible performance" do you mean that are visible in benchmarks only, or in real world usage? Reply
  • scwtlover - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    After reading your praise of ASRock's 780GX board for the AMD entry-level system, I was surprised not to find it even mentioned for the AMD budget system. Currently, it's $5 less expensive than the Biostar board you do recommend. As I try to finalize components for my own new build, should I being drawing adverse conclusions about the ASRock 790GX board?
    Reply
  • MFK - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Whats the deal with those these days?

    I got a cable box for my cable signals but I need my HTPC to act as a DVR.

    I think any HTPC should include a TIVO card. Doesn't have to be a TV tuner though!

    What would be the cheapest way to add DVR functionality to the HTPCs in the article?
    Reply
  • BernardP - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    All the suggestions are nice and well-balanced. However, monitor choices on the entry-level systems seem questionable. Yes, you have to meet the price point, but these days, it seems 22-inch monitor have become the minimum worth spending money on. Spending on a brand-new 17-inch or 19-inch monitor seems a waste, unless someone has not enough space to fit a larger monitor. Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I agree. 22" LCDs have the sweet spot now. Even the 24"s are coming down in price. Reply
  • Spivonious - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Why no tuner in the HTPC? Also, since the 9400 chipset handles all decoding, why use a beefy processor? Also, a 500W power supply is way overkill. 350W would be plenty and probably quieter too.
    Save $30 on the CPU and go with the E1400.

    Other than that, it looks almost exactly like the HTPC I spec'ed for myself last week, only to find out that my bonus was not very big after Uncle Sam got to it.
    Reply
  • 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
  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    The problem is they are building a complete system. $20 here and $20 there, having a monitor, and keyboard/mouse, and suddenly you've increased the price by >10%.

    I like these builds because it allows me to say, "Well I already have an existing case/mobo/monitor/keyboard/mouse/OS, so I can look at the Budget Build but cut the cost in 1/2".

    I think most of us that build systems rarely have a completely new system from scratch to build (unless you are building for someone else). We normally keep the case for a couple builds, monitor for a couple, and personally I use the keyboard/mouse until they die. I only recently upgraded the HD from my 80gig Maxtor to a 250gig WD because of the huge size of Vista and the ever increasing size of games. So while we will probably always argue over the exact components, rarely are we going to be building a complete system like in the guides.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I think you're splitting hairs. Both of their Budget systems are fine for gaming if you add in a discrete graphics card. And in both system descriptions they mention adding a graphics card. Reading between the lines means add a graphics card and you have a gaming rig.

    Pretty simple.
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    With prices so low, I would say to include a mid-range graphics card such as the HD4670 with any system. The 4670 uses very little power and will improve video and allow decent basic gaming for less than 100.00 additional cost. It seems it is worth this even for the lowest end system which would still cost about 500.00 with monitor and OS and no graphics card. Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    You can get a 640GB Hard Drive from Seagate with 32MB of cache, a 7200rpm speed and SATA connection for $60. So, 500GB or 640GB for $60? Hm, tough choice... sarcasm. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    I agree, the systems should have faster HDDs! I'd choose the WD 640 GB 7200 rpm over the Seagate for speed. The WD green power has amazingly tuned firmware and it's faster than many elder 7200 rpm dirves, but it's not a magician and is held back by its 5400 rpm.

    Just think for a moment what limits the performance of a PC under "normal" use. What happens when you get to an elder machine, even with a healthy windows? Well, if you tell it to do anything you'll be greated by a constant "crrrrrrrr" from the HDD. Not the CPU or GPU is limiting, it's the HDD! That's why going with a 5400 rpm drive is almost silly.. you give up 15 - 20% speed and gain ~3W in power consumption. For the HTPC it's alright though, as it doesn't keep you from working if you have to wait for the HDD.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    sorry, my bad, that drive is $70 now; it was $60 dollars like week ago though. Reply
  • AntiM - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I would say that 85% or more people could get by just fine with these machines. They are perfect for simple office machines. You could probably go even cheaper on the AMD system with an Athlon 64 X2 5600+ and 2 GB or RAM and still have plenty of horsepower for an office machine. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    You can definitely go lower on the AMD CPU, but do you really think anyone would want to pay $67 for a 5600+ or 5600 Brisbane, when they can get a 7750 Kuma Black Edition for $7 LESS at $60. Pricing in entry space can be very strange.

    I also think dropping RAM from 4GB to 2GB is not very cost effective when you save just $17 by halving the RAM. If every penny counts I guess that that $17 could be important.
    Reply
  • AgeOfPanic - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    With the decoding capabilities of the current IGP chipsets why choose a Phenom processor with higher TDP over a Athlon X2 5050E? Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    A lot of people use homebrew (unlicensed) codecs for warez and their video watching. Those are usually software only or have a limited support for DXVA. Like many alternative media-portal/center software. If you don't want that flexibility there are other devices that even play warez that might fit your bill. But it's only commercial codecs that has decent hardware acceleration. You might also need the power for recording and encoding. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I think the answer is, "because we can". Honestly for a true HTPC the last article was fine, and nothing has really changed since then IMO. Yes you can for the same money get a more powerful system or even slightly cheaper, but the HTPC's job is not to be more and more powerful for the same/less money, it's to be cool and quiet while allowing for 1080p and all the resolutions below.

