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Build A Dual-Core PC Without Busting Your Budget

Want to roll your own cutting-edge computer? We've got advice on everything from the hot AMD Athlon X2 processor and the graphics subsystem to hints on putting the PC together.

The prospective PC builder faces a dilemma that's an outgrowth of the computer industry's success. With PCs so cheap, does it really make sense to roll your own? If you're talking about a PC equipped with one of the latest dual-core processors from AMD, the answer is yes.

In financial terms, because dual-core chips are the latest technology, there's less of a price differential between an off-the-shelf box and a system you can piece together yourself than is the case for low-end processors. As a consumer, rather than being forced to choose from a Chinese menu of canned configurations, you can spend your money on pure performance.

Building your own hot computer is also a valuable learning experience, one you'd do well to consider taking advantage of before PCs become like today's cars, with few user-serviceable parts inside.

In this article, we'll build a system around a dual-core Athlon X2 processor from AMD. In a future article, we'll construct a separate box using a dual-core Pentium D from Intel.

In terms of price, we're taking a two-pronged approach. We're building a high-end PC appropriate for multimedia or gaming, which will cost about $1,400. However, if you choose a slightly slower dual-core processor instead, you can bring the project in for less than $1,000. My philosophy in approaching the build is to go for fun and pretty much good enough, as opposed to doing an exhaustive analysis to obtain the absolute best components for the price for every aspect of the PC.

In the interest of full disclosure, AMD provided both the processor and the motherboard for our project. The rest of the stuff we paid for ourselves.

Budget For AMD Dual-Core PC

Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6 GHz processor: $745
(Low-cost option; Athlon 64 X2 3800+: $325)
Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard: $230
1 GB DDR2 RAM: $80
200 GB Hitachi Hard Drive: $88
Diablo Black Case w/ 400 W Power Supply: $35
Leadtek GeForce 6200 graphics card: $45
A/Open DVD burner: $40
Windows XP Home OEM edition: $89
Monitor/keyboard/mouse: $0 (on-hand)

Total: $1,372 ($952 w/ 3800+ CPU)

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