AMD and Intel Buyer's Guide 8/2011

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One of the more common topics started by forum members who recently signed up or those wanting to upgrade are, “build me a new PC for $XXX”. Usually there is a significant response in this type of thread because it is a good feeling to help someone stretch their dollars and its also fun to play with other people’s money for “dream rigs” in the larger budget requests. While everyone’s parts list will likely be different, we have put together a solid group of AMD and Intel builds that are a jack of all trades type system for almost any budget.

This guide is merely a collection of suggested system setups. Since this site is based off of overclocking, we have made sure we considered our parts with the intention of overclocking where apppropriate. Obviously, there are a plethora of options out there to fit your needs, so you may want to customize your hardware selections if doing further research.

In our previous guide, some helpful advice was given out, and I would like to continue that trend with a few updates.

  • Dual Core? Quad Core? Hex Core? At this time there is hardly a reason not to purchase a quad core CPU outside of budget limitations. More and more games are starting to pop up that take advantage of multi-core setups (BFBC2 loves all the cores/thread it can get). Multithreading in other applications such as Adobe CS5 can also use all the cores and threads (and CUDA!) you can throw at it as well. So again, unless its just not in the budget, stick with a native quad core, and if you heavily use multithreaded apps you would want to look at Hex cores or at least Hyper-threaded CPU’s.
  • 2GB, 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 12GB RAM? 2GB (2x1GB) is the absolute minimum I would suggest buying for those who just plan on using the PC as a web, email, music, and MS Office Suite machine, this will be all they need. The standard today is 4GB (2x2GB) on both AMD and Intel setups. I would recommend starting with that. If you render or encode large files or run a couple of VM’s, you may want to consider 8GB. DDR3 ram is so cheap now however, getting 8GB (2x4GB) isnt a huge difference in price.
  • AMD? NVIDIA? Thats really up to you. BOTH sides of the fence have great cards to choose from. Nvidia has some powerful  cards in their Fermi architecture, the GTX570 and GTX580, along with great bang for your buck cards, like the GTX 460 1GB and 560 Ti . On the AMD side of the fence, they have some monsters in their stable in the 6970, and 6950 while using less power and running cooler than the top end Fermi. AMD also offers a solid bang for your buck card as well, 6870. If you participate in a program such as F@H, or use an application that can utilize the CUDA cores, Nvidia is the way to go.
  • SLI? Crossfire? Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the money at a single monitor desktop resolution of 1920×1080 or under unless you aren’t pleased with the performance of a single high end card or want to run an Eyefinity or a 3D surround setup. For the cards lower down in the line-up, you can generally buy a single card that surpasses the performance of a cheap multi-card setup for right around the same price. Obviously, use your judgment as to if it’s worth it for you as this is just a personal preference to avoid the potential problems SLI/Crossfire may bring.
  • Which Power Supply? Another gem of a question here! To keep it brief, dont skimp on the PSU! Cheap and poor build quality PSU’s have the chance, albeit rare, to take out your entire system or parts of it. Often they cannot even put out their rated wattage! Is that worth it over such a small difference in price? Our members here usually stick to quality brands such as Corsair, Seasonic, most Antec models, Thermaltake Toughpower series, Zippy, Kingwin Lazer, Silverstone, and Enermax Revo series. If you would like to see our own list of quality PSU’s, please see the PSU Buying Guide which is updated regularly.

We have divided the builds by budget and chip maker. Earthdog has made the Intel recommendations, while Dolk has provided the AMD recommendations. The range covered is $650, $850, $1100, and $1500+ give or take around 10% except in the $1500+ category. The details for why these components were chosen are listed in their corresponding budget class.

