Building a $1,000 Core 2 Duo PC

Building a $1,000 Core 2 Duo PC

Summary: Here's a question I received by email the other day: "I want to build a general purpose Core 2 Duo based PC that costs no more that $1,000. How would you spend the cash?"

TOPICS: Hardware

Here's a question I received by email the other day:

"I want to build a general purpose Core 2 Duo based PC that costs no more that $1,000.  How would you spend the cash?"


The first place to start is to choose a CPU out of the Core 2 Duo range.  Here's a table listing the features and approximate prices of the Core 2 Duo processors:

ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo E6300Intel Core 2 Duo E6400Intel Core 2 Duo E6600Intel Core 2 Duo E6700Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
Clock speed (GHz)1.832.132.42.672.93
FSB (MHz/MT/s)266/1066 QDR266/1066 QDR266/1066 QDR266/1066 QDR266/1066 QDR
Pipeline stages1414141414
L1 cache - (total per core (KB)6464646464
L2 cache total (MB)22444
Thermal Design Power/TDP (W)6565656575
Instruction Set Architecture (ISA)x86
Operating voltage (V)1.2 -
1.2 -
1.2 -
1.2 -
1.2 -
Approx price ($)1802253205301,000

To me, the Core 2 Duo E6600 is the best option for a general purpose PC - it's powerful, cheap and has tons of room for squeezing more power from it through a bit of overclocking.

OK, so that's $320 spent.  That leaves $680 left to spend!

Next. a motherboard.  I'm partial to ASUS motherboards so my choice would be the P5W DH Deluxe. It's a bit pricey at $270 but at present there aren't an awful lot of choices and I like the overclocking tools that come with ASUS boards.  I also like this board because it offers ample scope for future upgrades (more RAM, hard drives, etc).

$410 left to spend.

Next tough choice - graphics card.  If I were building this system as a general purpose PC that was going to be used for gaming I would fit a Sapphire Radeon X1600PRO. For $100 this would give the system all the graphics power it would need while keeping the cost at a reasonable level.

2 x 512MB OCZ Gold Series 240-Pin DDR2 800 is darn good value at $100 and is enough to make sure that Windows Vista will run on the system just nicely.  We're now left with $210 to spend.

What's left?  Well, we still need storage.  A 160GB Western Digital SATA drive costs about $65.  Plenty of storage space at a reasonable price.

We still need a few bits.  A PSU in the 500W range should be more than ample and a decent one will cost about $40, while a DVD writer (16x) costs about $30.  The total for the system is now $925, leaving $75 for a chassis and any miscellaneous bits and bobs (like cables).

System Summary

CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E6600$320
MotherboardASUS P5W DH Deluxe$270
Graphics cardSapphire Radeon X1600PRO$100
RAM2 x 512MB of OCZ Gold Series 240-Pin DDR2 800$100
Hard drive160GB Western Digital SATA$65
Optical driveDVD 16x writer$30
 Total cost$1,000
That's how I'd spend $1,000 on a Core 2 Duo system.  How would you?

Topic: Hardware

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  • What about the OS?

    I guess Linux is free...
    • $1,000 on hardware

      I assumed $1,000 on hardware ... there's wriggle room in the spec to include XP into the price though.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • He does not need an O/S...

      ... as he has no human/computer interface hardware. To install your O/S you need keyboard, mouse and screen. Add another few hundred.

      Also, if I was installing Linux I would use an older graphics card as the "cutting edge" stuff tends to be a bit short on support. Also Nvidia stuff seems better supported than ATi and most Linux has support for OpenGL.

      My spec would involve a cheaper processor, cheaper motherboard (forget overclocking - it's not worth the gain), more memory (more effective than overclocking) and a 17" panel.

      If I was using it for business I would install Linux. If I was using it for gaming then Windows.
      • The guy's upgrading from an existing system

        He already had a keyboard, mouse and screen.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Fair point....

          ... but it won't help anyone building it from scratch. Also with the state of WGA etc, it is becoming an issue as to whether or not you can transfer a Windows licence from your old box (now scrapped) to your new box. From the way things are heading you might be alright for now but in the future you might need to add a Windows licence.

