Cheap PC upgrade with 2nd Generation Intel Core i3 Processor for less than 300$

intel_i3_logoIn January 2012 the time has come for my old PC to die. For a day or so I was confused to identify the root cause—as I thought it could be the video card fault due to the BIOS beep pattern (endlessly repeating two short and one long) —but it turned out to be my super-hot (literally) motherboard ASUS A8N32-SLI. I assembled the PC in 2006, back in Switzerland, and since then I upgraded only the hard drives. Obviously, together with motherboard the other important  components were doomed: CPU and memory. It was an old AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800 for socket 939 working with DDR memory. But I thought it would be a good chance to upgrade. So I would keep my roomy ATX Thermaltake Swing Case, Gainward GeForce 7800GT PCX 512MB with fanless design, Thermaltake Toughpower 600W PSU, and all the hard drives. As this breakdown was unexpected, the budget was going to be miserable, very thin in fact. I also understood it had to be reasonable, as I was not going to buy crappy stuff. So I went down to the exploration part on the internet.

AMD new Bulldozer offer did not impress me at all, it was a fake cores feeling somehow. Intel on the contrary has opened new vistas with their successful 2nd generation Core CPU line. I was thinking about something close to 100$, and I found the fastest 3.30 GHz Intel Core i3-2120 Processor with 3M Cache. intel-core-i3-2120

The motherboard became a nice AsRock H61iCafe in LGA1155 ATX package with cool  AMI UEFI BIOS, SATA3 ports, USB3 and other good stuff for less than 100$. CPU and motherboard are both based on new Sandy Bridge platform. But AsRock reinforced Intel H61 chipset with USB3 and SATA3 support, which is great for saving money.

The rest is DDR3 8Gb (2x4Gb) 1333MHz DIMM Kingston [KVR1333D3N9K2/8G] and a Cooler Master Hyper 101 PWM. Again altogether for just 300$.

Then couple of hours for hardware assembly, getting Windows 7 Sp1 64-bit installed, and here we go—almost new computer:


Eventually I will change the video card as well, but not now.


What If I Want Six Cores in CPU?

Intel Core i7 - image courtesy of IntelSo what if I want six cores CPU for my computer, what options do I have, given that my budget is limited? Let’s begin with Intel products. Here we have Intel® Core™ i7-970 Processor with the following characteristics:

Codename: Gulftown
Number of cores: 6
Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz
Smart cache: 12 MB
Lithography: 32 nm
Max Memory Size (for DDR3-800/1066): 24 GB
Power Max TDP: 130 W
Socket: FCLGA1366
Price: 880 USD at, which is very expensive for me, yet I’m impressed, of course, with 32 nm technology.

Anything cheaper from Intel with six powerful cores? No. The only other option is Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, but that is 120$ more.

So what is on the other side, at AMD camp?