Sub-$600 general purpose PC, complete with Blu-ray support

Sub-$600 general purpose PC, complete with Blu-ray support

Summary: One thing that's become clear to me from comments and emails that I receive is that readers want me to strike a balance between high-end stuff and the more affordable lower-end solutions. Today I'm going to outline a high-quality yet affordable PC that's up to the job of handling Blu-ray.

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One thing that's become clear to me from comments and emails that I receive is that readers want me to strike a balance between high-end stuff and the more affordable lower-end solutions. Today I'm going to outline a high-quality yet affordable PC that's up to the job of handling Blu-ray.

Component gallery here!

This system would be ideal as a general desktop PC, yet powerful enough to be used as a media center or for casual gaming.

Oh, and the good part - you end up with change from your $600!

Note: Prices correct at time of writing (Newegg.com). No special offers included. Monitor, peripherals, OS and shipping not included in price.

Here are the parts ...

CPU

This system is built around an Intel CPU. Because price is an issue here you're not going to get the latest technology, but thanks to continual price drops, you can get a very decent processor for under $100 (complete with heatsink and fan).

The CPU I've chosen here is the Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core (code-named Allendale). This piece runs at 2.2GHz so it will deliver enough power for most people's needs. It is based on the older 65nm technology which does mean that it will run hotter than more modern processors of the same speed, but that's unlikely to cause a problem.

The overclockers amongst you should be able to get these pieces of silicon to around 3.0GHz.

Price: $80

Motherboard

The trick to picking a motherboard for a budget PC is getting a good one without having to pay and arm and a leg for it. You also want a motherboard that's at least a little bit future proof so that you can at some point in the future stick a new CPU in the system and give it a new lease of life.

The board I've chosen for this build is a Foxconn G33M. Being a G33 chipset means that you get support for all the latest 45nm LGA775 chips (up to 1,333MHz FSB), all on a board that's Vista-certified (so you should have no hassles using power management and such). You also get 4 x SATA 3.0Gb/s, support for 8GB of RAM, 7.1 channel HD audio, 12 USB 2.0 ports and gigabit LAN. Nice board!

Price: $85

RAM

While you don't want to overspend on RAM for a budget PC (forget DDR3 and even DDR2 speeds over DDR2 800/PC2 6400), you also don't want to cheap out and buy RAM that's going to give you problems down the line. That means buying branded RAM.

I've never had problems with Kingston RAM so for this build I'm going with what I trust - 2GB (2 x 1GB) of Kingston 240-Pin DDR2 800/PC2 6400 RAM.

Price: $40

Next -->

Video card

When it comes to video cards it's very easy to go and blow your whole budget on the one piece and then be left having to cut a lot of corners with the rest of the components. However, thanks to a price war between AMD/ATI and NVIDIA, it's never been cheaper to pick up a good quality graphics card for around the $50 mark.

For this budget PC, I not only wanted the graphics card to cost $50 or less, but I also wanted it to be powerful enough to allow casual gaming, support HDCP, have an HDMI output (so no messing with adapters) and preferably be fanless (so noise is kept down to a minimum).

The card I've chosen here is the DIAMOND 3450PE512SB Radeon HD 3450 512MB, which satisfies almost all the above criteria. A good, solid, all-round card.

Price: $50

Hard drive

OK, storage. At the budget end of the spectrum you need to be looking at drives with a capacity in the region of 500-640GB as these currently offer the best bang for the buck.

The drive I've chosen is the Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA drive. It's not the fastest drive going, but its fast enough for most applications, and it has the advantage of being a very quite drive, again helping to make the PC suited to media center use.

Price: $90

Blu-ray drive

Since this PC has Blu-ray support, we need to find a cheap Blu-ray drive!

One of the cheapest (and best) that I've had experience of is the Lite-On DH-401S. For a $125 you get a drive that can handle all Blu-ray, DVD and CD formats. This connects to your PC using SATA. Note thought that for the price you DO NOT get a disc writer (if you want this feature I suggest getting a separate CD/DVD writer).

Price: $125

PSU

The PSU doesn't need to be big, doesn't need to be fancy and doesn't need to cost too much.

I've gone for a 350 Watt FSP unit that's rated as an ultra-high efficiency unit. Not only is this PSU kind to the skies (and in turn, your pocket), it's also nice and quiet, so if you choose to use your PC as a media center you hear the movie, not the PC!

Price: $40

Case

Finally, a box to cram everything into. Unless you have money to burn or are going to be carting your PC about to LAN parties then the case can be pretty basic.

