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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  • JimGrapes - Friday, December 18, 2009 - link

    I'm wondering why the lower power (95w) i7 860 and the 1156 board isn't suggested in this article and others. Seems to provide a similar performance at less wattage and heat. Reply
  • Halcyon666 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Why is it nearly every component listed in this buyer's guide is now more expensive than when it posted back this summer?

    Isn't this stuff supposed to go down in price over time?

    Reply
  • skytophall - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    Ya, I noticed that also. I do know that memory sticks have gone way up in price. They were real cheap last summer. I am told that price fluctuations in memory are expected. Such is life. Reply
  • kenfar - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    I built the AMD performance system using everything that was specified in the guide with the exception of the RAM which was not available. Went with the same RAM except used OCZ Heat Pipe.

    Now about 3 weeks after build and everything has been running fine. The computer about a week ago started shutting down mysteriously every so often. Now it will only boot up for about a minute and then goes to shut down.

    Any ideals?
    Reply
  • megananda06 - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    really thanks for these guides, since sometimes we really hard to find the right options here in indonesia ...
    thanks once again
    Reply
  • liquidboss - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    The Super Talent memory recommended in the Intel Performance Midrange section is discontinued. Anyone have another suggestion for a similar price? Reply
  • tbement - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    I have heard that cable length is a problem with the OCZ ModXStream power supplies when used in the Three Hundred (where the ps is at the bottom of the case rather than the top). Is this just a rumor or an actual problem with this pair? Reply
  • bhougha10 - Thursday, August 6, 2009 - link

    Sorry, was actually talking about the AMD Mid Range Base System Total for $1079 that doesn't include the oper system, speakers, etc. Wouldn't you be so much better off going with the system I quoted from a benchmark perspective (Gamming is what I am looking at) Reply
  • bhougha10 - Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - link

    This system below was from direct computer makerand was 100 bucks less. $970 total. I am pretty sure it would bench mark better then the recommended one and we would have 100 bucks to play with. Get a better case, etc. I am just wondering as the the I7 would be better for gammers.


    CASE: New! CoolerMaster Elite 310 Mid-Tower Case with See-Thru Side Panel
    Neon Light Upgrade: NONE
    Extra Case Fan Upgrade: Default case fans
    POWER SUPPLY Upgrade: 700 Watts Power Supplies (SLI/CrossFire Ready Power Supply)
    CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-920 2.66 GHz 8M L3 Cache LGA1366
    COOLING FAN : Intel LGA1366 Certified CPU Fan & Heatsink
    MOTHERBOARD: (3-Way SLI Support) MSI X58 Pro Intel X58 Chipset CrossFire DDR3 Mainboard
    MEMORY: 3GB (1GBx3) PC1333 DDR3 PC3 10666 Triple Channel Memory (Corsair or Major Brand)
    FREEBIES: None
    VIDEO CARD: ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB DDR5 PCI-Express Dual DVI-I & TVO (Major Brand Powered by ATI)
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - link

    You need to compare apples to apples. The system you quote makes no mention of a monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse, or Operating System. That makes it comparable to our our base system price, which is $738 - or some $230 less. I would certainly hope you could upgrade to a Core i7 for for $230. Reply

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