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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $550 Gaming PC

Motherboard And Memory

Motherboard: Asus M4A77T

Utilizing a single graphics card in this budget build allows for less-expensive motherboard considerations. The Asus M4A77TD may lack features found in premium boards, but it fits our needs as a reliable, stable board, friendly to both overclocking and core unlocking.

Read Customer Reviews of Asus' M4A77T Motherboard

Based on the AMD 770/SB710 chipset, this Socket AM3 board has a single PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 x16 slot, an all-solid capacitor design, DDR3-1800 overclocking support, and a solid array of voltage and multiplier adjustments in the BIOS.

Memory: Crucial CTKIT12864BA1339

Read Customer Reviews of Crucial's 2GB DDR3-1333 Memory Kit

Past bargains on DDR2 have spoiled us into expecting 4GB of system RAM to be the norm in our value-oriented PC. Looking back, the cost of a 4GB kit of CL4 DDR2-800 for our May 2009 $600 Gaming PC was just $41, but now we were looking at over $100 to fit 4GB of DDR3 into this build.

It’s hard to justify 20% of our target budget on just RAM, so this month we opted for an affordable 2GB kit of Crucial PC3 10600 (DDR3-1333). Although lacking heat spreaders and rated at CL9 and 1.5V, Crucial DDR3-1333 has demonstrated impressive overclocking capabilities. Prepare to drop closer to $600 on hardware if you desire 4GB of RAM in this build.

  • gkay09
    ^ I dont like the idea of using the CM eXtreme power PSUs...
    You could get a EA 430W for about $49 @newegg...
    Just a thought - you could save money on the mobo by going with TOM's favorite brand ASRock board with the 770 Chipset...So with the money saved, getting a better PSU would have been a good idea...
    Reply
  • adbat
    I plan to build a similar machine so it's nice to see the numbers :-)
    Again unlocking was successful the 50-50 chance do not apply to your tests.
    But no surprise this is a just enough machine.
    Reply
  • archange
    Buying the same components here, online, gets me to ~800 USD. That, including my 3% Diamond Customer discount at my favorite e-tailer. Granted, the Power Color was out of stock, which led me to Sapphire and i also had to exchange the RAM for Kingston HyperX CL7.

    People in the States have way to much... fun :P
    Reply
  • Crashman
    gkay09you could save money on the mobo by going with TOM's favorite brand ASRock board with the 770 Chipset...Wait, Tom's has a favorite brand? I've heard rumors in the past that Asus got all of Tom's Hardware's attention...and Gigabyte has been getting a lot of awards so maybe them...where does ASRock come into all of this favoritism, from its use in previous low-cost SBM machines?
    Reply
  • zooted
    I like this build much better than the $1000 one
    Reply
  • noob2222
    This one and the $1000 show some pretty impressive efficiency and power savings over the previous, more expensive builds. Save some dough now and in the long haul. Imo thats pretty important on a tight budget build, you don't want it costing more over its lifetime than what you saved in building it.
    Reply
  • skora
    and liked the idea of incorporating a $100 Cooler Master trio in the build.CrashmanWait, Tom's has a favorite brand? I've heard rumors in the past that Asus got all of Tom's Hardware's attention...and Gigabyte has been getting a lot of awards so maybe them...where does ASRock come into all of this favoritism, from its use in previous low-cost SBM machines?
    No, this month its Coolermaster.

    "and liked the idea of incorporating a $100 Cooler Master trio in the build."

    No shame, we all have bills.

    Very well balanced system. Very helpful to see a working system with just 2 gigs ram and break the stereo type that 4 is required.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    ah i miss the days when you could buy 4 gigs of ram for $20. But now that only buys you about 1gig.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    skoraand liked the idea of incorporating a $100 Cooler Master trio in the build.No, this month its Coolermaster. No shame, we all have bills.Very well balanced system. Very helpful to see a working system with just 2 gigs ram and break the stereo type that 4 is required.
    You're reading that completely out of context.
    Reply
  • ta152h
    At this price range, I think an Athlon II x2 or Pentium E6500 system would probably do better for pure gaming.

    Both have more cache, the Pentium dramatically so. The Athlon II x2 would almost certainly over clock better, since stock speed is much higher, and most sites show them generally able to get to 3.8 GHz at roughly 1.4v or lower with a stock heat sink. On top of this, they use less power. So, more cache, 250 MHz more with stock heat sink (maybe more with a better one), and more cache against an extra core. Probably for games it would be better, but not always.

    The Pentium E6500 is probably better still. Getting it to around 4 GHz wouldn't be too hard, especially with an upgraded heat sink, and is generally faster clock per clock compared to an Athlon II x2. Power use is significantly lower too.

    Neither are clearly better though. I would rather have a faster two core than a slower three core, but the latter certainly have advantages too.
    Reply