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$400 USD Budget Gaming and Home Entertainment Build

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December 28, 2010 1:57:22 AM

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Approximate Purchase Date
: Within the next month.


Budget Range: $400 USD Before rebates


System Usage from Most to Least Important
: gaming, surfing the internet, watching movies, HTPC


Parts Not Required: Keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, case, power supply, TV tuner, HDD, etc. I have most everything, it is easier to least what I need below.

Parts Required
: Motherboard, CPU, GPU, RAM


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: All my research has been on newegg for price comparisons but I'm open to other websites. I o have a coupon for a free external HDD if I spend over 200 at newegg, but it's not necessary I use it.


Country of Origin: USA


Parts Preferences: AMD CPU and GPU, micro ATX MoBo.


Overclocking: Yes

SLI or Crossfire: Yes, if possible


Monitor Resolution: Whatever the GPU supports.


Additional Comments:

CPU:
The CPU Buyer's Guide recommends both the AMD Athlon II 250 and AMD Athlon II 435, which are both deactivated on Newegg. Are either of them worth looking for elsewhere, or should I consider another low end processor?

With the exception of the Athlon II 250 which is a dual core, is there any difference between the Athlon II 435, 445, and 450 besides the clock speed which are 2.9, 3.1 and 3.2GHz respectively?

Looking for the best gaming CPU for ~$100, how does the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition and Athlon II X4 640 compare? There were some conflicting opinions; In September's Best Gaming CPU article it says that the Phenom II X2 555's high-end overclocking features don't earn it a solid recommendation despite the honorable mention. But the CPU Buying Guide says it smokes the Athlon II at stock and OCd.

Likewise, the Athlon II X4 640 gets an honorable mention in the BEST Gaming CPU article, but the CPU Buying Guide does not recommend it for gaming due to its poor performance-per-clock.
Are there any other processors in the sub $100 USD category worth noting?

MoBo:
I honestly don’t know what the best motherboard is. Something with a modern chipset, AM3 socket and supports DDR3, obviously. USB 3 and SATA 6GB/S are nice features but not necessary. Crossfire support and two PCI-E slots @ x16/x8 would be nice.

I’ve seen a couple of boards that offer Hybrid Crossfire with onboard graphics.

Looking for boards that BIOS support for AMD OverDrive and Advanced Clock Calibration. And features like ASrock’s OC Tuner and MSI’s OC Genie and especially Unlock CPU Core.

These are some of the boards I’ve seen recommended:

MSI 880GM-E43 AM3 AMD 880G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

It uses a Sb710 chipset in the southbridge so I believe it supports ACC, though it doesn’t specify. X6 CPU support, MSI’s OC Genie and Unlock CPU Core technology.

BIOSTAR TA880GB+

This Motherboard seems okay. AMD 880G chipset, DDR3 1600(OC), only one PCI-E slot and two PCI slots. Onboard audio doesn’t seem as good as others; only 6 audio channels versus 8 I’ve seen. Standard rear panel ports, only 4 USB ports and 3 audio ports. No eSATA, but supports unlocking and Hybrid graphics.

MSI 760GM-E51 AM3 AMD 760G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD 760G chipset, DDR3 1600(OC), only one PCI-E 2.0 slot, PCI Express x1 slot and two PCI slots. Onboard audio seems pretty good; 24-bit/192KHz sample rate and 7.1 channels. Nice selection of rear panel ports: eSATA, 6 USB, 6 audio ports, HDMI etc. Hybrid graphics support.

GPU:
What is the best ~100 graphics card? I was looking at the Radeon 5550 and the 5570. Which would perform better, the 550 with DDR5 memory or the 5570 with DDR3 memory? A 5670 with 512 DDR5 memory is priced similarly to the 5570. Is this a better option or should I consider a 1gig memory? Its 10 dollars more but there is one on Newegg for 69.99 after rebate.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I’m not familiar with this manufacturer. Are there any other GPUs I’m missing? There is the Radeon HD 4650 but I figured the 5550, 5570 and the 5670 are better options.

Memory:
DDR3 1333/1600, besides latency and voltage I’m not sure where else to look for in memory. Something that is fast and good for gaming/multitasking, between 2-4 gigs. If it’s cheaper, I don’t need 4gigs to start off with.
December 28, 2010 2:54:20 AM

The ASRock 870 Extreme is nice, and was one I was actually considering along with the ASRock M3A770DE and MSI 870-G45. Unfortunately the reason why I didn't include them in the original post is because none of them are micro ATX.

Although it was this article that inspired me to build a gaming HTPC:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/home-theater-pc-hal...

...I'm reluctant drop the money on a 5770. I was originally looking at sub ~100 options. I intend on upgrading to a 6000 series card at a later date, so I don't want to invest too much right now.
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December 28, 2010 3:18:27 AM

I'm all set with a case, but right now I'm looking to see if there are any better micro ATX options than what I listed in my original post.

I might get a full ATX board in the future, how does the ASRock 770 Extreme 3 compare to the ASRock 870 Extreme?

Video Card - I might go with the 6000 series eventually, but right now I'm not ready to drop almost $200 for a card.
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a b 4 Gaming
December 28, 2010 3:22:44 AM

mATX with Crossfire -
MSI 890GX - But is costlier
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Other good mATX boards -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
With SATA 6GB/s and USB 3.0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As for the 770 vs 870, the main advantage of the 870 is the Crossfire, also newer chipsets...

Video cards - If you really want to go 6000 series, then I dont see a point spending $100 now for a card which you will be replacing very soon,...
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December 28, 2010 3:37:19 AM

I like the MSI 890GX, but more than what I want to put down for a motherboard right now.

I rather like the ASUS M4A88TD-M, comes with a number of excellent features. It's more expensive than I intended to spend but not overly so.

I'm contemplating the Asrock 870 now, especially with that second case you showed me, even though I'm not suppose to be spending money on /another/ case. :p 

Video Card - I will be replacing the video card eventually but not soon. If I were considering a 5770, than I would agree with you and say get the 6850, but both are outside my budget. I'm replacing an old system with a dead motherboard, so I wasn't intending on dropping money down on a new build.
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December 28, 2010 5:58:23 AM

Well If you really want to keep the budget under 100 get a 4670 or a 5670. But for not much more you can get a GTS 450 or a 5770 as stated above that would make a huge difference.
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December 28, 2010 7:08:11 AM

4670? I must have missed that when researching video cards. How does it compare to the 4650? The problem is they all seem to be priced similarly. Especially when we include the 5550, 5570 and 5670.

Which would perform better, the 5550 with DDR5 memory or the 5570 with DDR3 memory? Provided you can find a 5550 with DDR5 memory; newegg only shows one result and even then, the prices overlap with the 5670. From what I've been able to gather, the 5550 is a crippled 5570.

I'm not concerned about the GTS 450. Before my main rig died I was planning an Intel based machine with a GTS 460, minimum. Unfortunately after my motherboard died prematurely (if pushing four years is premature) it forced me into action sooner than I had anticipated, hence this budget rebuild.
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December 28, 2010 7:29:20 AM

I'm probably going to shy away from nvidia since this is an AMD board.

I'm going to assume since the 5670 outperforms the 4670, it also out performs the 5550 and 5570. Considering the cheapest 5570 on newegg is the same price as the cheapest 5670 after rebate. I just didn't want to overlook anything.

But yes, the 5670 does look nice, it's the same one in my original post.

EDIT: For the sake of argument though, how does the GTS 250 compare to say the 5670? Which AMD card does it stack up against?
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