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System Builder Marathon, June 2011: $500 Gaming PC

Motherboard And Memory

Motherboard: ASRock H61M-VS

We’ve been caught in a performance-oriented rut at the $500 price point. The trouble is deciding where to allocate very limited funds. This was especially true for this quarter’s build.

The ASRock H61M-VS was the cheapest LGA 1155-based motherboard at our disposal, and the only one that allowed us to match the platform cost of the previous AMD machine.

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's H61M-VS

This microATX board, based on Intel's seldom-discussed H61 chipset, goes super-light on the extra features. It only employs two memory slots (fortunately, still organized for dual-channel operation) and two expansion card slots (a 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot for graphics and one PCIe x1 slot).

The board is also limited to SATA 3Gb/s storage, and the rear panel port array is limited to a VGA output, three 1/8" audio jacks, six USB 2.0 ports, and a 10/100 Ethernet port.

ASRock’s use of solid capacitors in key areas of the voltage regulator circuit purportedly improves lifespan and reliability while reducing cost over the use of solid components throughout the design.

Memory: 4 GB Crucial DDR3-1333 Memory Kit

Read Customer Reviews of Crucial's 4 GB DDR3-1333 Memory Kit

This basic 4 GB dual-channel kit made up of DDR3-1333  modules employs a single-sided design. It lacks heat spreaders and is rated for CAS 9 at 1.5 V.

  • Zero_
    Is it just me or does anyone get a feeling that the SBM rigs are being sold for advertising? :kaola:

    The X4 955 costs $15 less like you said, and allows overclocking even with stock, and $60 would buy a much better equipped AMD board. Also, $185 gets you a HD6870 these days.

    Result? Better FPS per $ for the same price. TBH, that's what I was expecting. I am disappoint.
    Reply
  • spotminer
    Seagate Barracuda ST3500413AS 500 GB, SATA 6Gb/s

    yet the motherboard has only 4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors.

    How would you utilize the maximum potential of the hard disk then?
    Reply
  • striker410
    spotminerSeagate Barracuda ST3500413AS 500 GB, SATA 6Gb/s yet the motherboard has only 4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors.How would you utilize the maximum potential of the hard disk then?Because HDD's cannot saturate even the Sata 3.0Gb/s line. They run at around 120MB/s, but sata II can handle up to 280MB/s or so. It's a cash grab. Means nothing for HDD's.
    Reply
  • spotminer
    striker410Because HDD's cannot saturate even the Sata 3.0Gb/s line. They run at around 120MB/s, but sata II can handle up to 280MB/s or so. It's a cash grab. Means nothing for HDD's.
    I see thanks.
    Reply
  • compton
    I can only hope that the rumor that Intel is currently prepping a K series i3 is true. I'm using a 2500k now, but I think an i3-k would kick ass in the spare 1155 board I've got laying around.

    As far as the June budget build goes, it's really just an alternated Intel flavored version of the March build. As such, some hopeful budget builders may find reasons to go either route. Maybe the best argument against going AMD for the $500 build is the impending release of Llano and Bulldozer. It doesn't make much sense to put together an AMD system at this time -- even if you're looking at the budget area. The Phenom II will continue to be a good value especially if you're updating an older AMD system. It's not that the Phenom/Athlon is so slow as much as Intel's SB is just plain fast and efficient.

    I want an unlocked i3 Intel... please make it happen.
    Reply
  • buzznut
    An unlocked i3, that would be cool. I might even buy one, AMD fan that I am!
    Reply
  • lott11
    It looks like someone was doing a all Intel promo.
    What software can utilize hyper threaded cores.
    Not on any gamers PC'S much less on MS 64 bit at an entry level.
    Granted at high end, they do make a great deal of difference but not at entry level.
    And since when is power conservation a consideration for a gamer.
    Reply
  • Zero_
    An i3 k model coming out about now would effectively kill AMD at this price point. If you get a good OC'able processor now, odds are you wont be changing platforms in a couple of months.
    Reply
  • mightymaxio
    lott11It looks like someone was doing a all Intel promo.What software can utilize hyper threaded cores.Not on any gamers PC'S much less on MS 64 bit at an entry level.Granted at high end, they do make a great deal of difference but not at entry level.And since when is power conservation a consideration for a gamer.
    Um lets see, unreal 3 can use hyperthreading, battlefield bad company 2 and battlefield 3 take advantage of hyperthreading, many games such as wow now take advantage of it. Need i go on.
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    zero_Is it just me or does anyone get a feeling that the SBM rigs are being sold for advertising? The X4 955 costs $15 less like you said, and allows overclocking even with stock, and $60 would buy a much better equipped AMD board. Also, $185 gets you a HD6870 these days.Result? Better FPS per $ for the same price. TBH, that's what I was expecting. I am disappoint.I still think the i3-2100 was the right choice...

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu-core-i3-2100-phenom-ii-x6-1075t,2859-10.html
    For a gaming oriented build at this price point, these lower end Sandy Bridge processors can't be beat. Even when you factor in the overclocking potential of similarly priced AMD processors (Phenom II X4 955 or 965) I don't think it's enough to defeat the i3-2100 in the games where it matters most. Even when it comes to multitasking and and multithreaded workloads, the dual-core Sandy Bridge is still very performance competitive, which is kind of sad from an architectural standpoint (quad-thread i3 vs quad-core Phenom II).

    If this build were targeted at workstation applications however, I think you could definitely make the argument that AMD offers a viable alternative with the additional cores. But again, this is a gaming oriented build.
    Reply