System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $400 Gaming PC

Motherboard And Memory

Motherboard: ASRock M3A770D

We needed an inexpensive motherboard with some degree of overclocking potential. Of course, it couldn't sacrifice stability or the potential of unlocking our Athlon II chip. ASRock's M3A770DE, based on the AMD 770/SB710 chipset, was just the ticket. With CrossFire (limited to x16/x4) and Phenom II X6 support, plus a pair of powered eSATA/USB connectors, the $60 price tag looks even sweeter.

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's M3A770D


Notice that ASRock uses solid capacitors in key areas of the voltage regulator circuit to improve lifespan and reliability, but not throughout the board, as we have come to appreciate on more expensive models from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI.

Memory: Crucial CTKIT12864BA1339

Read Customer Reviews of Crucial's CTKIT12864BA1339 DDR3-1333 Kit


Two gigabytes system memory seems like an obvious choice for our $400 build, so we opted for the same affordable dual-channel Crucial kit we've used in the past.

Although it lacks heat spreaders, and is rated at CL9 and 1.5 V, Crucial DDR3-1333 modules with D9KPT ICs has demonstrated impressive overclocking capabilities in past memory roundups.

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  • I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
    15
  • Quote:
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.


    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
    12
  • The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/1005/1

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Quote:
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.


    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
    12
  • I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
    15
  • very nice build, interesting to see how much performance can be squeezed out of the budget. i was expecting worse results.
    5
  • Conclusion ?

    150$ buys you a lot better gaming capabilities, and nothing else.
    -8
  • Quote:
    It went $1 over-budget if we substituted in a GeForce 9800 GT.


    I doubt someone spending $400 can't afford to add an extra dollar. although i realize that the point in these articles is to stay under the budget, it would have been interesting to see the price/perforamce difference.
    9
  • nice case, looks very good ... pity that rosewill does not have a downloadable manual for it ...
    2
  • I'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?

    I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.
    3
  • The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/1005/1

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
    11
  • Clicked once but got a double post somehow.
    -6
  • What do the best price/performance we can have?
    -6
  • Really good job. I also like the fact you pointed out that it doesn't include combo discounts, shell shockers or MIR.

    That tells me that it could of been an even better system for the same price. I understand that you couldn't, but it's a real eye opener for us folks in the System forum.

    I consider this to be a perfect benchmark system for the low budget build requests there.
    11
  • While I agree with Proximon on the PSU, I also think this was an outstanding benchmark build. It's also clear where the next $50-$100 could go to improve it. Very nicely done.
    3
  • There really are cheaper cases and motherboards out there that would work just fine with this setup. The extra money could go to where it's really need: the graphics.
    3
  • LunarianI am building a computer with this motherboard and processor also, well the X3 445 anyway. I want to install windows XP on to the operating system, but all my recent CD's were upgrades only. Can I start off with the Win95 CD and install that to the HDD, then upgrade to Win98 followed by Win XP?If anyone can answer this, thanks a lot.

    I installed an upgrade disk XP once and I think its asks you to insert the disk of the OS you want to upgrade. XP then checks the disk I guess to see if its an allowed upgrade.

    This was a great review. I would have when for a $450 range build with a 5770 and an X3 and got the mobo in the review. I would have gotten the $20 Gigabyte gz-ph1a3 and Antec 430W for $40. May have exceeded the price but would have been a great system.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811233061
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371023
    -1
  • SpadeM+1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.

    Thanks, yes felt it was worth mentioning this one wasn’t as tuned as other recent SBM budget builds. The 2140 MHz CPU-NB Frequency for this $400 OC is quite low versus 2540 MHz for the June $550 PC, and 2620 MHz for the March $750 build. I aim for 2400-2600 MHz CPU-NB, although realize many overclockers utilizing better cooling are willing to push this far higher.

    This lil’ box had a few strikes against it that (I felt) didn’t warrant the additional tuning time. The mobo’s design & tame passive cooling, the lack of CPU-NB Voltage control in BIOS, and the fact the boxed cooler’s abilities were already being taxed without increasing the memory controller and L3 cache frequency.
    3
  • I'd have rather seen a $500 system. ~$100 more into gfx would have been well spent. Maybe a better HSF too.
    -5
  • Agreed, kudos to the community for asking for this and kudos to Paul for making it happen, $400.00 seems to pack a decent punch!
    8
  • Blah.... If all you have is $400 then you should consider buying a gaming console. Flame all you want, but the reason for owning a gaming pc is for eye-candy I can't get with a console. This build will be similar to a console (eye-candy wise).
    -13
  • AMW1011I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.


    Agreed, every little bit helps. $411 alone added an HD 4850, so $450 would have been good for 1GB HD 5750 or maybe even a 5770. $500 then adds an aftermarket cooler, higher quality PSU, and doubles the storage capacity.
    0
  • HibyPrimeI'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.

    The $550 overclocked June PC had a 350 MHz advantage plus further performance tuning, and it still fell shy of the $400 build in threaded-apps performance. Gaming, the system needs more GPU, so additional CPU frequency would not have a meaningful impact.

    FYI, we get curious too, just need to get the work done first. ;) I pushed 3.5 GHz at 3-cores, but wouldn't stability test because of insufficeint cooling. Didn't take the time to push the ref. clock any higher than 235 MHz. 3.45 GHz required a voltage bump from 3.4 GHz for stability, and temps were a bit high even before CPU-NB frequency overclocking. SO, had unlocking failed, benchmarks would likely have been run with 3-cores @ 3.4 GHz.
    0