Intel Value Midrange

While Intel still owns the very top in CPU performance, the Phenom II has made AMD competitive in the upper midrange to the low high-end. As higher speeds are introduced for Phenom II, that CPU parity will likely move up the CPU scale. That means that midrange to low high-end is now also an area where you can choose Intel or AMD based on the unique features of each platform or expansion capabilities, rather than one brand dominating performance.

The Intel Value Midrange is built around a fast Intel Core 2 Duo CPU. For most applications and gaming, a faster Core 2 Duo is normally a better performance choice than a slower quad-core. CPU intensive applications like video manipulation do benefit from a quad-core CPU, which should be your choice if those applications are important to you. A few recent games are finally taking advantage of quad-core as well.

Intel Value Midrange PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale
(3.16GHzx2, 6MB L2)
Cooling XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler $37
Video SAPPHIRE 100259-1GB Radeon HD 4870 1GB $230
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P $137
Memory OCZ Reaper 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-1066 Dual Channel Kit, $46
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000333AS 1TB $110
Optical Drive LG BD/HD DVD / 16x DVD+/- RW GGC-H20LK $99
Audio Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI $50
Case COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP ATX Mid Tower $80
Power Supply PC Power & Cooling S75CF 750W SLI CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified $80
Display Acer H213H bmid Black 21.5" 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor (1920x1080) $199
Speakers Logitech X-540 70 watts 5.1 Speaker - Retail $79
Input Microsoft CA9-00001 Black PS/2 Standard Keyboard and Optical USB/PS2 Mouse - OEM $16
Operating System Microsoft Vista Home Premium OEM $99
Bottom Line   $1450

The CPU is one of the fastest Core 2 Duo chips on the market. The E8500 at 3.16GHz is just one step below the fastest Core 2 Duo E8600 which clocks at 3.33GHz. It also overclocks exceptionally well, reaching 4GHz and even higher with relative ease. Because of this OC ability and the value goal of this system build, the E8500 has been matched with components that are also excellent choices for overclocking. The E8500 is plenty fast on its own, but if overclocking interests you this Intel Value Midrange will be ready for action - and ready to overclock to wherever your particular E8500 can go.

The big brother to the UD3R selected in our under $1000 guide is the $137 Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P that has a similar feature set but adds a second x16 slot (in place of a PCI slot) for dual x8 CrossFire operation. The board provides an excellent overclocking platform along with great stability. If the second x16 slot is not important to you, we suggest sticking with the UD3R. This P45 chipset motherboard has earned its reputation as a sterling overclocker, while also maintaining excellent stability. It is a good match to the selected Core 2 Duo E8500 or an alternate quad-core Q8200 (2.33GHz).

While the stock Intel cooler is adequate for modestly overclocking a Core 2 Duo, better cooling is needed to push the CPU to its limits. The Xigmatek HDT-D1283 120mm Rifle Cooler did very well in our cooling tests and it is a good match to the E8500. OCZ also markets a similar 120 Rifle cooler and either should work well in this system.

For this Value Midrange system, faster memory with more overclocking headroom was chosen. With the current OCZ rebates some of their best memory is available at truly bargain prices. The choice for the Intel system is an OCZ Reaper 4GB DDR2-1066 (PC28500) kit. With attached heatspreaders and the unique Reaper heatpipes and external heatsink, this 4GB kit is ready for overclocking. The base specs of DDR2-1066 at 5-5-5-18 are also impressive even if you never overclock. Value is good at the normal $76, but with the current $30 rebate the price is an easy-on-the-budget $46.

Index Value Midrange Common Components


View All Comments

  • crimson117 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Would that include a midrange 19-20" monitor (~150-200), Windows OS ($100), midrange speakers (~$75), and midrange keyboard/mouse ($25)? That's at least $400 right there, leaving just $200-$400 for the rest of the parts. Reply
  • ifkopifko - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Exactly... I wonder where the low end starts and ends according to this.

    Also... A little bit overkill PSUs in the value midrange builds, don't you think? And why oh why 16:9 monitors instead of 16:10?

    But otherwise... good review... And now just the benchmarks are left ... :-)
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Another possibility is Entry - under $750, Mid-Range - $750 to $1500, High-End - $1500 up.

    The concern here is that there are still dream $600 to $1000 processors for sale. The LOWEST-priced Core i7 machine is still $2000 as a balanced system, and based on a $300 Core i7 CPU. The other two are $600-$1000. That, and another couple of higher-end Phenom II CPUs would shift the definitions again.

    If lower prices fit your mid-range search look at the top systems in the System Buyers Guide: Under $1000 and the lower systems in this Midrange Guide.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I have (im)patiently been waiting for this review before I start the process of building my mid-range system and will be reading this article very carefully and hopefully the comments section can bring to light some extra info.

    Thank you Mr. Fink
  • Jorgisven - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    "G.Skill triple-channel DDR2-1333 6GB"

    Hang on a sec...DDR2? @ 1333?
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Both typos have been corrected. With the Phenom II intro there have been many recent price changes and configuration changes. Reply
  • elerick - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    The chart shows $120 for the Phenom II 940 black. Should be a little higher.

    Been a good read so far, still not done.

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