I already talked about the $35 Foxconn 3400ATX case, so I might as well start talking about the other parts I used to build a very nice $200 upgrade last week.
Shuttle AK32L. It’s a very basic Socket A motherboard, using the VIA KT266 chipset. It plays both kinds of music, country and western–I mean, it supports both kinds of memory, PC133 SDRAM and DDR266, and CPU-wise it’ll work with everything from a 500 MHz Duron, if you happen to have one around, to the fastest Athlon XP you can get your hands on at the moment.
By today’s standards it’s a very basic motherboard. Aside from AC97 audio, there’s nothing built in besides the obligatory parallel, serial, USB, and PS/2 ports on the outside and a floppy and a pair of ATA100 connectors on the inside. It sports an AGP slot and six PCI slots (the last is shared with an AMR slot you won’t use). This plus its ability to use either DDR or PC133 (or even PC100) makes it an ideal upgrade board. But if you’re looking for serial ATA or IDE RAID or Firewire, then you’d best move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Performance-wise, I didn’t run any benchmarks on it. But let’s say this: I booted up Win98 in safe mode on this board with a Duron 1.3 in it, and it felt fast. That says something when a board will run Win98 safe mode fast.
Being more concerned with stability than with speed, I loaded up the BIOS with relatively conservative settings, but noted that there are plenty of features to keep a tweaker happy–memory timing, FSB and voltage adjusting, etc.
The lack of an AGP Pro slot and presence of only two DDR slots will keep this from being a performance freak’s board, however.
But if you’d like to goose the performance of a tired K6-2 or Pentium II system, you should be able to pick up an AK32L with a 1.3 GHz Duron and a decent fan for around $100. That’s what I paid at Newegg for a Duron 1.3 ($41), the AK32L ($55), and a Cooler Master DP5-6I11A fan ($3!).
Cooler Master DP5-6I11A fan. It’s a big heat sink. It’s got a fan on it. It keeps your CPU cool. It works. What else do you want to know?
The amount of noise it makes isn’t obnoxious. I didn’t do any tests on it to find out its heat dissipation capabilities — leave that to Dan Rutter, but he’s never tested this model.
It cost me three bucks. What I got was an aluminum heat sink with a decent-sized fan on it that doesn’t make a huge amount of noise. It had a nice thin layer of heat-sink grease applied to it already, a fact I found out accidentally when I looked down at my thumb after handling it. That’s a nice touch though–it saves you from having to buy a tube of the stuff and fumble around with it.
It’s marketed as an AMD Socket A fan, but it’ll work on Socket 370 and Socket 7 systems as well. It’s serious overkill for all but the very last Socket 7 CPUs, but for $3, I doubt many people will complain. It’s been a really long time since I last opened the case of a Pentium-133 or similar and found a working fan, so if you’ve still got something of that ilk hanging around, this would be a good pickup.