For this build I've gone for a GIGABYTE GZ-X5BPD-500 black mid tower, which is spacious enough for all the parts. This case is nothing special, but it is quite high quality and free from nasty, hand-ripping sharp edges, which is a bonus.

Price: $35

Total build cost: $545 

Thoughts?

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Topics: Processors, Hardware, Mobility, Storage

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77 comments
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  • Very similar to my rig

    I built a few months ago. I saved a little by using an ASUS board forgoing the graphics card and sticking with the on board Intel GPU. I really do like that E2200 cpu.
    btidwell
    • Asus board is good, got a tuner card?

      I also have the Asus board. Do you have a tuner card? I don't recommend my Avermedia dual input whitebox special.
      maejunkmail
  • Blu-ray

    Nero (and others) offer software that can play Blu-ray disks without a specialized drive for less than $30. Worth attention? And, if so, what would you spend the extra money on?
    Anton Philidor
    • Blue Ray

      who actually gives a damn about Blue Ray?I know no one that cares at all.I don't intend to but into it any time soon.
      bwchato
      • Reads PS3 Discs

        The Blue Ray Disk he chose is REPORTED to be able to read the PS3 Game Disks. Does this means he plans on copying them or what? Just curious. I think Sony likes their proprietary format, and they are anti-user-friendly.

        I like the Intel DG35EC motherboard with integrated video. It is great for an All-SATA system. I have one and it works great even if it can only handle 1.8v DDR2.
        ceh4702
        • If it were RIAA, he'd be sued already LOL

          According to the RIAA providing the potential ability to do something is the same as doing it. Their gestapo would already be on his doorstep with guns blazing.
          BillDem
    • I'm curious

      How is it you think you're going to read that Blu-ray disk without a Blu-ray drive? Software will not make a DVD-ROM drive or any other optical drive that isn't a Blu-ray drive read a Blu-ray disk. What you are talking about is simply software that allows the playing of Blu-ray or copying or playing of a HD video already on your hard drive, you still need the drive to read a Blu-ray disk.

      I'm really curious as to what magic you think is going to read that Blu-ray disk. Just hold it up to your monitor?
      zdnetaaaaaa19
      • Watch out...

        ...people may start holding their blu ray disks up to their monitors...:o)
        melekali
    • Well...

      ...if what you stated were true, I'd add 6 GB RAM
      melekali
  • RE: Sub-$600 general purpose PC, complete with Blu-ray support

    Does this motherboard support Linux ? Last week you reported that the Foxconn G33M-S had no native Linux support. Does the G33M play well with Linux ?
    chuckleberry
    • Not now, but Foxconn promised...

      Have a look at this:
      https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/251338

      Apparently this is not only Foxconn issue, ASUS and MSI are also in the camp of Linux abusers. :-)

      Seriously: looks like somebody heavily customized AMI BIOS to inject ACPI support fault... :-(
      Solid Water
  • The bottom line

    In my experience building ones own computer will always be cheaper, depending on the place and if they make you purchase an operating system... It can really add up! i remember way back when, no one in my house was capable of build a computer, and basically we would be paying something ridiculous like $300 for labour and the operating system, that was way back when windows 95 was default...
    EmenbladE
  • Solid suggestions

    Solid base system, tweakable for different uses and, a has basic future proofing.

    Future proofing
    Larger HDD, more RAM and a faster 775 chip down the line.

    For a more gaming orientated rig, swap the Blue-ray out for a cheap DvD drive and purchase a low end 4850.

    I could go on, but you get the gist:

    Solid base for a new PC.
    Tailor and tweak the components to fit your requirements.
    EvilBean
    • Thank you, Captain Obvious!

      but re-read the title of the article
      IAmLegion20ll
  • You didn't mention an OS...

    So, with the money left...ad the fact that you said "under
    $600", I'm guessing you're going for an open source OS?
    grlamberty
    • Or forget the case ...

      ... and buy a System Builder Vista Home Basic OEM and still keep it under $600 :-)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Without Windows

        that Blu-Ray drive won't be doing you much good anyway.
        Michael Kelly
        • Are you sure about that?

          DRM is just [b]so[/b] pointless:

          https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/BluRayAndHDDVD
          Zogg
          • It can still provide a hurdle

            You'll notice that you have to rip the disc to play it, you can't just pop in a disc and play the movie. And that's if you aren't restricted by (or ignore) American laws.
            Michael Kelly
          • Diddums.

            I suspect you only have to rip each disc once, rather like converting those CDs you buy into MP3 files. You then just [b]save[/b] the decrypted files somewhere and put your original disc away for safe-keeping.
            Zogg