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Old December 14, 2007, 01:21 AM
Jmac Jmac is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Van Isle, BC
Posts: 550
Default Project "Oscar the Grouch" - the $500 gaming PC project.

Well, Christmas is fast approaching and I had purchased gifts for just about everyone. I was leaving work after a solid 13-hour shift when I noticed one of my co-workers putting out a clearance sign for a computer for $147. I thought to myself, "Hmmm, my brother has been saying he wants a computer of his own for a while now." The computer was a Compaq Presario SR5110NX w/ an AMD Athlon64 3800+, 512 MB of RAM, 120 GB HDD, Nvidia integrated graphics, and Windows Vista Home Basic. I went to the back and opened one up to see what it had inside and everything seemed to be okay except the motherboard was made by ECS. It has the nForce chipset, so I assumed it had a PCI-E x16 slot and it looked like it would have enough room to fit a decent-sized GPU in there.

I decided to do a bit of research and sleep on it. After not doing any research, I immediately went to the store the next morning to pick it up for $125 after staff discount and then immediately phoned up HP to see what kind of CPU I could swap into it. Well, I spent about 2 hours on the phone w/ several HP reps based out of India where they told me that my computer was out of warranty and I would be charged $60 for the call (I hadn't even opened the freaking box yet AND it has Vista, which is less than 1 year old, so how the hell it could be out of warranty is beyond me) and then, after that debacle, attempted to explain to them what I was planning to do, to no avail (scripts apparently don't have motherboard specs w/ a CPU support list). I gave up on trying to get any answers from HP and decided I would try to figure it out on my own, so I went into the box to see if, by some miracle, HP actually included a manual (they didn't), but what I did find ended up actually helping me. A card w/ an address for online chat support. I logged in and was greeted by an HP rep. I explained to him the nightmare-ish situation I had just been through on the phone and told him straight up that if he wasn't technically-inclined, to just tell me now and save us both the time and hassle. He said he was fairly confident he would be able to answer my questions and, much to my suprise, he was actually able to tell me that it supported up to the 4800+ and was able to answer my other questions (Mobo doesn't support dual channel, mobo has a true PCI-E x16 connection (some Intel boards have a x4 electrical connection in their PCI-E "x16" slots), BIOS can't be flashed to support faster CPUs, Windows-based CPU overclocking not supported, etc.) . GOLD !

Now knowing what the computer could handle, I set out to create a parts list. I had a spare 600W Ultra X-Finity power supply laying around that I picked up from a friend for $30 (he paid $60 for it, didn't want it because it was too loud), so that was already taken care of. Knowing the mobo doesn't support dual channel, I decided to pick up a single 2 GB stick of PC2-5300, which NCIX had on sale for $45. The 4800+ goes for $100. That left me w/ a shade over $200 to cover the GPU and taxes. I was contemplating picking up an HD 2900 GT, X1950 Pro, or 7900 GT because all the HD 3850s were going for $190-ish on NCIX. I tracked down an HD 3850 for $170 at another online store and made use of NCIX's pricematch policy, which brought the grand total to slightly under $500 (~$530 if you take into account the PSU I already had).
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