$650 Systems

Intel

  • Power Supply: Antec 430W PSU included with case

For this build, the i3 2100 was chosen for its high clock speed (3.1Ghz) and budget price. This dual core CPU offers great performance for daily computing and even gaming. Most games dont use all four cores of a quad so I felt comfortable at this budget level with a dual core based off Sandybridge rather than going with a quad core socket 1366/1156 setup. The only downside is that this chip will not overclock as it is not part of the “K” series. The Gigabyte Z68X-UD3 is a budget board that packs in good features like USB3, SATA 6GB, Intel RST (SSD caching), and decent overclocking abilities when paired with the right processor. Mushkin 4GB (2x2Gb) DDR3 1600 CAS9 memory was chosen to go along with this build. For the GPU, we chose arguably the most bang for your buck GPU’s out, the GTX460 1GB. This card will play nearly any game with settings on high at 1920×1080 or less resolutions.

Total: $666.92+ $27.85 SH = $694.77

AMD

  • Power Supply: Antec 450W included with the case

I had to go with the Llano setup for the low end $600 range. The Llano chip has been the CPU (APU) to turn to for low end systems, such as HTPC, internet boxes, and cheap children gaming boxes. I figured that the Llano could do a bit more than this though, and after doing some research I believe I found a pretty nice setup keeping Overclockers and Gamers in mind. First thing you should notice is that I included a GPU with this setup. One of the features with the Llano APU is that you can Crossfire certain GPUs with the IGP. These capable GPUs are few and very selective, but from the benchmarks that I have seen, the Crossfire turned out pretty well. The rest of the setup is budget built. The G.Skill Eco sticks are a a great pair of sticks. Don’t think that they will only run at 1333 Cas 9. Give them a bit of a push with extra voltage and they should show some pretty good results for you. All of these parts are held together by the trustworthy Asus F1A75-V Pro. I decided to go for the top dog of the F1 boards for this build. You can go for the just as good Gigabyte boards or the lower end Asus boards, but I had a feeling that some of you might want to try and overclock Llano. With the higher end board, you will not be disapointed in what Llano can potentially do for you, even I’m impressed by some of the results.

Total: $592.97+ $35.52 SH = $628.49.


$850 Systems


Intel

For the $850 range, we have stepped up to an overclocking quad core in the Sandybridge line, the 2500k. This beast will overclock to 4.5Ghz or so with the selected cooler and easily charge through anything you throw at it. The board chosen has features such as USB3 and Sata 6GB, and Intel RST technology. We moved on up to the Palit 560 ti 1GB GPU which will should handle any current game at the highest settings at 1920×1200 and down. We also stepped away from the Antec PSU that was included with the case and moved to a more robust solution in the Corsair CX600.  We have kept the 500GB Caviar black at this price level.

Total: $889.91 + $16.96 SH = $906.87.

AMD

For a $250 price bump over the lowest budget build, its pretty hard to complain about what you are getting. You go from Llano to a Thuban 6 core, and not just any 6 core, the 1090T. It is my favorite CPU to work with and has never been the same everytime I get a new one (been through a couple already). Next up is the Memory, I am going with Ripjaws with 1600 Cas 7. For AMD this is as close to best as you can get on retail. With some tweaking you should be able to see Cas 6 with these sticks, but I’ll leave that up to you if you want a bit more performance. Moving on down the line we have the Asus 6870 DC. Asus makes great motherboards, and they are also making top notch GPUs now. Their DC line shows how far Asus has come, and how much they care about the Overclocking community. Give this guy a bit of a push and it will take it. To combine all these bad boys, I decided to go with the M5A99X EVO. Do not be scared when you see the EVO tag with this board. Most of the EVOs are built not to handle to much overclocking, but this one is different. This board is one of the cousins to the late M4A89GT and M4A89GTD. Even though it has the EVO tag it will do better than its rivals that are higher priced. Kinda like an Arial Atom up against a Zonda.

With all these parts put together, it makes you wonder, how this can be. Right now, AMD is in a bit of a freeze. We are still waiting for their Bulldozer CPU to come out, and since its not to far away, AMD has kindly pulled the prices down for their CPUs. Last year you would have had to pay close to the $300 price line for a Thuban, but now you are getting a better deal than that.

To all you Intel boys, try and get this kind of performance for this cost. Yeah that’s what I thought!

