The Entry-Level Box

As the title implies, this is not a top-grade machine, however, it's the best and most balanced system $800 can buy you in our opinion. This box should prove to be an excellent companion for running general applications and a sufficient solution for even the newest games on the market, albeit with a bit of its eye-candy tuned down.

Gigabyte GA-EP43-DS3L - $90
Sporting Intel's P43 chipset, the Gigabyte GA-EP43-DS3L supports a maximum bus speed of 1600MHz and 8GB of DDR2 1200MHz RAM (overclocked). It contains a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, four PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI slots, one PATA host adapter, six SATA host adapters, eight USB 2.0 ports, a S/PDIF connector and as usual integrated audio/NIC.
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 - $165
Just a few short months ago, this CPU made it into our Mid-range Enthusiast's PC, and not surprisingly it has squeezed its way into the buying guide again.

If you are in the market for a new CPU, the E8400 is a brilliant choice and has without a doubt become one of the most popular Core 2 Duo models today among enthusiasts. Hosting 45nm and SSE4 technology, a 3GHz core clock frequency, 1333MHz FSB and 6MB of L2 cache, it promises high quality performance, decreased thermal loads and improved power efficiency. The price has decreased to around $165, bringing the E8400 into the range of our budget system.

OCZ Reaper HPC 2 x 1GB DDR2 1066MHz - $55
These Reaper HPC modules are covered by OCZ's “Extended Voltage Protection”, allowing you to push them up to 2.35V and still be covered by their lifetime warranty. Taking this into consideration, with a default frequency of 1066MHz it is more than feasible to get these up around the 1200MHz mark and thus filling out the overclocked DDR2 1200MHz capabilities supported by the GA-EP43-DS3L motherboard.
Graphics Card:
ATI Radeon 4830 / Nvidia Geforce 9800GT - $150
Both cards are so close to each other in terms of performance that it's impossible to distinguish the best out of the two. While the ATI Radeon 4830 was launched to reign the segment, Nvidia quickly countered by lowering the Geforce 9800GT price into the $130 range. You can't really go wrong by ordering one or the other, but should you care to squeeze every bit of performance possible out of your selection, take the time to skim over some benchmarks as one card may outperform the other on a specific game.
Hard Disk Drive:
Seagate Barracuda ST3250310AS 250GB - $50
Complying with SATA II standards, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 offers an external host transfer rate of 3Gb/s and has a sustained internal transfer rate of 78MB/s, 16MB cache, an average seek time of 12.6ms and a 5 year warranty. While a 250GB HDD won't remain unfilled for long these days, this drive should more than meet your expectations for the price.
Optical Drive:
LG Electronics GH22LP20 - $25
The LG GH22LP20 is the same high quality drive used in all of our builds. The LG drive supports all DVD formats, features a 140ms DVD-ROM access time and 120ms CD-ROM access time, 22x DVD±R write speed, 2MB cache and LightScribe technology. summed up their review by saying this about the LG GH22LP20: “...a solid performer and an excellent choice for reliable CD and DVD burning at record speeds. It effortlessly produces quality burns faster than most other drives to date.”

Power Supply Unit:
OCZ StealthXStream 500W - $60
A quality PSU is not only one of the more important PC components, but it is unfortunately also one of the first places people look to skimp when working with a tight budget. To the average Joe, a PSU is merely an unglamorous metal box taking up space and restricting airflow within the PC case. The few who actually show interest in the component seem entirely concerned with only the rated wattage, disregarding quality and stable power in favor of price.

The OCZ500SXS offers a sufficient source of power for mainstream gaming PCs with a combined 36A on dual 12V rails, active PFC, 80%+ efficiency, a fair share of connectors and a 3 year warranty. Also worth mentioning is that this PSU has been available with a $20-$30 rebate from multiple vendors for quite a while, which drags its cost down to the $30-$40 range. Quite the steal.

Cooler Master Centurion 534 - $50
We've decided to increase our entry-level PC's case budget by $10 in order to allow additional cooling capabilities. It is more than reasonable for one to purchase a decent basic case at around $30 and hand-select a few fans of your preference with some budget to spare.

Nevertheless, the Cooler Master Centurion 534 appears to be a very solid and feature-full chassis for the cost. It ships with dual 120mm fans and a side air duct whilst featuring five 5.25” bays, one external 3.5” bay, four internal 3.5” bays and supporting ATX/uATX standards.

Hanns·G HW-191DPB 19" LCD - $150
As expected, we've tried to condense the component list to constrict cost, thus forcing us to opt for a monitor with integrated speakers. If you happen to have speakers or a headset already, you may want to look at the LG W1952TQ-TF as it has a 2ms response time and is similarly priced.

With that note out of the way, the Hanns·G HW-191DPB is certainly worthy of purchase, whether or not you intend on using its speakers. It has a maximum resolution of 1440 x 900, 170°H / 160° V viewing angle, .283mm pixel pitch, displays 16.2 million colors, has a brightness of 300 cd/m2, 700:1 contrast ratio and a 5ms response time.

Input Devices:
Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 700 - $25
Ah, input devices, components which command the beast. The fact of the matter is, it's impossible to select the proper keyboard and mouse for you, however, throughout this guide we will offer our selection of quality input devices that might fit your needs.

For our Entry-Level Box, the keyboard and mouse we feel incorporates the healthiest balance of offering modern technology without denting the bank is the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 700. Wireless is a major plus these days, whether you're gaming or working in an office environment and with its customizable function keys, it’s a bargain worth checking out.

Our entry-level box, in a nutshell...
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-EP43-DS3L
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
RAM OCZ Reaper HPC 2 x 1GB DDR2 1066MHz
Video Card ATI Radeon 4830 / Nvidia Geforce 9800GT
Sound Card Integrated
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda ST3250310AS 250GB
Optical Drive LG Electronics GH22LP20
Power Supply OCZ StealthXStream 500W
Case Cooler Master Centurion 534
Monitor Hanns·G HW-191DPB 19" LCD
Speaker System Integrated
Keyboard/Mouse Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 700

Also check out our mid-range and high-end system configurations.