AMD Budget

Leaving the entry-level sector behind and with a budget of under $800, our options increase significantly. Our aim here is to provide a configuration that allows for a nice balance of performance at stock speeds. This doesn't mean you have to spend over $800 though, as prices have dropped in the past year and performance for the dollar has definitely increased. Both budget systems are under $800 complete, with the basic box under $500 in both cases. This gives you the option to increase graphics power or go for a larger monitor (or both) and still be less than $1000. The assembled system is balanced for a wide variety of computing tasks, but final tweaks can tilt it toward gaming and graphics for example, if that is what you aim for.

Generally we consider PC Gaming rigs to begin at the next price category (i.e. the low end of midrange), but adding a decent graphics card and a larger monitor will definitely make one of these budget systems a good choice for entry gaming at around $1000. If that is your goal take a look at the Phenom II Guide for help in selecting a graphics card and display for your price point.

AMD Budget PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
(2.8GHzx3, 3x512KB L2, 6MB L3 Cache)
Cooling CPU Retail HSF $-
Video On-Board $-
Motherboard Biostar TForce TA790GX3 A2+ $110
Memory OCZ Fatal1ty Edition 4GB DDR2-1066 OCZ2F10664GK ($28 after rebate) $43
Hard Drive WD Caviar GP WD5000AACS 500GB $59
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S202G $25
Audio On-Board $-
Case Cooler Master Elite 330 RC-330-KKN1-GP Mid Tower $40
Power Supply BFG Tech LS Series LS-550 550W SLI Certified, CrossFire Ready, 80 PLUS Certified ($20 Rebate) $60
Base System Total $482
Display ViewSonic VX2233wm Black 21.5" 5ms Widescreen 16:9 LCD (1920x1080) $170
Speakers Logitech R-20 12 Watts RMS 2.1 Multimedia Speaker $18
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 $785

While the GPU is the most important factor in game performance, the CPU is also a factor. To make sure the CPU is not a bottleneck now or in the near future should you upgrade your budget PC, a Black Edition Phenom II X3 is the CPU choice. The Phenom II 720 Black Edition has an unlocked multiplier should you choose to overclock, which makes overclocking as simple as it gets. It is rated at 2.8GHz with 3x512KB L2 cache, and 6MB of L3 cache. As a 45nm Phenom II it is also a dynamite overclocker - in fact it is the same CPU we recommended in our Phenom II OC system just a few weeks ago.

We've paired the Phenom II 720 BE with the Biostar TForce TA790GX3 A2+, a perfect match for those looking to squeeze as much performance out of their money as possible. The Biostar is loaded with overclocking features and features integrated AMD HD 3300 graphics with an HDMI/DVI interface and 1080P support. This means very decent performance using the onboard graphics. Biostar offers both AM2+ and AM3 CPU support for processors like the Phenom II 720BE when used with cheaper DDR2 memory. Biostar includes 128MB DDR2 sideport memory for improved GPU performance, Realtek ALC 888 HD Audio codec, Gigabit LAN, 16GB memory support, six 3Gb/s ports capable of RAID 0/1/10/5, 10 USB ports, two PCI-E x16 slots (dual x8 CF), two PCI-E x1 slots, and two PCI slots. The BIOS caters to the casual overclocker and this board performs very well in a variety of tests.

We've chosen OCZ Fatal1ty Edition 4GB DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) in a 4GB kit for $43. This is a great value in DDR2-1000 memory from a top memory supplier. Right now it's an even better deal with a $15 rebate that lowers your net price to $28. The extra 1066 speed lets you run your memory at a faster speed or provide reserves for overclocking the CPU. OCZ is a great memory choice, but there are many memory options at great prices today. Quality DDR2-800 and DDR2-1000 RAM from Corsair, OCZ, G.Skill, Mushkin, and Geil are available at any of the major online retailers. Just be sure to look for RAM with better timings if you can afford it.

The remaining components are the same as our entry systems. The hard drive remains a 500GB Western Digital. If you'd prefer a longer warranty, look at Seagate, which includes a 5-year warranty on some of their drives for a few dollars more. The DVD burner remains the same Samsung 22X.

The case receives an upgrade with the selection of the Cooler Master Elite 330 and our AnandTech Gold Editors Choice BFG Tech LS Series LS-550 550W power supply. The BFG currently has a $20 rebate which reduces the final cost to $60. The BFG 550W is a great power supply, but you could save a few dollars here with an OCZ, Corsair, or PC Power and Cooling PSU, which are often on rebate in recent months. It all depends on the timing of your system purchase.

The LCD display was an easy choice with the full HD high resolution Viewsonic 22" 16:9 widescreen for just $170. A 21.5" monitor with 1920x1080 resolution with a 3-year warranty from a major monitor maker is certainly a good value. If you prefer a larger screen you can find a 24" widescreen starting at $250, though most are $300 or more. If you need to save a few dollars a lower resolution 19" or 20" would do.

If you want more video power for gaming you can add an ATI HD 4830 for just $75-$90. This will get you into gaming and it is a terrific value at this price according to our Graphics Editor. He recommends the Radeon HD 4850 as the start of true HD gaming starting at just $120 or a Radeon HD 4870 512MB which you can find for as little as $155. Any of the three cards would still keep your total well below $1000. The 4870 addition totals just $940 for an extremely capable 1920x1080 system complete with a Viewsonic 1080P monitor.

Intel Entry-level PC Intel Budget
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  • pirspilane - Saturday, May 9, 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.">

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Damn this stupid comment board, always 2x posting. No editing...?

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