Total: $835.95 + $30.42 SH = $866.37

 

$1100 Systems

Intel

For this build, we have moved up to the 2600k which offers Hyper threading on the quad for some extra horsepower for applications and games that use it. We kept the same motherboard as there really inst a reason to change it seeing as how overclocking is essentially chip limited before its board limited with this class. Along those lines we have kept the Hyper 212+ as it will take a 2600k to 4.5Ghz which is plenty for anyone.  In leiu of upgrading the video card I have chose a modern SSD instead, the OCZ Vertex 3 for your OS and upgraded to a 1TB applications and storage drive. Last we have moved up the ladder a bit to a more quiet case with the same adequete airflow as the prior choices, the NZXT H2 which overclockers.com reviewed. For the Power Supply we stepped up to the Corsair 650TX v2 which will easily power any single card and overclock you can throw at it.

Total: $1199.92 + $16.96 SH = $1216.88.

AMD

I am going to stick with the 1090T for this build, but I am going to change up the motherboard.  For this round I chose the Sabertooth baord. Sabertooth was first introduced on the Intel side. After some time, it has finally made it over to the AMD side. For some time, there has been a gap between the Crosshair line and the EVO line. This board bridges that gap. It may not be as tweakable as the Crosshair V, but it will pack the same amount of power. This board was made for an Overclocker Gamer. In fact I would buy this board over the Crosshair V if I were to never go into Extreme cooling. As for the memory, it is a bit different. Instead of going with G.Skill (what I usually recommend) I am going to suggest something a bit different. Introducing the Corsair Vengence 1866 CL9, these sticks have a surprising feature behind it, only if you buy the right ones though (Version 5.11). At the default speeds, your system will run at 1866 with Cas 9-10-9 pretty easily, but we are Overclockers.com and we like to overclock. Try these sticks out, and see what you can do with them.

Now, onto the GPU. The 6950 was a no brainer, and futhermore going with the DCII was also a no brainer. Asus has expanded the DC II line to include much more than the 6970. The 6950 DCII was built to overclock. Turn that fan to 100% and drive that core till it screams. Thats what this GPU was built for, and thats the reason why you are paying this money for this setup. Yeah you can play Witcher 2 at full settings and have the dreaded Ubersampling on, but thats not why your paying this money. This entire setup has been designed for the Gaming Overclocker. The memory is greatly tweakable. The CPU does more for less. The Video card will take the settings you decide and laugh at you. The motherboard will hold all of these parts and allow them to run at their absolute maximum based on the cooling. When you buy this build, remember that Dolk put this together, and that means that there is enough tweaking available to keep you busy for a couple days while you find the best overclocked settings that work for you.

Total: $1142.96 + $13.85 SH = $1156.81

 

$1500+ Systems

Intel

We chose to stick with the 2600k again as there is simply nothing better out there for the money. We also stuck with our motherboard as it has all the features one would want at a fair price. We moved to CAS7 8GB DDR3 memory and jumped up to one of the best air coolers around, the Noctua NH-D14. We changed to a better airflow case in the HAF-X as well as upgraded the PSU to a Seasonic X750. I chose the 6970 Ice Q Turbo over the 580 as the 6970 will run anything with copious amounts of AA at 1920×1200 or less. Id rather put the money saved in to a larger SSD like we did here in the 120GB Vertex 3.

Total: $1861 + $18.84 SH = $1954.84

AMD

Alright so this is not entierly an AMD build. I had to go outside my Red and Green team comfort zone. Now do not tell anyone, but I am actually saying yes to buying a 580 rather than a 6970. Why? Well I wish I could say that the 6970 is winning, but to put it simply, its not. In fact my 5870 still does quite well against the 6970. Now when we talk about doing two video cards, still hands down 580 in SLI, but thats IF you cannot find one of the rare creatures called AMD Radeon HD6990. Compared to all other Single slot cards the 6990 wins. When attached with another 6990 (good luck with that!) you will have the fastest running Video Cards to date. Yet, since they are on a freeze due to little silicon production, I have to go to the next in line, which is SLI 580s.

