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1Channel Insiders St Patricks Day Green PC

Going green starts with a processor, and there are plenty to choose from. Looking for performance, value and power efficiency, we chose the $175, 2.6 Ghz AMD Phenom II X4 810 with 4MB of L3 Cache – a great little performer, which can be overclocked (at your own risk) and offers a real bang for the buck.

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To save a few bucks, without sacrificing performance -think about the $145 2.8Ghz AMD Phenom II X3 720 with 6MB of L3 Cache. Sure, the X3 gives up a core, but a larger cache and faster clock speed makes up for that. Both CPUs are a 45nanometer design and have a TDP rating of 95Watts. Our tests showed that the X4 uses slightly more power in use than the X3, but just a few watts of difference.TDP 95 Watt 45nanometer83 to 166 Watts X385 to 170 Watts X4

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It’s gotten easier to find green motherboards today, and after narrowing down the basic requirements (support the AMD Processors, on board graphics, etc.) one board stood out – the $139 ASUS M3A78-T.The M3A78-T is a Socket AM2+ ATX motherboard that uses the AMD 790GX/SB750 chip set. The board supports 1066Mghz DDR2 RAM, offers on board graphics, is RoHS complaint and offers a good platform for overclocking . The M3A78-T proves to be well designed and offers many extras that make the board easy to install and configure. It’s the little things that count here, like the Q-Connector that makes plugging in various cables pretty easy.

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For RAM, we selected a pair of 1Gbyte DDR2 1066Mhz modules from PNY. At $120, the PNY RAM is not the cheapest around, but it does work flawlessly at 1066Mhz and is manufactured using green technologies. The part number is PNY XLR8 D22GX85XL-5 PNY 2G XLR8 KIT.

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For a CPU cooler, we went a little upscale and chose a liquid cooling unit from CoolIT technologies. A liquid cooler is a good idea for those who want to experiment with overclocking. The CoolIT Domino ALC is priced at about $65 for the channel and is one of the lowest-priced liquid coolers on the market. The cooler’s LCD display shows CPU temperature and fan speeds and can be adjusted to reduce noise and power consumption.

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When it comes to green technology – the PSU (power supply unit) can have the biggest impact of any component. We chose a 750 Watt unit from CORSAIR, specifically because the unit meets several green requirements. At $120, the CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX offers over 80 percent efficiency, RoHS compliance and an ultra quiet cooling fan. System builders looking to save a few bucks could go with 650 Watt version of the unit, but that PSU may not be powerful enough for SLI Video, overclocking or other power demanding capabilities.

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To house the components, a Full Tower case from Antec was selected. The $130 Antec NineHundred TWO can house most any motherboard, has room for multiple drives and offers easy assembly. Primarly designed as a "gamer" case, the NineHundred Two offers several features that make it a good choice for business use. System builders will find large (and quiet) cooling fans, easy access to components and plenty of expansion room.

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Today, hard drives must be fast and efficient. Western Digital’s "Green Power" Series of hard disk drives are designed to offer decent performance and reduce electric consumption, while offering a quick wakeup from sleep modes and adhering to RoHS requirements. At just $75, the WD Caviar GP 500GB is a storage bargain. The drive uses a SATA 3.0Gbs interface, 16Mbytes of cache and 500Gbytes of storage.

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If you are looking for maximum power savings and speed, it’s pretty hard to beat a Solid State Drive (SSD). Builders looking to go that route can slam down $319 for an Intel X25-M SATA 80Gbyte SSD. While pricy, a SSD is defiantly the future of fast, efficient storage.

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Rounding out the storage puzzle means including support for DVDs and CDs – here there are literally hundreds of choices on the market. For just $25, LG has a SATA unit which supports 22X DVD±R DVD reading and burning, along with burning and reading all types of CD ROMs. The unit also includes LG’s LightScribe technology which can be used to "burn" labels onto LightScribe CDs and DVDs.

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System Builders should be able to slap a system like this together rather quickly, we were able to assemble all of the components and fire the system up in about 20 minutes. We then installed an operating system, Windows Vista Business Edition and enabled all of the power saving features available. We were rewarded with a quiet system that used just 63 Watts at idle and maxed out at 170watts under full load during our tests. Performance-wise, our test system gave us an overall pasmark rating of 971, a very good score considering the unit uses onboard graphics and only has 2 Gbytes of RAM. Compared to an off the shelf green PC, such as Lenovo’s M58p PC – our self built unit used less energy, performed better and came in at a lower price! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!