The processor choice determines our motherboard and GPU selection. Personally, I like both Intel and AMD for processors so I have an open mind on this subject. I use a mix of Intel and AMD processors at home and work. Both companies make excellent products so choosing either one is a win/win situation. If I were building a gaming rig or dedicated audio/video workstation, I would lean strongly towards an Intel Q9450 or E8500 as my processor choice, although a Phenom X4 9850 is a solid option for those in the AMD camp. Those recommendations are based on having a different budget so when looking at the lower end of the price spectrum, it becomes obvious that AMD has a stronger selection of products.

Our systems will see a variety of usage that includes web creation, audio/video encoding, gaming, HD playback, and of course heavy communications work. As such, a dual-core processor is a basic requirement and for the audio/video encoding and multimedia work, quad-core would be nice. Clock speeds are somewhat important so our two Intel choices come down to the Q6600 at around $219 (over budget) or the new E7200 at a relative bargain price of $131 for the latest 45nm technology. I seriously considered the E7200 matched with an Intel branded G35 board and would not hesitate to recommend that combination for others. Nevertheless, something else caught my eye - or more like I already knew what I wanted but was afraid to admit it.

On the AMD side of the fence, we have the new 45W processors that include the 4850E, which is a match for the E7200 in most of our applications while offering very good power dissipation numbers. However, looking at our usage patterns, one processor stood out to me. Maybe I like being quirky or notice the ugly ducklings with potential, but the new Phenom X3 series seemed like a perfect match for future needs even though the budget would suffer. Also, they have proven to be relatively overclockable, which will come in handy if additional CPU power is required.

The Phenom 8750 is overpriced in my opinion at $195 and the 8450/8650 at $145/$165 dollars is right on the verge of being annoying to accept looking at the price/performance ratios. However, I found an autographed Bee Gees album in the closet of lost dreams. That should get me the extra $20 I am going to spend on the Phenom 8650 with its 2.3GHz clock speed. Honestly, that is the absolute minimum speed you want to have with Phenom.

This CPU choice gets us the latest AMD technology (Intel fans can insert a variety of sarcastic remarks here) but more importantly an extra core. That extra core actually comes in handy during heavy multitasking, especially if you stick with an IGP solution like the AMD 780G or NVIDIA GeForce 8200 as you can watch an HD movie with full post processing and still perform tasks in the background - something that brought our E7200/G35 system to a standstill. However, this will not be as important to us since we are using discreet graphics cards with HD playback capabilities. As a side note, after working with both configurations, the X3 definitely is better at multitasking under heavy loads, the type of loads these systems generally see on a daily basis.

Memory and Power Supplies Motherboards Galore
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  • deruberhanyok - Thursday, May 29, 2008 - link

    Just wanted to say I've never really understood the collective first person pronouns ("we" etc) in the context of an article, even when I was doing it myself. It seems to be accepted in journalism, but if an article is written by one person I don't understand why it isn't written with the singular terms.

    Also, nice writeup!
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 29, 2008 - link

    Myspace requires users to be at least 14, don't they? Are you encouraging your daughter to lie about her age already?
  • gochichi - Thursday, May 29, 2008 - link

    I wish I had found more value in this but I simply think these choices were pretty random. Whenever you include a sound card in a "budget system" you already lost me, particularly when the superior Q6600 is "out of budget" and you force the situation into an oddball 3-core processor... all of this for less than the price of the completely uneccessary/absurd sound card. My speakers were $150.00 a few months ago and there is simply no discernable difference between an Audigy and onboard sound, they both sound fantastic. (I made a mistake and purchased a sound card, I would never recommend it to anyone, certainly not anyone on any sort of budget... unless you were connecting it to $500+ of sound equipment).

    To me getting the best core components makes sense when "on a budget" rather than buying 8GB of RAM, buy 4GB and leave expanding to 8GB later. The oddball 3-core processor is pretty much non-upgradeable... it is replaceable, not upgradeable. I guess my main problem is with the Phenom choice... and to pretend that this is a budget driven decision is beyond me. But it feels more like a bribe induced decision (budget... you take the payout, it's good for your budget) than a logical decision, particularly for a system with 8GB of very fast RAM.

    Taking the rest of the selection into account, you have the fast RAM, the fancy-pants power supply... why not spend $50.00 on Q6600 and get your 3.0Ghz+ quad-core system?

    It's not the only random choice by any means, and calling this system a "budget system" is simply outdated, a budget computer system in 2008 means around $500.00 not around $1000.00. It is certainly a faux pas in this day and age to go above $500.00 and go AMD. I can't let that slide, and I'm not a fanboy either, I am just a reasonable guy that would buy a $75.00 AMD processor without flinching if it fit the need and the budget. AMD is a great choice for a one task system, particularly if that one task is playing bluray disks and media center because of the superior onboard graphics that are available. But for an 8GB of RAM workhorse?? Yikes!

