Intel Entry-level PC

While Intel still owns the top in the CPU performance, the area from entry to upper midrange is very competitive between Intel and AMD. As pointed out in our Phenom II Guide, the only area still dominated by Intel is the very top, with CPUs at $300 and more. The one advantage that remains for Intel is that their processors generally overclock much better than current AMD CPUs, but that has changed with Phenom II in the midrange. This is not normally a consideration in entry computers, but it could be for some buyers, and at the lowest rungs of the CPU ladder Intel processors remain the best overclockers for now.

Intel Entry-level PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200 Wolfdale
(2.5GHzx2 65W 2MB L2 800 FSB)
Cooling CPU Retail HSF $-
Video On-Board $-
Motherboard ECS GF7100PVT-MT NVIDIA GeForce 7100 HMDI $60
Memory G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-800 $37
Hard Drive WD Caviar GP WD5000AACS 500GB $59
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S223Q $25
Audio On-Board $-
Case HEC 6K28BSOH48D Micro ATX Mini Tower 485W Power Supply $50
Power Supply Included with Case $-
Base System Total $304
Display Hanns-G HB-175APB Black 17" 8ms Widescreen LCD Monitor Built in Speakers - Retail (1440x900) $99
Speakers Built-in 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 $518

Our choice for the Intel entry CPU remains the excellent 2.5GHz dual-core E5200 Wolfdale. This 65W rated CPU is built on Intel's 45nm manufacturing that begs you to overclock. The E5200 is rated 800FSB, so right out of the box the first option for overclock, if you are inclined, is to bump it up to a 1066 bus. Even if you never overclock you will be very pleased with the performance of the E5200. The E5200 is an easier choice now that the price is $10 lower at $73 than it was just three months ago. We do not recommend going lower than an E5200 in an Intel system because the trade-offs in performance for the few dollars saved are too great. The E1200 at $50, for example, is dismal compared to the E5200, and certainly not a good choice in performance for the $23 saved.

Unfortunately our favorite Zotac N73PV-Supreme board has been discontinued by Zotac. This was a real surprise considering how well the $60 board sold. The NVIDIA 7100 used in the Zotac is a good chipset choice for an entry Intel 775, so we have chosen the ECS GF7100PVT-MT at the same $60 for the entry Intel system. There is currently a $10 rebate that lowers the price to $50. The ECS provides HDMI output with a DVI to HDMI adapter. If you prefer a real HDMI output on the rear panel you can choose the Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H LGA at $69.

The case for the Intel entry system is the solid HEC 6K28BSOH48D Micro ATX mini-tower. HEC is best known as a manufacturer of power supplies. Some are sold under their name, but most are manufactured for other well known power supply brands. HEC includes a 485W PSU with this attractive mini-tower, which should provide plenty of power for your entry Intel build. If you prefer a mid-tower case HEC uses the same PSU in the $50 HEC 6C60BSOH48. You could also choose the Sigma La Vie Aluminum mid-tower featured in the AMD build on the previous page. The rest of the components are virtually identical to the AMD entry-level system.

If we compare the two entry-level systems, the winner depends on what is of value to you. The Intel system is a bit more powerful, but you can move up to a high-end Athlon 64 X2 or a low-end AMD Phenom X3 for comparable performance at less than $100. The full-size AMD ASRock board offers more flexibility for future graphics expansion, with two x16 PCI-E slots and CrossFire X support. If you are a gamer on a strict budget the AMD entry system offers you more for future graphics expansion. For the typical entry-level PC right now and for what the system is typically used for - internet, office, low-end gaming, and low to mid graphics - you can go either route and be very happy.

AMD Entry-level PC AMD Budget
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  • 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...
  • 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.)

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.....">
  • 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.
  • 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:">

    I'd love to see it put through its paces, even though it is in a completely different class ($5000 for lowest model).
  • 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
  • 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.

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