Component Watch: Looking back

7/4/2012 5:45:58 PM

Perhaps the best value chips of the moment are AMD’s A-series.

Description: Antec sonata proto chassis

Antec sonata proto chassis

Andrew Unsworth rounds up the best of the best from the past few weeks

We’ve seen some true bargains over the last few weeks, and this week we’re going to look again at some of the best.

First up is Antec’s Sonata Proto chassis, a sleek and elegant case that’s specifically designed for quiet computing. Unlike more expensive Sonata models, the Proto doesn’t have a preinstalled PSU, which means you can pretty much make it your own and use the PSU that meets your requirements. Although it has two fan slots, only one fan is included, but at least it’s a quiet 120mm model. Sadly, its front panel USB ports are USB 2.0 only, not USB 3.0, but it does have two external 3.5” drive bays so you could always install extra I/O in one of those. The Sonata Proto is currently available for $71 from LamdaTek ( and $75 from Scan (

Once you have a case, you’ll need a motherboard. We looked at MSI’s A75MA-P35 a couple of months ago when it was priced at $75, but you can currently get your hands on it for the bargain amount of $54 from Aria ( It’s a micro-ATX socket FM1 motherboard that uses the AMD’s A75 chipset, has two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports and six SATA 3 ports. Unfortunately, it only has two DIMM slots that allow a maximum 16GB of RAM, but most users don’t need more than 8GB at the moment, and this $54 motherboard will make an excellent base for a family or media centre PC.

Description:  Antec sonata proto chassis

Antec’s Sonata Proto chassis, a sleek and elegant case that’s specifically designed for quiet computing.

Next, you’ll need a CPU, and perhaps the best value chips of the moment are AMD’s A-series. A good candidate for a basic general-purpose PC is the A4-3300, which is a dual-core CPU with a clock speed of 2.5GHz, a TDP of 65W and a diminutive L2 cache of 1MB. It also has a built-in 160-core Radeon HD 6410D GPU. Although that GPU won’t let you play Crysis 2 in glorious high-definition with all the setting cranked up to max, it lets you send emails, watch movies and surf the internet without the need to buy a discrete card. It’s currently available for $63 from Aria.

RAM is incredibly cheap right now, and you can currently get bargain RAM for just $29.5 from Scan. Corsair’s CMV4GX3M2A1333C9 is a dual-channel 4GB kit of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM with latencies of 9-9-9-24 that’s comprised of two 2GB DIMMS. If you want something a little more special with greater capacity, you could opt for Corsair’s CMP8GX3M2B1333C9 8GB kit. It’s comprised of two 4GB sticks of dual-channel RAM and is part of Corsair’s XMS3 Dominator ranger. Each DIMM is fitted with an attractive heat spreader and has latencies of 9-9-9-24. It’s currently available for $70 from Scan.

Finally, you’ll need a hard drive, and one hard drive that has come down in price since we first spied it is Seagate’s 2TB ST2000DM001. It has a 7200rpm spin speed, a 64MB cache and an 8ms access time. Best of all, it can currently be yours for just $127 from scan. That’s almost $22.5 less than when we first mentioned it in this column.

That’s most of the components you need for a decent low-cost PC, so if you fancy tackling a new-build this weekend, you should shop around for some of these parts.

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