First Choice: Corsair XMS2 4GB kit (2x2GB) PC2-6400 CAS5
UK Pricing: £37.54 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $54.99 (ex. Tax)

As we've seen time and again in testing, 4GB of memory has a big advantage over just 2GB, especially if you're going to be gaming. When Rich investigated whether more memory was better the answer came back that the sweet spot for memory across a broad range of uses was 4GB, and at just £38, it's hard to justify NOT having 4GB of RAM as long as you're running the 64-bit operating system needed to take advantage of more than 3GB of system memory.

This Corsair kit is fantastically priced at just £38, and is pre-fitted with XMS2 heatspreaders allowing you to push your memory that little bit faster if you wish. What's more, Corsair includes a lifetime warranty on its products, so there's that additional peace of mind if something goes wrong.


First Choice: Cooler Master Elite 330
UK Pricing: £32.57 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $34.99 (ex Tax)

While a case is something you might think about cheaping out on, a high quality chassis can last you for many more years than the rest of your system. However, if you’re on a tight budget and your old case met an unfortunate accident with a Dremel, then you could do a lot worse than the Cooler Master Elite 330. This is very similar to the case Tim used when building the £400 gaming PC, and while nothing special, it’s better than the mountain of unbranded crap you’ll find clogging up e-tailers' virtual shelves.What Hardware Should I Buy? - Dec 2008 Affordable Hardware - 2
Cooler Master has a great reputation for building solid cases, and while the price might be low, the build quality is still decent. There’s space for seven 3.5” hard disk drives and four 5.25” drives inside, as well as support for both standard ATX and mATX form factor motherboards. The case is cooled by a single 120mm exhaust fan at the rear, but there’s also a 120mm fan mount at the front and an 80mm fan mount built into the side panel should you wish to upgrade your cooling at a later date.

While a more expensive case will have more features, improved build quality, superior cooling and be easier to build your system into (not to mention look better), the Cooler Master Elite 330 is a still a decent choice if you're on a tight budget.

Power Supply

First Choice: Corsair VX450
UK Pricing: £48.92 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $72.00 (ex Tax)

We’ve looked at a lot of Corsair power supplies in recent times and they've had a significant effect on the market in just a few years, delivering excellent performance and value that competitors have struggled to keep up with. Indeed, when we looked at the company’s VX550W PSU, we found that it was a really awesome bit of kit that came with a very affordable price tag too.

Of course, there are cheaper units out there, but given that a reliable PC requires a reliable power source, we’d rather go for a brand that has a reputation for delivering just that (and not exploding under load). At the same time, while 450W may not seem like much, it’s more than ample for the machine we’re building here and even for future upgrade opportunities as well should you want to beef up the CPU, GPU or even hard drive capacities.

On the connectivity front, there’s plenty of room for expansion as well, as the VX450W has two six-pin PCI-Express connectors, along with several SATA and Molex plugs for more drives. All in all, we don’t think you can buy a better power supply for the money.

CPU Cooler

What Hardware Should I Buy? - Dec 2008 Affordable Hardware - 2UK First Choice: Akasa 965BL
UK Pricing: £14.67 (inc. VAT)

If you can stretch your budget to accommodate an after market cooler over the "does the job" stock heatsink, then the Akasa 965BL is a fantastic option for just £15. Delivering cooling that puts heatsinks three times its price to shame and resoundingly beating our old favourite the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro in every category, it's a simply great bit of kit for the asking price.

Delivering cooling a full 15°C better than an Intel stock heatsink, unlocking a great deal more overclocking ability from your processor and doing so without being ear splitting loud, the Akasa 965 should definitely be on your shopping list, even if your budget is stretched.

US First Choice: OCZ Vendetta 92mm
US Pricing: $22.31 (ex Tax)
UK Pricing: £18.88 (inc. VAT)

Unfortunately, Akasa doesn't sell much of its range in the USA, but the 92mm version of the OCZ Vendetta is an excellent alternative for those living State side. Delivering excellent thermal performance on a par with the Akasa 965 thanks to six direct contact heatpipes the only let down is that the 92mm is intolerably loud at full speed, so be sure to make use of your motherboard's 4-pin PWM fan controls to drop the fan speed a little.

Optical Drive

UK First Choice: Sony DRU-V200S DVDRW
UK Pricing: £16.92 (inc. VAT)

US First Choice: Lite-On LH-20A1S-12 Black/Beige Dual Layer DVD±RW
US Pricing: $26.90 (ex Tax)

At this price point, beggars can’t be choosers, but you can still pick up a DVD-RW combo drive for a little over £15 and in this day and age and we do insist on SATA ones. Both the Sony and Lite-On retail boxes come with a copy of Nero 7/8 for DVD and CD burning, which is worth the few pence extra you’ll pay over brown boxed OEM drives. At least this way you get some free software to make use of that DVD burning feature.

Hard Disk Drive

First Choice: Seagate ST3250310AS 250GB SATA 3Gbps Hard Drive (7,200 RPM, 8MB Cache)
UK Pricing: £33.76 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $43.59 (ex Tax)

This Seagate drive is the cheapest 250GB drive we could find and is decent value at just 12p/GB - you will, however, find that larger drives work out cheaper per/GB but our budget is fairly limited here. Performance wise, you get the all important 7,200 RPM platter speed, 8MB cache, the 7200.10 is only last generation's model offering still impressive 188GB per platter (compared to "up to 160GB" on the older 7200.9s). What's more, Seagate’s excellent five year warranty is also thrown in for good measure.

While 250GB is plenty of space for an entry level system, it won’t pacify the file hoarders, but both our recommended motherboards, power supply and case have capacity for multiple SATA sockets for plenty of hard drives, so it’s easy enough to add more storage at a later date.
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