APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next 2 weeks - 2 months
BUDGET RANGE: US $500-750
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming is primary usage
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitor (have 19" flat panel 1280x1024), keyboard (USB), mouse (USB), OS (have XP and Vista), audio speakers
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS:Trusted sites (e.g. newegg and tiger direct)
PARTS PREFERENCES: Prefer Intel CPU because of past familiarity, but would switch to AMD if it was better
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Bling and appearance is of no concern. Would like to have it be relativly coll/quiet as my previous desktop with a P4 was neither. Thanks for the help everyone! If you feel the budget is simply too low for good value please let me know.
At your resolution, fortunately you only need a 4670 for reasonable gaming. Your built-in future upgrade path becomes a 22" (or bigger) monitor and a higher-end GPU.
Today's "shellshocker" deal on Newegg is the Antec Sonata III case with the Earthwatts 500 PSU for $85. The PSU is excellent (and will handle up to a 4870 later), and the case is solid and very quiet; I used it for my wife's rig.
Build coming up...
Ok, here's a quick build. There are some nits people could pick, but nothing major.
Like I said, my wife is using this case/PSU and it is nice and quiet.
Antec Sonata III 500 Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W Power Supply - Retail
Model #:Sonata III 500
$149.99 -$65.00 Instant $84.99
Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM
I found that the 4870 fits in your budget fairly easily, so I included it. The only downside is the cooler doesn't exhaust ALL of its heat. You may want to add an intake fan to the front of the case to help push warm air out the back of the GPU.
SAPPHIRE 100259L Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
I own this mobo, in a box that has run 24/7 for months (except when I'm messing with it).
ASRock AOD790GX/128M AM2+/AM2 AMD 790GX ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
You could fit a PII X4 here if you wanted, but why spend all your money on this rig?
AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Black Processor Model HDZ720WFGIBOX - Retail
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK - Retail
$54.99 -$5.00 Instant $49.99
Yeah, you could get a bigger one, in the same line, or a smaller. Or get two, one for OS, one for data.
Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
There's enough room in the budget for an additional 120mm case fan, or a CPU cooler if you decide to overclock. Like I said, it can be nitpicked, but I think shows that a reasonable build within your budget is entirely possible.
For about $5 more, you can swap out the CPU, mobo, and RAM for an Intel e8400, a Gigabyte P43, and 4GB of Mushkin DDR2-800. That's probably actually the better deal. You don't want a lesser Intel CPU, because they don't support the virtual XP mode in Windows7.