High End Desktop for a Low End price

Want to build a high end desktop computer for a low end price (around $600 or less)?

Note: I don’t include Windows 7 in the default build, as you can just download Ubuntu, Fedora, or OpenSuSE Linux etc. for free. However, I’ve included links for Windows 7 (student and normal) in the Additional options section.

I would like to suggest the following components for people that want a really nice system without breaking the bank.

I just built a new machine that could support running multiple VMware instances, encode FLAC quickly, and surf the web etc. without breaking the bank. I didn’t need or want video gaming support since I use a PS3 for that.
However, I’ll suggest a view options (including gaming cards) that will allow you to alter the basic system we’ll be discussing.

This build is based on AMD/ATI since it really does perform well and saves a good chunk of money, but the parts can be swapped very easily to make it an Intel system that won’t break the bank either.

I’ll expand on why I chose the parts and provide direct links as well. (I use Newegg, but use anyone you like)


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1. AMD Phenom II X4 945 Processor @ 3.0 Ghz and 8MB combined cache: ($150.00)

It’s a low wattage quad core chip (C3 stepping) that’s pretty much 1 for 1 with the Intel Q9550 and almost i7-920’s. (saving $110.00)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103809

Option: If you want to save even more money ($60) and don’t need/want 4 core performance, I would suggest:

AMD Dual Core Phenom II X2 545 – 3.0Ghz 6MB cache chip

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103694

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2. Lite-On iHAS424-08 CD/DVD Burner/Player : ($33.00)

It’s a MediaTek based chipset burner that’s pretty darn good at everything (DAE, bit-setting, C2 error support etc).

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106332

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3. Gigabyte GA-785-GMT-USB3 motherboard: ($94.00)
I love Gigabyte (and ASUS) motherboards, they are top notch, this board has the following on-board features.

  • ATI – HD 4200 graphics (great for everything but gaming)
  • USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports (3.0 is just now arriving but is fast as heck)
  • eSATA external port
  • Firewire external port (and internal header)
  • HDMI, DVI, D-SUB video ports
  • Stero, 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby sound hookups (including a TOSLINK optical port)
  • Gigabit Ethernet LAN
  • SATA RAID (0/1/5/JBOD) options
  • IDE ports if you need them

Note: The AMD 785 chipset isn’t the newest, but it’s a really nice chipset that is supported out of the box in the newest Linux distros and Windows 7 etc.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128432

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4. Western Digital Caviar Black hard drives: ($69.00)

This puppy rocks with 500GB of space, 32 MB cache, and 7200RPM, and a 5 year warranty etc. enough said!

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136320

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5. Crucial Ballistic Tracer Ram: ($120.00)

Crucial (IMHO) is one of the best you can get. Note: This ram is faster than needed on this setup, but it allows for a lower wattage usage, it’s 1600 Mhz ram downed to 1333 Mhz speed so the voltage is dropped as well. (saving power etc.) Then, if you really want to over clock, you can. ;0)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148329

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6. Compucase HEC 6K28BB8F – MicroATX case: ($33.00)

I like Micro ATX cases (now days) and while this is a low end case, it’s very nice and want break the bank.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811121003

Option: If you plan on using a semi-big Video card or killer RAID setup, you may want use this case instead (price is about the same).

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811121001

Option: If you want a semi-roomy case for high end cards, extra fans etc. and an Alien Ware look w/ a view.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146025

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7. OCZ Fatality Modular Power supply: ($69.00)

This PSU is great for the suggested configuration (i.e. now power-sucking video cards etc) and it’s modular (meaning you can remove unused cords etc)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817341022

Option: If you plan on using the bigger case and throwing a Nvidia 9800 GT+ or ATI 4850/5770 etc. card in, you may want a bigger PSU such as this Antec one (80 plus certified, ie less power usage)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371015

The default configuration (non-options) should be about 600.00 bucks!

Just so you know, with the default build, I scored a 7.3 on CPU and 7.5 on RAM under Windows 7 Indexing scores. (7.9 is the highest you can score).

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Additional Options:

If you need a semi-decent video card for gaming(Unreal, Left for Dead, WOW etc) but want to keep power usage, heat, price down.

If you like ATI, I would suggest the 5670:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150467

If you like Nvidia, I would suggest the GT 240 series:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121353

If you don’t care about heat/power, but still want best bang for the buck video card, then I would suggest looking at the following:

If you like ATI – 4850’s
If you like NVIDIA – 9800 GT’s

If you need Windows 7:

Windows 7 64bit Home OEM – $104.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116754

Windows 7 64bit Professional (only for students): ($65.00)

http://www.microsoft.com/student/discounts/theultimatesteal-us/default.aspx

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One Comment

  1. Nice to see some plain speaking about performance Desktops.
    My new system is only 6 months old & features a Gigabyte MBoard type P55-UD3P.
    I have the packaging but can’t compare with your recommendation.
    I think both NVidia & Gigabyte are both guilty of very poor product description/specification.
    This matters, because when you approach different suppliers (Local to avoid shipping charges) you will almost always be offered an “equivalent or better” at a similar price, but you won’t be able to make a decision to use or not, due to lack of market knowledge & lack of product detail.
    BTW & to demonstrate; I was sold an aluminium case at a spectacularly good price only to discover it was steel with Aluminium corner edge extrusions.
    The supplier said ” gosh sorry, I’ll change it for you, I saw Aluminium & thought the whole case was Ali.”

    You have to be on guard.
    Thanks for your suggestions/recommendations, hope you can keep it current.
    Peter O

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