System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $500 PC

System Builder Marathon, December 2010: The Articles

Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please check out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $2,000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1,000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected


In this month's System Builder Marathon $500 PC, we plan to spend every penny (and then some) to strengthen some of the subsystems our last effort left lacking when we knocked $100 off our budget.

The system we set out to build one quarter ago was a low-cost box that would excel in all areas, not just gaming. The resulting machine represented nice platform balance for casual gamers, but certainly wouldn’t live up to the expectations of the hardcore enthusiasts who originally wanted to see how low we could go.

As we were quite pleased with the motherboard and processor, we didn’t look to spend more on either of these components. We added an affordable cooler and also benefited from AMD’s recent Athlon II speed bump, which provided us with an extra 100 MHz for the same cost.

$500 Gaming PC System Components

Price (U.S.D)
AMD Athlon II X3 445
CPU Cooler
Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92
ASRock M3A770DE
Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Model 996586
Sparkle SXX460768D5UNM GeForce GTX 460 768 MB
Hard Drive
Samsung Spinpoint F4 HD322GJ/U 320GB SATA 3.0Gb/s
Antec NSK 4482B Black
Antec EarthWatts Green 380 W included w/ case
Lite-On 24X DVD Burner SATA iHAS 124-04
Total Price


With the machine’s foundation established, we then looked to address the rig’s gaming prowess; specifically, the need for more graphics muscle. Rather than gamble and explore the M3A770DE’s x16/x4 CrossFire performance, we opted for the safer route of a single card. Finding Sparkle's GeForce GTX 460 768 MB in stock at $160 set the bar a bit higher than we originally anticipated.

Much-welcomed price drops brought four gigabytes of memory well under $100. The cheapest kit fit nicely within our budget, but then meant we could only afford a small bump in storage capacity.

The Antec EarthWatts 380D provided a boost in overall power supply quality, while delivering enough +12 V amperage to keep our overclocked components stable. This power supply was $45 on its own, but could be secured in the NSK 4482B chassis for a total price of $65. Our pricing chart above doesn’t reflect the available discount code, so in the end we come in a little over budget. Currently, the cost would be a bit higher, but making some parallel moves that take advantage of holiday savings could bring this machine down under $500.

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  • Silmarunya
    I always find this the most interesting of the three builds. The best possible build is quite obvious in the mid and high end, it's in this sort of budget machines that you really have to make tough choices. And just as always, I'm surprised to see the potency that this machine has.

    This could be a perfect family PC: a good GPU so the kids can do some standard gaming and there's room for GPU acceleration, a good CPU and large HDD for general purpose and a small footprint with little noise.

    Not exciting, but certainly a nice build.
  • excesssum
    G'damn... I wish we had these prices in Europe.
  • Silmarunya
    excesssumG'damn... I wish we had these prices in Europe.

    Yup, I sure wish. I'm living in Belgium at we're one of the most expensive in Europe. Buying in England, the Netherlands and especially Germany usually saves me quite a bit of cash, but even there prices are a lot higher than in the US. The extremely low taxes probably explain the difference :)
  • Nick_C
    So, NVidia 3 : ATi 0 - biased much?
  • LePhuronn
    Nick_CSo, NVidia 3 : ATi 0 - biased much?

    Oh shut up.

    These systems were built for best performance for the budget - right now Nvidia's taken the crown back.