Intel Value Midrange
The Phenom II has made AMD competitive through the midrange while Intel still dominates the high-end with Core i7. That means you can now choose Intel or AMD midrange system based on the features of each platform or expansion capabilities, rather than CPU brand. Since Phenom II uses a 45nm process, even overclocking capabilities are now competitive with Intel's Core 2 series.
The Intel value midrange builds around a fast Intel Core 2 Duo CPU. For most applications and gaming a faster dual-core chip is normally a better performance choice than a slower quad-core alternative, not to mention they're usually less expensive. CPU intensive applications like video ripping do benefit from a quad-core CPU, which should be your choice if those applications are important to you. A few recent games are finally taking advantage of quad-core as well, although gaming performance is normally about the same whether a CPU is dual-core or quad-core.
|Intel Value Midrange PC|
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 65W 45nm (3.0GHzx2, 6MB L2)||$166|
|Cooling||Intel Retail HSF||$ -|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P (after $20 Rebate)||$115|
|Video||HIS H487FN1GP Radeon HD 4870 1GB (after $20 Rebate)||$130|
|Memory||4GB DDR2-1150 OCZ Blade OCZ2B1150LV4GK 5-5-5-15 at 1.8v||$80|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB WD1001FALS||$95|
|Optical Drive||Sony Optiarc 24X DVD - AD-7240S||$32|
|Case||ANTEC Three Hundred ATX Mid Tower||$60|
|Power Supply||OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W OCZ600MXSP Modular SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified (after $20 Rebate)||$60|
|Base System Total||$738|
|Display||Acer X233Hbid 23" 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor (1920x1080)||$180|
|Speakers||Logitech X-540 70 watts 5.1 Speaker - Retail||$79|
|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||$1112|
The CPU choice is the excellent E8400 Core 2 Duo chip at 3.0GHz with 6MB of L2 cache. The 3.00GHz speed is just two steps below the fastest Core 2 E8600 that clocks in at 3.33GHz. The E8400 also overclocks exceptionally well, reaching 4GHz and even higher with relative ease. Because of this overclocking ability and the value goal of this system build, we paired the E8400 with components that are also excellent choices for overclocking. This Intel system is ready to overclock to wherever your particular E8400 can go. The stock Intel cooler is adequate for modestly overclocking a Core 2 Duo, but it ceases to be effective before your E8400 reaches its top performance level. If extreme overclocking is your cup of tea you should replace the stock Intel HSF with a better cooler like the Xigmatek HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle Cooler ($27 after a $10 rebate) that is featured in our AMD value midrange build on page four.
The big brother to the UD3R selected in our sub-$800 guide is the $135 GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P that has a similar feature set but adds a second x16 slot (in place of a PCI slot) for dual x8 CrossFire operation. You can currently save a few bucks with a $20 mail-in rebate. The board provides an excellent overclocking platform along with great stability. If the second x16 slot is not important to you, we suggest sticking with the UD3R. This P45 chipset motherboard has earned its reputation as an excellent overclocker while also exhibiting excellent stability. It is a good match to the selected Core 2 Duo E8400 or an alternate Quad-Core Q8200 (2.33GHz).
The memory choice for the Intel value midrange is some of the fastest memory we have tested - the OCZ Blade DDR2-1150 4GB kit. Perhaps even more important is the very low voltage needed for performance with the dual-channel Blade memory. It is rated at 5-5-5 timings at DDR2-1150 and just 1.8V. The low voltage design provides more overclocking headroom. This OCZ kit is more expensive than we normally chose for a value midrange system, but at $80 it is still a great performance value and is worth the cost.