We’re back with an updated system building guide for the first quarter of 2009. The setups in this guide are aimed at gamers looking to extract the most performance for a given budget. This time round we have lined up six setups for your perusal, ranging from the super cheap to the ludicrously extravagant.
To cater to readers outside of Singapore, we’ve also added prices in USD, sourced from various online retailers. Note that the prices in USD and SGD are not directly convertible, since market conditions and other factors affect local pricing in Singapore. Prices in SGD are sourced from local retailers in Singapore.
We would also like to mention once again that these setups do not include peripherals and displays, as we consider these to be a matter of personal choice. Of course, the wise thing to do is to get a display of a size commensurate with your system’s capabilities.
Without further ado, let’s kick things off with the entry level setup.
This setup is all about cheap, cheap, cheap. The selection of cheap parts out there is probably even wider than the range of premium parts. We tried our best to separate the most value for money parts from the rest of the pile, and this is what we’ve come up with…
|Price in USD||Price in SGD|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L (Intel G31, ICH7)||50||100|
|Processor||Intel Pentium Dual|
Core E5300 (2.60Ghz, 800Mhz FSB, 2MB L2)
Kingston ValueRAM (5-5-5-15)
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce 9600GT|
|Optical Drive||Samsung SH-S203B|
|Hard Drive||Hitachi DeskStar 7K1000.B 320GB||50||70|
|Power Supply||Vantec ION2 460W||60||60|
Motherboard: On a tight-budget the best chipset one can expect is the G31 northbridge coupled with the older ICH7 southbridge. Most motherboards in this segment are micro-ATX-sized designs with cheap components and sub-optimal layouts intended to minimize trace lengths.
Gigabyte’s GA-G31M-ES2L, and in fact most of Gigabyte’s G31 boards, caught our eye due to their use of solid capacitors for the CPU power supply, as well as having a decent layout. The best part? This little board doesn’t cost any more than the competition. At any rate, we should caution against expecting any overclocking miracles on such a cheap board.
Processor: We were sorely tempted to create an AMD setup using the Athlon X2 7750 Black Edition to avoid any allegations of being Intel fanboys, but the lower power consumption of the similarly-priced and similarly-performing Pentium Dual Core E5300 won us over.
Unfortunately overclocking potential is likely to be limited by the motherboard rather than the processor itself – an unavoidable problem unless you want to bust the budget and get a better motherboard, in which case you might as well get a better CPU…. oh wait. That’s for the next setup.
Memory: Kingston’s ValueRAM modules are probably the cheapest DDR2-800 modules here in Singapore. International readers, just go for whichever brand happens to be the cheapest at your favorite retailer, but remember to look out for lifetime warranty.
2GB is sufficient to run the latest games for now, but you may want to refrain from keeping too many memory-hungry applications open at the same time.
Graphics: Nvidia’s GeForce 9600GT provides good value for money in the budget segment. You’ll probably want to go for the cheapest brand you can find, but it’s worth bearing in mind that these manufacturers often have shorter warranty periods, and if your card runs into trouble the replacement service might not be top notch.
The cheapest 9600GT on Newegg at the time of writing was by Zotac, which has a lengthy 5 year warranty. Zotac can be quite hard to find here in Singapore even though there is a distributor; A good alternative is Palit which provides a shorter, but still decent, 2 year warranty.
Optical Drive: These days pretty much any DVD writer will give you acceptable results, and with prices so cheap, there’s just not much decision making to be done here. Still, we can’t just leave things dangling so we’re recommending Samsung’s SH-S203B.
It uses the SATA interface, so that when IDE finally disappears from the face of the earth you can carry on using this drive. If people still use DVDs then, that is.
Hard Drive: Hitachi’s 7K1000.B family of drives is the best all around for desktop use. Since this is a budget setup we’ll be going for a fairly small 320GB.
Casing: The Centurion 5 may be a no-frills, time-worn design, but its longevity and widespread use testifies to Cooler Master’s solid build quality. It also comes in red and blue, and there’s a version with a side window for less than 10 bucks more!
Power Supply: We’ll admit that the Vantec ION2 is a rather dated model lacking 80+ efficiency certification which is all the rage nowadays, but at its core it is still a decent power supply – something which can be quite difficult to find at this price point. Oh, and bonus points for the fully sleeved cabling.