When my home-built desktop unexpectedly dropped dead of what the coroner will record as a motherboard aneurism, I did what any geek would do. I freaked out for five minutes or so, and then I started thinking about my next build.

With my key criteria of speed, quietness, and affordability firmly in mind, I pointed my browser toward my favourite online parts stores, whipped out a credit card, and set to work. What follows is the first half of the component list that ultimately became the fantastic new desktop I'm writing this column about. The prices listed below were accurate at press time.

Processor

My last two PCs used AMD CPUs. But for this build, going with Intel was a no-brainer, as its chips tend to be much better performers at most price levels. Although a quad-core Intel processor sounded appealing, a well-optimised dual-core made more sense, I decided (few apps today use all four cores well, anyway).

I went with the E8400, a 3GHz CPU based on Intel's new 45nm fabrication process. The chip is fast, runs relatively cool and is popular with enthusiasts (and consequently to find). I spent £126 on it.

SHOP AROUND: Read PC Advisor's reviews of the latest processors here.

CPU cooling

Standard CPU heat sinks are for suckers (or people undisturbed by turboprop engines), so I opted instead for Scythe's Ninja Plus Rev B SCNJ-1100P, which uses six pipes to draw processor heat up through its aluminum fins. A 120mm fan attached to the side of the sink then blows the heat away.

At £30, it isn't cheap, and it wasn't particularly easy to install (you must attach it before installing the motherboard in the chassis). But the hassle was worthwhile: my CPU has yet to exceed the 32º Centigrade mark under load. Even with the case open, the fan is nearly noiseless.

NEXT PAGE: motherboard, graphics card and the cost so far...

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for noisy PCs. So my new desktop computer had to be quiet, not just fast. Oh, and I needed it to be affordable, too.

Motherboard

In choosing Gigabyte's GA-P35-DS3L, I was influenced by the product's Ultra Durable 2 name. (My last two PC builds succumbed to motherboard-related issues.) Also, it's 100 percent passively cooled, supports my new CPU, and costs just £57.

Based on Intel's P35 chip set, the motherboard owes its durability to its Conductive Polymer Aluminum Solid capacitors. Gigabyte says the technology leads to better voltage regulation, increased stability and a longer PC life span. I can't verify any of that yet, but my new system has been rock-solid so far.

SHOP AROUND: Read PC Advisor's latest motherboard reviews.

Graphics card

Though I don't spend much time gaming at my PC, I demand a top-notch graphics card. For this build I wanted something featuring nVidia's 8800 GT, which is a few notches (in quality and price) below its top-of-the-line GTX. I went for ECS's 8800GT 512MB board. You need a big chassis to accommodate this long card.

SHOP AROUND: The finest graphics cards on the market, reviewed and rated by PC Advisor.

The tally so far: £354. Next month I'll introduce my choices for RAM, hard drive, optical drive, chassis, sound card, speakers and operating system.

Checklist

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU: £126 inc VAT
  • Scythe Ninja Plus Rev B cooler: £30 inc VAT
  • Gigabyte's GA-P35-DS3L motherboard: £57 inc VAT
  • ECS 8800GT graphics card: £139 inc VAT
  • TOTAL: £354