Affordable All-Rounder July 2010
This system is designed to be our recommendation for those looking for maximum performance per pound (we’re British, y’know) on a tight budget. The power of a fast dual-core processor is still perfectly adequate for everyday use and gaming – add a decent amount of memory and as potent a graphics card as you can afford, and you’ll be fine for the foreseeable future on a 1,680 x 1,050 screen.
| ||Affordable All-Rounder|
| ||Product||UK Price (inc VAT)||US Price (ex tax)|
|CPU||2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240||£45||$50|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3||£100||$105|
|Graphics Card||1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770||£120||$135|
|PSU||Corsair CX400 400W||£35||$50|
|CPU Cooler (UK)||Akasa AK-876||£15||NA|
|CPU Cooler (US)||Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro||(£15)||$30|
|Case||Antec Three Hundred||£45||$60|
|Optical drive||SATA DVD-RW||£15||$20|
|Storage||500GB SATA 3Gbps||£35||$55|
| ||Overall Price:||£460||$585|
New This Month
The new Intel Pentium G6950
may be awesomely overclockable, but it's also £30 more than the AMD Athlon II X2 240. Add in a decent LGA1156 mother, such as the Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H
and you're looking at an extra £50 to opt for the Pentium over the Athlon.
With the launch of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 768MB
we've seen ATI Radeon HD 5770 512MB prices slip from the £150 levels of a couple of months ago to just £120
. Our previous budget graphics card recommendation was the GeForce GTS 250, but the HD 5770 is a much better bet as it's faster and supports DirectX 11.
The changes (as well as a £10 drop in the price of the Corsair PSU) have meant that our Affordable All-Rounder is £10 less affordable, but it's a price worth paying considering the potent graphics card it now includes.
And The Rest
We’ve still opted for AMD’s 2.8GHz Athlon II X2 240, rather than the 3GHz Athlon II X2 250 of previous months, and the new Pentium G6950, as discussed above. As we say every month, avoid cheap quad-core CPUs
, as they lack Level 3 cache and are therefore sluggish.
The Athlon 240 is the cheapest CPU that fits a current, fully supported socket. The Allendale-core Intel Celeron Dual Core E1500
might cost a few quid less (£36.60 rather than £45), but as an LGA775 processor, it has little future. At least by getting a Socket AM3-compatible CPU, you can buy a Socket AM3 motherboard now and leave yourself a quick and easy upgrade for a year or two down the line.
Speaking of which, the classic MSI 770-C45
is still our cheap AMD motherboard of choice. It’s a decent board with a solid BIOS, so it’s a great buy. Now that AMD is trickling out its 8-series chipsets, we’re on the look-out for an update for the 770-C45, but nothing has surfaced as yet. We pair the CPU and motherboard with 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 memory – this is arguably an extravagance as using 2GB is okay, but we like the extra snappiness of having 4GB of RAM.
We’ve chosen 1,333MHz memory as it’s £20 cheaper than 1,600MHz and won’t limit our overclocking too much. For example, if we were to aim for an overclock of 3.6GHz, we’d have to use a HTT of 257MHz (as 257 x 14 = 3,598) – the 770-C45 has a 4x memory strap, so we can use that to keep the memory within its limits (1,028MHz). Memory rated at 1,066MHz is roughly the same price as 1,333MHz RAM so we may as well get the faster to try to future-proof ourselves a little.
We played with the idea of using the reference CPU cooler for this system to leave us room for a GeForce GTX 460 768MB
, but given that we’ll want to overclock that CPU, we needed to invest in a better cooler. The Akasa AK-876 is cheap and quiet and has three heatpipes to cope with a spot of overvolting and overclocking. Unfortunately, the Akasa isn’t available everywhere, so we recommend that our US friends go for the slightly more capable and expensive Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro.
Corsair’s CX400 is a solid 400W PSU that’s easily able to power all out kit, even with a decent CPU overclock. The Antec Three Hundred is a low-cost case, but it’s solidly made and comes with a rear exhaust fan and a large roof exhaust fan, so it’ll keep all your hardware cool and survive a good few knocks. Finally, we’ve added the cheapest DVD-RW drive we could find and a 500GB hard disk.
If you haven't got a copy already, you might want to factor in a copy of Windows 7 - if you're confident that you won't be upgrading much, then an OEM copy should be fine, but serial upgraders need the pricier retail version.