    Where the latest HTPC systems are beneficial is if you are using the HTPC box to rip or encode to different compressed formats while simultaneously watching something else, and/or recording multiple signals. Then it will be beneficial to have the Phenom II 3-core over a lowly X2.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    We mentioned the benefits of tri-core for video encoding. Also remember that the latest AMD CPUs are 45nm, while the older non-Phenom chips are dual-core 65nm. I think the tri-core chip may actually be the lower power option at this point - it's certainly not going to be significantly hotter while it will be more powerful. Personally, I'd go for Phenom just to get the updated architecture and other improvements, as the dual-core chips are now based on a design that was state-of-the-art several years back. Until AMD moves the Phenom/K10 base design into dual-core, that will continue to be an advantage of the tri-core and quad-core chips. Reply
  • StormyParis - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    As you say, it seems AMD has pretty much achieved parity processor-wise, at any given price point except the highest where AMD just really has no product.

    The MBs for AMD processors are always significantly cheaper than the equivalent for Intel CPUs, which tilts the balance. Why is that ?
    Reply
  • Goty - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I'm assuming it comes down to the fact that AMD's chipset logic needs to be much less complex than Intel's due to the fact that there is no memory controller. This would allow AMD's chipsets to be smaller, cheaper to manufacture, and cheaper to sell to motherboard makers, thus helping to lower the cost for the end-user.

    I'm sure this isn't the only reason, seeing as how the actual chipset isn't too expensive either way, but things like the complexity of the PCB needed, the number of surface mount components, etc, probably make up for the rest of it.
    Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Not only that but for the last little while amd has been stuck in the budget bin so alot of the MB's that were popular sellers were in that catagory(manufactuers know whats selling whats not).
    Reply
  • Jaramin - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    There are two mistakes in the Intel budget article, in the motherboard section.

    First, it refers to a E7300 CPU, while the CPU is a E7500. Second, and most important, the motherboard has NO integrated graphics. Either change the mobo, or include an entry level discrete GPU. In any case, you'll have to update the price listing...
    Reply
  • mariush - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    The AMD Entry Level PC lists:

    Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz Black Edition (2.7GHzx2 95W 2x512MB L2)

    I don't know how they managed to fit 2x 512Megabytes of cache in it...maybe it's KB?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Now corrected. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    My apologies for the error. We are correcting the error as I type this. The last guide revision did include the Gigabyte GA-E7AUM-DS2H nVidia GeForce 9400, which is a 9400 chipset Integrated Graphics board. However, when it went to post the $120 price and Gigabyte was right, but the description was the non-integrated board from tn\he earlier Budget Guide.

    The board name and picture are now corrected. The updated description will post shortly.
    Reply
  • Jaramin - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    The price for the motherboard is still wrong. 120$ in the budget system, 135$ in the HTPC, same motherboard. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    You have revealed one of the biggest problems with publishing prices - they change faster than you can post them. We changed the board in the Intel Budget system this morning to the Gigabyte with the nVidia 9400 chipset and used the correct for today $120 price. We had not corrected the Intel HTPS same board which was still showing the previous price of $135. The HTPC price has now been corrected. Hopefully it will remain accurate for a few days. Reply
  • VaultDweller - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Yeah, the GA-EP45-UD3R motherboard used for the Intel Budget does not have on-board video. That's a pretty critical omission. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Ha, that's hysterical! I didn't even catch it (and just built my gaming rig with the UD3R), but that is quite a big omission. Funny story, I had been so used to my previous builds having even rudimentary integrated graphics I built the barebones system (cpu, ram, psu, hd) and turned it on hoping to get to the bios screen....only to realize there was no integrated graphics! I hate that first power on and like to have the least things possible in case of a short, but had to plug in my nice 4870 to POST.

    But yeah, fix that one guys! It's a great board, but doesn't fit this article. Running my E8500 @ 3.85GHz, stock voltage.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    Deja vu, didn't they do the same thing in one of the guides last year? Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I believe so. This is a problem that would never happen if the systems were actually built as opposed to just mixing and matching parts. It's been a constant request in the comments section, and while it would require shipping some parts around, it would be nice to have these systems built so some baseline benchmark comparisons could be made (ie instead of saying the AMD and Intel systems are similar in performance for price, you could show in this benchmark Intel is better, in this one AMD is better, and then select the components based on the individual's needs).

    More importantly it would prevent component incompatibility.
    Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    I was going to pass this article around to a couple of people who were looking to make a budget machine, but with inaccuracies as egregious as this, I can't do it.

    Slowly but surely I'm losing faith in AT as a site.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 16, 2009 - link

    The error is corrected and we are sorry the editing mistake disappointed you so much. The ability to correct errors in real-time is one of the real advantages of web-publishing, but we certainly don't want to abuse that capability.

    I think it is now safe for you to print and pass around the article.
    Reply

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