Desktop Systems Guide

PC DIY Buying Guide - Q3 2010

PC DIY Buying Guide - Q3 2010



The Mainstream Machine (Under S$1500)

The Mainstream Machine (Under S$1500)

Moving up the ladder, our mainstream machine is given a budget of up to S$1500. If you exclude the cost of the display, S$1500 seems like a kingly sum for a PC nowadays, so much so that we were tempted to call this a "value performance" machine instead. Basically, you can expect to play the latest games at high resolutions and decently high settings or plow through video editing/3D rendering (especially with the 6-core option included). Enthusiasts may also find quite a lot of margin in this system configuration for overclocking, to get even better performance. Needless to say, handling HD media is a piece of cake.

As before, we have gone with two main routes, the Intel quad-core and the AMD 6-core, with all the other components remaining constant. Both will come up with a similar price tag though the performance between them will depend on your applications. 

Click on the links in the table below to find the product/review page on HardwareZone, or the manufacturer's product page for more information.  

The Mainstream Machine Configuration
PC Component
Our Picks
Price (in SGD)
CPU and Motherboard
  • $602
  • $590
Memory 2 x 2GB Kingston DDR3-1333 (CL9)  $136
Graphics Palit Sonic GTX 460 1GB $359
Hard Drive  Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB  $89
Optical Drive Samsung 22x SATA Internal DVD Writer  $30
Power Supply Seasonic M12II-620W $135
Chassis Cooler Master 690 II Plus $159
Total
  • Intel based system 
  • AMD based system
  • $1510
  • $1498

 

CPU and Motherboard

For the choice of processor, one of Intel's newest quad-core, the Core i5-760, a minor speed bump over the popular i5-750, takes over the mantle of its predecessor. You can expect the same competitive performance and overclocking allowance on the 760. The lack of HyperThreading shouldn't matter to users in this segment, and the attractive price should make it a favorite among enthusiasts. We chose the ASUS P7P55D-E PRO for our Intel P55 motherboard, a board which manages to bring true SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 to the platform. Along with its good layout and build quality, this is a very decent board that's packed with features.

If you need more processor cores, then AMD's 6-core Phenom II X6 1055T is the most affordable in the market. It may not have the fastest of clock speeds, but AMD's Turbo Core technology helps to a certain extent, and the extra cores come in useful for those processor-intensive workloads. MSI's 890FXA-GD70 was our best value and winner in the AMD 890FX shootout, and it would provide a good platform for the Phenom II X6 1055T, thanks to its native SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0, multi-GPU support and a very competitive price tag.

 

 

Memory

While we realize that some enthusiasts will be overclocking their systems, especially in this price segment, in order to maximize the performance, there will be a large majority who are content to leave it alone. For these users, Kingston's DDR3-1333 memory modules that we chose for the Budget Box will be as good as any. The enthusiast however may want to opt for memory with higher frequencies and lower latencies, something like the OCZ Fatality DDR3-1600, which will cost up to S$199 for 2x 2GB for its CL7 latency and 1600MHz frequency.

 

Graphics

NVIDIA's GTX 460 graphics processor has quickly become a strong competitor to ATI's Radeon HD 5000 series in the performance mainstream segment and our choice is clear. Both 768MB and 1GB models are available, but with our budget, we felt that we could benefit more from having the 1GB version. As for the choice of vendor, Palit again shows off its aggressive pricing, with its 1GB Sonic edition having the best price of S$359, making it easy for us to select it

The Radeon HD 5850 maintains a slight edge over the GTX 460, but also at a higher price. If you have some cash left over, the S$429 MSI Radeon HD 5850 1GB will quickly relieve you of it and provide that extra boost, especially if you have a large monitor to take advantage of.

 

Hard Drive

Samsung's S$89 Spinpoint F3 1TB continues to be our choice of hard drive, though if SATA 6Gbps is required, WD's Caviar Black 1TB at S$152 is a decent alternative for early adopters with its 64MB cache.

 

Optical Drive

Again, go with any choice of DVD drive here, but if you need any suggestions, the Samsung 22x SATA Internal DVD Writer at $30 is as good as any. For those who need a bit of style and elegance, do consider the Pioneer drives. However they can cost as much as twice the competition, depending on which shops you patronize.

 

Power Supply

We have always been big fans of Seasonic and its stellar products. Hence, we have picked the vendor's modular M12II-620W, which provides more than enough power for our system while being very affordable at just S$135. Its 80 PLUS Bronze rating is just icing on the cake.

 

Chassis

The improved (with more fans) Cooler Master 690 II Plus gets our nod for the chassis. Like its popular predecessor, it heavily emphasizes the cooling aspect, with numerous ventilation channels and more cooling fans than ever before. The build quality remains very decent, with a solid feel and installation is as always a breeze with its tool-free touches. The S$159 price tag is also enticing.

 

If you're willing to pay another $10 more, NZXT has just the casing for you, the Tempest EVO, a black, steel mid-tower that has dual 120mm intake fans with a larger 140mm exhaust fan. It has a more spacious interior, with up to eight HDD slots and even support for E-ATX form factors.