    Basically for the reader of this website, the choices are simply too arbitrary to be useful. I concede that we were warned that this would be a blog and not an article, but still.

  • Comdrpopnfresh - Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - link

    I feel something should be made of the fact that all the builds were overbudget. Even more so, I feel that mail in rebates should be used to allow for a component in the system (processing, graphics, storage, etc.) to be expanded a bit further. I feel the mail in rebates for the builds were used to minimize the already rampant budgets. Considering the companies that release the rebates will look for every possible way to void them, it isn't smart to treat them in this way.

    I've had the same problem in making systems to fit a budget envelope. However, a good change I think that could have been made is no graphics. The words that really stuck out with me are that the sims three and spore are upcoming. If the integrated gfx meet the needs, and the taxing demands have not been released, why not wait (esp. in the case of a computer for your child) to either get the same gfx upgrade for less, or more for the same?

    I feel with current custom building, even with prices falling for components across the board, budgeting is the hardest part. I hope that this point is highlighted, because, even though this article shows the evils of this issue, it certainly brings it to the forefront nonetheless.
  • ishould - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    I would have liked to see a GPU with hybrid SLI technology chosen primarily because you said you don't use it for gaming much. Pairing the chipset with a 9600GT, while it may be a little more expensive, will likely make up the cost in power requirements multiple times over by not having to run 100W+ idle all the time. Just my 2 cents
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    It would seem to me that you would want a dual slot Video card, rather than a single slot, for an mATX system. That way you are blowing the video card heat out of the small case. Would a dual-slot card fit in the case?
  • jmurbank - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    It seems you selected components that you desperately want to get for your next setup. To decrease the price of each setup, you will need to rate each component what you need to get by and what you dream to have. I think you can get by with out a dedicated graphics card by playing games at the lowest quality settings and still use the LCD native resolution. Next I suggest go back in your junk closet and try to find AV receivers that are capable of handling digital audio. If you have three, you decrease the price by about $300. IMHO, card readers are not required for a setup. I suggest buy one unit that will work in each computer. Of course everybody in the household will be fighting over the device, but set rules where it should be placed. I think your dream components can wait for the upgrade budget that comes into play later.

    My opinion about Pioneer optical drives is they are poorly manufactured. I suggest change it to an ASUS optical drive. My Pioneer drive gave me problems at the beginning. The drive took hours to write a single layer DVD disc, so I use a 3rd party firmware to fix that. Then a few years later, it does not handle playing back movies from start to finish. My ASUS optical drive is lasting me 7 years and counting.

    I doubt you need 600 GB of hard drive space. I think users will be waiting for programs to load up, I suggest downgrade the space and upgrade to low latency. I suggest a Western Digital 'Raptor' 150 GB or 75 GB. To store more data, setup a file server for everybody in the household to access files.

    If you are thinking of over clocking the Phenom processor in the future, I suggest select motherboards with an EPS power connector. This does not guarantee the motherboard can handle the over clock or higher TDP processors, but provides a possibility.

    I prefer Seasonic power supplies because they are high quality for their price. Also they are very energy efficient, regulate voltage well, filter the power well (low ripple voltage), universal voltage, puts less strain on your electrical system (circuit box and AC oultet) because of its active PFC feature. Power and Cooling power supplies are poor for the price. Be careful with Silverstone power supplies because they have a high minimum wattage rating.
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - link

    If you read the article, you can see his logic for a lot of your points.

    I really really don't understand why a ten year old needs such a setup. I'm sure we all have stories about the 14" monitors we had when we were 10, and how the computer had a single 2" speaker built in, and the like. We coped and the systems were awesome.

    My computer build for a ten year old would be my old system, handed down.

    Does she have a 42" plasma TV and personal satellite TV in her room as well?
  • Kobaljov - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Interesting article, but sometimes I didn't find the connections between the intended usage and the selected hw components. Look like the most common error in the "new PC" projects: performance (cost, power consumption, etc.) overkill.

    A Phenom CPU, 8 GB RAM, 640 GB HDD and a 8800 GT videocard is really needed for IM, MySpace, Sims, WoW, etc. in the next 3 years ?? I don't think so (maybe if the Sims 3 will use the CryEngine 2.. ;-)

    "Just the normal daily life for a ten year old who apparently needs at least a 24" monitor just to keep track of the thirty or so open windows at any given time"

    This come from a local PC Shop's marketing materials ? (The next "must have" will be the Optimus Maximus keyboard for word processing or a new Hi-Speed 256 GB SSD for listening online music) :-)
  • larson0699 - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link


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