AMD Performance Midrange

The introduction of Phenom II has made putting together an AMD performance midrange a joy again. While the Phenom was an honest competitor at the price points where AMD chose to compete, the poor overclocking of the AMD Phenom compared to Intel Core 2 Quad processors was always a nagging reality. Phenom II changes all that, and AMD in 45nm clothes is once again a screaming overclocker. We reached 3.9GHz in our testing for the Phenom II launch with a Phenom II 940 CPU. That same CPU is the starting point for our AMD performance midrange PC.

AMD Performance Midrange PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Phenom II x4 940 Black Edition
(3.0GHzx4 125W 4x512KB L2, 6MB L3)
Cooling Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V $40
Video Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB (After $20 Rebate) $230
Motherboard Foxconn A79A-S AM2+/AM2 790FX $140
Memory OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-1066 Dual-Channel Kit OCZ2RPR10664GK 5-5-5-18 (after $15 Rebate) $55
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000333AS 1TB $90
Optical Drive LG BD/HD DVD / 16x DVD+/- RW GGC-H20LK $99
Audio On Motherboard 8-channel -
Case Lian Li PC65B Black Aluminum Mid Tower $100
Power Supply Silverstone ST70F 700W SLI/CrossFire 80 Plus Modular (after $25 Rebate) $100
Base System Total $1069
Display ASUS VW266H Black 25.5" 2ms(GTG) HDMI WUXGA LCD Monitor (1920x1200) (after $30 Rebate) $320
Speakers Logitech G51 155W RMS 5.1 Speakers - Retail $135
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 $1639
SSD (Optional) OCZ Vertex OCZSSD2-1VTX60G 2.5" 60GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk $209

For detailed information on the Phenom II, please read our AMD Phenom II launch article and the follow-up Phenom II X4 810 and X3 720. The Phenom II 940 at 3.0GHz is the fastest of the currently shipping AMD Phenom II processors, but that will likely change in a few weeks. The Phenom II is very similar in L2/L3 cache configuration to the Intel Core i7. Performance is also similar to comparably priced Intel midrange chips. As the first 45nm AMD processors the Phenom II also overclocks very well, finally approaching the overclocking levels enjoyed by Intel since the introduction of the Core 2 Duo.

The component that made the early Phenom II systems affordable was the Foxconn A79A-S motherboard, which is compatible with AM2+/AM2 and is based on the AMD 790FX chipset. The selling price of this Foxconn A790FX board was $224 just a few months ago. Today it is available for $140, and we have seen it as low as $105 with the rebates that come and go on this board.
This Foxconn board offers true dual x16 PCIe slots, which may be important if you plan to run Crossfire. If that is not important and single x16 or dual x8 PCIe will be fine, then you might consider a 790GX board with DDR2 support. These can be easily found for $100 or less, saving $40 to $45 on the system price. Performance is similar to the 790FX, though our Motherboard Editor still recommends the older FX chipset where squeezing the very last bit of performance matters.

The Phenom II is not the hot CPU you find in the Core i7, but it still benefits from third party cooling - particularly if you plan to overclock. We paired the Phenom II 940 with the Xigmatek Dark Knight, which performed well in the lab. At $40 the Xigmatek is also an excellent cooling value.

Since the Phenom II 940 does not support DDR3, our DDR2+ motherboard was populated with a 4GB kit of OCZ Reaper HPC DDR2-1066. This memory is rated at a fast 5-5-5 at DDR2-1066 and it performs at faster timings and lower voltages at slower speeds. Whether you use it as a stock DDR2-1066 memory or overclock it to its limits, this OCZ memory should provide the headroom you need to bring out the best in this system.

The case for the Phenom II performance midrange system is the well-regarded Lian Li black all aluminum case. This Lian Li case has a reputation for exceptional quiet with its four 80mm fans with a fan speed controller and the excellent heat dissipation you expect from an all aluminum case. What is unique is the $40 savings on this case through the month of April, which reduces the cost to $100. There is even a side window for those who like a view of their working system.

Other components in the AMD performance midrange system are the same used in the Intel performance midrange. You can find descriptions and thumbnail images of those components on the previous page.

