Budget AM3+ for Office and Light Gaming


This is a new build I intend to buy/put-together over Christmas break. My goal was to make a future proof machine that could be upgraded over time, but would also have reasonable performance from day 1. I am shooting for spending $600 or less up front, and already having some of the components will help with that goal.

I plan on asking a few more questions before B-Day (build day) comes, so I will use this page as a quick reference for people (including myself) to refer back to to see my overall system specs. I'll try to keep everything updated if I make changes.

Budget AM3+ for Office and Light Gaming
1. Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition$93.79 (WAS $84 but price went up; darn)
2. CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO$29.71
3. Motherboard: ASRock 990FX Extreme3$119.99
4. Graphics Card: HD 7850, model is TBD
5. RAM: G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600$37.99
6. Hard Drive: I have a 40 GB and a 500 GB HDD lying around, both 3.5” and 7200 RPM. The 40 GB will play the role of an SSD until I buy one to replace it.
7. Optical Drive: I have an external CD reader and an external card reader (both via USB) and will just rely on those for now.
8. Power Supply: SeaSonic M12II 520 Bronze 520W PSU$79.99
9. Case: Antec Three Hundred$54.99
10. Cooling: Case comes with two exhaust fans, but I'm adding these to the front: NZXT 120mm Orange LED Fans$14.99 (x2)
11. Wireless: Medialink Wireless N USB Adapter$19.99
12. Monitor: I already have this 720p TV that I’m using as a second screen for my laptop: Philips 19” LCD TV. I plan on connecting via an HDMI cable from the GPU which will allow me to run speakers from the TV.
13. Speakers: I received a 2.0 system and a 2.1 system for free from a professor, and have daisy-chained these together into a single system that connects via 3.5mm audio cable. I plan on plugging this into the headphone jack of the TV. I have used this with my laptop and it works pretty well, if crude.
14. Misc. Peripherals: I have a mouse and a very cheap/loud keyboard. These will probably plug into a USB hub, along with whatever flash drive I’m using at the time.
Total Spent: $536.42

Potential upgrades include:
1. Replacing the CPU after the last socket AM3+ processor has been on the market for a year or two (2016+?), to drop the price. The 965 BE should be quite sufficient for my needs for a long time, though.
4. Some kind of future GPU upgrade. My starting GPU selection is kind of up in the air at the moment, though. I originally was thinking Crossfire until someone mentioned microstuttering...
5. Add another 8GB of RAM, since I will have two slots open.
6. Getting a 128GB SSD to replace the 40 GB HDD. This will run alongside the 500 GB HDD.
7. I will probably get some kind of combo disc burner/reader to stick in a 5.25” slot at some point, but usually use flash drives anyway, so this is kind of a “who cares” to me.
10. Will probably upgrade the three back fans at some point to something quieter.
12. Will add a second monitor, and possibly a third if I want to do nifty Eyefinity stuff. Will be looking for a 1080p monitor, probably also around 19".
14. I need to replace my keyboard ASAP. It was a free one that was included with my wife’s computer and is truly awful. I’d like a quasi-ergonomic keyboard, but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg. I've been spoiled by my well-made laptop keyboard, so I want something that’s quiet, too.

Performance Goals/Expectations:
1) Due to being stuck in 2005-tech for years because my laptop has never died, I am still satisfied by "older" games like Age of Empires II, Need for Speed Underground (and earlier), and online flash/emulator games. Though I currently play most video games on a separate console it would be nice to be able to play some newer games (auto racing/flight sim) with no lag, though I don't plan on playing anything nearly as intensive as Skyrim or a FPS.
2) My daily tasks are primarily using Microsoft Office and internet browser (Chrome). One thing that my current computer sucks at is having lots of internet tabs open at the same time. I'd also like to have seamless performance when viewing online videos on YouTube, ESPN, etc.
3) While I don't use them now, I have used programs like Google SketchUp 7 and PrintMusic 2004 (haha, 2004) in the past and would like to have better performance in the new system than what my laptop can do (which was passable but nothing great). I'm an engineering student and it would be nice to have some decent CAD ability on my new build so I would have the option of using it if I want to.

