3.1GHz Quad Core System on the Cheap: $200
The need for cheap speed!
Yesterday I read a nice little article over at Anandtech about unlocking the extra two cores in AMD Phenom II X2 555 CPUs. This lets you take a dual core CPU and turn it into a quad core CPU*.
*The extra two cores aren’t guaranteed to unlock and be 100% reliable, but it’s easy to stress test and see if your particular CPU can handle it. Reading other people’s experiences it looks like the success rate is 70%+ which is good enough for me to give it a shot. Worst case I’m left with a nice dual core system that could still be overclocked even if it couldn’t be unlocked.
I’ve been wanting to build a nice little system when I return from Hawaii, but I didn’t want to spend much money on it. This build looked perfect so I decided to bite the bullet!
I couldn’t find the X2 555 anywhere so I went with the AMD Phenom II X2 550 from NewEgg. That CPU is one step down from the 555, so a 3.1GHz CPU instead of 3.2GHz. The cooling fan was a bundle special on NewEgg, ending up only being $4.99
Memory: DDR2 $0 (already owned this)
I’m using spare DDR2 RAM that I already have at home. I should have at least 4GB and maybe even 8GB.
Motherboard: ASRock for $69.99
This was the toughest choice. I wanted cheap, reliable, and compact. I think I found all three :-). The ASRock A785GMH/128M. It supports a wide variety of AMD CPUs: AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G, has HDMI out (with audio passed through I believe), and is a nice small Micro ATX format.
It was a tough choice between integrated graphics or discrete (add on) graphics. I decided to get a board with integrated b/c it would cut costs and I can always disable it if I need more power. The built in HD 4200 graphics are actually decent enough for modern 3D games at lower resolutions: Sims 3, World of Warcraft (WoW) [29.4 FPS at 1280×1024 Source: AMD PDF], Left 4 Dead, etc. You can find some more gaming benchmarks here. I don’t do much hardcore gaming so this should do just fine for now :-).
Storage: SSD $0 (already owned this)
I’ll be putting a spare 80GB X-25M SSD in this machine, it should scream!
Case: ASUS TM-211 $25 (300 watt power supply included)
I used some spare “eBay bucks” to get a case and power supply for $25. I would have liked to add a nice super-efficient power supply, but for now this one will do (and there’s a chance I already have a spare high efficiency PS at home). Plus I’ll be running it off of solar energy so there won’t be any adverse environmental effects if it sucks a little extra juice.
Total cost: $198.52
The total (including case) should be about $198.53. Of course I’m using RAM and a storage device that I already had. If you didn’t have those on hand then you could probably get RAM & HD for $50-$100 bucks. So you’re looking at $250-$300, still not bad for a pretty darn fast system!
Order Date: 2010.01.29
|Shipped from TN, USA|