Enough about the video cards, lets talk about the CPU, Motherboard, and RAM combination. CPU is a no brainer, but I would also say you could do the 1090T if you are more interested in doing some Extreme OCing with this setup in the future. The 1100T will yield higher OC on Water/Air, but the 1090T will go higher if you do SS/Phase. Normally I do not like to recommend Extreme OC motherboards to consumers. Its a waste, most of you guys will turn it on and leave things at default, but since we are Overclockers.com and we love overclocking everything, the Cross V is the best board to do that with. Now granted you can do the lower cost Sabertooth Board and get the exact same performance, but since you are already buying this $1500+ computer, I bet you have the money to buy one of Vince’s Pots and start working with our Benchmarking Team. Finally the RAM. We all know that G.Skill has been the top dog for some time. The Ripjaws show their performance at stock, but if you are a member of this site, you know that stock settings is nothing. You want to tweak and tune until you are all done. Ripjaws were built to go faster than what is at stock, find that speed, you will like where it will go.

Total: $1828.95 + $14.97 = $1843.92

Total (SLI): $2328.94 + $14.97 = $2343.91

Editor’s Note: Prices accurate as of Aug. 10th, 2011.

CONCLUSION

And with that everyone, this edition of the buyers guide is complete. I would imagine that there will be mentions of why choose this over that, or I would have chosen this over that. As we all discussed in the building of these machines, you are not going to please everyone all the time. The point of the article was to give a general idea of the parts you can buy from each camp at specific budget levels with overclocking and gaming in mind. Of course you will need to select parts more specific for your uses. For example, if you work with multiple resource intensive VM’s, you may want to look into more system ram or if you work with any program that can take as many cores as you can throw at it, you want to look at Hex cores or Hex’s with Hyperthreading (Intel). Or if you don’t overclock, don’t get more than the stock cooler and back off a bit on the motherboard. If you dont play games, go with an onboard GPU solution and drop the other vidoecard to save some money. Everyone’s needs will vary!

You will also want to shop around to find the best prices available to you. For example, you can find the i7 CPU’s much cheaper usually at Microcenter or Fry’s if they are in your area. Newegg.com also has many combo discounts that could save you money as well for both sides of the fence. Finally, the prices listed above do not include mail in rebates which can frequently offset your shipping costs, eventually, if not more.

We should also mention that the next version of this article coming out late 2011 will likely contain new CPU’s from Intel (Sandybridge-E) and AMD (Bulldozer). I know I cant wait for this round from both camps!

I also wanted to personally thank Dolk for helping overclockers.com come up with the builds from the AMD side of the fence.  If you have any further questions or would like to have the readers of overclockers.com help you build a system, please start your thread in the General Hardware subforum! I hope to see you there!

-Earthdog / Dolk

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Discussion
  1. 1333Mhz ram? Thats slow/budget type ram...Did you mean 2133 or 1866 for the Intel side or 1600Mhz for AMD?
    I know AMD doesnt like to play at 1600Mhz+ sometimes, but Intel will easily (Sandybrige). There isnt a point to faster than 1600Mhz memory really. There are barely any gains in real world situations. The PC's built here are jacks of all trades so to speak, and not benchmarking based. That is the only reason I would go above 1600Mhz. :)
    EarthDog
    1333Mhz ram? Thats slow/budget type ram...Did you mean 2133 or 1866 for the Intel side or 1600Mhz for AMD?
    I know AMD doesnt like to play at 1600Mhz+ sometimes, but Intel will easily (Sandybrige). There isnt a point to faster than 1600Mhz memory really. There are barely any gains in real world situations. The PC's built here are jacks of all trades so to speak, and not benchmarking based. That is the only reason I would go above 1600Mhz. :)

    yeah I meant the 1600+ like 1866, for some reason i thought 1866 was a socket and went with 1333.
    Anyways, i expected there to be a minimal difference at a premium price.
    saint19
    I'd change the Sabertooth in AMD for a Gigabyte UD5.

