The Entry-Level Box & Budget PC
The standard Entry-Level Box has a target price range of $800 or below, and should provide with enough horsepower to handle everyday tasks with ease and even play the latest gaming titles on medium to high settings with respectable frame rates. The budget flavor is more or less comprised of quality workhorse-level components, with the ability to overclock and tear through any standard application as well as support moderate gaming with a video card upgrade.
Alternatively, if you’re on an extraordinarily tight budget and don’t mind working with a Micro-ATX board the Asus P5KPL-CM ($55) will almost certainly fit the bill whether your endgame PC is a workhorse or an ultra-budget gaming rig. It features support for a smooth 1600MHz FSB, 4GB of 1066MHz DDR2 RAM (there are only two DIMM slots, mind you) and has one PCI-E x16 and x1 slots, two PCI slots, four SATA 3Gb/s host adapters, one PATA host adapter, four USB 2.0 ports and an Intel GMA 3100.
So depending on your budget, I would definitely opt for the GA-EP43-UD3L over the P5KPL-CM due to the additional connectivity, RAM speed/capacity support and improved chipset but either would be an excellent choice for an entry level gaming rig.
Our pick, the E7400, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, being the lowest you can go on the Core 2 Duo totem pole. It features a 2.8GHz clock frequency, 1066MHz FSB, 3MB L2 cache and enough muscle to wrangle your library of games at stock speeds, not to mention the fact that some chips can be pushed well into the 3.3GHz territory and beyond.
For an extremely cheap fix ($70), we’ve chosen the Pentium E5200. With its 45nm process, 2.5GHz clock frequency, 800MHz FSB and 2MB L2 cache it’d make for a perfect companion to the Asus P5KPL-CM motherboard above. Some users report to have gotten it above 4GHz stable, so I would expect that 3GHz is almost guaranteed for most chips.
*Note: You will almost certainly have to set the RAM’s frequency manually in the BIOS as its SPD data is set to 800MHz by default. Rest assured that it is fully designed and compatible with 1066MHz speeds, you just have to get your hands a little dirty and adjust the voltage/frequency according to the package information.
If you’re definitely going to be gaming, you might as well not short change yourself given the low cost of a solid video card. The performance offered by a Radeon HD 4830 will not be matched by anything sub-$100 and Sapphire’s model can actually be had for $75 after a mail-in rebate. It’s packed with 640 stream processors, 512MB DDR3 RAM, a single HDMI, D-SUB and DVI port and will make quick work of any game available, crowning this the best card on the market when strictly comparing cost:performance.
Should your build mostly be filling an office-related role, skimming by on the P5KPL-CM’s Intel GMA 3100 is doable and you always have the option purchasing a dedicated video card afterward if the GMA 3100 proves to be insufficient.
I would recommend you purchase something in the general vicinity of 500GB if you have any intentions of media-related work or gaming because the GB's fly by faster than you might imagine. As an ultra cheap alternative, the 160GB 7200RPM Western Digital Caviar SE can be purchased online for $42.
Power supplies are one of the few components that can almost always be found with a substantial rebate. At this point in time the CMPSU-450VX is the best you’re probably going to find for an entry level gaming rig at <$60 (after rebate), but if you can shell out $10 more, Corsair’s 550W (single 12v rail @ 41A instead of 33A) model is open to you as well.
For those following the budget side of things, if you’re absolutely 100% positive you won’t be doing much beyond the basic PC functions and won’t even have a dedicated graphics card, you can save a little by running with something along the lines of a PC Power & Cooling PPCS370X 370W (27A on a single 12V rail) for $50.
Some <$50 chassis with at least two fans include the following: Sunbeam Silent Storm, Rosewill R5730-P, Rosewill R5717-P, Rosewill Conqueror WSL, Rosewill Wind Ryder, Raidmax Tornado, Cooler Master Centurion 5, Cooler Master Centurion 534 and the Atop AT-AP103WSB.
Some <$30 chassis with at least one 120mm rear exhaust include the following: Rosewill R220-P, R218-P, R102-P, R101-P, R223-P, R226-P and R105-P.
It’s not just the gamers and media addicts that benefit from having large displays either, unless you think you can skim by with your old 15” CRT. Being able to work on a word document and navigate a web page simultaneously is extremely handy, time-efficient and the 19” widescreen LCDs only run just over $100 these days (the Acer X193Wb is $110).
Wireless is a major plus these days, whether you're gaming or working in an office environment, the tad bit of mobility and clutter-minded design makes a wireless setup highly appealing to us. Though, we’re sure some would rather not worry about replacing the batteries and/or are looking to cut costs on every angle possible. If that sounds like you, rest assured that quality wired keyboard and mouse combos start as low as $15.
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-EP43-UD3L / Asus P5KPL-CM||
$85 / $55
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 / Intel Pentium E5200||
$120 / $70
|RAM||OCZ2G10664GK 2 x 2GB DDR2 1066MHz||
|Video Card||ATI Radeon HD 4830 512MB / Intel GMA 3100||
$90 / $0
|Hard Disk Drive||HD642JJ 640GB / WD Caviar SE 160GB||
$60 / $42
|Optical Drive||LG Electronics GH22NP20||
|Power Supply Unit||Corsair CMPSU-450VX / PPCS370X||
$70 / $50
|Case||Chassis with sufficient cooling||
$50 / $30
|Monitor||Hanns·G HW-191DPB 22" / Acer X193Wb 19"||
$160 / $110
|Keyboard/Mouse||Logitech EX 100||
$741 / $463
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