Intel CPU: Core i5-2300 (2.8GHz) w/ Bundled Cooling
Current Cost: $178
Turning to our Intel CPU recommendation, we're sticking with the 2.8GHz i5-2300 Sandy Bridge processor. With 6MB of L3 cache and 256KB on each of its four cores, this quad-core processor offers an ideal balance of power and affordability.
AMD Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-990XA-UD3 AM3+ (AMD 990X)
Current Price: $130
While we did not decide to switch over to an AMD FX processor in this guide, going with an AM3+ motherboard just seems to make sense. The Gigabyte GA-990XA-UD3, with an AMD990X chipset, offers three PCI-E slots (one at x16, one at x8 and one at x4), two PCIe 2.0 slots, two PCI slots, two USB 3.0 rear-panel ports and four rear-panel USB 2.0 ports. Also included are Gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio, and six SATA 6GB/s connections.
Intel Motherboard: MSI P67A-G43 (P67)
Current Price: $115
This MSI P67A-G43, with a P67 chipset, offers two PCI-E slots, two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, four memory slots (with support for up to 32GB of RAM), two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, integrated 8-channel audio and two SATA 6GB/s connections.
Memory: G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-4GBPK 2 x 2GB kit
Current Price: $25
The 4GB G.SKILL kit once again remains our choice for both of our builds and should offer plenty of memory for an entry-level gaming machine. This kit will leave two memory slots available in each system, providing users who find themselves needing (or just wanting) more memory with room to grow.
Hard Drive: Hitachi HDS721050CLA362 500GB (Bare Drive)
Current Price: $80
While hard drive prices have been coming back down, they're still not where they'd been prior to the shortages created by the widespread flooding in Thailand this past year. As such, the 7200rpm 500GB Hitachi HDS721050CLA362 remains our choice for this build, offering plenty of storage space and performance for its $80 price.
Optical LG 22X Super-Multi DVD Burner GH22NS90B (OEM)
Current Price: $18
For our optical drive, this time around we decided to go with the LG 22X Super-Multi DVD Burner (GH22NS90B). It has a 1.5MB buffer and offers read speeds of 16X on DVD-ROM and 48x on CD-ROM. Its burning speeds go up to 22X on DVD+r and DVD-R, 48X on CD-R and 32X on CD-RW.
Video Card: ASUS Radeon HD 6770 (EAH6770/DI/1GD5)
Current Price: $115
The RADEON HD 6770 continues to offer the best bang for buck at this price point. With prices on models changing daily, we decided to look at one of the offerings from ASUS this time around, going with a model that offers one HDMI, one DVI and one analog port.
LCD: Acer S211HLbd 21.5" 5ms 1920x1080
Current Price: $120
Also changing is our monitor recommendation, with the best model we could find that would fit into the budget being this 21.5" model from Acer. It offers a 5ms response time, 1000:1 contrast ratio and 1920x1080 resolution. Connections include an analog connector and a DVI port.