How to build an all-rounder
If you’re looking for more than a value PC, it’s possible to get a significant step up in power for not much more money. For our all-round desktop, we’ve stepped up to Intel’s Core i5-2300 – one of its excellent Sandy Bridge processors.
It’s a quad-core part with a 2.8GHz clock speed, and its architecture delivers far more power than the AMD A6 chip we used for our value PC – as our benchmarks show.
The only drawback of the Core i5 is that its integrated GPU has less graphical power than AMD’s chip, meaning it’s fine for desktop applications and video, but unsatisfactory for 3D gaming. For that reason, we’ve partnered it with an AMD Radeon HD 5770 graphics card. That low £86 price tag reflects the fact that this card is a few years old, but it still has plenty of power, enabling the system to average 106fps in Crysis with Medium detail at 1,366 x 768.
CPU: Intel Core i5-2300 £138.18
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 £70.92
RAM: Corsair XMS3 Classic DDR3-1333 4GB kit £24.48
Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 5770 £85.88
Hard disk: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB £39.11
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHOS104-37 £38.75
Case: Antec 300 £38.75
Power supply: Corsair CX430
Total Cost: £480.62
The backbone of our system is an Asus P8P67 LE motherboard. Based on the Intel P67 chipset, this board won’t support the Core i5’s built-in GPU, but this isn’t a problem in this case.
And it offers all the connectors you might want, including two SATA 6Gbits/sec ports and two USB 3 sockets – in addition to four SATA 3Gbits/sec ports, six USB 2 ports, four DIMM sockets and a good spread of PCI Express and PCI slots. It also includes an IDE connector – helpful if you want to keep an old PATA hard disk or optical drive.
In this case, though, we’ve chosen brand-new drives; and although we’ve set our sights on a mid-range PC, we can’t do better than once more choosing the 1TB Samsung Spinpoint for its combination of capacity, speed and price.
For the optical drive we chose a LiteOn iHOS104-37, which brings Blu-ray playback as well as DVD- and CD-writing abilities (although it isn’t the fastest DVD writer, offering a maximum 8x write speed). Don’t forget that you’ll need third-party software to play Blu-ray movies.
For memory, we’ve stuck with a 4GB kit – there’s no need to go overboard, especially as we still have two spare DIMM sockets. Since the graphics card has its own dedicated onboard memory, we’ve chosen not to pay extra for high-speed system memory: a 4GB Corsair XMS3 Classic kit costs only £24.
Finally, the case and power supply. The Antec 300 is a solid case offering good looks and a simple, sensible layout that’s capable of accommodating even the biggest of components. To accompany it we’ve chosen the Corsair CX430 PSU. Its 430W output is plenty, and it’s distinctly quieter than the supply that came with our value PC case.
Sticking once more with Scan.co.uk as our supplier, the total cost of these components is below £500.
If you wanted to spend a little more, you could upgrade the graphics card, or pay £30 to move up to the unlocked Core i5-2500K processor, allowing you to gain extra performance through overclocking.
Upgrades are optional, though. As it stands, our all-rounder PC is more than capable of meeting today’s demands for both work and play, for less than £500.
How to build your own PC
Choosing your parts and building your PC
Move Windows to your new PC
How to build a value PC
How to build an all-rounder
How to build a premium machine
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