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Critique my $500 All inclusive Budget Build

Last response: in Systems
October 20, 2010 7:11:36 PM

Several years ago i used to build a lot of systems for my friends and family - with the advent of places like Cyberpower I now just kind of guide them in the right direction and let them fool with the configurator since higher end parts they seem to be able to build out cheaper than I could build it myself. So now my friend wants me to put together a Pc for her 7 year old son with total cost Under $500. I tried pawning her off on cp building site but nothing could touch her price point and I wasn't abou to let he r pick up some Wal-mart special with Atom inside. After perusing my local pc store and a few websites I came up with the following configuration. Let me know what you think and if there are any changes you could suggest.

Case: iMicro 10 bay Mid tower W/ 450w Power supply, Keyboard, Optical Scroll mouse and Speakers - $36

MotherBoard: XFX nForce 680i SLI LGA 775 supports FSB up to 1333mhz- $40
This board has 2x PCI-e 2.0 for Later SLI and built in SATA 3.0Gb hardware RAID and active cooling on the chipset along with a dedicated graphics power plug

Processor: Intel Core Duo e5400 2.7Ghz 45nm w 2MB L2 Cache - $50

CPU Cooler - Coolermaster Dream 4 - $10

Graphics: PNY GeForce GT 220 1GB DDR2 w/ HDMI - $45

Hard Drives: 2x Seagate Momentus 7200.4 120GB SATA/300 in RAID 0 - $25 each -> $50 total
I know these are laptop drives but it was a deal I couldn't pass up. They should be quiet and draw less power and create less heat - plus by the time he can fill up 200GB we can always add a storage drive

RAM: Hynix 2x 2GB PC6400 DDR2 800mhz - $75

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S243N 24x DVD±R. w/ Lightscribe SATA interface - $25

SD/MMC: 3.5" USB 2.0 Multi card reader - $7

Monitor: 20" HP LCD 1600x900 native resolution w/ DVI interface - $115

Misc: Case fans, Arctic Silver, Ram heat spreaders SATA Cables - $30

Shipping - $18

Total - $501

I know the LGA 775 Socket is EOL but I think parts for it will still be around for a few years in aftermarket and refurbs. I figure if his needs increase in a year or two it would be pretty cheap to go up to 8gb RAM and by that time a high clock Core 2 Quad should be in the $50 -$75 range . In the same vein if he gets into gaming the SLI features and dedicated power port for the graphics card on this motherboard should make the upgrade process easier. Basically my aim is to get in under budget now without sacrificing the ability to incrementally upgrade later. This will never be a blazing fast build but i think with incremental upgrades it should be able to keep relatively up to date while staying ona budget for the next few years.

I do plan on mildly overclocking. From what I have read it should be no problem upping the FSB from 200 -> 266 without affecting temps too much. With the 13.5x multiplier that puts me at 3.6 GHZ which I think would be a decent improvement without endangering stability or needing to go to water cooling.

I have a Windows 7 64 License leftover from a family pack and I think he can get by with Open Office for now as long as I set the default file types to be MS compatible.

Thoughts? Things you might do different? Thanks :) 

October 20, 2010 7:18:50 PM

Where do you live? Because you can have a better, faster more modern computer for that price, depending, on where you live.
October 20, 2010 7:20:42 PM

Cincinnati OH USA - examples? Open to suggestions.

BTW it was a struggle to get the budget pushed up to $500 so that is the max ceiling for this build including taxes, shipping etc...

I did contemplate going Phenom 2 X3 instead of intel but felt like there was more headroom available for upgrades on the intel side. Phenom 2 is like the highest before going to AM3 boards which were too expensive where as i feel the ability to put in a Core 2 Quad relatively cheap in a year or two would be a better option.

Also I am pretty stuck on having a RAID array for the primary disk. I have seen benchmarks with the drives I chose putting up numbers that rival my SSD - about 150MB/s read and write in a striped 2 disk array.
Related resources
a b B Homebuilt system
October 20, 2010 7:49:06 PM

BIOSTAR TA790GXB3 + AMD Athlon II X3 445
Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 4GB
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB + OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY 550W
LG DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA + Rosewill Blackbone Black Steel


For now he can use the onboard video card when he gets into gaming a dedicated video card can be added. For now he can play pretty much any game on lower settings.

