The $150 Budget Desktop PC

Posted in Uncategorized by QuietOC on February 13, 2010

So you want a really cheap but decent performing system. Perhaps you have seen $1000 budget computer buying guides or maybe even $500 buying guides. Well, those are all too expensive. There is actually quite of bit of choice for components for a $150 system. Of course we can’t include the monitor, Windows, or even the keyboard or mouse. In fact we may be dumpster diving to scrounge up an old case and an optical drive, but probably you already have those. If you do check out the dumpsters you may find a whole working PC, but it will probably won’t be one you will want to use. So let’s look for some new components!

$150 PC Components

AMD Sempron LE-1250 — $20
Foxconn A74MX-K (740G) — $40
250 GB Samsung S250 — $40
2 GB DDR2 800 — $25
300W In Win PS — $25
Used ATX Case — free
Used DVD-ROM Drive — free

Processor Chip (CPU)

The Sempron LE-1250 has been out for quite a while, and while it is still available, you probably won’t be able to find the retail box version that comes with a warranty, heatsink, and fan for $20. StarMicro has what is probably the bare chip with a 30-day warranty for $21. I would recommend getting the newer retail box Sempron 140 from Newegg for $32.99. This is new Sempron is a 45nm Athlon II X2 with one core disabled, which should mean it can overclock over 3.5GHz easily and pretty much match a Core 2 clock for clock for performance.

Motherboard (the big circuit board)

The Foxconn A74MX-K motherboard is focused on low power. The big sticker on the box even says “Designed for low power CPUs.” What this means is that this motherboard has fewer voltage regulation stages in its CPU power supply circuits called VRMs. Specifically this board has a 3×3 VRM arrangement–3 power phases with 3 VRMs per phase. Fewer power phases consume less heat for the same output, but conversely the power load is also spread over fewer chips, so the individual components in each phase are being stressed more. 3 phase CPU power  is about as low as motherboards go, though Foxconn makes a few 2-phase Intel LGA775 motherboards. No LGA775 chipset is anywhere near as low power is AMD’s chipsets. And the 740G is the lowest power AMD chipset.  When combined with a single core CPU and some undervolting this combination can use as little power as a laptop. Despite the limitation there is even some overclocking ability, just don’t try it with a quad core Phenom.

File Storage (spinning magnetic disk drive)

It is hard to find a really good hard drive for less than $50. Currently the best deal is a 1TB 2-platter 7200rpm drives with the Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ being the best for about $76. The 500 GB single platter drives are the next best choice, and the Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ is also recommended and available for around $50. Western Digital Caviar Blues and Blacks are normally slightly faster than the same generation Samsung Spinpoints, but Western Digital has yet to release the smaller drives with 500 GB platters.

Memory (RAM chips)

Memory hasn’t gotten cheaper, so it will be difficult to find 2GB of DDR2 800 for $25. Luckily memory capacity and speed is often not a big factor in performance. The built-in video on the 740G will more likely be limited by the CPU performance than by the memory speed, but the faster integrated chipsets such as AMD’s 760G, 780G, 785G, and 790GX greatly benefit from faster memory.





7-Zip Results

Motherboard/CPU/Memory Power Consumption

800MHz @ 0.784V — 18W Idle / 19W load
1.6GHz @ 0.784V — 19W Idle / 22W load


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