A while back I did a feature on building an AMD E-350 PC on the cheap for playing World of Warcraft or similar online games. The E-350 and it’s fellow “Zacate” based APUs were only the lowest end of a whole new spectrum of inexpensive chipsets AMD is rolling out. With the release of the A6 and A8 APUs, you can now play more than WoW in the sub-$500 market.
Two things you may have scoffed at in the past are onboard graphics and hybrid Crossfire. The onboard graphics in the A6 and A8 are much more robust than efforts we’ve seen before. The 6550 packaged in the A8 is roughly comparable to a GeForce 430 and can be paired with a 6670 PCIe card for hybrid Crossfire, making it a 6690d2. While the performance of the hybrid setup is still well below that of two discreet cards running in Crossfire, it’s still the most impressive rig under $500 by a long shot.
The A-series CPUs themselves are not the most powerful processors around. The lag behind comparable i-series chips, but not for the price. The A8 is cheaper than even most low-end i3s at $130 and it’s built in GPU runs circles around Intel’s onboard solutions. Most of the information on the new A-series chips is all about the internet, but I’ve prepared a good ol’ short list with the key points.
Building your own budget gaming rig:
Go with the A8. It’s only $10 more than the A6 and has both faster core and GPU speeds.
Faster memory makes a difference as the GPU shares the FSB link with the CPU cores. Supports up to 1866MHz DDR3.
Go with the HD 6670 512MB DDR3. Although you can buy both faster and slower cards that will work, this will provide best performance as it matches the onboard. No point buying a DDR5 card or a 1GB as you can only use as much as the primary card, which shares 512MB of your main DDR3.
You only need a 500W power supply total, as the APU only needs 100W, so even with a second GPU, you won’t need more.
The A75 Asrock boards are the best for this socket type (FM1) right now as they offer complete overclocking tools.
Buy an aftermarket CPU cooler. The AMD ones suck and many have reported high temps when gaming with the stock cooler.
As long as you did the above, you should be able to safely overclock pretty high. The GPU will clock up with the CPU cores if you increase the FSB, so that makes it easy. I’ve seen stable results by upping the FSB 30% which put the CPU at 3.6GHz per core, the GPU at 750MHz and the RAM at 1866MHz.