Index

Today, we release our seventh Buyer's Guide in the past 7 weeks. You can look forward to Buyer's Guides in the middle of every week, and then, after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Today, we are continuing the refresh of our Buyer's Guides to see what has changed, if anything, in the past 4 weeks. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guides yet, here's the basic format of them to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Entry Level System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: High End System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we offer our recommendation for a piece of hardware as well as our alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware (especially for those willing to spend a little more than what we budget for a particular system). Alternative picks tell you just that - your alternatives, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be. But at the same time, we can still be assertive enough with a first place recommendation so that new buyers aren't indecisive or confused about what to purchase. Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime Pricing Engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on pricewatch.com. We list pertinent parts of our RealTime pricing engine at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors all by yourself.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel that we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

High End Systems

Before we go into a little detail about what you need to know about building a high end system, we need to first reiterate what you should remember about entry level and mid-range systems.
  1. Entry level systems should be constructed mainly with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  2. Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but performance and price are in a sort of not-so-distant tie for second place.
For a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on what you should prioritize with entry level and mid-range systems, take a look at our entry level and mid-range guides from the last two weeks here and here.

Anyway, when building a high end system, performance is usually going to be your most important consideration. That is, when building a high end system, you want to make sure that you're picking the hardware that performs the best for the programs you use the most. While you could say that reliability is the second most important consideration when building a high end system, it would probably be more appropriate to say that reliability is the #1 priority. Understandably, price is a distant third consideration. This should be pretty self-explanatory, as anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that parts aren't going to be cheap. This guide by no means disregards price altogether, as we aren't going to be building a $10,000 system here. Rather, we are building a system that will cost under $5,000, but with the final price much closer to $1,000 than $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • pesos - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    stickyc - i think you're a little confused. raid is not going to do anything about the "hard drive bottleneck." if anything, raid will slow your system down. yes, it might up your data transfer rate, but that is never the bottleneck. access time is what will kill you, and a RAID 0 setup (which is what I imagine you are recommending) if anything will increase your latency a tad. personally I run a 60 gig WD special edition for OS/apps and a 200 gig WD special edition for storage/games. this way you have two separate drives working for you instead of chaining them together for all operations. unfortunately my drives are parallel so my channels are full with the two drives and two optical drives. SATA would be great in this situation because you could get your drives and optical drives all on their own channels.

    the saddest part of all this is after a few years working in IT, my frankenstein bug is nearly gone. I find myself thinking "yeah it would be great to build my own box again, but man i can grab a Dell with exactly the same components (except a p4 3.2 ghz and no monitor, already have a 20" lcd) and a full 3 yr warranty for $1700. depressing...
    Reply
  • flatustdm - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    this is the first time i've read the high-end guide. I was a little suprised to see how cost-concious it was. Do you think you could do a "higher-end" article once and a while?

    I do the purchasing of computers for my company (we have no IT department) and usually spend around 5k per machine without monitor. Every now and then I'll find a comparison of workstation machines, but it would be real nice if you guys could fit one in your rotation. Even if it was every 3 or 6 months it would be a welcome read.
    thanks
    Reply
  • Minotaar - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    Well, I have to say that this high end buyers guide was better than the last.

    In particular, it was good that pricing information was included on some of the components,.so people actually knew where they could get those parts.

    HOWEVER, there were still a lot of issues:
    When you publish a high end buyers guide, you should actually build the system and give us the benchmarks. I think its great that anandtech does so much benchmarking already with current day video cards and the like, so benchmark your high end systems! I want to know if I buy A,B,C,D etc just like you say, that I will get EXACTLY ASDF.GH fps on UT2004.

    What about heat sink recommendations? Many people are obsessed with silence and cooling performance on their High end PCs because they live work and play right next to them. Heat and noise is a big issue for an increasing number of people! What about zalman's giant passive cooling case? That might be a nice addition to a high end system! does it work? you're ANANDTECH of all places you should know!

    Single vs Dual CPU. the author clearly has never gone duallie, or he would be recommending a duallie box for a high end PC. At work I recently had the opportunity to choose between a celly2.4 and a dual p3-800, and I took the p3 800s. dual is so mucb better, and the masses need to know! Anyone who uses their computer will appreciate the fact that they can play a FPS at full performance while their computer is encoding video. Or un-raring pr0n. or whatever they do.

