Affordable All-Rounder September 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
 ProductUK Price (inc VAT)US Price (ex tax)
CPU2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X2 240£45$50
MotherboardMSI 770-C45£50$90
Memory4GB 1,333MHz DDR3£75$90
Graphics Card1GB GeForce GTX 460£170$230
PSUCorsair CX400 400W£35$55
CPU Cooler (UK)Akasa AK-876£15NA
CPU Cooler (US)Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro(£15)$30
CaseAntec Three Hundred£45$55
Optical driveSATA DVD-RW£15$20
Storage500GB SATA 3Gbps£35$55
 Overall Price:£485$675

New This Month

There's been very little movement at the bottom end of the market this month, as things have settled down in the market. Memory prices have stabilised after their rapid drops during June and July: consumers are still getting a good deal but we'd hoped prices would continue to drop still.

Its not all bad though, as we've seen price drops in other areas, most notably in graphics cards. This is still mainly due to the GeForce GTX 460s throwing their weight around, and another round of price cuts means you can now get a 1GB GTX 460 for £170. That's excellent value for a card that soundly thrashes a HD 5850, which was retailing at a steady £250 just a few months ago. As a result we've managed to sneak a 1GB GTX 460 into our affordable all-rounder build and still stay below our £500 budget.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide September 2010 Affordable All-Rounder September 2010

And The Rest

We've again gone for the Athlon 240 as our CPU of choice for our affordable all-rounder. The Athlon 240 is the cheapest CPU that fits a current, fully supported socket in the form of AMD's AM3 socket. There is an argument for getting the super overclockable Intel Pentium G6950 but it's still £30 more than the AMD Athlon II X2 240. Add in a decent LGA1156 motherboard, such as the Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H and you're looking at an extra £50 to opt for the Pentium over the Athlon. Also 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. As we say every month, avoid cheap quad-core CPUs, as they lack Level 3 cache and are therefore sluggish.

The classic MSI 770-C45 is still our cheap AMD motherboard of choice, its even dropped in price by a fiver this month which is good news. 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.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide September 2010 Affordable All-Rounder September 2010

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 DIMMs to try to future-proof the system a little.

We played with the idea of using the reference CPU cooler for this system to keep the price down, but given that we wanted to overclock the CPU we decided to buy a better performing third-party cooler after all. 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.

PC Hardware Buyer's Guide September 2010 Affordable All-Rounder September 2010

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 includes 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.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04