Can't wait to put it all together! This is my first computer build so let me know if I've made a serious blunder somewhere or if it all looks good! :D

Other posts regarding this system:
Socket/CPU Selection
PSU Selection
Audio Issues
4 answers Last reply
More about budget office light gaming
  1. PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: Intel Pentium G850 2.9GHz Dual-Core Processor ($70.05 @ NCIX US)
    CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 76.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($23.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($109.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 1GB Video Card ($179.98 @ Newegg)
    Case: Cooler Master Storm Scout ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($51.98 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($24.98 @ Newegg)
    Total: $550.95
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-12-07 00:19 EST-0500)
  2. Not interested in Intel, ergo the AM3+ in the title. I'm mostly looking for comments on this system, not proposals for completely dissimilar alternative systems. Maybe if I have time tomorrow I'll enter my build on PCPartPicker and see how it rates.

    How does the 7850 compare to the 7750 in terms of power consumption and heat?
  3. I came here from your other thread, and I'll basically be responding to both here (I really dislike splitting the topic like that). I'm just going to go through your list and comment as I see things:

    1. Out of curiosity, why are you not interested in an Intel-based machine?
    2. I assume you're planning on overclocking the 965 (due to the inclusion of the Hyper 212)? If not, then you can save $30 right there.
    3. I'd personally choose the 7770 over the 7750, as it's noticeably faster and not that much more expensive. Crossfiring 7770s would be on par with either a GTX 570 or 580 (source, but it's 10 months old and drivers have improved).
    4. I'd advise grabbing the Seasonic S12II 520 you were looking at - keep in mind that build quality is a huge factor in PSU price and selection; it's not all about output and efficiency. Seasonic offers some of the highest build quality available, and while the Neo Eco is a good unit, the S12II is without a doubt superior. A great alternative to that would be an XFX Pro 550W Core Edition - these are made by Seasonic, and are very similar to the S12II series.
    5. Processor prices usually don't fall very much after they're launched - although AMD's been doing so (since their older offerings were better performers for a while) to be competitive.
    6. Silverstone's Air Penetrator (AP-121, AP-141) fans are great as well. Don't think they come in orange, though.
    7. The 7850 is significantly more powerful than the 7750 - roughly twice as powerful. It also uses at least twice as much power (but would still easily be within your power constraints; Crossfire would be out of the question, though). A single 7850 would be cooler than two 7750s (generally speaking), but that depends on the cards' coolers.
  4. Hey mousseng, thanks for the comments.

    1. Supporting AMD is supporting the underdog. I value having a second option available on the market, so I'd like to do my part to keep them afloat. I also don't require the best-of-the-best performance, so paying the premium to get an Intel processor doesn't make sense to me. But mostly the first reason.
    2. I'm not sure. I want to keep my options open regarding OC'ing, and I've heard the stock CPU fan can be pretty noisy, so both reasons made me think an extremely well-reviewed, yet inexpensive, item would be worth it.
    3. Okay, I'm definitely not locked in on the 7750. I initially picked it because it has low power intake/heat output, but upgrading to the 7770 is probably a smart choice. Have any recommendations on which particular brand or model? There are a LOT of choices out there, like any card.
    4. Yeah, that's what I was leaning towards. I figure a 5-year warranty is a good indicator of a quality product, and I've heard some similar feedback to yours over on the PSU discussion.
    5. I'm thinking in terms of "So, we've moved on to the (post-AM3+) generation for a couple years now. Oh look, you can now pick up an AM3+ processor for cheap." It's good to know what you said, though, as I'm new to the game and it's easy for me to think that what's happening now always happens (not necessarily true).
    6. I'll keep that in mind. I'm really stuck on using the orange led fans for the front, but I might use those as an upgrade for the 3 exhaust fans on the back. This is funny because I used to think all led fans looked tacky... but I'm trying to do an orange and black theme for the case, so hopefully it works out!
    7. Yes, it does seem that crossfiring two weaker cards isn't as cost-effective (or often performance-effective) as running one great card, but I'm trying to keep this build easy on the pocketbook in the short term as I am finishing up my education and have enough loans as it is. So I'd REALLY like to start with one and add another, if at all possible, since the upfront costs would be less. I've pasted my goals for this system onto the end of my OP so everyone can see them when they read this thread.

    Thanks so much for your input. I really appreciate people like you taking time to help beginners out. This is what makes Tom's so useful/good.
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