Diwali may have just gone by, but the festive season continues for the gamer community with one major release after another. Gaming consoles have enjoyed the upper hand for the past year and a half, but the last few weeks have seen the resurgence of PC gaming with advent of mega titles like BioShock, Half-life 2: Episode 2, Portal, Call of Duty 4, and now Crysis, NFS ProStreet, and a lot more to follow. Finally we have a reason to invest in a gaming PC once again. Today, let's take a look at an entry level setup which will let you play all the above games at good frame rate with a fair degree of detail.
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Rs. 3,900)
We all know by now that most of the games available today are dependent more on the GPU than the CPU. So one doesn't need the fastest CPU on the planet to get them working. However, it doesn't hurt if you have a fair bit of juice in the CPU department, especially if it doesn't hurt your wallet much. With the Athlon X2 4400+ selling for under 4K, it wasn't a tough decision. This dual core processor has 2 cores running at 2.3 GHz with 512 KB of L2 cache each -- enough muscle to deliver the goods whenever necessary.
Motherboard: Asus M2A-VM or Gigabyte GA-MA69VM-S2 (Rs. 3,500)
The choice of motherboard wasn't as straightforward as the CPU. I had to ponder over a few options before settling for the above mentioned. Generally, I would recommend an Nforce 5xx chipset motherboard, but after having tested a handful of AMD 690G/V chipset boards, we've come to realize that other than being stable platforms, their gaming performance isn't too far off from the mainstream Nvidia boards. And especially when on a budget, they are the best value for money options.
Hence, I have recommended 2 boards -- one based on the AMD 690G chipset (Asus M2A-VM) and the other based on the 690V variant (Gigabyte GA-MA69VM-S2). Since we intend to use a discreet graphics card and not the onboard graphics, the suffixes (G or V) do not matter much here. Both boards perform well and boast of more or less similar feature sets like an IDE connector, 4 SATA2 ports, 4 DIMM slots, 1 PCI Express x16 slot, 2 PCI slots, multi-channel audio, loads of USB ports, etc. Hence, either of them would be a good buy.