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
Hardware Component Price
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
Audio On-Board $ -
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.

Index Value Midrange Common Components
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  • Nfarce - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    "For the mid-range, a 400W-450W PSU is more than enough. The recent, excellent Xbit Labs article "PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?" clearly illustrates that 750W PSUs are a waste of money in the mid-range when not going with SLI or Crossfire."

    Uhm, yes and no. As someone who recently build an E8400 mid range gaming system who also has the Corsair 750W, there are things you need to consider other than pure wattage. For instance there are hardly any quality power supplies in the 450-550W range that offer 2 6-pin PCIe connectors (a requirement to run HD 4870/90 and GTX 260/275 cards). Finally, the ones that do aren't that much less expensive. If you are going to spend $75 on a minimum requirement power supply, it makes good long term sense to throw in another $25 and get a more powerful PS for your future upgrade needs. Power supplies, unlike other PC components, don't really drop in price over time.
    Reply
  • Black Jacque - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    >For instance there are hardly any quality power supplies in the 450->550W range that offer 2 6-pin PCIe connectors (a requirement to run >HD 4870/90 and GTX 260/275 cards).

    Like the Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze (1xPCIe-6, 1xPCIe-6+2)?

    In addition, most GPUs come with a Power Cable to adapt the standard Molex to PCIe-6. The recommended MSI HD 4890 comes with two Power Cables.

    > it makes good long term sense to throw in another $25 and get a >more powerful PS for your future upgrade needs.

    The Xbit Labs article clearly states the trend in PC parts power consumption is downward, not upward. Besides, I'd rather not spend US$25 that I didn't have to. I could use that money to upgrade to a Q9400 or an E8500, something I could use rightaway.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    "Like the Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze (1xPCIe-6, 1xPCIe-6+2)? "

    Not real familiar with that brand. Try finding one in the range I mentioned built by Antec, Corsair, OCZ, Thermaltake, or PC Power & Cooling. And 430W? I have that in a five year old P4 system. I don't think so. I'll spend the extra few clams on something future proof, and apparently others agree. If you have to worry about spending another $25 on an $850+ PC build, then maybe you need to reconsider your spending priorities.
    Reply
  • Black Jacque - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    >Not real familiar with that brand. Try finding one in the range I >mentioned built by Antec, Corsair, OCZ, Thermaltake, or PC Power & >Cooling.

    Seasonic can be found providing OEM service on various model lines for: Antec, Corsair, PC Power and Cooling, and of course under their own Seasonic brand. Actually, the PSUs that Seasonic either designs or builds for Antec, Corsair or the old PCP&P are not as high quality as the PSUs they build under their own brand label.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the info Black Jacque. I did not know that, and I now verified that fact. Of all the PS research I did prior to my build, no reviews mentioned that fact. However, I will still stand by spending a little more on a future proof power supply so as one less thing to have to upgrade. My Corsair 750W will take me into next year's planned Lynnfield build and the new DX11 cards with SLI (hopefully). Reply
  • haplo602 - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    the article is one from the "how much power do we need" round that almost every major hardware review site did.

    however it was more or less questioning the need of 700+ W PSUs for the normal systems (i.e. average home PC).

    you have to account also for the usage pattern. this site is aimed at the hardware enthusiasts. they tend to buy informed or tend to change components often. in the first case, they will ignore the PSU recommendation, in the 2nd case, it comes in handy in the future.

    also have a look at power consumption on overclocked components (f.e. CPUs increase quite dramaticaly with added voltage). IIRC the xbitlabs article did not take into account overclocking (I might be wrong, did not read into details there).
    Reply
  • brybir - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    You keep referring to that article and after raeding it I do find it interesting. But all it says is that usage is trending downword. That trend is based on events that have already happened and then assuming what future events will occur with power draw based off similar past events.

    First, just because the trend is in one direction does not mean that it is going to continue that way in the future. That is to say that the past predicts the future which is simply not true.

    Second, it makes sense to me to spend $25 on a larger power supply than I need "right now" so that I do not have to worry about replacing the power supply later on. You can say that the general power draw will decrease over time but in each individual case that is not going to be necessarily true. I just went from a system with a 65W CPU and a ATI 4670 to a 125W CPU and a 4870 OC using the same power supply. Had I bought the power supply that exactly fit my previous system I would now have to buy a new power supply. So in my case buying a larger power supply has been a great idea and will save me from spending another $70 this time around. Who knows, since its a 550W supply maybe it will last me another three years.

    Reply
  • Black Jacque - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    >First, just because the trend is in one direction does not mean that >it is going to continue that way in the future. That is to say that >the past predicts the future which is simply not true.

    You are joking, right?

    http://products.amd.com/en-us/DesktopCPUDetail.asp...">http://products.amd.com/en-us/DesktopCPUDetail.asp...

    If you understand how the past can predict the future, its no surprise that AMD improved their process and shaved 30W off this part's (AMD Phenom™ II X4 945) power consumption after a bit more than 5-months of production. (BTW, this part costs US$1 more than its 125W sibling at ZZF.)

    Looking into my crystal ball, I predict ~3 GHz 65W quad CPUs by either AMD or Intel within a year.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    each system has at least a 2x PCIex16 board, so the higher watt PSU is an "insurance" for future upgrades.

    anyway the builds are unbalanced in my view. they get away with far too cheap displays.

    my current planed build is 1:1 in components vs lcd cost. My total component cost is about 600 euro, the display will cost me around 500 euro :-)

    but I am more looking at photo editing than gaming.
    Reply
  • Black Jacque - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    >so the higher watt PSU is an "insurance" for future upgrades.

    "The recent, excellent Xbit Labs article "PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?" clearly illustrates that 750W PSUs are a waste of money in the mid-range when not going with SLI or Crossfire. This article shows the trend in PC parts is downward in power consumption."

    I can't even accept the idea of adding a second GPU later when they get less expensive. The general trend is the next generation of GPU outperforms the previous generation in Crossfire or SLI at a lower price.
    Reply

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