Forgot to list the monitor, get a big one

October 20, 2010 8:16:16 PM

Honestly I have always leaned towards Intel processors- Except the P4 - always went with athlon's back then - so hadn't really looked closely at the AM3 boards. Good point in that using the cash from the graphics card to upgrade the monitor but how much gaming potential will be lost? I am not that familiar with the capabilities of the AM3 onboard graphics.

A few things your build didn't include that I would need: SD/MMC reader, keyboard, mouse, speakers.

That case and power supply are def upgrades from what I was looking at though.

Thanks for such a fast response :) 
October 20, 2010 8:35:47 PM

This came to 513 after instant rebates and so on. I think it's vastly better than your build(no offense).

October 20, 2010 8:42:46 PM

Looks like i may have missed the boat by not going AMD - thats 2 vote for very similiar builds - surprised both of you went with on-board graphics

For S&G i will go through piece vs piece and compare my original against yours fanboy - let me know if i am missing anything.

DVD drive - mine is slightly faster, is SATA instead of IDE and has lightscribe ( which i am willing to pay a few buck more for) - I like mine better

Case- Both pretty basic mid-towers lets call this a draw - Mosox's suggestion was pretty nice though for the price

Hard Drives: My raid array is probably a little faster, more power efficient and cooler running - although the spinpoint is quicker than I expected - the spinpoint is twice the capacity but how much drive space does a 7 year old need ? I only use about 70gb for everything on my main PC - Lets call this one a draw

Monitor - mine 1600 x 900 yours 1680x 1050 both midrange TN LCD screens - you get this one.

Motherboards - this is tough because they are so different. I chose a full size ATX board with dual x16 graphics slots, SLI bridge, 6 SATA ports, active cooling fans and lots of unlocked OC'ing stuff in the Bios
you chose a micro ATX with fewer expansion slots, and fewer SATA connections but with newer RAM architecture and onboard graphics. both support hardware raid and full 7.1 audio. This is very close but I think i lean towards wanting a full atx board that can handle OC'ing better and has more room for future expansion - just barely giving this one to myself.

MMC /SD reader: they are all pretty similiar - Draw

RAM - Your build def has better ram DDR3 vs DDR2 both 4GB

Processor: This one is hard for me to figure out because I haven't been able to find direct comparison in a review for these two - what I was able to find was numbers from Anandtech for the Athlon 2 x3 435 vs the intel E5300 so a slightly faster x3 vs a slightly slower Core Duo what they showed was Sysmark2007 153 vs 143 and a Photoshop 29sec vs 33sec and a data compression algorithm 145sec vs 222 sec I am a little confused from that one since the other two scores are so close - guess that third core really comes in handy sometimes. I know the e5400 has been overclocked on air up to 4Ghz - saw the Athlon2 get up to 3.75 Ghz . I think clock for clock they are pretty similiar but i will give the edge to the triple core. You win that one.

CPU cooler - great find on that open box special - another point for you

Keyboard, mouse, speakers - they are all pretty much the same but you didn't include speakers - a cheap point for me - ok half point ;) 

Graphics: I don't know what the capabilities of the on-board AMD graphics are but I doubt they are better than what the 220 GT will provide - i get this one

So your processor and Ram are better - the storage is kind of a tossup along with the monitor and mmc/sd reader , I get points for graphics, a more robust motherboard, and the DVD drive. While I have no doubt the AMD processor and faster RAM would outclass my e5400 in some synthetics and multi-threaded apps I have to say i feel like my build is a little more well rounded. I am not trying to make this a competition just thinking out loud about the differences in our approach. I do appreciate everyone's input and will be looking more closely at the possibility of switching to an AMD build. Thanks and keep the ideas coming.
October 20, 2010 8:55:01 PM

I went with onboard graphics because the card in your build wouldn't do much better if at all. And it gave me the freedom to use better, faster parts.
October 20, 2010 8:55:31 PM

Forgot to add speakers, but you can buy cheap speakers anywhere
a b B Homebuilt system
October 20, 2010 8:58:56 PM