    Finally, cases. Ok, so you choose NOT to review heatsinks, and you still recommended a case? come on. Why wasnt the Lian Li PC-6070 considered? or any of the cases recommended by silentpcreview.com?





    Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    What about the thought of 2 120 GB disks in RAID 0? At a cost of $184 it's still cheaper than a 74 GB raptor, and you have 240 GB of storage space, alongside the speed boost of RAID 0, which is mainly noticable in load times (anyone else finding those obligatory waits during games annoying?)
    Reply
  • Satariel - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    The Philips 202p4 monitors are capable of a refreshrate of 104hz in 1600x1200.

    http://pusa-store.com/_Catalogs/i/202P4.pdf

    "Resolutions span all the way up to 2048x1536 with 1600x1200 sustainable at a high refresh rate of 104Hz"

    http://www.tweak3d.net/reviews/philips/202P40/202P...

    Also the video bandwidth is 360 not 320 as they stated on Tweak3d.
    Reply
  • lostintime - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    I think Anandtech should add a new category: Dream System
    Reply
  • Zirconium - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    I would really like to see LCD recommendations in future reviews - chiefly because I am a college student and space is a premium. Plus, even at high refresh rates (85 hz), I can't stare at a CRT monitor for too long, but I have no problems with my laptop.

    As for the hard drive: I am looking to build a system, and from what I have seen, it seems like a good idea to get a 36gb Raptor just to boot and load apps from, and then a supplementary 120gb or larger drive to store my warez... I mean my legal backups of DVDs and CDs I own. Perhaps you are limited by retail prices of things - after rebate, you can frequently get a good hard drive for much less (dealnews.com periodically has links good hard drives for $60 or something in that ballpark).
    Reply
  • Cybercat - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Meh, nothing's really changed. I can't wait for NF3-250 boards to start showing up! :D Heck, I can't wait for all the great stuff coming out this year. Why can't I just hop into a DeLorian and skip a few months. :p Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    The processor choices are also somewhat questionable. If dropping from a Radeon 9800XT to a 9800 Pro 128 MB card to save $200 is considered acceptable - after all, the 9800XT is only about 10% faster - how can you justify buying a $420+ processor when it's at best 10% faster than a processor that costs $140 less? (In the case of the 3.4C, it's only 6% faster than the 3.2C!) I guess choosing the fastest "mainstream" processor (i.e. not P4EE or Athlon FX/Opteron) makes the system "high end"?

    Really, I think the main problem is that you haven't clearly defined your "high end" target. Are you shooting for !$2000 high end? If so, then this is about as good as you can get. On the other hand, you list a price of "$1000 to $5000" as the range, which is just way too broad. $1000 is down near the mid-range system configuration, while $5000 would only be achieved by using exotic hardware (i.e. 21" LCD and $400 speakers).

    I think $2000 is a good price point for a high-end PC, and I think you should just come right out and state what you're aiming for. "High end without breaking the bank" is just not doing it for me, since you only seem to be following that rule about 50% of the time.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I disagree with those disagreeing on the hard drive choice. The point of their "high end" system is to build a really good system for a reasonable price. They say that they want to stay closer to $1000 as opposed to $5000, and if you don't count the monitor, you could build this system for about $1500. Pretty good for a very fast PC!

    Anyway, talking about the hard drives, you've got 120 GB for $92, or 74 GB for $214. Over twice as much cost of a little more than half the storage. Yes, it's faster, but how often will you notice the speed boost? When loading Windows and other applications, you might shave off a few seconds. That's not a big deal to me.

    I suppose 74 GB is enough for general use, but the 37 GB Raptor really isn't an option in my book, unless you get a secondary drive for mass data storage. Games are routinely eating 2+ GB chunks (about 5 GB for Unreal Tournament 2004, I think!), so even 80 GB can go pretty fast. Anyway, I like the thought of using two 74 GB Raptors in a RAID 0 array for the performance, but the $430 price tag just kills it for me.
    Reply

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