          I'm puzzled by your choice of processor. The previous processor in the series was only marginally slower and $100 cheaper. Was that few percent of performance really worth the near 50% increase in price?
          • The E6400 only has 2MB L2 cache

            As for transfering a Windows License, unless it's OEM there's no issue (unless WGA goes haywire on you ...).
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • How much for a "barebones" system?

    Right now, my hardware needs are not much outside wanting a better CPU; My 700MHz Athlon is starting to show its age. I'll be giving that system to my mother, who only needs it to work on the net.

    My main concern is the ATA ports on the motherboard. I have 2 HDDs and 2 DV units, including a burnner. All are PATA, so I need a board that can support PATA as well as SATA whenever I get a chance to upgrade the drives.
    Mr. Roboto
    • The P5W has support for 4 PATA devices

      Check ou thte spec:

      "2 x ATA100 up to 4 Devices"

      Hope that helps.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • Bare indeed

      You're upgrading a 700 MHz Athlon. Sounds like you're not looking for a twitch gaming system.

      Have a look at the Fry's specials. I picked up an ECS mobo + Athlon-64 3000+ last week for $89. Spend the savings on DRAM.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
  • I'd never spend that much on a motherboard

    Nothing over $100 for me and more likely around $70 for the motherboard. Then I'd spend about $200 on the graphics card and clock it up. I would use a good solid case and I would always use a silent and efficient 330 W power supply (that pays for itself in a year).

    Yes, 330 W on a super efficient power supply is enough to power my power hungry P4 3.4 with two hard drives and two DVD burners and a powerful video card reliably. A core2 dual would actually require 100 watt less and I would actually get a smaller ATX active PFC power supply if they made them.
    • Running a CPU at stock speeds

      ... I'd buy a cheap mobo, but for overclocking I find cheaper boards too unstable. I like the precise control over voltages that the ASUS boards offer.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • The more expensive boards from ECS

        Those do pretty well and they're in the $120 range. The ASUS board you pointed to is a premium board, but way too expensive for my taste. The only way I'd use that board is if I were pairing it with an X6800 which I wouldn't buy in the first place.
    • Good point about the PSU

      A great PSU is the seasonic, it is very efficient.

      But I cant agree about the motherboard, a good one tends to last longer,FSB 1066+ is where I would be looking.

  • $1000 is too much

    you are spending to much money to support just a processor.

    maybe you shold wait till it comes out and maby after christmas too if you really want to be a noob pc builder.
    not of this world
    • Hmmmm

      $1,000 feels about right to me ... but I've never been a cheap PC person!

      If I was building a Conroe PC, I'd spend more like $2,000!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • plz be specific

        i assume you use an intel MB due to the fact they built the chip set and bios specs.

        what other parts would you use ?
        ata, cdrom, floppy, keybord, mouse, monitor, printer, usb accessories, headphones, lan,

        why not just replace your old MB in your current atx case and keep everything else ?
        not of this world
        • The summary made it clear what was in the price

          Reuse of parts is a complex issue - I'm not getting into that here!
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • If this guy is upgrading...

            ... then you could have skipped the DVD burner too, and reused his current optical drives. He can also reuse his existing Windows license (WGA turns it off on the original PC, not the new one).

            I agree with George on the power supply, 500W is WAY too much. For whatever reason, PC builders have this fetish for putting in way too much PSU. It isn't like inches in an engine, you won't go any faster, just waste money. The Sun T1000 Niagara server runs at 180W average, and peaks at 220W. I have a dual Xeon server at work that I am building with 4 SATA drives and a 330 or so PSU. Big PSU's just waste money. OEM systems come with 100W - 200W PSUs typically, and when I worked at a computer repair/upgrade place, it was very rare that we would see a problem with the PSU.

            Justin James
  • You forgot to include a monitor to hook to that $100 video card.

    Unless you have a spare somewhere.
    Hallowed are the Ori
    • Optional extra!


      I should have added in a small font "Monitor not supplied".
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes