Affordable All-Rounder August 2013

We had a couple of interesting choices to make with our Affordable All-Rounder this month. With the absence of cheap LGA1150 Haswell CPUs at the moment, we're forced to select an LGA1155-based system. Amazingly, our previously-recommended motherboard, the Gigabyte Z68AP-D3, is still readily available and at a rock-bottom price of just £52 too so we've included it once again.

The choice of CPU needs some careful consideration though. The Gigabyte Z68AP-D3 does support Ivy Bridge CPUs but only using the FC BIOS which was released in February last year. Now, most examples on the shelf should include this BIOS or later, but it's worth checking with your retailer to make sure as the only way to update it would be using a Sandy Bridge CPU. Given the bargain-tastic price of the motherboard, though, it's clearly worth doing a bit of investigating

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide August 2013 Affordable All-Rounder August 2013

 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPUIntel i3-3220 3.3GHz£92$125
MotherboardGigabyte Z68AP-D3£52$99
Memory8GB 1,600MHz DDR3£50$58
Graphics CardAMD Radeon HD 7850 1GB£119$160
PSUThermalTake SP-530PCWEU£52$65
CPU CoolerArctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro£15$25
CaseFractal Design Core 3000£55$70
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage1TB SATA 3Gbps£50$70
 Overall Price£500$692

New This Month

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Our new CPU of choice is the Core i3-3220, which is Ivy Bridge-based and sports a clock speed of 3.3GHz. You won't be able to overclock it as far as K-series CPUs as it has a locked multiplier, but you should be able to squeeze 100MHz or so more out of it using the baseclock.

It does have hyper-threading too, so its two physical cores are shown as four virtual ones. It offers much better 2D performance than AMD's current APUs and is usually faster with a discrete graphics card in games too making it the best choice for a budget setup in our £500 PC.

We've also updated our graphics card, settling with the 1GB version of AMD's HD 7850. It's £20-30 cheaper than the 2GB model but offers similar performance at standard resolutions while being faster than Nvidia's similarly-priced GeForce 650 Ti 1GB. Also changed this month is the amount of memory we recommend.

We're seeing plenty of examples where 4GB of RAM may be limiting your system, if only a little, but this looks set to change in the near future. RAM prices are currently quite high, but with savings made elsewhere in this system, we can still opt for 8GB and keep the price at £500, which will stand you in good stead.

We've chosen Fractal design's Core 3000 as our best budget case. It's a close call between it and the Xigmatek Midgard II, especially with the Core 3000 now offering USB 3.0 support. However, it's the superior cooling on offer with the Core 3000 that swayed us, with the two cases nearly identically-priced at time of writing.

If you're keen to save even more money, then you can also revert back to our previously recommended case, the Antec One. It's not got the pizazz of the previously mentioned cases and is a little bland by comparison plus has little water-cooling support, but it has great air cooling and does the job.

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The rest of our components are much the same and still make for a great PC. With maximum power consumption from our PC likely to be well below 200W, the ThermalTake SP-530PCWEU PSU is perfect for a budget PC. It's stable, quiet and has more than enough power in reserve to deal with beefier graphics cards and CPUs, should you add them in future.

Our cooler of choice is the venerable Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro, which is more than up to the task of dealing with the tiny amount of heat produced by our CPU.

Even cheaper?
Of course £500 is still a lot of money, especially when you consider the price of current consoles. However, you can still call yourself a PC gamer by spending less. Combining one of AMD's new APUs such as the A10-6800K and a socket FM2 motherboard, you'll be looking at spending around £200.

With the A10-6800K's built-in Radeon HD 8670D, which can handle many games at 1,920 x 1,080, eliminating the need for an expensive discrete graphics card (if you're prepared to lower the settings in some games), you can instantly save £50-£100. Dropping to 4GB of RAM (though do make sure it's reasonably fast as AMD's chips do benefit from it), a 320GB hard disk and an Antec One case could cut another £50 off the total cost too, bringing the total closer to £350.
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