Build a DX10 rig for under £176

The Athlon also has twice the L1 cache of the Pentium, which gives it another advantage. The only area where the Athlon will really fall down is in video encoding, but unless you're intending to rip lots of DVDs, it's not particularly a huge issue.

Spend another fiver and you can pick up the Athlon 64 X2 4800+, running at 2.5GHz for £45. As all these CPUs are boxed retail products, you don't need to worry about buying a cooler either, as one is supplied.


If the CPU is the brain of your PC, then the motherboard is the body, and everyone wants the best body they can get. However, when you spend less than £50, you aren't going to get the best features.

On the other hand, you don't want to go for a £20 board, which will hamper your CPU and graphics card. If a £100 board is Kate Moss, and a £20 board is Jade Goody, then we're looking for something in between that you'd feel comfortable introducing to your mum.

The £30 mark seems to be a good starting point for this. As you may have noticed, while Intel tends to keep one socket for some time, AMD changes sockets frequently. So, we want something with a little future-proofing, which leaves us with the AM2+ socket.

There are a couple of decent boards that fit the bill, the Asus MNN-MX SE Plus and the Abit A-N68SV both at £31. They are both well priced, and should you suddenly find a fistful of tenners stuffed down the back of the sofa, will take the latest AMD Phenom CPUs. Okay, you don't get SLI, and the chipsets may lack some of the top-end features, but it's what's supported that counts.

Out of the two boards, the Abit A- N68SV has the better chipset and is the one we decided to use. The AM2+ socket enables us to use both the older AM2 and newer AM2+ chips. The mobo chipset is the nForce 630a, which while not the latest generation, is more than sufficient.

It supports dual-channel memory (533/667800MHz), 3GB SATA II including RAID 0, 1 and 5 and has onboard, 5.1 HD surround sound. As a micro-ATX board, there's only one PCI-e slot for graphics, but there are two PCI slots for any other cards you may want to add.

The board does have integrated DirectX 9 graphics, courtesy of the GeForce 7025 chipset, but that's easy enough to turn off in the BIOS. With four USB ports on the backplate, and the option to connect six more, you're not short of connectivity either.

Graphics Card

If there's one thing that'll start a punch-up, it's a debate about which brand of graphics card is best. Over the years the balance has swung from one to the other. Sometimes NVIDIA has the best cards, while at other times it's ATI (now AMD).

Just like Intel and AMD, both companies had a product that does the basic job, the real difference tends to be in performance or features at a certain price point.

Having said that, NVIDIA has been giving ATI a bit of a kicking in the last few years, and has carpet bombed the market with a vast array of models, from cheap integrated graphics to wallet-busting, discrete power-houses. If we look at the budget-end of the range, then NVIDIA has more to offer.

As a general rule of thumb, better tends to be more expensive, but you can get a surprisingly good card without breaking the bank. One of the best cards for your money is, of course, the 8800GT, but at £120 this is way beyond our budget. Reducing our expectations a little, we find the 8400GS is an extremely pleasing £21.