I have a slightly overbudget build I can post when I get home ($537 for athlon II x3, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB HDD, and a Geforce GTS 450 with a 1600x900 monitor
October 20, 2010 10:37:24 PM

I did some research on the AMD on- board graphics I the review I sow there were 2 options HD 3300 and HD 4250 with the 4250 being significantly better than the 3300. The 4250 seems to come on higher end - i.e. more expensive boards though So I would probably end up with a board that had the HD3300. as far as the GT 220 I was able to find a few sites with numbers in the same benchmark for both the HD4250 and the GT 220. In all cases the GT220 scored about 2x the FPS as the HD 4250 which I think would equate to nearly 2.5x the FPS of the HD 3300. i am not sure if the trade off in graphics performance would be worth it to get the more powerful processor and faster RAM. This kid doesn't have an xbox or PS3 so any gaming would be done on this box. Screwy I look forward to seein what you came up with because the GTS 450 would be really nice to have instead of onboard graphics
October 20, 2010 11:00:50 PM

if you substitute the corresponding parts from sportsfanboy's build with this

youll get a quad-core Athlon II X4 640. the same ram, an MSI 880G motherboard (has the radeon HD4250 on it) which is more modern than the nforce 630a on that asus board, and it would be a little cheaper. if you dont trust that power supply (i dont blame you if you do) then just replace the motherboard, processor and ram in sportsfans build with this combo

it drops you down to DDR2, but you do get a quad still and the board still has a newer chipset, plus if will be a little cheaper
October 20, 2010 11:04:02 PM

oh and by the way, what kind of games is he going to be playing on this system? integrated may be enough for those until another $130 can be scraped up for a GTS450
October 20, 2010 11:04:45 PM

Forgot to add with that card we need to tweak the power supply a little(add power). I can do it for not much more, maybe 10 to 20 dollars. So your looking at around 160 extra for a pretty good gaming machine.
October 20, 2010 11:30:42 PM

I honestly don't know what type of gaming it will be but it would be nice to have the option for at least medium settings on relatively modern games at the resolution of 1600x900 or 1680x1050 - the most likely monitor size we are looking at.
October 20, 2010 11:31:04 PM

Ok, lol 592.00 with a capable video card for the resolution he/she will be playing at. I upgraded the power and case as well, to handle the card.

The picture cropped the e5400 wolfdale
October 20, 2010 11:46:04 PM

You all have given me a lot to think about - No way I can get into that $600 range :( 
But I f I Switch out My MoBo & CPU for Simple's 2nd option I can get a 3Ghz quad core and stay right around $500
Any other Graphics card options in the under $50 pricepoint ?
October 20, 2010 11:55:01 PM

The problem getting a 50 dollar video card, your not really getting decent gaming ability anyway, so it isn't worth it. You might as well get the cheapest board with the best on board graphics you can find.
October 21, 2010 12:16:53 AM

yeah - did some checking on cheap video cards - seems like i got a pretty good deal on the GT 220 for $45 - most places are selling it for about $70 The equivalent Radeon is the HD4650 or 4670. I can get the 4650 for about the same price as gt220 but it seems like a lateral move. The 4670 would be an upgrade but it seems like they are just barely out of the price range at around $75
October 21, 2010 12:48:43 AM

Well after looking into the AMD stuff a little more I think I came up with a good combination -
I had $190 budgeted for the DVD drive, RAM, CPU, and MoBo. I can get the following Combo for $186

LG 22X DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model GH22LS50 LightScribe Support

BIOSTAR A770E3 AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor

Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)

I don't think switching out any of the other components would create a significant difference and most are cheaper solutions than I could find replacements for

What do y'all think ?
a b B Homebuilt system
October 21, 2010 12:55:41 AM

Get a sapphire hd 5670 and only one stick of DDR3 RAM.
October 21, 2010 1:08:07 AM

only 2gb of ram? sounds like rough trade off - I have 8gb in my laptop
October 21, 2010 1:52:39 AM

This kid I don't know - he has never had a game system so probably not a ton. On the other hand my 8yr old brother is a beast at MW2 and HALO Reach. He beat the original HALO by himself when he was 3 1/2 :0
a b B Homebuilt system
October 21, 2010 3:20:57 AM

here is my belated built, coming in a little cheaper than my first build, $520 plus shipping:

Athlon II X3 445 and 4 GB DDR3 1333: $124.98

ASRock M3A770DE AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard $59.99
the cheapest *reliable* AM3 board out there

Cheap Rosewill case, $29.99
Its cheap, but includes a 120MM exhaust fan. You can add additional fans to the front and side.

