System Builder Marathon: Day One

The Components

So let's dig right in. The following sections will explain which components we chose, and let you in on our justifications for choosing them:

CPU: AMD AM2 Socket Athlon X2 3800+ With Cooler

AMD Athlon X2 3800+ AM2

The CPU is of course the heart of the platform. I'm pretty sure there are a number of readers out there who are already convinced we're off to a bad start by choosing the relatively old Athlon X2 3800+. Choosing the old girl wasn't an easy decision, so we'd like to explain ourselves.

Yes, we admit that in our opinion that at least right now the Core2 Duo is a better platform than the Athlon X2 when it comes to performance, power consumption, and upgradability. Having said that, the important point to us was that the X2 platform offers very good performance - and even upgradability - for the low price category.

First, let's consider the price: when we checked, a retail Athlon X2 3800+ CPU was a mere $82. The cheapest we could find on the Core2 Duo side of things was the e4300 for $125. Do the math and you can see that's over a 40% price difference, and when you're keeping the budget low that matters. Sure the e4300 is a better performer than the 3800+, but it's certainly not 40% better on the whole. The e4300's performance is firmly in the same league as the 3800+.

What about that upgradability? There is certainly lots of breathing room for that as well. For example, $230 will get you an Athlon X2 6000+ CPU that will work on the same motherboard as the 3800+. That's comparable to the price of the e6600 which performs very closely to the 6000+ on the whole.

The only real regret we had was missing out on the e4300's legendary overclockability. But hey, we're dealing with a rock-bottom budget here, there's bound to be a sacrifice or two. However, you overclockers out there should at least be aware that if you want to push your CPU the e4300 is probably worth the extra cash. The 3800+ will be happy to give you a few extra Mhz as well, but it won't scale like the e4300.

Still, for $82 we have no regrets about our trusty 3800+. Now that we have a CPU, what motherboard will we plug it in to?

For the record, we used the equivalent of the cooling fan that comes with the boxed 3800+. In this way we avoided jacking the price of the system and added a quite adequate cooler to boot.

  • I built the May 8, 2007 $500 system and was well pleased with it. I went with 2 GB ram but the rest was from the article. In 2011, the video card died from ruptured capacitors. I really miss that card as it was impressive.
    Now, I am considering going with 4 GB ram and upgrading the power supply to support a 22 amp video card. Maybe a processor upgrade also.