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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  • everman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Linux not even OS runner-up? This is a budget system, why not save $275 and use something...free?

    Knoppix would be mindlessly easy to install on that system for example.
    Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Nicely put together system. I do have to contend with one of your selections though... I just had zipzoomfly.com ship me a 80GB IBM/Hitachi deskstar HD 2MB cache for 68 bucks. While your selection is a bit cheaper, I don't think it's so much cheaper that it's worth giving up 2x HD capasity. 40GB can fill up quick these days! Other than that excellent choices for a budget system. Reply
  • eyeguy - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I agree that a budget deal is just get a computer with OS from HP/ Compaq for less than $400. Somehow MS does not want us to buy XP except in a bundle - otherwise get an n-force2 so you can upgrade to dual channel and OC if you want. Onboard nforce2 video is fine in an office (and free) Reply
  • dutchdabomb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    What's the deal with the .bmp images? Why not PNG or JPEG? Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Might add the InWin cases like a few others have now fan ducts on the side so when air is drawn in the processor fan gets it first.

    I would spend an extra $15 to have Muskin PC3200 Blue Line ram just for when you would upgrade or for that matter PC3200 is almost the same anyhow since it is the current higher selling memory speed.
    Reply
  • Regs - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And of course, when everybody thinks Budget computer, they think of their budget computer.

    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Well I would never get that Foxconn Case. A computer was made with this case for a friend of mine from CompUSA, and the covers on this case do not fit perfectly and the metal used is easy to bend. Not to mention the power supply in the case sucks.

    The InWin cases are very sturdy and precise fitting. Unfortuneately they do not come with Sparkle power supplies anymore.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    The Radeon 9100 is another good budget choice for about the same price. It's just a relabeled 8500, and is very similar to the 9000/9200, but I think it's faster than even the Pro versions of the 9000/9200 chips (depends on the application I guess). I put one in my kid's computer; works great for his games.

    Also, anyone who has access to a Fry's Electronics should check their newspaper ad (or just go in anytime from Friday through Tuesday). They almost always have an AthlonXP 1800, 2000 or 2200 (T-Bred B each time I've bought) paired with a ECS K7VTA3 v8.0 (KT333CF) board for $55 to $70 total (yes, barely more than the price of the CPU or MB alone). They often have similar bundles for higher Athlon's and P4's, but the deal isn't nearly as good.
    Reply
  • medfly - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    use maxtor hard drives instead, fluid bearings. The low end wd drives are ball bearing and after some time get damn loud with bearing whine. Use an albatron nforce 2 board and save about 8 bucks.
    if you dont care about gaming at all, radeon 7000's go for about $30 at new egg. Also, never buy a retail copy of M$, get it oem and save a huge chunk of change.
    Reply
  • andreasl - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I was in this situation just a month ago when buying a budget system. But I ended up with an XP2500 and a Radeon 9000Pro. The 9000Pro cost about as much as the 9200 but is clocked higher. The only other difference is AGP 4x vs 8x. So if you can find a 9000Pro for about the same price I really recommend getting that one instead. Reply

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