This month, we've seen the addition of new retailer Alpha City to our usual roster of stores that include Playtech, iFocus, Computerlounge, Ascent and PB Tech. We've been hearing good things about them around the traps. That's meant a more affordable system than last month's build, despite using the same components.
There's no real downside here, although a budget build obviously has some limitations, which we've detailed below. If you wanted to make this system a little more appealing, we'd suggest a dedicated graphics card, or perhaps a Blu-ray drive and larger, 1920 x 1080 monitor.
AMD A4-3400 Dual core 2.7GHz ($88)
AMD's Llano APU, the A4-3400 includes a Radeon HD 6410 with 160 GPU cores running at 600MHz as well as the 2.5GHz dual-core processor. As such, these perform at acceptable (more than 30fps) for a range of mid-range games on low-to-medium settings. If you're not into gaming, this APU will capably handle productivity tasks such as spreadsheets, photo-editing and web browsing.
Gigabyte GA-A55M-S2V ($100)
The AMD Llano chips fit into Socket FM1 boards. The A55 chipset-based motherboards allows for the addition of an AMD Radeon HD 6000-series graphics card for additional perfomance, should you want extra gaming grunt.
Gigabyte's GA-A55M-S2V microATX motherboard used here includes:
- DualBIOS system, which recovers your BIOS data if the main BIOS crashes, and supports drives of 3TB or greater capacity without needing to partition them.
- On/Off charge - which allows you to charge your iPod, iPhone or iPad rapidly even if the computer is switched off.
- A DVI-D port supporting a monitor of 1920 x 1200 maximum resolution (also has a VGA port, with no resolution limitiation)
- 1 PCI express x16 slot, 2 PCI Express x1 slots and 1 PCI slot
- 6 SATA 3GB/s connectors and support for RAID (0, 1, 10, and JBOD)
- Up to 8 USB 2.0 ports
Note that there are no USB 3.0 ports -- though you can always add a riser card via the PCI slot -- and the maximum monitor resolution you can use with the inbuilt graphics is 1920 x 1200 (for the DVI connector). If you want to use a higher resolution monitor, you'll have to use the VGA port or add a dedicated card to the x16 PCI express slot.
Kingston ValueRAM 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333 CL9 ($49)
The processor we've used in our budget build can take RAM up to DDR3-1600, but we've opted for the very affordable and reliable Kingston ValueRAM, which is DDR3-1333. Two sticks of RAM, each 2GB, is the sweet spot right now, making it the most affordable choice.
CoolerMaster Elite 341 case with 350W PSU ($71)
For a budget build, a case with power supply (PSU) included makes sense. CoolerMaster's Elite 341 is plain, but functional, and has enough space to fit the 6 SATA drives that the Gigabyte motherboard we've suggested can handle. You may not ever use 6 drive bays, but the option is there. 350W is sufficient for the existing build we've created, and a Radeon HD 6000-series card if you wanted to add a deicated GPU.
Logitech MK120 Corded Desktop keyboard and mouse ($27)
This combination is an entry-level keyboard and mouse with no special features of bling; it's a good basic keyboard and mouse. Note that for less than $10 more, you can pick up the wireless version, which is called the Logitech MK250.
Asus DRW-24B3ST Black 24x Dual-layer DVD-RW ($35)
The Asus drive will read CDs and DVDs, including dual-layer DVDs, and can write and rewrite CDs, DVDs and dual-layer DVDs. The brand of drive doesn't especially matter, but we found the pricing for the Asus to be tasty.
Hard disk drive:
500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue 7200RPM ($105)
The Western Digital Caviar Blue comes in a SATA 6GB/s variety, but since the Gigabyte motherboard we've chosen offers only SATA 3GB/s, we've picked the Western Digital Caviar Blue SATA 3GB/s version (model number WD5000AAKS). Despite the Thailand flooding last year that caused hard drive prices to rise, this is still a relatively affordable 7200RPM hard drive.
AOC Razor II E2051F 20-inch 1600 x 900 5ms LED-LCD
This monitor may be just 20 inches, but the 5ms refresh rate means that it's ok for gaming (as much as the rest of the system will allow) and because it's LED, it's nice and bright, too. The 1600 x 900 resolution is less than full HD, but since you don't get a Blu-ray drive, the only Full HD you'll miss out on is streaming video. Still, it's ample for most purposes.
Logitech Z105 2.0 speakers
The Logitech speakers are ones we've recommended as affordable and decent, though you shouldn't expect too
much from them.