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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  • erple2 - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    I suppose that's true. However, it's also true that the next generation of GPU also tends to consume more power than the previous generation. Normally, not 2x the power, but 20-50% more power isn't unheard of.

    Though, you're right. Buying a power supply strictly because it makes the PSU itself a little bit more future proof doesn't necessarily make that much sense. How often does the midrange buyer upgrade their systems? Every 2 years? 3 years? What's the reasonable lifetime of a PSU? 3 years? 5 years? Is it enough to last through a full upgrade cycle? If the answer is "yes", then it's certainly possible that buying a slightly higher end power supply can be worth it. You pay the extra 25 dollars now, but save 75 dollars for the next upgrade.

    Unless the next generation of chips use less power than the current gen, which I don't think is going to be the case (the only exception that I can think of in the x86 world was the move from Pentium 4 to Core2Duo), then buying a slightly larger power supply than necessary isn't necessarily a bad idea. Now, going with 750 Watts with a non-SLI, non-XFire setup does seem a bit silly.

    If you overclock, I don't know how that impacts the power consumption of the system, either. Maybe a study on that would be interesting?
    Reply
  • erple2 - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    To be fair, the article also suggests that you can add a second graphics card for more performance at almost every step of the way.

    While it's true that 750W is substantially more than you'd need at these performance levels, please also see:

    http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a...">http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a...

    There's some (though not that much) more subtlety to the choice than just picking for max wattage.

    I suppose the argument could be made that you'd like to pick the PSU such that it's maximum efficiency is reached along where the system will spend the vast majority of it's time. The choice at the low end of the midrange seems spot on with 500-600W PSU's - they tend to reach their peak efficiencies in the 150-350W range, exactly where these lower midrange systems will consume from idle to maximum usage.
    Reply
  • C'DaleRider - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    About the comment, "The Editors' Choice BFG Tech LS-550 power supply has been discontinued."

    You'd better tell BFG about this....they're still listing it on their website and, at least according to JG, product manager for BFG power supplies, they've just introduced a new updated LS-550.

    Hmmmmmm.....

    (Hint: just because Newegg doesn't stock it doesn't mean it has been discontinued.)
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    The current model that we tested and gave the Gold Editor's Choice award has been replaced with an updated model we have not tested. Newegg and others report the model we have tested has been discontinued.

    We often see "updated" power supplies performing very differently than the models they replace. Until we have some experience with the new LS-550 model we prefer to recommend power supply brands we know well like OCZ and Corsair.
    Reply
  • Noya - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    I bought the UD3p and a Q8200 off eBay last year when live cashback made it a steal. With the xigmatek s1283 I was able to hit 3.3ghz (475x7) without even pushing the temps. Then the blue screens started a few months ago...it's now at stock 2.33ghz and still has a random blue screen once a week or more. Why you ask? Cheap ass Crucial Ballistix (DDR2-800), the ones that had great reviews in a memory shootout last Nov/Dec here or Toms. Now I have 8gb's of shite memory and reading about 'lifetime warranty' replacements sounds like I'll have to RMA every 3-6 months :( Damn you appealing rebates! Reply
  • Summer - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    ... just THIS weekend @newegg.com. $20 price increase! Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, August 05, 2009 - link

    And the $30 rebate on the 4890 recommended is not only 20, so it's $180 AFTER rebate, or $200 bucks plus shipping, plus the hassles with the paperwork.
    Good timing for again for red rooster fans - amazing.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, August 05, 2009 - link

    And the $20 rebate on the 4870 recommended is GONE - it's $150 now. Reply
  • Summer - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    BTW, great article. I thought the mentioning of stretching the mid-level budget to get an i7 was dead on. The 920 is easily within reach if you're already pushing money into a similarly priced Phenom 955. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Monday, July 27, 2009 - link

    I was really hoping NVIDIA would find a way to compete with ATI before the LGA-1156 + back to school sales start, but with $170 4890's it's not looking good.

    Hopefully they'll have at least one competitive product by Christmas - the lack of real choice in the GPU space is getting boring. :)
    Reply

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