Building a Budget PC: APU

Building a Budget PC: APUFinding the right processor to drive your beefy new budget PC is an important part of the planning process. Your processor choice may ultimately decide your motherboard, RAM, graphics, and power supply decisions. More than any other internal component, a computer’s speed and computing power is typically associated with a good CPU.

When AMD offered me the opportunity to try out the A8-3870K APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) in a custom PC build, I jumped at the chance. AMD has been doing exciting things with its processors in the past several years, and the APU is a hard product to overlook. Combining a quad-core CPU with a powerful AMD Radeon HD 6550D in a single FM1 socket chip is a big deal. This means power efficiency and more bang for your buck all the way.

The A8-3870K may not win you any competitions in the gaming world, but it is a capable workhorse designed to get the job done for the vast majority of users out there.

While the actual benchmark tests will take place towards the end of this article series, I’m confident the performance of this APU will make the average $100 investment well worth it, especially for users who don’t have the money or desire to go with a dedicated video card.

The A8-3870K is a special edition of the APU series that’s unlocked for easy overclocking.

Here is a look at the basic specs of the A8-3870K.

  • Core: Llano (Quad-core) 64-bit
  • Base Operating Frequency: 3.0 GHz
  • Platform: Lynx
  • L2 Cache: 4096
  • Technology: 32 nm
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6550D (600 Mhz)
  • Power: 100W
  • CPU Socket: Socket FM1
  • Model: AD3870WNGXBOX / AD3870WNZ43GX

Status of the Build

This particular APU is a perfect fit for the A75M-S2V motherboard that I wrote about in the first part of this series. Next week, I’m expecting to receive the RAM (2 GB) and CPU cooler. I’m still undecided on the case and power supply, though the primary hard drive will be a 1 TB Barracuda by Seagate I’m salvaging from a RAID build I did earlier this year.

If you know of a good microATX case and/or power supply that falls under the $100 price mark, please leave a comment below and let us know about it. Your suggestions may well help create the ultimate budget PC for my five-year-old nephew.

11 comments On Building a Budget PC: APU

  • I would highly recommend getting a higher end heat sink and fan for that build. AMD’s are notoriously hot, and for only $10-20 more you can get a much better heat sink to help protect your investment.

    • If you do get a bigger fan make sure it fits within what you want to use as the power supply(i know it is a basic piece of information but still, its never fun to try to turn something on and figure out that you don’t have enough power, plus parts tend to die that way on occasion)

  • If you do put in and optical drive I would suggest that you use high write speed (at least x24 or the closest to the number) dvd drive. From what I’ve seen in the past a blu-ray drive doesn’t usually work especially well with 2 gb of ram. A write able drive is a good idea so that they can, at least with a little bit of assistance, write their own mixed cds.

    • Starting a 5-year-old on Linux? That sounds like a job for the Sugar desktop!

      Anyway, that APU sounds interesting, I’ve been wondering what those things were… Interested to see how they compare to a seperate/dedicated GFX card

  • As far as a keyboard goes if you can find a $20 back lit wired keyboard (I’ve seen them available for the price from time to time) that should work well regardless of the quality of other lighting where the computer goes. Unless they are very good at keeping track of things I would avoid wireless peripherals.

  • The processor and motherboard are a solid pic, it shouldn’t need anymore than that for close to 5 years unless the technology changes become a lot more substantial than they have been in the past

  • Second-gen APUs came out about a month ago. Llano got lowered in price as a result, though 🙂

  • I’ve been using a A8-3870K in a media server for about 6 months now, ripping my DVD collection. Mostly using it to rip my DVDs to Hdd with Handbrake. It handles this well, although getting very toasty even in normal operation. I’ve now fitted it with a Corsair H80 water cooler and managed to keep temps down to 40C. Consequently I would really suggest an upgrade to the supplied cooler, and definitely if you are going to try Overclocking it. Good Luck!

  • I’ve been using a A8-3870K in a media server for about 6 months now, ripping my DVD collection. Mostly using it to rip my DVDs to Hdd with Handbrake. It handles this well, although getting very toasty even in normal operation. I’ve now fitted it with a Corsair H80 water cooler and managed to keep temps down to 40C. Consequently I would really suggest an upgrade to the supplied cooler, and definitely if you are going to try Overclocking it. Good Luck!

  • The bitfenix prodigy m would be a good option for a m-atx case

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