$250-300 for Core System Parts

Hello all,
I decided, quite last minute, to pick up some parts over the holidays to build a system for a friend. I'm looking in the $300 range for CPU, graphics card, Motherboard and RAM. The cheaper the better.
Currently, my friend has some awful thing running Windows 2000 with 256MB RAM going ridiculously slow. I aim to change that. But I'm not looking for a screaming fast machine.

The basic requirement is "snappy." Something that doesn't take a whole minute to open Firefox. The computer will be used a lot for watching YouTube, Hulu, AIM, browsing with lots of tabs open, and occassionally watching a DVD. Probably some online kids games. Maybe some computer games, but nothing serious.

What I've got so far:
I'm going to go with Windows 7.
I'll be going with Intel.
I'll get 4MB RAM.
I'll pick up a hard drive on sale
I'm looking for something a step above integrated graphics. But if people successfully argue integrated graphics will still be snappy, I might be persuaded to change my mind.
The monitor will be whatever I pick up over the holidays. Probably 1440 x 900 or close to that.
The Motherboard/case doesn't need to be very expandable. They probably will never open the case after I put it together. It needs ethernet, obviously, and some USB ports. And space for the graphics card.

So, I'm wondering if people could help me out with some parts ideas to keep an eye out for. Since I'm not committed to each part yet, I'd love to be able to get ideas for Intel chips to watch for sales, and some graphics cards and motherboards to watch out for, so when NewEgg or Best Buy has something cheap, I can snap it up. I researched everything for my own computer about 7 months ago, but everything seems to have changed :) So I'm not entirely sure whats low end now. How cheap can I go?

So.., what are some Intel processors that are cheap and will have no problems running Windows 7?
What are some mid/low end graphics cards that will make the computer snappy?
I assume those two questions will lead to the answer for the motherboard.

Thanks to everyone who can help out. My apologies for sounding uninformed, but I'm working a ton right now and wanted to get some info to try and catch the black friday sales.
23 answers Last reply
More about core system parts
  1. Oops, forgot to add, I won't be overclocking.
  2. I would really suggest AMD for this, their IGPs are significantly better than intels.

    So you need a CPU, motherboard, case, PSU, and ram all for 300?

    For $281 you can get this AMD build that wont require you to get a discrete card

    If you really want an intel build its going to cost you a bit more for equal performance, or you can get a little less for the same
    The IGP is weaker, as is the processor but it should still handle basic tasks as well as the AMD build.
  3. Intel is not cheap. An AMD Athlon II with an AM3 motherboard and 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM would be a good solution (at about $100 each component). You can get an AM3 motherboard with HD4200 onboard graphics that would suffice. If they got into gaming it would just require dropping a decent graphics card in.

    *edit - and hunter posted a build before me.
  4. So you're both of the overall opinion that an AMD with onboard graphics at this price would still give a great user experience? No choppy YouTube/hulu, stuttering websites, that sort of thing?
  5. The 785G chipset is capable of smoothly playing full 1080P bluray movies, youtube wont be a challenge.
  6. Another question is forming in my mind: do you think I can get a good deal going with a pre-built from Dell or HP? My last system I built because I could do it cheaper. Can I still build cheaper on the low end? Normally I hate pre-built systems because they're not balanced. Giant hard drive specs and horrible graphics and miniscule ram. What do you guys think? I will need a monitor and a case as well. I was trying to keep the complete total under $450.
  7. You wont beat cheap pre-built prices building yourself because you would never use components of that low quality.
  8. I would say no to that system, as the is ZERO upgrade potential, there isnt even a PCI slot and they had to mount the optical drive vertically thats how small the case is, you dont stand a chance of fitting a discrete GPU in there in the future.

    The biggest challenge with beating a low end prebuilt is the price of the OS. Since you are going to use windows you need to add $100 onto the price which will eat a good chunk out of the budget.
  9. Sometimes when you want to have a working system for that cheap, you camp out and watch for the deals at Dell. 249.00 dollars for a system with windows 7
    You can't beat that. Add in the better processor for 50 dollars.
    This has a upgradeable pci-e slot.

    edit: this one , has vista. must be cleaning out some stock.
  10. El cheapo based off 80+ certified PSU?

    $187 for CPU, Mobo, RAM ^^ A nice little nest for the addition of a HD 4770 if you want to game hehe
  11. Wow. Everyone is going AMD. I admit to no knowledge of AMD model numbers or their intel equivalents.
  12. Intel is dead end and more expensive for this price tag. AMD is the only way to go.
  13. Is the Athlon II the AMD model I should keep an eye out for? Or only certain variations of it?
  14. For your budget range and uses a triple core is more than enuff processing power hehe An Athlon2 quad 620 is $99 but dun think u need that much?
  15. Any socket AM3 AthlonII or PhenomII. Of course more cores has value and higher MHz has value. Athlon is slower and cheaper than Phenom. You wont find a decent intel CPU down in this price range. Once you can spend $200 on the CPU, the intel i5 and i7 become the CPU of choice.
  16. Thanks everyone. I think I've got a pretty good start point from all your help.
  17. Ok, picked up the Newegg shellshocker deal. Case and 400W PSU for $49.99. I'm still a little confused about onboard graphics. There are a lot of model numbers floating out there. Which one is alright? Or better yet, what should I avoid?
  18. GF 7xxx and HD 2xxx - dated and inferior IGP Chipsets Go with 785G/790GX...780G ain't bad but most are AM2+ IIRC
  19. There are some pretty sweet open box deals on motherboards. I just need to make sure it's comparable with the case and an Athlon chip, right?
  20. Yes compatibility check always Egg has at times bundled incompatible combos!
  21. Picked up the gigabyte 785G micro Atx and AMD athlon II X2 2.8 combo deal for $102.99.
  22. Awesome buy!
    Just slot in DDR2 800s and u got a stunning low budget machine hehe
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