System Builder Marathon: Low-Cost System

CPU: AMD Socket Phenom Quad Core CPU

We know this one might be a bit of a controversial decision, and we understand why; Intel's Core 2 CPUs are very, very good, and are priced very reasonably. In our last system builder marathon, we chose the Core 2 Duo E6750 for our low-cost build. It did extremely well, and overclocked like a banshee. So why are we opting for AMD's Phenom 9500 this go round, when we know the Core 2 architecture is faster and over clocks far further?

(Compare Prices on Phenom Processors)

There are a number of reasons that the Phenom can be a good option for a low-cost build: that the Phenom 9500 is the only quad-core CPU under $200 is one of the most important ones. While the $50 or so dollars you save over an OEM Intel quad-core Q6600 might not seem like much, it's an important selling point in the low-cost segment.

What about the E6750? It's the exact same price as the Phenom 9500, and even though it's only dual-core, it has a higher clock speed and has little to apologize for. Although the E6750 is not a bad choice in this segment by any means, we thought we'd give the Phenom a shot this go-round. Why? Because a cheap quad core CPU is ideal for some tasks, and should even soundly beat the E6750 in specific multithreaded applications. Since our low-cost build isn't designed for any specific task, we thought it would be interesting to demonstrate how the Phenom might shine in certain scenarios, for instance as a rendering workstation. Finally, we're waiting for the Penryn-based E8000 series to arrive before we invest in another Core-2 Duo.

In addition, opting for a Phenom gives us the attractive option of pairing it with AMD's impressive 780G chipset for a very cost effective platform that is both energy efficient, and can offer basic gaming/workstation performance without the addition of a discrete graphics card.

On the downside, we're quite aware that the Phenom is not going to overclock well, and the simple fact is that if you're an overclocker you'd be much better served with one of Intel's Core 2 based offerings. However, many system builders just like to run their hardware at stock settings and the Phenom might be ideal for these folks.

The benchmarks will show if the Phenom can hold it's own for the dollars spent.

  • romulus47plus1
    Paying $230 for a 3870?
    Get the 8800GT for that price!
  • Retrogame
    The $500-$700 system is more important than you realize: it's an extremely important price point in the "Consoles vs. PC wars"

    For about $500, you can buy a top of the line current generation PS3 or XBox 360 with a few accessories.

    Of course, there are always games better on one platform than the other; and naturally, your PC is a lot more versatile; i.e. it's a "REAL COMPUTER!" Even so, it's nice to know that you can actually put together a low cost machine, overclock it a smidgen, and still run this games representative of this year's crop of PC titles... and if you were to actually scale down the graphics settings to the same level that the consoles would be running things at, probably end up with better frame rates and the advantage of using a nice monitor instead of a TV.