Phenom II Budget

Our aim in the Phenom II budget system is to provide a configuration that allows for a nice balance of performance at stock speeds. This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money though, as Phenom II prices start at $120 now that the competitive dust has settled. In addition, other component prices have dropped in the past six months and performance for the dollar has definitely increased.

The budget build is around $750 complete with a 1080p LCD Monitor, speakers, Vista Home Premium OS (OEM), and a mouse and keyboard. The basic box is just over $400 with a case and Gold Editors' Choice 550W PSU. If you are pinching pennies, you can go with a name brand case/power supply combo and get the basic Phenom II box below $400. The assembled system is balanced for a wide variety of computing tasks, but final tweaks can tilt it toward gaming and graphics for example, if that is what you aim for.

Generally we consider PC gaming rigs to begin at the next price category (i.e. the low end of midrange), but adding a decent graphics card will definitely make the Phenom II budget system, built around the AMD Phenom II X3 710, a good choice for entry gaming at around $850. Just add the $100 Radeon 4850 from the value systems on the next page.

AMD Phenom II Budget PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor AMD Phenom II X3 710
(2.6GHz x3, 3x512KB L2, 6MB L3 Cache)
$119
Cooling CPU Retail HSF -
Video On-Board -
Motherboard ASRock A790GXH/128M AM2+ $95
Memory OCZ Reaper 4GB DDR2-1066 OCZ2F10664GK ($61 with $25 rebate) $36
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 7200RPM 16MB Cache 500GB $60
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S202G $25
Audio On-Board -
Case Cooler Master Elite 330 RC-330-KKN1-GP Mid Tower $40
Power Supply BFG Tech LS Series LS-550 550W SLI Certified, CrossFire Ready, 80 PLUS Certified (After $20 Rebate) $60
Base System Total $435
Display ViewSonic VX2233wm Black 21.5" 5ms Widescreen 16:9 LCD (1920x1080) $180
Speakers Logitech S-220 17W RMS 2.1 Multimedia Speaker $24
Input Microsoft CA9-00001 Black PS/2 Standard Keyboard and Optical USB/PS2 Mouse - OEM $17
Operating System Microsoft Vista Home Premium OEM $99
Complete System Bottom Line $755

The Phenom II x3 710 is the least expensive Phenom II you can buy, but it is still a tri-core design clocked at 2.6GHz with the same L1/L2/L3 cache as the more expensive Phenom II designs. The 710 provides plenty of power at stock speeds, but if you want more the 45nm Phenom II processors overclock very well. If you want a bit more performance, overclocking the 710 should be fine, but if you want to seriously explore overclocking you can spend $20 more for the 720BE that has an unlocked multiplier.

We've paired the Phenom II 710 with the ASRock 790GXH/128M AM2+, a perfect match for those looking to squeeze as much performance out of their money as possible. The ASRock is loaded with overclocking features and includes integrated AMD HD 3300 graphics with an HDMI/DVI interface and 1080p support. This means very decent performance using the onboard graphics. This ASRock board offers both AM2+ and AM3 CPU support for processors like the Phenom II 710 when used with cheaper DDR2 memory. ASRock includes 128MB DDR2 sideport memory for improved GPU performance, VIA VT1708S 7.1 Audio codec, Gigabit LAN, 16GB memory support, six 3Gb/s SATA ports capable of RAID 0/1/10/5, a PATA port, 10 USB ports, two PCI-E x16 slots (dual x8 CF), one PCI-E x1 slots, and two PCI slots. The BIOS caters to the casual overclocker and this board performs very well in a variety of tests.

We've chosen OCZ Reaper 4GB DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) in a 4GB kit for just $36 after a $25 rebate. This is a great value in DDR2-1066 memory from a top memory supplier. The extra 1066 speed combined with the fast 5-5-5 timings lets you run your memory at a faster speed or provide reserves for overclocking the CPU. OCZ is a great memory choice, but there are many memory options at great prices today. Quality DDR2-800 and DDR2-1066 RAM from Corsair, OCZ, G.Skill, Mushkin, Patriot, and GeIL are available at any of the major online retailers. Just be sure to look for RAM with better timings if you can afford it.

The hard drive is a 500GB Seagate Barracuda at just $59. If you'd prefer a larger drive you can substitute a 1TB Seagate for just $85 - only $25 more for twice the capacity. The DVD burner is a dependable Samsung 22X often chosen for budget builds. If you want alternatives, as always you can look to the other builds for larger drives and Blu-ray support.

The case/PS is the Cooler Master Elite 330 and our AnandTech Gold Editors' Choice BFG Tech LS Series LS-550 550W power supply. The BFG currently has a $20 rebate that reduces the final cost to $60. The BFG is a great power supply, but you could save a few dollars here with an OCZ, Corsair, or PC Power & Cooling PSU, which are often on rebate in recent months. It all depends on the timing of your system purchase.

