System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $650 Gaming PC

Enter The Dragon

System Builder Marathon, September 2009: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon. After some delay (sorry folks), the contest is ready to be entered. Please visit the entry page, here.

Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1,250 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2,500 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance and Value Dissected


As you may recall, the previous System Builder Marathon (SBM) from May 2009 entailed assembling PCs around a portable theme. The $600 Gaming PC was built within a $90 cube-style case, leaving roughly $500 for the remaining system components. Sporting an Intel Pentium E5200 and BFG GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 graphics card, this system was impressive once overclocked, but the processor’s stock performance still left much to be desired. Having the size limitations now lifted, the goal for this September 2009 system was to kick things up a notch and build the best budget gaming machine our SBM series has seen to date.

We overclock our SBM PCs to squeeze more performance from each budget, but also realize not all of our readers put the same value into overclocked performance. Our two higher-budget systems still usually deliver solid performance before overclocking, but typically the cheapest system has been built from the ground up for its overclocking potential. This time, we not only aim to increase the gaming performance from our overclocked system, but also want a far more capable stock-clocked machine. To accomplish our goal, we’ll increase our CPU budget and turn towards AMD’s Phenom II line of processors.

We also desired more graphics muscle, so in another first for our budget PC, we managed to squeeze a pair of AMD Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards into the mix. Rounding out this Dragon platform is an AMD 790X/SB750 motherboard with CrossFire support. 

Once again we needed to make some sacrifices while increasing our typical $625 budget just a bit, but the end result should be well worth the effort. Before we highlight each choice, let’s take a look at the complete component list for this month’s $650 Gaming PC.

$650 Gaming PC System Components

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ComponentModelPrice (USD)
CPUAMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition$103
CPU CoolerAMD Boxed Heatsink/Fan0
MotherboardGigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P$110
 RAMOCZ 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Model OCZ2G10664GK$50
Graphics2 x Sapphire 100245HDMI Radeon HD 4850 512MB$190
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB$57
CaseRosewill Wind Ryder RZLS142A-P BK$30
PowerAntec EarthWatts EA650 650W$80
Optical DriveSamsung Black 22X DVD Burner SATA Model SH-S223B$27
Total PriceRow 11 - Cell 1 $647
  • dirtmountain
    A nicely done build, great work with overclocking on a stock cooler and an impeccable write up. Thanks for the great article Mr. Henningsen. AMD did a good job for a budget build, especially at stock clocks.
  • one-shot
    Great article! It's crazy to see all of that packed into a case for only ~$650.
  • I usually love reading these, but this time I just went directly to the comment section. There's no point in building or owning an amd box, they are too weak compared to modern Intel/Nvidia based systems.
  • anamaniac
    Wonderful. =D

    What about the new $100 quad core athlon with no L3?
    I know I like extra cores. Wonderful choice regardless.

    I wonder what the quad core athlon with a 512MB 5850 (which would increase the budget though) will be like. Both cheap yet highend parts. =D

    Nice to see what only a pocketful of cash can get you.
  • tacoslave
    i know it wasn't available at the time but what about that 100 dollar quad core the athlon II x4?
  • rdawise
    Good article. I know you stated you were leaving the "unlocking" of the other cores to the winner of the contest, but were you guys able to unlock? If so, could you re-run those benchmarks? Again great article.
  • stray_gator
    While "forcing" all AMD builds for a single marathon is a good idea, the timing is somewhat unfortunate.
    An article which explores the performance and value of a complete Lynnfield build is something I (and many others, i'd dare to guess) would like to see but haven't yet, and this month's SBM is a missed opportunity in that regard.
  • jj463rd
    That's a bitchin budget gamer system especially looking at the gaming benchmarks.Just this month I was thinking about building a similar type of system with the Phenom II X2 550BE.I was going to go with gigabytes 785G type board (just one graphics card slot) though however I may reconsider that especially with what you presented here although I was shooting for a much cheaper budget build (about $180 less than what you have),Newegg did have a gigabyte 785G board with the Phenom II X2 and $20 off in a combo deal until the end of this month.
    I think that your choices were better than mine (more powerful).
  • gkay09
    Another alternate mobo - 785G ...they are availbale in AM3/AM2+ flavours and have SB 710, which can allow core unlocking -
    But not sure about their o/c potential though...
  • neiroatopelcc
    Nice to see a cheap system still using a quality motherboard.