Phenom II Entry

With Intel and AMD price reductions and AMD filling out the Phenom II line you can now buy a Phenom II CPU for as little as $119. With Phenom II pricing that low you can put together an entry Phenom II system for a very low price and still expect amazing performance and superb value.

If you look back at the earlier System Buyers' Guide: PCs for Under $1000, you will find our cheapest AMD system, based on the $63 Athlon 64 X2 505E Brisbane, had a base system price (before monitor, speakers, input devices and OS) of $324. Today's Phenom II Entry PC is two generations more recent, 3 cores, and 6MB L3 cache. It achieves much higher performance than the Athlon 64 X2 system and yet the base system cost is just $40 more. That represents phenomenal value and bang for the buck.

Phenom II Entry PC
Hardware Component Price
Processor AMD Phenom II X3 710
(2.6GHzx3, 3x512KB L2, 6MB L3 Cache)
Cooling AMD Retail HSF -
Video Integrated Graphics -
Motherboard ASRock A780GXE/128M (CF Capable) 780GX ATX $80
Memory Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) - Model JM4GDDR2-8K $43
Hard Drive WD Caviar GP WD5000AACS 500GB $59
Optical Drive Samsung 22X DVDRW/DL SH-S202G $24
Audio On-Board Audio -
Case SIGMA La Vie ABWBP Black Aluminum/ SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W Power Supply (after $25 rebate) $40
Power Supply Sigma 500Watt (included with case) -
Base System Total $365
Display ASUS VK221D Black 21.6" 5ms Widescreen LCD (1680x1050) - with 1.3MP Webcam $150
Speakers Logitech R-20 12 Watts RMS 2.1 Multimedia Speaker $18
Input Microsoft CA9-00001 Black PS/2 Standard Keyboard and Optical USB/PS2 Mouse - OEM $16
Operating System Microsoft Vista Home Premium OEM $99
Complete System Price $649

Prices on all processors are continuing to drop in the face of the continued, aggressive pricing strategy adopted by Intel. The new AMD Phenom II 710 is priced at just $119, but that $119 gets you a 2.6GHz triple-core CPU with each core featuring 512KB of L2 cache (total 1.5MB). The three cores share the same 6MB L3 cache as the more expensive X4 Phenom II chips. Performance in our tests was generally competitive with the Intel Core 2 Quad at $170 and the AMD Phenom X4 9950 at $148. Clearly, the 710 is a good value at $119.


The 780G chipset is one of the best budget IGP designs we have worked with over the years. This is the chipset that made integrated graphics relevant again. One of the best boards in this price category is the ASRock A780GXE. The A780GXE features the ATI Radeon 3200 integrated graphics. ASRock loads the board with six 3Gb/s SATA ports featuring RAID 0/1/10, 5.1 HD audio, Gigabit LAN, two PCI-E x16 slots, one PCI-E x1 slot, three PCI slots, and support for 16GB of memory. Durability is addressed with solid capacitors for CPU power and duracap long-life capacitors for the rest. This board has been rock solid for us and supports AM2/AM2+ and AM3 (running DDR2) CPUs.


The A780GXE has 128MB of sideport memory for additional performance. It fully supports the Phenoms I and II, and it can do dual x8 CrossFire. The A780GXE used to be a $100 board, so it is a good value at the current $80 price. If you are really pinching pennies ASRock also manufactures the A780FullHD motherboard, which is $23 less at $57. The cheaper ASRock is a Micro ATX board where the 780GXE is full ATX, and the A780FullHD does not support CrossFire. The A780GXE is the better value for most users, but if every penny counts you will not be disappointed in the performance of A780FullHD. Both boards are among the best values ever seen in the motherboard market and are solid performers.

The case and power supply are the Sigma 500W La Vie Mid Tower. This case and power supply are currently on sale after a $25 rebate for $40. Sigma makes both decent cases and decent power supplies that are sold separately. While no one will mistake this case/PS combo for one of the premium Sigma offerings, it is still good quality and good value for a very reasonable price. Even if you pay the regular price of $60 to $65 you will get good value in this combo. We have built several entry systems with the Sigma case and PS and had good results and stable performance. The only caveat is to check out the case when it arrives as shipping can take its toll on the case front door. 

You should generally go for the best case and power supply you can reasonably afford, so you should also look at the Phenom II OC choices of the Cooler Master Centurion and the top performing BFG Tech 550W in our recent roundup that would add just $70 to the total system price. That upgrade would be a good base for any entry to upper midrange computer system.
With DDR2 prices so very low, we went for 4GB of DDR2-800 this time. This is double last year's entry recommendation for less than half the price. This 50% to 75% drop in DDR2-800 memory prices in the past year is why you're not seeing much memory advertising these days. RAM prices as a whole are certainly in the commodity category as of late. We recommended the Kingston 4GB DDR2-800 kit, but you could just as easily choose OCZ, G.Skill, Corsair, Crucial, GeIL, Patriot, or any other quality DDR2-800 name and shop for the memory based on a combination of price and the company's support reputation. Again, if you are truly pinching pennies you can save about $13 by going with 2GB of memory instead.


