System Builder Marathon: Low-Cost System

Power Supply, Optical Drive, And Video Card!

Power Supply: NZXT PP600

In our last few system builder marathon's we've opted for good-quality but low-output power supplies. In this go-round we decided to kick things up a notch with something that has a little more zing: the NZXT PP600 Power supply.

NZXT advertises the PP600 to be capable of 78% efficiency at full load. With dual 12v rails and amperage above what our low-cost system will require, the PP600 can be found under $70 if you look for it, and makes a great low-cost power supply.

Optical Drive: Sony NEC Optiarc 7170 SATA

There's not a whole lot to say about Sony's Optiarc DVD-RW drive other than it functions well, it's SATA, and it's cheap. We're sticking with the drive because it performed well in past tests, uses SATA cables instead of cumbersome IDE cables, and since it's under $20 now there's little reason to change it. If it works, don't mess with it!

Video Card: HIS Radeon 3870 ICE-Q Turbo

Today's typical low-cost video card options are best summed up thusly: Radeon 3870 or Geforce 9600 GT, both of which reside in the $160 neighborhood at the time of this writing and are amazing performers for this price.

With the knowledge that we'll be butting heads with other systems in the marathon costing thousands more, we opted for something with a little more kick, a factory overclocked card.

The HIS Radeon 3870 ICE-Q Turbo has notably faster clock speeds than the reference Radeon 3870. The core clock is 850 MHz vs. the reference 775 MHz, a 75 MHz increase. Also impressive is the memory speed, 512 MB of GDDR4 running at 2.38 GHz; a functional increase of 130 MHz DDR over reference. In addition, the HIS ICE-Q's cooler is renowned for its silence and cooling ability.

Of course, the HIS 3870 also has all of the regular Radeon 3x00 series bells and whistles, such as HDMI AV outputs and an integrated audio processor.

At $230, the ICE-Q Turbo will add quite a few dollars to our low-cost system budget, but it will be money well spent for the increased gaming performance.

  • 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.