Graphics CardAlternative: Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT
UK Pricing: £98.85 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $129.99 (ex. Tax)
Basically just a rebadged 8800 GT with Nvidia’s Hybrid Power (which unless you’re running an Nvidia nForce 7-series motherboard for AMD processors, you’ll never use), this card took the market by storm when it was released in October last year - it was one of the best bang-for-buck graphics cards we've ever seen and is still roughly on a par with AMD's newly released Radeon HD 4830 in most benchmarks.
Although the 9800 GT has now been dethroned by the Radeon HD 4850 as the best bang for buck on the market, it still offers reasonable performance and good value for money at lower resolutions. If you really can't stand the red team for whatever reason then this is the best second choice, but it is convincingly outperformed in every single benchmark by the HD 4850, so seriously consider whether saving £30 is worth the drop in performance.
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4850e
UK Pricing: £48.99 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $62.00 (ex. Tax)
Going the AMD route with your CPU and motherboard means you can save more than a few quid for grabbing that improved graphics card or more memory. Having said that, clock for clock, Intel’s Core microarchitecture is significantly faster than the old K8 architecture, but that's not to say AMD's processors are inadequate for today's computing tasks - quite the opposite in fact. For just over £40, the Athlon 64 X2 4850e will get the job done, and given the fact it's a 45W 'Energy Efficient' model, it should overclock pretty nicely as well.
MotherboardAlternative: Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
UK Pricing: £56.40 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $89.99 (ex. Tax)
The problem with choosing an AMD processor is that you’re limited to AMD’s pretty dismal budget chipset choices - we found inexpensive boards using the 770X chipset
were at best, mediocre, even if they do offer CrossFire support.
AMD's 780G on the other hand is an excellent chipset, allowing boards to hit the market for just under £55 and w,ith the inclusion of the improved SB700 southbridge, there are even more SATA and USB 2.0 ports to play with too. Richard looked at this board back when 780G first launched
and found it offered numerous high end features and impressive performance considering the reasonable price tag. What's more, even though the Gigabyte board is limited to 95W CPUs using the 45W one we recommended above that should provide plenty of overhead.
Having used the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H almost every day in Richard's own home theatre PC since the chipset launched, with the 4850e suggested above in socket, we can absolutely say you’re getting a rock solid single GPU platform that's extremely low power. It will serve as an excellent base for your either a home theatre PC or a simply inexpensive gaming rig - or both!
Kingston 2GB (2x1GB) PC2-6400 CAS5
UK Pricing: £22.47 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $35.99 (ex. Tax)
While we’ve seen that 4GB of memory offers very real advantages over 2GB
, if your budget just can't stretch, 2GB is sufficient for most of our needs and for less than £25 the price is certainly right. Rated at CAS-5, the Kingston kit isn't the fastest memory on earth, but at just 1.8V it should have a bit of overhead for some performance tweaking, just don’t expect to squeeze too much extra out of it.