Hard drive capacity continues to grow, as you can see in our selection of the Western Digital Caviar 500GB for our entry system. It seems a waste to choose a lower HD capacity when 500GB is now available for around $60 - even from While there are differences between hard drives, outside of running benchmarks most people aren't likely to notice the variation in performance between Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung, Hitachi, and other major brands. All are worthy of consideration if the price per gigabyte (or terabyte) is right.


For the optical drive we went for value with the dependable Samsung 22X DVDR. With the rise of the 25GB/50GB Blu-Ray burners, DVD writers have continued to drop in price. A DVD writer that supports double-layer and 22X DVD writes for $24 is a bargain indeed.


With the greater performance of the Phenom II Entry system, we have balanced it with a better monitor. The LCD display resolution for the Phenom II Entry system is a nominal 22" 1680x1050 LCD from ASUS for just $150. The monitor is one of the new class of monitors that more honestly report their true size and this 21.6" display would have been called a 22" by many manufacturers. This ASUS VK221D provides a lot of LCD at a tiny price in the entry system.


If you prefer a full 1080p HD monitor the ASUS 21.5" 1920x1080 LCD is available for just $30 more at $180. If you are pinching pennies you can get by with the smaller 17" Hanns-G HB-175APB 17" 8ms Widescreen LCD Monitor with 1440x900 resolution for just $99. You can also do away with speakers and save another $18 if you can live with the speakers built into the monitor.

Finally, Vista Home Premium OEM runs the system, but you could opt for an OS alternative like Ubuntu and save some money if you prefer. With Ubuntu or a similar free OS, the price comes extremely close to $500, which is awesome for a complete system packing this much performance.

Index Phenom II Overclocking
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  • Emessjay - Sunday, March 15, 2009 - link

    I'm having to rebuild much of my system, and I don't have tons of money to throw out doing so. Given that, this article was absolutely ideal for me. I'm not a computer DIY guru by any stretch. I simply needed some good info and recommendations. So, thanks very much for this. You've earned one more reader.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, March 6, 2009 - link

    2 things:

    -The Xigmatek CPU cooler is a great bang for the buck cooler but I severely dislike the push pin design. While not crazy heavy like some other coolers it is still heavy enough that I am not confident that the pushpins will hold for years in a tower system. I just built a C2D system with essentially the same cooler (not called the Dark Knight, but looks identical minus the LED lighting), and it was a frustrating installation experience. They sell a backplate for an extra $10-15 that I would HIGHLY recommend, but then that pushes the price up significantly and you are looking in the realm of the top end air coolers.

    -4850, with the recent price drops and significant performance advantage of the 4870 ove rthe 4850 I would not have recommended the 4850 except as an addition to the low-end system (ie mention as you do with most other component choices that you can upgrade to the 4850 for a very nice entry level gaming system). I think the 4870 512meg would be a perfect fit for the mid-range system and the 4870 1gig would match your recommendation for the "high"-end system.

    Good guide overall, just wanted to give my 2 cents on the cpu cooler and gpu recommendation.
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 6, 2009 - link

    The Xigmatek for Intel Socket 775 DOES use push pins. That is convenient, but many do not like the pushpin system.

    However, on the AMD AM2/AM2+/AM3 the Xigmatek uses a lever clip for a very secure mounting to the existing AMD CPU cage on the motherboard. This is mentioned and described on the page where the Xigmatek is mentioned. Keep in mind that AMD doesn't have a push-pin system. That is an Intel "innovation" that first appeared on Socket 775.

    I mention the upgrade possibility to 4870 for a relatively low cost in the Phenom II OC recommendation. However, at a net price of $125 and owing to the fact that the 4870 is basically a 4850 clocked higher I think the recommendation of the 4850 as a value OC choice is still valid. Those who want even more graphics power can choose the "pre-overclocked" 4870 with perhaps even more head room.
  • Kinshinlink - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    that 4850 before rebate your paying 155. for 10 bucks more you could get a 4870 from sapphire on newegg.
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    Hrmm... how do I start this — with a rant? Or with just general observations?

    1) Thank god for the "post a comment" option, or else you guy really did have me thinking that AMD HAD made a real comeback?! Thanks to WHATHEHEY factual breakdown, I now see that so-called "comeback" was merely a glancing blow, but didn't do any real damage to the jaw of WIntel! Makes for a nice highlight article, but fast-forward to the END of the fight and WIntel is getting interviewed and giving out shout-outs, while AMD is getting it's eye's checked by the ring doctor!