    The UD5 and UD7 having some voltage swings going on when under load. From what I have read and heard the Sabertooth is the better choice. I hope to be picking one up for testing on both typical OC and Extreme OC.
    > Case: Antec Three Hundred – $94 + $14.99 SH
    I don't see how it can be suggested to spend over a hundred dollars on a case, particularly on a budget system, particularly with sacrificing getting more memory, better video card, or monitor.
    Like we said there will always be people that will choose differtent parts.
    This guide is merely a collection of suggested system setups. Since this site is based off of overclocking, we have made sure we considered our parts with the intention of overclocking where apppropriate. Obviously, there are a plethora of options out there to fit your needs, so you may want to customize your hardware selections if doing further research.

    Not only that we were sticking with newegg for simplicity sake...as well we mentioned to shop around. I wouldnt put my parts in such a cheap case either. they look hideous if there are even any priced that low, not to mention airflow concerns to cool components.
    1.21 jigawatts
    > Case: Antec Three Hundred – $94 + $14.99 SH
    I don't see how it can be suggested to spend over a hundred dollars on a case, particularly on a budget system, particularly with sacrificing getting more memory, better video card, or monitor.
    PSU included...(thanks mattno!)
    Who needs more than 4GB? Not many. ;)
    Monitors are not inlucded in ANY builds. ;)
    I understand you would choose something different, and thats OK. This guide, as mentioned above and inside of it is merely a 'suggestion' and to 'customize your hardware selections after doing further research'. ;)
    I have 4GB. Ever play world of tanks? It would often crash or stall in starting a map, turns out closing browser, etc. fixed the problem. For $5-8 more, you can get 8GB of a different brand, like the Kingston hyper x 8GB listed for the $1100 Intel build, that takes care of such nuisances.
    A system with 8GB, 560ti, and 1tb drive can be had for under the tally of the $650 Intel system, for $40-60 over, also have a 60gb corsair force series 3 SSD. Much better systems for roughly the same cost.
    Nope, I dont play that game... never heard of it as a matter of fact. I hear what you are saying, but still for 90% of people even on here 4GB is still fine. Like the article said:
    This guide, as mentioned above and inside of it is merely a 'suggestion' and to 'customize your hardware selections after doing further research'.

    While everyone’s parts list will likely be different, we have put together a solid group of AMD and Intel builds that are a jack of all trades type system for almost any budget.

    CONCLUSION
    And with that everyone, this edition of the buyers guide is complete. I would imagine that there will be mentions of why choose this over that, or I would have chosen this over that. As we all discussed in the building of these machines, you are not going to please everyone all the time. The point of the article was to give a general idea of the parts you can buy from each camp at specific budget levels with overclocking and gaming in mind. Of course you will need to select parts more specific for your uses. For example, if you work with multiple resource intensive VM’s, you may want to look into more system ram or if you work with any program that can take as many cores as you can throw at it, you want to look at Hex cores or Hex’s with Hyperthreading (Intel). Or if you don’t overclock, don’t get more than the stock cooler and back off a bit on the motherboard. If you dont play games, go with an onboard GPU solution and drop the other vidoecard to save some money. Everyone’s needs will vary!

    Thanks for your input! :)
    1.21 jigawatts
    Is this paid advertising? Given the sticking to suggestions very out of sync with the build purpose, it comes off as product pitching for vendors.

    Nope.
    Your argument is getting a $10-20 case so more RAM or better GPU can be added?
    Personally, I'd like to have good airflow before dropping $15 on 8GB of RAM since 4GB is plenty for the vast majority of people. I'd also like good airflow before dropping a more powerful GPU in the system since that would be adding more heat (especially if overclocked), which would heat up the rest of your components. I don't know of $10-20 case with really good airflow, the 300 is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest case with really good airflow. That's why it is always suggested for builds where the case isn't a huge concern.
    If someone really needs 8GB and/or a better GPU, I would get a non-SLI/CFX board before getting a $10-20 case. Single card solutions can handle the mainstream resolution of 1920x1080 (or lower) so a SLI/CFX board wouldn't be needed.
    Basically, the individual needs to research and decide what is really needed for his system, and then make tweaks and adjustments as necessary.