Tom's Intl. $750 Cheap Computing Challenge

Memory, Graphics Card, And Hard Drive

Memory: G.SKILL Pi Black PC2-6400

For this system, we not only wanted 4 GB of PC2-6400, we also wanted a dual-channel kit capable of running 4-4-4-12 timings at 1.8V. At $50, the G.SILL Pi Black was just the memory we needed. Worth mentioning is the tall heatsinks would prevent use of 4 of these sticks unless we changed CPU coolers. 

Graphics Card: Sapphire 100245L Radeon HD4850 512MB

We decided to use the same Sapphire HD 4850 used in the past two SBM $625 PC’s.  Each has been able to OC beyond CatalystControlCenter’s maximum speeds, offering a nice bang for buck ratio and hopefully just the right blend of performance per watt also.  A step up in performance to the HD 4870 or GTX 260 would increase consumption full time, while choosing the low power HD 4670 would fall short of the desired 3D performance.

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB

While it’s true there was no need for 1TB of storage space, we were still eager to get Western Digital’s WD10EADS second generation green drive into our system because of its impressive overall performance and consumption in last month's review . Using a 3-platter design with 32MB cache, it’s efficient, cool running and quiet, and can be purchased for $110 at Newegg. We want to give a special thanks to Western Digital for their willingness to supply us with this drive.

  • xx12amanxx
    The Phenom 940 uses less power than your chosen cpu when cool and quiet is enabled at idle and it only cost's a tad bit more.

    Difference of opinion but i think quad's are now cheap enough that not considering one to get maximum life and performance is a bad mistake.

    Dual''s will go the way of single cores soon.
  • kirvinb
    I totally agree with 12aman....the quads can outperform duals in anything that takes full advantage of their cores...pretty soo it will be everything!...8500 still is a good cpu...if you had to go dual i think that was the best choice...still you could of grabbed a amd 920 for under 200 now and get fantastic results.1
  • Noya
    This article it lame. The corporate world cares about server energy use, the home PC user/gamer could give a s**t.
  • dirtmountain
    1.2 watts of consumption by disabling the 140mm fan? Give me a break.
  • Son_of_Blob
    This article is way past its use by date.

    What's needed now is a bang for buck review of a basic but powerful Core i7 versus Phenom II quad core rig....and then some game loving overclocks to see what can be done....with a comparison of stock coolers versus 3rd party air cooling too.

    Something like this for the Intel side:

    i7 920
    Asus P6T non deluxe mobo (or decent equivalent).
    3GB DDR3 triple channel Kingston Value RAM with XP Pro(not overpriced 6 GB on a Vista 64 bit OS..let's wait for Windows 7).
    GTX260(216 version) or a 4870 1GB, say.
    Decent 750watt PSU, i.e. a Zalman, to allow possible 2 way SLI or CF.

    That's the current sweet spot for people on a budget who want to get the best way forward at the moment.

  • enewmen
    I don't know why THG uses Vista 32 so much?? Even 8 megs of DDR2-1066 RAM is getting cheap now.
    This makes me think 64 bit apps made to use more than 4 gigs won't take off for a LONG time or people just don't want it (like the new curved screen iPod).
    I also agree with most posters the days of dual-cores are very limited even though most apps can't use 4 cores yet. Personally I think a cheap E0 Yorkfield or Phenom-II makes much more sense in this case..
    1 TB hard-drive? I like big drives. But, that's 10x more storage than then average econo user will use. Unless future apps will actually efficiently use lots of drive space like the 64bit apps can address & use 8+ gigs of RAM.

    SonOfBlob, it seems to me the Intel system your describing is will cost way more than $750.
  • Why use the WD Green Drive? The WD Black or Hitachi 7K1000.B are much better choices for Mainstream/ all-round usage according to Tom’s Winter 2008 Hard Drive Guide. They both can be had for less than $115.
  • Siffy
    Why use a rotating drive at all if performance + low power is the goal? An OCZ Core V2 or Solid would provide better throughput and access times for less than half the wattage draw of even a 5400rpm disk. And you can pick up a 60GB Solid for
  • Onus
    Well Noya, I think that's a problem; people ought to care more. Just my opinion, but why pay for something you don't need? The choice to buy or build a low-energy PC is not an isolated decision; the same guy probably uses CFL bulbs, drives a fuel-efficient car (and doesn't take many short trips in it), keeps his thermostat on reasonable settings (75F in summer), runs only full loads of laundry, etc. Any one of those may not make a huge difference, but they add up.
  • pauldh
    xx12amanxxThe Phenom 940 uses less power than your chosen cpu when cool and quiet is enabled at idle and it only cost's a tad bit more.Difference of opinion but i think quad's are now cheap enough that not considering one to get maximum life and performance is a bad mistake.Dual''s will go the way of single cores soon.Phenom II's were not an option as component selections were prior to NDA and as a requirement needed to be readily available in retail.

    Other Quad core's in general were avoided for our system as looking over the benchmark suite, they just don't currently win enough to warrant the consumption. There will be no bonus points awarded for a possible advantage in future aps/benches. But, we'll soon find out if any of the other countries went the quad route.

    For now, take a look back at this article.,2010.html