Buying a New Computer - January 08 Update!

By: Steven Barnett

It's that time of year when new parts are being released and I need to upgrade my guide on buying new during January.

I have already given alot of useful information in my , which should be very useful and worth reading.

I will show you 3 different setups at increasing price and performance levels. I am not going to include the cost of a monitor and peripheral devices in these systems, so you may want to bear that in mind when calculating costs as they can add on a few hundred dollars. We mainly just want to look at the best value parts available and justify the reasons for or against different upgrades.

Entry Level System ($500-$1000 AUD)

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo e2160

Motherboard: Good quality ASUS P5K or Gigabyte to suit your choice of processor for less than $150 AUD

Memory: 2gb DDR2 667

Hard-Drive: Western Digital 250GB

Graphics Card: Onboard or ATi HD 512 3850

DVD Drive
: Lightscribe/Pioneer DVD Burner

Power Supply and Case: 400-450W will easily suffice and your choice of case, I wouldn't recommend spending anything more than $150 here. What I do suggest is to go into your local shop and have a look at the range, then make the decision.

This system is very much ideal for the home user. It will handle all office applications with ease and have enough power as a low end HTCP machine.

If you have no intention of gaming, then the HD 3850 is a waste. Simply use the motherboards onboard video, or purchase a cheap ATi HD 2600 Pro, which will easily suffice.

If you are looking to build one of these systems, what I suggest you do is select all your parts, excluding the processor and see how much money remains. From here, you want to do some research into the different processors available and see what you can squeeze into your budget. From there you can look back at your previous selections and opt for cheaper parts if you have the need. The range can be anywhere from the $75 AUD of the e2160, through to $185 AUD for the E6750, if you can afford the luxury ;)

Midrange System ($1000-$1500 AUD)

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo e8400 OR q6600 (g0 stepping)

Motherboard: ASUS p35 - look on the and choose one which suits your budget and needs

Memory: 2gb DDR2 800

Only ddr-800 if overclocking, if not, then ddr-667 is plenty, as any more is a waste.

Hard-Drive: Western Digital 320GB

Graphics Card: nVidia 512mb 8800GT (if none in stock, then the ATi 512mb 3870)

DVD Drive: Lightscribe/Pioneer DVD Burner

Power Supply and Case: 450-550W should be enough. If you plan on overclocking, you may want to consider putting a little extra money into the cooling system. Good recommendations are the Antec 900, Coolermaster Stacker

830 and the Lian-Li range which offer a good quality design. Also, pay extra for a good quality power supply! It is one of your most important pieces of equipment and you do not want it to fail on you (I speak from experience here).

If you want quad core now, which means performance advantages in newer games and an extreme multi-tasking ability, with the potential for a hefty overclock, then go for the q6600.

If you want a fast powerful machine where you do minimal multi-tasking and can achieve a similar performance at this point in time as quad cores and even more potential for overclocking, then take the e8400. Bear in mind, there is a fair price difference of ~$100 AUD. If I were to walk out and buy a computer tomorrow it would have to be the e8400, it is the newest technology and will run quieter and cooler with the 45nm architecture.

You could either go for 2gb or 4gb, depending on how your budget is looking, but another rule of thumb is as follows;

Do not get over 2gb of DDR2 ram, unless you have 64-bit Windows Vista.

If you do not have this, the extra ram will not be recognised and it will be a pointless waste of money.

The hard-drive size is up to you, the more storage, the higher the cost.

The 512mb 8800gt is hands down the best value card on the market at the moment for its pure power and thermal control.



High End System ($1500-$2000 AUD)


CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo e8400 OR q6600 (g0 stepping)

Motherboard: ASUS or Gigabyte 650/680i board to allow you to have SLi. Bear in mind, this will perhaps put the final price just beyond $2k and I don't think it is a realistic choice at this stage, but you can at least have the option later down the track. If you don't want SLi, then stick to the P35 boards.

Memory: 4gb DDR2 800

Hard-Drive: Western Digital 500GB

Graphics Card: nVidia 512mb 8800GTS

DVD Drive: Lightscribe/Pioneer DVD Burner

Power Supply and Case: 550W is more realistic here. Once again, you want a good quality power supply (Thermaltake is a good brand for this) and the case must offer great cooling. I suggest you do some research before buying your case and really decide what you want and need. Many people will still swear by the Antec 900's cooling ability, but many will tell you otherwise, so realistically, you have to make the decision on this one.

The same issue applies with the CPU in the high-end system as in the midrange as the low price of the e8400 makes it almost irresistible.

The 512mb 8800GTS is simply the most powerful card at a realistic value. Going SLi is a big decision and I suggest you read up on the disadvantages and benefits of it.

I have an article coming up for this so bookmark the site (Ctrl+D) or subscribe to my RSS feed in the top right hand corner.

Stick around for further updates at my website and I hope this helps you in your next computer purchase.

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