Budget System

CPU



Recommendation: AMD Athlon XP 1800+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $49 shipped (add $10 for cooling)

These days, it's nearly impossible not to recommend an AMD Athlon XP processor for a budget system. The prices on low-end Athlon XP processors are just too good. Knowing this, we are of course going to recommend an Athlon XP processor for today's budget system, specifically the 1800+ version running at 1.53GHz. This processor is no performance slouch; budget users who surf the Internet, perform general office-related tasks, and those who play the occasional video game will experience very few (if any) slowdowns with an Athlon XP 1800+ processor. For more information on exactly how your 1800+ might perform, you can check out AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December. Of course, you can't forget your CPU cooler, and in this case, pretty much any AMD approved cooler will do. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A is just $10 shipped from several online vendors.

Runner-up: AMD Athlon XP 1900+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $55 shipped



The Athlon XP 1900+ (1.6GHz) runs just 66.67MHz faster than the recommended Athlon XP 1800+ (1.53GHz) for only $5 more. However, the 67MHz bump in core clock speed will likely end up being almost completely unnoticeable in any application that a budget user uses. However, if you have $6 or so to spare, the 1900+ will fit perfectly as your budget processor. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A will work just fine with this processor as well.

Motherboard

Recommendation: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: $69 shipped



It's always tough to generalize which motherboard is right for users when so many different people have such a varying range of needs in a motherboard. But after some extensive research, we came to the conclusion that the A7N8X-X has the right combination of features, price, and reliability that budget users demand. It's hard to go wrong with a $69 price tag and the performance that comes with an NVIDIA nForce2 400 chipset. Of course, the reliability of ASUS motherboards is well known around the industry. No motherboard manufacturer is perfect, though, and even ASUS produces a lame duck now and then. However, after having tested at least 3 different versions of ASUS' nForce2 motherboards over the last 12+ months, not to mention the fact that this article is being written on a computer based on the ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard, we can confidently say that you aren't going to encounter many motherboard-related problems.

Runner-up: ABIT KV7 (KT600)
Price: $66 shipped



We took an in-depth look at the KV7 last September, where we basically concluded that it was a solid budget board with good features and average performance. Performance still hasn't changed much since then, though BIOS updates to the KV7 has increased performance slightly. In addition, the price of ABIT KV7 motherboards, and KT600 motherboards in general, has gone down significantly since then, nearly 20% in fact. These two developments, in addition to the fact that the KV7 was already an excellent budget board, convinced us that the ABIT KV7 was good enough to be named this week's runner-up in the motherboard category.

Index Budget System (continued)
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  • kherman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Love the article. I just wish a budget 19" was ercomended. That's probably the one major upgrade a budget user would want. Whether for gaming or office type work, that's an important choice.

    IMHO, in the future, several monitors of varrying sizes should be listed each week.

    Just saying, in the future, consider multiple monitor sizes for each week's category that match the cost associated with that week.

    I suppose the big argument is that for my needs of Office programs and occasional gaming, I need little more than a budget rig, but I still wanth te 19 inch monitor to give my eyes something big to look at. I suppose that's true for alot of 27 year old married people ;)

    EXCELENMT REVIEW!

    It's good to see these rig ideas again. Thanks for bringing them back. With time at a minimum, it's a VERY nice way to keep up with PC technology.

    Karl
    Reply
  • capodeloscapos - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I cant believe that the photos are BMPs!!!!! (who is the HTML editor of that page?)
    In my 56 K modem its really annoying.
    Change it for JPEG, please.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I would have gone with a Duron 1.6 Applebred, a Shuttle AN35N-Ultra, and a Radeon 9100... but thats me. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Weird... I really didn't double-post that. Clicked once, got the first 20 posts, went to page 2, and there were two posts. I guess it was just a glitch in the system. Or maybe a Ghost in the Shell? :p Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And no, I don't work for Newegg. That's just where I get all my parts. Personally, regardless of where you shop, I think it's best to get everything from one supplier if possible. It helps on warranty issues, and you usually save on shipping. I'm sure ZipZoomFly.com and several other places could end up at a relatively close price to what I list from Newegg. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And no, I don't work for Newegg. That's just where I get all my parts. Personally, regardless of where you shop, I think it's best to get everything from one supplier if possible. It helps on warranty issues, and you usually save on shipping. I'm sure ZipZoomFly.com and several other places could end up at a relatively close price to what I list from Newegg. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Actually, here's my take on a killer deal for a really good system. It has 1 GB RAM, 2500+, 80GB hard drive, 9600 video card, and 5.1 speakers. Anyway, it's a lot more than your budget system, but it could be downgraded (like only 512MB RAM and a 9200 video card, and drop the speakers) quite easily. For about $900 without software, or $1150 with shipping, two year warranty, and Windows XP Professional, it's more of the mid-range category. Still, I like it. I've built this exact system for one guy who only games occasionally, and he thinks it's great.

    Link:
    http://secure.newegg.com/app/WishR.asp?ID=600488
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I suppose you should probably start by giving a definition of "budget" systems. For me, I consider budget to be around $750, mid-range to be $1250, and high-end to be anything more than $1500. $500 is a "Dell Special" where you end up going with the bare minimum for a new system. An extra $250 spent would have allowed you to double the RAM, double the hard drive, get a 19" monitor, and go with a nicer case like an Antec. Oh, well.

    My biggest complaint about the setup has to be the monitor, though. I'm not sure about the Samsung, but I have a ton of NEC FE771SB monitors at work. (Okay, 140 of them, not a "ton".) They're okay, but at $175, that's way more than I would be willing to pay. First, image clarity is not that great, IMO. Second, the "Super Bright" option is just plain stupid. I would have liked to see a 19" monitor like the Samsung recommend as a runner up. It costs $20 more, but getting a really good monitor can be a very long-term investment. It's the one piece of equipment that could actually last ten years or more! (I have a Cornerstone 21" monitor that I purchased six years ago, and I'm still perfectly happy with it. $550 then, and a comparable monitor still costs $400.)

    So, here's my recommended monitor:
    Samsung 955DF-T/T for $175

    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    Shipping would add about $20 or $25, depending on where you live. (I'm west cost, but east coast might be significantly more from Newegg.)
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Actually, make that $135 OEM. Students get a discount on their OSes, but it depends on what university you attend. Check with your university book store. Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Yeah, there's a typo with the WinXP Pro price, it should be $137 shipped (OEM version). For some reason I didn't change that before posting the article.

    As far as choosing the HDD is concerned, extra storage or speed really isn't all that important if it ends up costing more, this is a budget system. Though, I suppose I should have recommended the 9200SE instead, but that's why I put it in as a runner-up. :)
    Reply

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