Samsung Spinpoint F4 320 GB HDD: $42.99
The fastest mechanical drive around.

Hanns-G 1440x900 Monitor $99.99
$20 more will get an Acer 1600x900, but we're already overbudget

Sparkle GTS 450: $122.99
It even has a lifetime warranty.

Xigmatek 400W 80+ Bronze power supply $39.99
It got very solid reviews in Tom's under $75 PSU article this month.

Total: $520.92
October 21, 2010 3:31:53 AM

Those are some great options but once i add a DVD burner, mmc/sd reader, keyboard, mouse, speakers, case fan, thermal compound, and shipping It's more than just a little over budget.

Thanks to everyone's input I think I have my figured out. :) 
October 25, 2010 2:54:19 PM

Well I was going to switch over to the AMD processor and Motherboard but before I could get a hold of her my friend already had ordered the parts off my original list - and the retailer has a replacement only if defective CPU policy. So i put everything together last night and got it running. Even though I am sure the AMD option would have been better i am pretty pleased with the outcome.

The raided Laptop hard drive ran through Crystaldisk with seq read and writes of 165MB/s and 135MB/s respectively and their low profile helps the fan at the front of the case be more efficient.

So far I have been able to OC the E5400 to 3.6GHz rock solid @1.3v running FSB 1200 DDR2@800mhz with a3:2 link and 12x multiplier on the CPU. If I go up to 13x multiplier and 3.9GHz I can run programs seemingly ok but can't get through a session of Intel Burn test. A review of my MoBo had it @ FSB 1600Mhz so I'm a little confused it is having trouble at FSB 1200 but eh

@3.6GHz I can run 10 sessions of Burn test at Max setting and get a max Coretemp of 47'C where 40'C is Idle.

I know it doesn't count without screenshots so I will post those when I find a place to host them.

Looking to tweak a little more tonight

I think the ram is my weak point but I will find out tonight I have seen wildly ranging OC numbers from the e5400 anywhere from barely making it to 3.2Ghz to people pulling 4.2Ghz on Air @1.35v So I guess being right in the middle of that is what I should expect, but I was really hoping to get stable at 3.9Ghz

Will report back with final numbers.

FWIW Windows index #'s

CPU - 6.8
RAM - 5.5
GPU 1 - 5.8
GPU 2 - 5.4
Disk - 6.1 - seems a little low but I guess I am getting dinged for random access and seek times
October 29, 2010 7:20:15 AM

Final Update:

so it's been a few days and I have everything put together, stress tested and ready to hand over. Just thouight I wouldf let everyone know how it turned out.

Here is what the final build came out as :

Case: iMicro 10 bay Mid tower W/ 450w Power supply, Keyboard, Optical Scroll mouse and Speakers - $36

MotherBoard: XFX nForce 680i SLI LGA 775 supports FSB up to 1333mhz- $40

Processor: Intel Core Duo e5400 2.7Ghz 45nm w 2MB L2 Cache - $50

CPU Cooler - Coolermaster Hyper 212+ - $20

Graphics: Zotac GeForce 9800GT - $50

Hard Drives: 2x Seagate Momentus 7200.4 120GB SATA/300 in RAID 0 - $25 each -> $50 total

RAM: Hynix 2x 2GB PC6400 DDR2 800mhz - $75

Optical Drive: Samsung SH-S243N 24x DVD±R. w/ Lightscribe SATA interface - $25

SD/MMC: 3.5" USB 2.0 Multi card reader- $7

Monitor: 20" HP LCD 1600x900 native resolution w/ DVI interface - $115

Misc: Case fans, Arctic Silver, Ram heat spreaders SATA Cables - $20

Shipping - $18

Total - $505

Here are the screenshots