The LCD display was an easy choice with the full HD Viewsonic 16:9 widescreen for just $180. A 21.5" monitor with 1920x1080 resolution with a 3-year warranty from a major monitor maker is certainly a good value. If you prefer a larger screen, you can find a 23" widescreen starting at $190, though most 24" are $250 or more. If you need to save a few dollars a lower resolution 19" or 20" would do.

If you want more video power for gaming you can add an ATI HD 4830 for just $75-$90. This will get you into gaming and it is a terrific value at this price according to our Graphics Editor. He recommends the Radeon HD 4850 as the start of true HD gaming starting at just $100 after current rebates, or a Radeon HD 4870 512MB which you can find for as little as $155. Any of these three cards would still keep your total well below $1000.  Even with the addition of the powerful 4870 512MB the complete system price would be just $910.

Index Phenom II Value
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  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    You don't seem to mention anything about the network adapter in these systems. I know the motherboards all have built-in ethernet socket(s), but for gaming would you recommend a Killer Xeno Pro (or even the upcoming Killer Xeno Ultra)? Reply
  • MadMan007 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I'm going to harp on displays again like I do on most of these guides :p I understand the recommendation of 1920x1080 16:9 failratio TN displays at the lower end where 1680x1050 are similar price. I do wish you'd mention the reason why 16:9 is being pushed by display makers so hard though (cost savings for better margins) and also mention non-TN displays. At least the high-end rig has a 16:10 monitor but it's worse in a way because it's a travesty to get a TN display in a $1600+ system.

    Probably most people will carry over their monitor so perhaps it's not as important but at the same time a good monitor can last a lot longer than other components and it's something that impacts literally everything you do on a PC.
    Reply
  • JanO - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    What I'm actually interested in, has so far gone uncovered in reviews... What is the performance advantage of crossfire setups for anti-aliasing at a given resolution?

    I don't care much about 127 fps when my LCD can only show 60 FPS. What I'd like to read about is to what extent can I push image quality (mostly AA & AF) while maintaining a 60 fps average.

    The thing I like most about PC gaming often goes unnoticed: There's a lot of fun (and value!)to be had by going back to older games and play them at crazy high quality settings & 24x anti-aliasing, never dropping below the magic 60fps!!!
    Reply
  • cynic783 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    "However, Core i7 is at present a high-end CPU, with prices starting at $300 and extending to over $1000 just for the CPU."

    $279 on Newegg.com
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Otherwise, nice article so far.
    Reply
  • ratbert1 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I found the exact price and rebate you mention on the 2GB Reaper kit, not the 4GB kit.
    BTW, I have used OCZ's rebates several times, and have always received my money. Sometimes it takes months, as they start processing when the rebate period is over, not when they receive your mailing.
    Reply
  • highlnder69 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I have used OCZ products for many years now. One major issue that I have with them is every time that I have sent in a rebate it has been rejected and I never received the money from them. This has happened now on three separate occasions. One of rejections was my fault because I had ordered some parts before I went to visit my Mother in Florida and the parts did not arrive before I left. I wasn't able to get it sent in the by the required time period. The other two times were sent in promptly but were rejected because they said the products were not correct. I even had the exact item highlighted on the rebate form that exactly matched my UPC that I sent to them. I love their products, but will NEVER purchase any of their products again just because of the mail in rebates which they do not seem to honor. Reply
  • Frallan - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link


    Regardless of what sort of memory that is used there is still just not enough of it.

    I will be satisfied when OS +all system processes +the game im currently playing is all in RAM. Until then Ill go as far as i can afford and 6-8 GB is the minimum.

    So why no configs with more memory?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    The availability of 4GB dimms remains very limited and the price is very high compared to 2GB dims, which are the sweet spot in today's memory market. If you want 8GB of memory then use two 4GB kits. That makes it very easy to figure the cost of an 8GB memory configuration. Reply
  • JanO - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Because most games are still 32 bit applications (and those that are 64bits get little benefit out of it, at least for now...). In such case, no matter if you use windows 32 or 64 bits, your 32 bit game will only get to use 2Gigs of RAM period, that's an application/OS limitation. There will then be plenty of space for the other processes in the remaining 2 Gigs...

    More than 4 Gigs is usually a waste for most people in most usage scenarios, unless you're into workstation class applications or want to run processor intensive tasks while you game (Why would anyone do that?); but most people should rather disable as much aplications/processes as possible when they game in order to get the smoothest performance, with no "hiccups". If your on an AMD platform, try their Fusion for gaming software, it did pretty well for me!
    Reply
  • Wiremaster - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Very true, I'm running xp and I've never seen it use more than 1.7Gb, even when running Firefox 3 with like ten tabs, Media Monkey, and L4D.
    My dad runs Vista on 4Gb of RAM and rarely gets above 2.5Gb in use. So yes, 4Gb is enough unless you're doing rendering, multi-track audio recording, video editing, really intense photoshop, etc. Then the cost can be justified.
    Reply

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