    2) I think you've done your readership a HUGE disservice by not keeping the article as succinct as possible: AMD still considerably behind i7 and still behind the soon to be antiquated Penryn. If this were politics, I'd have almost voted for the LOSING candidate. Come guys, get professional and cut the tip-toeing, bias and dancing around the hard facts... as a reader had to point out the spin'n bias to us. Shame on you!

    3) Thank god though AMD did make some kind of showing Vs the drunken party crasher, who thinks he's cool b/c he showed up wasted, while everyone laughs and points in dismay. HAHA! Look at who just rolled in — it's our drunken and unkempt classmate: AMD! Swaggering around touting of a comeback, breath wreaking of bias and hyped numbers, shoes on the wrong feet, stepping on customer's toes...

    ...Well I guess I'm glad that at least our buddy AMD did manage to show up to the party at all? Normally he'd have still been passed out in his own hype and Apple like bias, like before... See you at the party Richter! *Tossing AMD cores off the platform*
    You know it's hard to NOT vote for AMD... it's the whole "vote for a winner" phenomenon (pun intended). Even if people don't like the candidate running, if he/she is in the lead, a large one at that; people will instinctually start to side with the "winner," even though he/she is not the right candidate for them. And this is the case we see with AMD Vs WINtel. I'm on an Turion X2 right now, thinking to myself "wtf how can I trash AMD, when most of my systems are in fact AMD based?!" Guess what, my wallet doesn't give a sh!t about AMD or WINtel. My wallet cares about CASH and cash only. Whomever saves it enough cash, WILL get it's vote. As for me, personally I'd like to still champion AMD, but in the end, the Wallet is what matters at the moment... Come on AMD I KNOW you have it in you to become the former champion you once were! Until then, I'll continue to put off building a new box, but WINtel is sure looking nice with all the belts it holds.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    You might want to check out our Core i7 Buyers Guide at"> In both guides we are VERY clear that the Phenom II now competes in the mid-range with Intel, but that the I7 owns the top performance crown. However, Core i7 starts at around $300 and goes to $1010, while Phenom II is $120-$230.

    There is reason to cheer that AMD can now compete in the area where most systems are sold. That has not been true for almost 2 years. If this was not clear to you in reading the Guide then you must have skipped reading most of the article.
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    The problem with that, as I said in another comment on this board, is SOCKET LOCK. Who wants to buy into this under performing hardware platform. Yes at this current time it is slightly competitive, but as the above break down shows, it's ONLY because of current pricing. And as minor as that is, I'd still go with the Intel b/c even if it is a smidge ahead, you know that higher end (Penryn) chips that would blow the PH-II away are coming down in price also, thus leaving the PH-II back where they started - behind.

    The keystone for intel is the ROAD MAP. Intel's is much more robust, and certainly deliverable; they already have a working 32nm... Where is AMD is all of this? Still trying to play catch-up with antiquated Penryns. If I had the money right now... I'd still pay ~$150 more for the intel platform. It's PROVEN; solid; reliable; and no socket-lock.
  • Rrcccc - Saturday, March 7, 2009 - link

    Am I to assume that there is a lot of money floating around here?! You have people talking about a $100 bucks as if it is nothing at all. Income wise, I am in the top 1% of the country and I still recognize that’s real money!
    This article is dead on money. For our economy this article shows how you can get close to the top of performance and save money. Very few people will use this guide as a blueprint for a system. Most will use it as a guide to upgrade components or for a system overhaul. Minimum upgrade for I7 systems (realistic upgrade) is way out of most people’s league. $560 is min for cpu, board and memory – that’s an unrealistic setup. Buying an I7 and $185 board is and the cheapest memory is a fool’s errand. And it is still a $120 more than a 940 Phenom, equivalent mb (Asus M4A78T-E vs GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD3R X58) and memory. A realistic min I7 upgrade is more in the $650 (us) a $200 + increase.
    In the real world that’s a day at Disneyland for 2-3 people. Gas money for a month or 2, ect. Not realistic for 95% of the world (98% if count out the fan boys would sacrifice a decent woman to buy there favorite chip).
    I’m one the few 30+ year gamers (“there is a sword here”) And I have no loyalties to Amd or Intel. I have last years Intel upgrade next to my 2 weeks ago Amd Phenom II upgrade. Loyalties cost you money. Bleeding edge cost you money. Competition saves you money.
    This article is perfect for today. And that’s what really counts. Great job Wesley Fink and Anandtech team. If the situation changes in the next couple of months… then I look forward to hearing that conclusion.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    Well, your Intel socket options are currently either LGA775, which will likely see no more processors released for it; or LGA1366, which may never see what most would consider to be mainstream processors released for it.
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - link

    GDamn it! Where is the edit button/function when you need it? Christ, tons of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Well it is ~5-6am here, so I'll let it slide, but other's wont. FIX IT PLEASE damn, people constantly complaining about the lack of B/I/U not working, nor edit features. Will SOMEONE PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR READERSHIP? Wtf is wrong with you at Anandtech?! kthxbye.

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