I'm looking at two different systems on CL and wanted your opinions. My budget right now is about $235.
CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 Rana 450 3.2GHz AM3
Motherboard: ASUS M4A88T-M LE AM3 AMD 880G Micro ATX
Video Card: GIGABYTE Radeon HD 5670 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI-E 2.1
RAM: GSKILL 4GB (2x2) DDR3 1333 (PC10666)
HDD: Seagate 1TB 7200RPM SATA II (3Gb/s)
Optical Drive: Lite-On DVD-Rewriter
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts ATX12V / EPS 12V 430W 80PLUS Bronze
Case: Raidmax Tornado ATX-238WRP
#2 ($185+gas to drive 100 miles):
CPU: AMD Phenom X3 2.1 Ghz 8450e
Motherboard: Jetway HA04 CrossfireX 790FX AM2+
RAM: 4GB of CAS 4-3-3 DDR2
Video Cards: 2 PowerColor ATI Radeon HD4830 512MB cards
HDD: 80GB 5900RPM
Soundcard: Soundblaster X-Fi Xtremegamer 7.1
Antec Veris Premiere LCD system information display
Case: Chieftech Dragon case
PSU: Antec 650 watt
At a glance, #1 seems like a no-brainer. It has a better CPU and MOBO, but #2 has a better case and PSU along with a dedicated sound card. The 2 4830s in CrossfireX should kick the snot out of the 5670 as well. But does the slower Phenom offset that gain? The Veris is also a nice bonus, but not a deal breaker either way for me. #2 also has a tiny HDD running at 5900. I could probably talk the guy with #2 down another $15 or so, but the price on #1 is rock bottom. Already talked him down from $235.
Crossfire doesn't work in all games or give a huge boost. 80GB is barely enough for Windows and a few games, so you'll need another HD, so to even buy a 1TB to add to #2, you're at $300. #1 has DDR3 over DDR2 in the 2nd system, which would do it for me right there as well as the better speed, etc of #1. I'd go #1 myself.
Well, neither option knocks my socks off, but between the two I'd say it's option one hands down. It's a more recent architecture, gives you more room to expand. The 1TB HDD justifies almost half the price by itself, the RAM is newer, and I'd take an ASUS motherboard over a Jetway any day. 430W isn't a ton of power, but it looks to be a decent quality unit at least and should still be enough juice to allow a decent modern GPU upgrade.
I would call the sound card a non factor, I'm sure you'll be perfectly fine with the integrated motherboard audio. You can also replace the case and the PSU for relatively little expense independently if you feel you need to later on, whereas option 2 you'd be stuck with the older platform and looking at having to do a pricey motherboard / CPU / RAM swap simultaneously.
Plus, you wouldn't have to drive that extra hundred miles.