Sub-$1000 machines under the microscope

Sub-$1000 machines under the microscope

We challenged local system builders, Plus Corporation and TI Computers to create a complete system for under $1000. There are many different ways you can approach building a sub-$US1000 PC system, so it's no surprise that both companies submitted two very different configurations to our Test Centre.

TI Computers AMD Value 1000

TI opted to use slightly older components to provide plenty of speed. Instead of using a motherboard with a 939-pin CPU socket and a PCI Express (PCIe) graphics slot, TI has gone with an AGP-based Gigabyte GA-K8VT800 motherboard with a 754-pin Athlon 64 3400+ CPU and 512MB of RAM.

This produced a magnificent score of 97 and indicates that the machine can be used capably for tasks such as photo editing, video editing, creating office presentations, using the Internet and watching movies.

The last is aided by the inclusion of an LG double-layer DVD burner, which means you will also be able to back up any data you store on the installed 80GB Seagate Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive.

Graphics power is understandably weak in a system such as this, so don't expect to be able to play many of the latest 3D games. We got a score of 1305 out of its ATI Radeon 9550-based AGP graphics card in 3DMark2005, but for viewing and editing large photos, this card should be more than adequate. The 17-inch LG CRT monitor is also excellent for displaying images, and it matches the overall styling of the system.

The case that TI has used is a mid-tower with a 400W power supply. It has plenty of space to upgrade your drive capacity. TI has built the system very neatly and ensured that no loose cables get in the way of the CPU cooler.

Plus Corporation Aspect V51

Although the Aspect V51 is a sub-$1000 system, it certainly doesn't lack style. Plus Corporation has built it up using a stealth black Antec lookalike case and supplies a black LCD monitor and black input peripherals to match. The LCD monitor is a 17-inch BenQ FP71G, which will take up much less room on your desk than a CRT, and provide a native resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels.

At this machine's heart is an ABIT KV-81 motherboard housing a 754-pin AMD Sempron 3000+ CPU. The Sempron is designed for low-cost machines and is a good fit for this machine, as the LCD monitor makes up at least a third of its $US999 price tag.

The Sempron is joined by 512MB of DDR400 RAM and an 80GB Seagate SATA hard drive.

It performed fairly well in the productivity application benchmark, with a score of 71. The system uses integrated 2D/3D graphics, which share the main system memory, and this impacted the performance scores (it could not run 3DMark2005). This graphics solution is fine for everyday tasks such as surfing the Internet and using office applications, but if you're keen on working with photos or want to play a few games, too, then you have the option of upgrading to an AGP-based graphics card later.

The system is rounded out by a Sony double-layer DVD burner and has all the connectivity options you should require. The case has plenty of space for expansion and all internal connections are neatly tied up out of harm's way.

Verdict: Both machines are great buys for those looking for a basic and inexpensive new PC. TI Computer's AMD Value 1000 comes with a CRT monitor but has plenty of speed while Plus Corporation's Aspect V51 system has a slower CPU, but does include a space-saving LCD monitor.

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