System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $650 Gaming PC

CPU And Cooler

Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition

The original intent was to squeeze a Phenom II X3 processor into this month’s budget machine, but in the end, it just wasn’t a possibility. The $100 Phenom II X3 710 we used in a recent overclocking article was out of stock and the $120 Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition pushed us just outside the flexibility of our budget.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's Phenom II X2 550

Instead, we opted for the AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition which has seen serious street pricing fluctuations since its release. This Phenom II has two functioning cores, runs at 3.1 GHz, and has 6MB L3 cache. It won’t offer the same performance as a triple-core in many of our multi-threaded applications, but with higher stock core speeds, should put up some higher numbers in the single- and dual-threaded tests. Further, it provides solid overclocking potential and, if you are lucky, even has the potential to successfully unlock the disabled cores. 

CPU Cooler: AMD Boxed Cooler

The first sacrifice we made in the interest of cramming all of these goodies into a $650 budget was utilizing the “free” bundled AMD cooler. The all-aluminum heatsink is identical to the one on our Phenom II X3 710, and has nowhere near the cooling potential as the copper-base and heat pipes found on the upper quad-core Phenom IIs. A 70mm x 15mm fan covers most of the aluminum, making this cooler look downright puny compared to one of the 92mm or 120mm aftermarket coolers we would like to have used. We may not be able to push CPU voltage far with this cooler, but the dual-core Phenom II still has the potential to reach 3.5 GHz at stock voltage.

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  • dynamicchuck
    How do you win computers from here?
  • shotgunshand
    "Keep an eye on this space; this is where we'll post the link to enter the contest for all three systems once the series concludes! "

    Hope this helps.
  • Solitaire
    Two HD4850s may be cheaper than a single HD5850, but that changes when you add the added expense of a 650W+ PSU and a CrossFire mobo to the mix...
  • Anonymous
    Is it possible to buy this PC? It definitely earned my attention even if I don't understand this whole BLOG.