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If you follow this build you'll have a system acceptable for any role apart from running graphically intense applications. Throw a budget video card into the mix -- which can be had for less than a $100 these days -- and you'll have a humble solution to gaming as well.
|Memory||2x2GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 1866MHz||$38|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB||$60|
|Power||Corsair Builder Series CX430||$40|
|Case||NZXT Source 210 Elite||$50|
|Monitor||Asus VS207T-P 20"||$110|
|Speakers||Logitech S220 2.1||$25|
|Peripherals||Logitech Wireless Combo MK260||$30|
|Core System Total||$391|
|Core System + Monitor and Peripherals||$556|
Motherboard, Processor, Memory
AMD reclaimed a seat in our Budget Box in 2011 with its Llano-based desktop APUs, and it has maintained that position with its new Trinity chips. In our recent review of the A10-5800K, we found the chip's general execution to be slower than Ivy Bridge, but its integrated graphics core was significantly faster, exceeding entry-level discrete graphics cards. At ~$130, we believe the A10-5800K is a great solution for budget system builders, especially if you intend to run some lightweight games without a discrete graphics card.
However, if you do plan to employ a discrete GPU, or if CPU performance is crucial to your needs, we'd opt for Intel's $130 Core i3-3220 as it's a little quicker and costs the same. Although it's mostly useless for gaming, the i3-3220's integrated HD 2500 IGP is more than suitable for basic tasks. We'd pair it with the ASRock B75M-DGS.
Although you could save a little cash by purchasing 2GB of RAM for basic productivity and browsing, the chosen ASRock FM2 board only has two RAM slots. That being the case, it seems like a better idea to fill them with 4GB instead of potentially shorting yourself. Better safe than sorry as they say, and DDR3 RAM is incredibly cheap at the moment with a 2x2GB kit running as little as $20. Likewise, given how Trinity scales with higher-frequency RAM, you might as well spend extra and buy 1866MHz modules over 1333MHz ones.
This build is not intended for graphically demanding tasks, but adding a relatively low-cost GPU like the Radeon HD 7750 will do wonders for your framerate, transforming this into a practical solution for casual PC gaming. We recently published a tech tip with a list of the top budget and mid-range graphics cards available, which should offer some guidance. Along with the A8-3850's integrated graphics, the chosen motherboard has a Realtek ALC662 audio chipset and integrated sound is more than sufficient for a basic machine.
The way hard drives are priced these days, a few extra dollars can literally yield a 50% increase in storage space -- and gigabytes disappear faster than you think. But if you're certain you won't need the additional storage, you're welcome to save a couple bucks by choosing a less capacious drive. The 500GB Caviar Blue currently offers the best bang for your buck.
You wouldn't put diluted gas in your car and you shouldn't feed your PC dirty power. The instability offered by your typical no-name PSU will lead to an untimely failure, leaving you with an unglamorous paperweight. In short, friends shouldn't let friends buy cheap power supplies. Corsair's CX430 will not only provide this build with all the power it could ever need, it should also meet the requirements of most entry-level video cards in circulation.
There are plenty of basic chassis donning a sub-$50 price tag, and the NZXT Source 210 Elite is our personal pick with a front USB 3.0 port, plenty of space for expandability and stock 120mm/140mm fans, which should be more than sufficient for a system with no discrete graphics and perfectly fine if you decide to add one later. It's almost always available with free shipping, which is a major plus if you're buying a 14lb metal box.
Monitor, Speakers, Peripherals
A 20" display doesn't sound like much these days, and there's no denying it's toward the smaller end of desktop monitors. The Asus VS207T-P features a native resolution of 1600x900 and unless you've already been spoiled by high-res displays this should prove adequate for general computing tasks. No sub-$150 screen is going to boast superb imagery and most are comparable enough in quality that you're safe buying anything with decent reviews. We recommend just finding something that fits your required size and resolution It should be noted that the chosen display has built-in speakers, but we've listed an external set for the sake of making a recommendation.
Unless you intend to use this machine for prolonged productivity or heavy gaming sessions, you can probably get by with a basic wired or wireless keyboard and mouse set. We recommend Logitech's budget MK260 wireless combo, which features 128-bit AES encryption, a handful of multimedia and web keys, as well as a spill-resistant design. The keyboard gets up to two years of battery life and the mouse can last about five months.