The $500 Gaming Machine, 2007 Edition

mad-dog

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Very sensible approach to building a reliable gaming platform, it just goes to show people that it doesn't take a lot of money and/or high-end hardware components to get the job done.
My previous post:"gaming hardware, just the facts" reinforces this concept.
There's nothing wrong with building a Quad-Core, CrossFire, RAID(0+1), 3.5GHz Over-Clocked, Over-Heated Super-Computer..............but it's not necessary to get the job done.

:hello: Folding@Home
 

nubie

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Interesting, I wish you would cover a budget $300 gamer build, this is a very nice mainstream component build, but a lot of kids want to game and it would be nice to show them that you can do it on a budget.

In that vein I like the Conroe-L for $50-65, it is single-core, overclocks like a champ, and the 7900GS, also overclocks like a champ (Mine went over 650mhz and was pushing close to 700mhz before I ran into heat issues).

PS since the graphics and the Processor are easily the two main contributors to the speed of gaming, why no nVidia cards? I notice you cover AMD and Intel, why not put a competing nVidia product in? Kudos for the 7900 mention, but does it really draw more power than the 8600?? The 7800 series is a hot power hog, but the 7900 is not. For the money a 7900GS is $120-$140 bucks left and right on ebay and puts a smack-down on the 8600 series, (the half-width, 128-bit, bus really hurts the 8600).

Last but not least, why not build with a DX9 series card? You won't be playing DX10 series games on a low-end rig anyway (and gamers aren't lining up for Vista anytime soon), and the 7900 series is the place to be for the next year anyway.

Keep up the good work, I need my dose of new products (hop to it guys, the Anandtech site has a Barcy and a Phenom preview.)
 

03flat4

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I Was wondering what that T was for...someone release a new Terminator machine that I haven't been told about? :)
 

autoboy

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So you spent $100 on a 500W power supply and the system uses 100W at full graphics load? Sounds like $ well spent. On a budget build, please keep the very high end components out of the build. Yes, a good power supply is required, and maybe the bundled power supply that came with the case is not good enough (i've had mine for 2 years in a dual core x850xt machine), but there are plenty of good power supplys for $50-$70. Antec earthwatts, Corsair, seasonic to name a few. Your system is so low power it could run off a notebook power brick. No reason to run a 500W monster high end psu. Any mainstream dual core rig can run on a quality 380W power supply. Otherwise, you did a pretty decent job on your build.
 

joefriday

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Autoboy has an excellent point. Hell, they should have used the $20 HiPro 300 watt PSU at newegg. HiPro is stuffed into gateway and IBM machines, and are generally very quality units. For 100 watts max power consumption, even if all that came off the 12 volt rail, a 300 watt PSU would suffice just fine. I run a Dell 250 watt PSU, and I would not even think twice about using it to power either one of these systems (b/c right now, with a D 805 and Ti 200, my rig that the dell PSU powers consumes 130 watts at the outlet! lol )
 

zenmaster

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The E2140 may have also been a better CPU for your build to better match the Price of the AMD CPU/Mobo.

It would not have faired as well and the $10 upgrade may be worth it, but the same applies.

I agree about the PSU as well.
A FSP 400w PSU can be had for $40.
It is a quality PSU from a well known company and would actually get your $500 PCs into the $500 ballpark.

It likely would have also allowed for the 7900GS to fit in your price.
It uses only 2-3watts more than the 8600GT you referenced so no need for more cooling or a better case.

Note: I would have also been curious about moderate OCing. The Intel chip for sure can improve drastically by simply increasing the FSB to 533. No extra cooling required. If you do not OC, these systems are just not that good for the money, IMHO.

Buy a System at CircuitCity for $450 and add-in the 8600GT Video Card and you have a faster system that also ships with an OS, Mouse/Keyboard/Speaker, Memory Card Reader, LightScribe, etc.. etc.. etc... and is $100 less than yours after an OS is purchased.
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http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Compaq-Presario-Desktop-PC-SR5130NX/sem/rpsm/oid/184440/catOid/-12962/rpem/ccd/productDetail.do
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Since the CircuitCity Model can't be OC'd, it will soon be dusted as soon as you set these chips to very moderate OC's that do not require voltage increases or non-stock cooling.
 

wsbsteven

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I also agree with the comments about the power supply being overkill for this build. I also wonder why the article spoke so highly about Dx10 gaming yet ran their tests on XP? A con for the Intel chip was that it lacked VT, why does a cheap gaming system need VT? There was also a lack of gaming benchmarks which is very disappointing, unless you just play Quake.


Not the Tom's Hardware's best showing at all.
 

getochkn

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$500 gaming rig! Build the best $500 gaming tower you can. This video card is good for gaming? Am I missing something here or did they only show i fricking gaming benchmark, quake 4, which is how old now. Ya, lets do a whole article about gaming system, tell how we should use a directx 10 video card and then show 1 benchmark from a game that is a few years old. Good job. What the hell does this article tell me about me about how well I can play games for $500 if they don't include any benchmarks for games!!
 

sojrner

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nice budget machine... 2 Q's though: Why the micro-atx with onboard vid? I realize that if you are married to the 690 chipset you pretty much get the video, but if you jump ship to an Nv chipset on the amd platform you get a fullsize atx w/o video in the nforce 520 or the like... and all for 25 bucks less. Even if you MUST have that 690 you can drop that hdmi on the MSI board and drop 25 bucks there as well. This was just in a 5 min search on newegg. I assume the intel platform is similar in the price drops for going sans-video.

