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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $500 PC

Spending It All

System Builder Marathon, December 2010: 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.

To enter the giveaway, please check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected

Introduction

In this month's System Builder Marathon $500 PC, we plan to spend every penny (and then some) to strengthen some of the subsystems our last effort left lacking when we knocked $100 off our budget.

The system we set out to build one quarter ago was a low-cost box that would excel in all areas, not just gaming. The resulting machine represented nice platform balance for casual gamers, but certainly wouldn’t live up to the expectations of the hardcore enthusiasts who originally wanted to see how low we could go.

As we were quite pleased with the motherboard and processor, we didn’t look to spend more on either of these components. We added an affordable cooler and also benefited from AMD’s recent Athlon II speed bump, which provided us with an extra 100 MHz for the same cost.

$500 Gaming PC System Components

ComponentsModelPrice (U.S.D)
CPUAMD Athlon II X3 445$75
CPU CoolerRosewill RCX-ZAIO-92$16
MotherboardASRock M3A770DE$60
RAMMushkin Enhanced Essentials 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1333 (PC3 10600) Model 996586$65
Graphics Sparkle SXX460768D5UNM GeForce GTX 460 768 MB$160
Hard DriveSamsung Spinpoint F4 HD322GJ/U 320GB SATA 3Gb/s$43
CaseAntec NSK 4482B Black$75
PowerAntec EarthWatts Green 380 W included w/ case$0
OpticalLite-On 24X DVD Burner SATA iHAS 124-04$17
Total Price$511

With the machine’s foundation established, we then looked to address the rig’s gaming prowess; specifically, the need for more graphics muscle. Rather than gamble and explore the M3A770DE’s x16/x4 CrossFire performance, we opted for the safer route of a single card. Finding Sparkle's GeForce GTX 460 768 MB in stock at $160 set the bar a bit higher than we originally anticipated.

Much-welcomed price drops brought four gigabytes of memory well under $100. The cheapest kit fit nicely within our budget, but then meant we could only afford a small bump in storage capacity.

The Antec EarthWatts 380D provided a boost in overall power supply quality, while delivering enough +12 V amperage to keep our overclocked components stable. This power supply was $45 on its own, but could be secured in the NSK 4482B chassis for a total price of $65. Our pricing chart above doesn’t reflect the available discount code, so in the end we come in a little over budget. Currently, the cost would be a bit higher, but making some parallel moves that take advantage of holiday savings could bring this machine down under $500.

  • LuckyDucky7
    And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.

    Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)
    Reply
  • Tamz_msc
    Ah, much better than the previous build!
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Great job squeezing everything into a very small budget.
    Reply
  • adbat
    Good build - but again it would be good to see old spec on test system page.
    Reply
  • rohitbaran
    That is a great combination for that budget. Balanced.
    Reply
  • yyk71200
    I wouldn't be very comfortable using a 380 watt PSU for a long time for GTX 460 even if it is good quality. Perhaps, I would put in something of 450 watt or higher.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    LuckyDucky7And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)So you think there's going to be a replacement platform for the $2000 PC in January? That's not going to happen for a while. Or are you suggesting the next $2000 PC should be downgraded to P67?
    Reply
  • dragoon190
    I haven't been keeping up with the system marathon much, but what's the reasoning for choosing nVidia card over AMD's? Just wondering since I'm thinking about upgrading my computer soon.
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    A really nice build this time.However the price of the case and power supply has gone up in price over at newegg.I haven't checked the prices of the other components though.This build seems to perform quite well especially in the gaming benchmarks.Good job!
    Reply
  • tstng
    I would've gone with a 6850 instead of the 460. It's a tad cheaper, not at all slower if you don't start cranckin' up the tesselation, and should fit the 380W psu a lot better. But a solid build by all means.
    Reply