AMD APUs offer great benefit at low cost by integrating CPU and GPU on a single chip. It's a great deal for those who want a budget PC for everyday tasks and even capable of some discrete gaming. The third (latest) generation AMD A8-6600K Processor is a 4.3GHz quad core processor that costs $105. It integrates a GPU marketed as Radeon HD8570D though it's not comparable to "real" HD8000 GPUs. The socket is FM2, for which there are plenty of motherboards, most at low cost.
This article presents a nice choice of parts around the A8-6600K to build your own PC for $350, roughly the price of a just a high end processor. It's in no way a gaming PC but this APU does offer enough power for playing new games at low-medium settings. To get an idea of what the integrated GPU is capable of see Can AMD's Newest APU Play Your Favorite Games Without A Dedicated Graphics Card? .
Many FM2 motherboards out there are Micro ATX. I chose this form-factor because, being a general use PC, I'm sure I won't need to add a graphics card (there is no room for a long graphics card in a MicroATX case). If you are planning on adding a graphics card buying a dedicated processor instead of an APU might be a better choice anyway. If you prefer a more common ATX board, there are plenty of options too.
The chipset selection is very important. There are three AMD FM2 chipsets: A55, A75 and A85X, all compatible with A4, A6, A8 and A10. However each one targets different users. The A55 is the cheapest. It has SATA 3 Gb/s support. Targets signage boxes and light office clients. It is meant to be used with both the A6 and A4 APU products. The AMD A75 offers SATA 6Gb/s support and has native USB 3.0 support. Targets mainstream users. The AMD A85X supports two more SATA 6 Gb/s ports and adds in CrossfireX support. I chose to go with A75 as there is little difference in price compared to A55 and SATA 6 Gb/s could be important if using an SSD. CrossfireX support is by no means important for this build.
I went with MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 motherboard. For $56 you get an A75 chipset MicroATX motherboard with 2 memory slots, 1 PCIe x16, 1 PCIe x1, 1 PCI, 6 SATA ports, 6 USB ports, Gigabit LAN, 8 channel audio, HDMI, DVI and VGA outs. Having just two memory slots could be a bit limiting. However, it is common for MicroATX boards. Buying enough memory for the long run is therefore important.
Chosing memory is not as hard. A standard DDR3 1600MHz kit will do the job. Just be sure to buy modules with enough capacity because there are only two slots available. I found 8GB to be more than enough. Corsair Vengeance 1x8GB kit is a high quality module for just $80. We also have one slot available for future upgrade.
The tough decition here is whether to go with a lightning fast low capacity SSD or with a slow high capacity hard drive, or both. It all depends on what you want to do. SSD do produce a huge improvemente in boot and load times at the expense of drive capacity. For my build I decided to use a $60 hard drive (Western Digital Blue 1TB) to keep costs low. This is probably the cheapest 1TB drive on Amazon and has 4.5/5 stars, a great deal. With 1TB I hope to never need an upgrade.
Case and PSU
There are lots of MicroATX cases at Amazon but few include a power supply. If you don't want to worry about buying a separate PSU, which would also be more expensive, the Rosewill Ultra High Gloss Finished MicroATX Case is a good option. For $50 you get a nice MicroATX case with a 400W PSU. This wattage is good enough for our build. The case even has a very convenient removable HDD cage for two hard drives. The big front ON button has a nice blue light.
The complete build is:
- AMD A8-6600K Processor $105
- MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 motherboard $60
- Corsair Vengeance 1x8GB kit $80
- Western Digital Blue 1TB $60
- Rosewill Ultra High Gloss Finished MicroATX Case $50