Intel Value Midrange

The Phenom II has made AMD competitive through the midrange while Intel still dominates the high-end with Core i7. That means you can now choose Intel or AMD midrange system based on the features of each platform or expansion capabilities, rather than CPU brand. Since Phenom II uses a 45nm process, even overclocking capabilities are now competitive with Intel's Core 2 series.

The Intel value midrange builds around a fast Intel Core 2 Duo CPU. For most applications and gaming a faster dual-core chip is normally a better performance choice than a slower quad-core alternative, not to mention they're usually less expensive. CPU intensive applications like video ripping 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, although gaming performance is normally about the same whether a CPU is dual-core or quad-core.

Intel Value Midrange PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 65W 45nm (3.0GHzx2, 6MB L2) $166
Cooling Intel Retail HSF $ -
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P (after $20 Rebate) $115
Video HIS H487FN1GP Radeon HD 4870 1GB (after $20 Rebate) $130
Memory 4GB DDR2-1150 OCZ Blade OCZ2B1150LV4GK 5-5-5-15 at 1.8v $80
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB WD1001FALS $95
Optical Drive Sony Optiarc 24X DVD - AD-7240S $32
Audio On-Board $ -
Case ANTEC Three Hundred ATX Mid Tower $60
Power Supply OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W OCZ600MXSP Modular SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified (after $20 Rebate) $60
Base System Total $738
Display Acer X233Hbid 23" 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor (1920x1080) $180
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
Complete System Bottom Line $1112

The CPU choice is the excellent E8400 Core 2 Duo chip at 3.0GHz with 6MB of L2 cache. The 3.00GHz speed is just two steps below the fastest Core 2 E8600 that clocks in at 3.33GHz. The E8400 also overclocks exceptionally well, reaching 4GHz and even higher with relative ease. Because of this overclocking ability and the value goal of this system build, we paired the E8400 with components that are also excellent choices for overclocking. This Intel system is ready to overclock to wherever your particular E8400 can go. The stock Intel cooler is adequate for modestly overclocking a Core 2 Duo, but it ceases to be effective before your E8400 reaches its top performance level. If extreme overclocking is your cup of tea you should replace the stock Intel HSF with a better cooler like the Xigmatek HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle Cooler ($27 after a $10 rebate) that is featured in our AMD value midrange build on page four.

The big brother to the UD3R selected in our sub-$800 guide is the $135 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. You can currently save a few bucks with a $20 mail-in rebate. 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 an excellent overclocker while also exhibiting excellent stability. It is a good match to the selected Core 2 Duo E8400 or an alternate Quad-Core Q8200 (2.33GHz).

The memory choice for the Intel value midrange is some of the fastest memory we have tested - the OCZ Blade DDR2-1150 4GB kit. Perhaps even more important is the very low voltage needed for performance with the dual-channel Blade memory. It is rated at 5-5-5 timings at DDR2-1150 and just 1.8V. The low voltage design provides more overclocking headroom. This OCZ kit is more expensive than we normally chose for a value midrange system, but at $80 it is still a great performance value and is worth the cost.

Index Value Midrange Common Components


View All Comments

  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, August 05, 2009 - link

    You need to compare apples to apples. The system you quote makes no mention of a monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse, or Operating System. That makes it comparable to our our base system price, which is $738 - or some $230 less. I would certainly hope you could upgrade to a Core i7 for for $230. Reply
  • GuruX - Thursday, July 30, 2009 - link

    The OCZ Blade 1150 2x2gb for the Intel value setup doesn't seem to be avalible in sweden. What would be a good replacement? Reply
  • Cepak - Saturday, August 01, 2009 - link

    Any suggestions on a performance oriented mid-ranged system with a smaller form factor (mATX)? A system that can still accommodate all the goodies like the Phenom II x4 955 Black Edition, MSI Radeon HD 4890 1GB OC Edition, a ASUS VW266H Black 25.5" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor, maybe with an external SATA port to connect the LG BD/HD DVD 8X BD read/16x DVD read/write via a external SATA case. It only need two internal SATA HDD bays. I don't care how the case appears because I'm going to tuck it out of sight (space is a premium for me). Reply
  • sebudes - Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - link

    What'll be the benefits of stepping up one notch in the motherboard departement and go with DD3 memory and a "real" AM3 slot? As I understand it, right now there's litte, but will you be happy you did when maybe upgrading CPU or GPU in the future? Reply
  • glenster - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    I've read the LG W2486L, which has been released, is a better monitor yet for less money. And the Silverstone Raven RV02 case has just been released (with a Fortress 2 on the way). Please write reviews of them. Reply
  • zshift - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    I absolutely have to agree with choosing the Logitch X-540 speakers for the midrange. These speakers are amazing for the price. They also sound much better when paired with a good dedicated sound card (for all the nonbelievers out there, I used to think dedicated sound was stupid; then I tried a creative x-fi with these and I don't wanna go back to onboard. Sound is MUCH clearer). These speakers also get VERY loud If you want them to, past 50% volume and I can hear them clearly from outside my house. And the base is excellent, explosions in fps games have a nice deep feel to then, and crashes and engine revs in burnout are amazingly realistic. Reply
  • jpk - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    I have that board and it takes DDR3 not DDR2 as stated in the write up. Funny, you can put an AM3 CPU in an AM2+ mobo but you can't put an AM2+ CPU in an AM3 board. Fabulous mobo by the way. Love mine. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    Yes we still need an Edit function.

    "The Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P is indeed DDR3 memory, but when you drop the T in the name to Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P you are describing a Gigabyte motherboard that uses DDR2 memory."
  • just4U - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    I've been recommending the MA790X-UD4P for two months now. It's a solid board that comes in at a attractive price point. One of Amd's strong points..

    Another consideration (since it seems Asus finally noticed..) is the ..Asus M4A78-E which either has come down alot in price or is a new release (not sure which). It's priced in line with the UD4P but comes with the 790GX chipset so onboard 3300 graphics.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    The information in the Buyers Guide is correct. The problem is there are two different Gigabyte motherboards with just one letter difference in the name. The Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P is indeed DDR3 memory, but when you drop the T in the name to Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P you are describing a Gigabyte motherboard that uses DDR3 memory.

    This naming scheme has created more than a little confusion for buyers and reviewers.

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