Intel Entry-level PC

While Intel still owns the top in the CPU performance, the area from entry to upper midrange is very competitive between Intel and AMD. As pointed out in our Phenom II Guide, the only area still dominated by Intel is the very top, with CPUs at $300 and more. The one advantage that remains for Intel is that their processors generally overclock much better than current AMD CPUs, but that has changed with Phenom II in the midrange. This is not normally a consideration in entry computers, but it could be for some buyers, and at the lowest rungs of the CPU ladder Intel processors remain the best overclockers for now.

Intel Entry-level PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200 Wolfdale
(2.5GHzx2 65W 2MB L2 800 FSB)
Cooling CPU Retail HSF $-
Video On-Board $-
Motherboard ECS GF7100PVT-MT NVIDIA GeForce 7100 HMDI $60
Memory G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-800 $37
Hard Drive WD Caviar GP WD5000AACS 500GB $59
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S223Q $25
Audio On-Board $-
Case HEC 6K28BSOH48D Micro ATX Mini Tower 485W Power Supply $50
Power Supply Included with Case $-
Base System Total $304
Display Hanns-G HB-175APB Black 17" 8ms Widescreen LCD Monitor Built in Speakers - Retail (1440x900) $99
Speakers Built-in Monitor $-
Input Microsoft CA9-00001 Black PS/2 Standard Keyboard and Optical USB/PS2 Mouse - OEM $16
Operating System Microsoft Vista Home Premium OEM $99
Complete System Bottom Line $518

Our choice for the Intel entry CPU remains the excellent 2.5GHz dual-core E5200 Wolfdale. This 65W rated CPU is built on Intel's 45nm manufacturing that begs you to overclock. The E5200 is rated 800FSB, so right out of the box the first option for overclock, if you are inclined, is to bump it up to a 1066 bus. Even if you never overclock you will be very pleased with the performance of the E5200. The E5200 is an easier choice now that the price is $10 lower at $73 than it was just three months ago. We do not recommend going lower than an E5200 in an Intel system because the trade-offs in performance for the few dollars saved are too great. The E1200 at $50, for example, is dismal compared to the E5200, and certainly not a good choice in performance for the $23 saved.

Unfortunately our favorite Zotac N73PV-Supreme board has been discontinued by Zotac. This was a real surprise considering how well the $60 board sold. The NVIDIA 7100 used in the Zotac is a good chipset choice for an entry Intel 775, so we have chosen the ECS GF7100PVT-MT at the same $60 for the entry Intel system. There is currently a $10 rebate that lowers the price to $50. The ECS provides HDMI output with a DVI to HDMI adapter. If you prefer a real HDMI output on the rear panel you can choose the Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H LGA at $69.

The case for the Intel entry system is the solid HEC 6K28BSOH48D Micro ATX mini-tower. HEC is best known as a manufacturer of power supplies. Some are sold under their name, but most are manufactured for other well known power supply brands. HEC includes a 485W PSU with this attractive mini-tower, which should provide plenty of power for your entry Intel build. If you prefer a mid-tower case HEC uses the same PSU in the $50 HEC 6C60BSOH48. You could also choose the Sigma La Vie Aluminum mid-tower featured in the AMD build on the previous page. The rest of the components are virtually identical to the AMD entry-level system.

If we compare the two entry-level systems, the winner depends on what is of value to you. The Intel system is a bit more powerful, but you can move up to a high-end Athlon 64 X2 or a low-end AMD Phenom X3 for comparable performance at less than $100. The full-size AMD ASRock board offers more flexibility for future graphics expansion, with two x16 PCI-E slots and CrossFire X support. If you are a gamer on a strict budget the AMD entry system offers you more for future graphics expansion. For the typical entry-level PC right now and for what the system is typically used for - internet, office, low-end gaming, and low to mid graphics - you can go either route and be very happy.

AMD Entry-level PC AMD Budget
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  • pirspilane - Saturday, May 9, 2009 - link

    I got the M3N78 motherboard, and the instructions recommend a max of 3 Gb of RAM using Vista 32-bit.

    Are you using Vista 64-bit?

    If you're using 32-bit Vista, does the system utilize the additional Gb of RAM?

    Or maybe dual-channel memory doubles the amount of memory Vista can address?

    Does anybody know?
  • rokstomp - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I am looking at doing my first ever build and was extremely pleased to stumble across this guide. Since I'm new at this I've only got a fair amount of research and no practice, so I apologize if this is a dumb question.

    I noticed that the AMD Phenom II X3 710 requires an AM3 socket, but the ASUS M3N78-EM is AM2/AM2+. Is there a compatibility issue?

    I just wanted to double-check everything before buying. Like I said, I'm a build n00b.
  • swamytk - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    I too had doubt on this. Then understood that AM3 processors are compatible with AM2+ sockets, but not vice-versa.

    Then AMD clarified this with the following link.">

  • yanman - Thursday, March 26, 2009 - link

    We do! Please spare a thought for your many non-US readers. Us Aussies along with our Euro brethren on DVB-T standard still rely on card or USB TV-tuners.
  • eyeguy - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    anyone have ideas for a windows home server box? Something low power but not as future limited by memory and slots.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    I can go on ebay and buy any old athlon X2 computer with 2 gigs of RAM and then go to newegg and buy a monitor and an ocz vertex 30GB, and have a computer that is faster than all of those computers for under $500. In fact I just bought an old P4 2.8 system for $50 and I bet its faster than all those computers once the SSD is installed.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, March 23, 2009 - link

    Faster at what? Boot/application launch possibly, though I wouldn't bet too strongly on it. Obviously at anything that actually uses the CPU 3 Phenom cores at 2.8GHz or 2 Penryn cores at 2.93GHz are going to be faster than 1 P4 core at 2.8GHz.
  • Proteusza - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - link

    Everyone and their uncle has a build that they think is way better, its been 2 months and the prices have changed OH NOES redo the entire article.

    If you think really your dream machine is so great, then go build it. AT guides are just that - guides. Use them, dont use them, its up to you. I look at them as more of a "what can I get for my money" type article than "buy these exact parts" article.
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I agree most of these posts are the nerds-nit-pick special! I'm sorry but if you're whining about $15 here and $20, get a clue and get a REAL JOB or start saving/studying for certs/school and make some real money.

    This shoe-string budget crap, for a so-called "gamer" box is plain stupidity. If you're hurting over $600-800 MAX limit, sounds like you have your financial PRIORITIES out of whack! Nobody is "gaming" for long with a $600 box. It's a fool's investment and will have you stuck with a sub-par performing machine, rapidly. Oh and don't even think about resale, you're stuck with the low-end junk.

    While mirroring the car market: UPSCALE cars/PC builds lose a small percentage of value as soon as you buy them, BUT they hold top value over the coming months Vs this low-mid-level junk that immediately loses an chance of resale value. Have you seen how many stupid people are on Ebay that overbid even for those relic 8800s?!
    Who's going to buy your used, non-warranted (many manu's do require proof of purchase these days) 2nd rate card for ~$30 less than RETAIL? Pawning that off to ebay noobs is your only hope to recoupe your losses. Be smart people.

    If you're maxing out around $600 = STOP and rethink your finances... $800? Might as well save and get an Icore. Geesh, oh and don't forget about TAXES + initial cost of hardware lol. Not to mention if something goes wrong and you have to RMA = how you gonna afford S/H if you can barely afford a paltry $600-800?

    Flame time...
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Damn this stupid comment board, always 2x posting. No editing...?

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