Finally, you should notice that the AMD performance system, using the current top Phenom II and DDR2 memory, is around $180 cheaper than the Intel Core i7 performance midrange system. The reason for this is very simple, and that is that the Core i7 is a better performing system. AMD and Intel are competitively priced these days and the comparative costs of an Intel or AMD CPU is now a good indicator of the performance. There are always exceptions to a broad statement like this, but generally pricing and performance are fairly gauged in today's market.
You might also consider waiting for the AMD Phenom II high performance CPU that fully supports Socket AM3 and DDR3 memory.  AMD will soon replace the 940 and 920 with updated processors that fully support the latest Phenom II AM3 socket.  Performance of the 940/920 replacements will not likely be better than the current 940/920, but the future Phenom II upgrade path will be cleaner.
Intel Performance Midrange Final Words


View All Comments

  • jmvillafana - Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - link

    The article is excelent. Still if you could run benchmarks with the presented systems we could compare what $1,800 Vs $800 provide.
  • Googer - Monday, April 13, 2009 - link

    I must disagree with your selection of Seagate 7200.11 drives after all the problems they have had with failure reminiscent of the IBM Deskstar (deathstar) 75GXP days. Instead, I'd advise users to go with a WD Velociraptor or WD Black edition or a Nice SSD. Reply
  • Leyawiin - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    I haven't done a ground up build in years. There's always something you can recycle from a previous build if you do this regularly. I was pricing an i7 940 build with a 300GB Velociraptor, 4GB of DDR3 2000, X58 mobo, Coolermaster V8 HS/fan and a GTX 285. Very strong system and using the still good Cooler Master case, X-Fi sound card, DVD drive and case fans it will be less than $1,700. I might be able to pare it down further. Reply
  • Leyawiin - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Oh and please can the "this is useless unless you live in the US" crap. They can't cover all the international pricing variances - the guides can at least be used as a starting point in your overpriced, uncompetitive locales. Reply
  • papapapapapapapababy - Friday, April 10, 2009 - link

    Buyers Guide. Buyers. not -USA- Buyers Guide, or System builders guide. so, yes, is kinda useless 2 me.

    also, the "Intel Value" config is total crap. stock cooler? XD here, nubcake...


    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler $36.99


    Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 $119.99 > @ 3.4 GHZ (FASTER + lower temps, noise, price)

    also just one hdd? then that mobo is an overkill

    3) g31 mobo (ASUS P5KPL-AM) just $37.50 ! thats value (GREAT MOBO, in mot kiding, rock solid, ocs like mad, great sound)

    4) GTX 260 896MB for $159.99 + a real psu not that pos

    my system >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    >>>>>>>>>><< anand "tech"

  • papapapapapapapababy - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    useless guide unless you live in the usa. ( im sorry 4 you)
    btw, this is why i always laugh at those American console users, "but the 10.000 computer" " comfy couch" " consoles offer more value" type of guys. they just fail to realize that consoles are super overpriced retro garbage compared to ANY pc . Yes, total garbage, example? console cpu: even a dino like a amd64 3000, or hell even a slow ass barton xp is faster that the " xbox triple core" or the potato of " cell".
  • edgardavids - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Why do you suggest DDR2-1066 for mid range AMD system? The board can support DDR2-1066 with AM2+ CPU only, X3 720 is a AM3 processor. Is it considered a waste to invest on DDR2-1066? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    See above: AM3 CPUs work with DDR2, and performance wise there's not a huge difference between DDR2 and DDR3 AMD systems. DDR3 is slightly more expensive, but you also need a DDR3 motherboard. Ultimately, the AM2+ boards seem to offer a nice balance of price, performance, and features - whether you use an AM2 or an AM3 CPU. Reply
  • taruncharles - Wednesday, April 08, 2009 - link


    Nice article once gain. I am planning on using the same kinda rig for my mid-range value PC.

    In the mid-range value setup, you have used DDR2 1066 with Biostar TA790GX 128M. But, I noticed that the specifications for this motherboard say that it supports DDR2 1066 only for AM2+ CPUs. Whereas the CPU in your setup is AM3..
    Will this work properly here. Or should I be using 800Mhz DDR2 with X3 720 and Biostar TA790GX 128M?..

  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, April 08, 2009 - link

    DDR2-1066 and higher speed memory will always work fine at lower speeds and normally faster timings. It is rated 1066 but will definitley work slower if that is necessary, whcih I doubt. Reply

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