Honestly, if you are running a discrete video card why are you getting onboard graphics? and b/c of that graphics card, who cares if there is hdmi on the mobo or not? You are not using it! lol... And then for expansion purposes you can do more w/ a fullsize ATX board. JMO of course...

Second Q: Why the discrepancy from what you chose for video card and what the Tom's articles say? Personally, I know what a solid video card purchase is, but I am calling you on what will be perceived as contradiction by the proto-noobs that dig deeper than your immediate suggestion. You chose the HD2600pro and then reference the tom's charts for that
As you can see in our VGA Charts, both cards offer mainstream performance at very acceptable prices.
The problem is that we CAN'T see that, as that card is not on the charts at all! (at least not on the US version) only the XT is. The next glaring issue with your suggestion is that the monthly "Best Gaming Graphics Card for the Money" totally disagrees with your choice as it says the best for under 100 bucks is the older 7600gs.

Now I realize that the "ranks" change constantly, and perceivably the 2600pro could now be a better performer than the 7600. If you have tested and proven that then great, just point that out in the article as to why it differs... of course it looks like you did not even look at your own articles the way it stands now... you reference one as proof that has none, and don't even mention the one proves you wrong. Bad form.

I am a Tom's reader of many years, and I realize that you have many different authors. However, part of good journalism is to check your sources and even read previous work from your offices before publishing a new work that might refute them. Especially when the source and contradicting info is your own! These issues have become more glaring as time goes on here at Tom's.
 

turboflame

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I didn't really get why they used a 2600pro. A 7600gt costs about the same yet has better performance.

And why did they use a more expensive 45W AMD processor? A 65W 4600+ costs about the same and i don't think 20W would fry that beast of a PSU they chose.

 

sojrner

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agreed on performance... but honestly I wouldn't mind the 2600pro choice if it did not directly conflict with all charts and recommendations here on their own site.
 

zenmaster

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Good Catch on that one.
The X2-4400+ or the 4600+ are clearly better choices.
Both are faster and one is even cheaper.

The Mobo is a bad choice as well.
Why pay for the onboard HDMI when you are not using the integrated graphics?

Between the 4400+ and the Mobo - We just saved another $25.

If we put the Mobo Savings into the CPU instead of cost savings, we are now looking at the 4800+ or 5000+.

On the other hand, we could get a really nice gaming card with that extra $25 as well.

It's almost as if they intentially spent more than necessary on the mobo and bought an over-priced CPU to help ensure balance with the Intel System.

Sorry, but w/o an OC the AMD system should be much better than the Intel System at the same low-end price point if components are properly selected. The Intel System will OC like BigBen on Steroinds, but don't handi-cap AMD were it rightly shines.
 

TSIMonster

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I agree completely with Zen. Good article, but for a gaming system witha nice 500 watt PSU.... using a little extra power is acceptable. The 4400+ and motherboard savings would have allowed you to get an 8600GTS, x1950Pro, 7900GS...

Good article and idea, but the title is flawed. I would understand if energy efficiency and silence was the end goal... but this isn't an HTPC, its a GAMING PC, as your title clearly states.
 

mad-dog

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Albeit the minimalist approach, there are better options for the money.........
Take it for what it's worth and learn from it.

Folding@Home
 

sojrner

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meh, I like the psu choice. Overkill on the psu is a good thing regardless of the budget as it is the one part to last the longest, be replaced the least, neglected the most and is the foundation for all...

I do share your problems with the other choices though...
 

tlmck

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It would have been interesting to see the Intel System built with a Gigabyte GA-P31-DS3L board($75 at Newegg). Slightly cheaper and has solid caps. Easy Gigabyte OCing also.
 

autoboy

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I still use a 32X CD player in my gaming rig! I've needed a DVD player once and I just shared the drive from my normal rig. The gaming rig changes so much that I have to maintain a normal work machine or I would go crazy with all the reinstalls etc. For a long time a 1ghz athlon was all I needed until I started doing transcoding. Now I have a dual core Athlon with onboard graphics and I have to ignore the urge to upgrade it.

Pretty much all these guys do is to just find some parts laying around the office and tell the intern to go build a system with it and write a story. That is about all that goes into these kinds of stories so they don't actually find the best budget stuff around, just the best around the office so nothing is perfect. I do wonder about the efficient nature of the build but I'm not going to quibble over it. It is "A" $500 gaming machine, not the "best" $500 gaming machine. If all you do is warcraft and quake 4 this is a great build and looks pretty much the same as my latest gaming machine upgrade, except I used the centurian psu, 2.5ghz processor for the same $, cheaper matx board cause I don't use the onboard vid, 2GB ram because who the hell builds a system without 2GB these days anyways, and a 2600XT instead of the pro left over from my HTPC because I could never get the color output right. So yeah, it is a pretty ok build considering. The only thing really out of place was that psu. This is pretty much on par with their HTPC builds and HDTV articles so I really never expect much anymore. It helps me understand how the layman thinks about computers though.
 

Joe_The_Dragon

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For $75 you can get mid range to low high end am2 board.
 

decripple

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Too much money was spent on making the PC upgradeable like the PSU. They could have also included some OCing results with stock cooling. Both of those processors could have OC'ed like 25%. If they had gone with a X2 3800+ 65W and a E2140, 2 cheaper mobos, another gig of ram, and an 8600GT or even a 2600XT they could have made a much better system for the price. Seriuosly, a 500W PSU for that?

Another thing is they got 1 GB of ram and talk about using DX10 which means they need to use Vista to validate that thought. You really need 2 GB for a good Vista experience.
 

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