Index

Due to its popularity, we are expanding AnandTech Buyer's Guides. Evan Lieb will continue to make recommendations for the Entry and Mid-Range Systems. Evan will also be launching two new guides in the near future and will be telling you more about those in the next few weeks. Guides for High End System and Overclocking System will now come from Wesley Fink, AnandTech's Motherboard, Memory and Chipset Editor. Once the new schedule gets in full swing, you will see a Guide from Evan every week and one from Wes every 2 to 3 weeks. The final changes to the schedule are still in the works, but the new Buyer's Guide schedule will appear in an upcoming Guide.

It is unlikely that two Enthusiasts would agree on every component in a system, and Editors are no different. Different editors have different ideas of what constitutes a High End and Overclocking System. High End, in my estimation, is not without price limits, but price is much less a consideration than performance. If High-End means anything for the enthusiast who reads AnandTech, then you can spend a bit more for performance that is really better. With this in mind, you will see the scales tip toward performance in my choices. Mid-range is where you sweat nickels and measure every component for bang for the buck. For High End, you pick the best.

As in past Guides, we offer a recommendation for every component that goes into a computer. Our recommendation is our First Choice and we will try to explain why we chose that component. For some components, we will also offer an 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. This is especially true for those willing to spend a little more or to recommend a cheaper component that is of outstanding value. Alternative picks provide you other choices, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be.

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. Relevant parts of our RealTime pricing engine are listed 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.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides, and the changes you are seeing here are the result of suggestions from our readers and Editors. Since we are adding 2 new guides to AnandTech, email your suggestions for new guides to Evan or Wes. Considerations include a Buyer's Guide for SFF (Small Form Factor systems), Gaming System, and Laptop/DTP (Desk-Top Replacement). If you have other suggestions, let us know; the Guides are to help you with your buying decisions.

High End

A High End System is put together with different concerns than an entry level or mid-range system.
  • Entry level systems should be constructed mainly with price and reliability in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  • Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but price and performance are in a not-so-distant tie for second place.
Evan Lieb, our Editor for Entry and Mid-Range Buyers Guides, goes into a more in-depth explanation of the priorities with entry level and mid-range systems in his ongoing Entry Level and Mid-Range Guides that appear each month.

A High End system should represent the best performance that you can buy for a given need. In this case, the given need is defined as a Desktop Computer System built from the best performing computer components that you can actually buy. This differs from other Buyer's Guides, which concentrate on value first. With the extensive testing done at AnandTech by many different Editors, we have personally tested many of these components, and you will see our Editor's Choice components appear frequently in the Buyers Guides.

With performance as the most important consideration in a high-end system, reliability becomes the second most important consideration. Truthfully, reliability is in most cases just as important as performance, since it does no good to put together an expensive high-end system that you can not enjoy due to reliability issues. By definition, price is a distant third consideration, but price is not the same as value. Value is always a consideration in our buying guides because we refuse to recommend high-priced components that provide little or no performance advantage over lower priced components. A component that costs 250% more for a 5% increase in performance is not a good value and does not even belong in a high end system..

Anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that the best performing parts aren't usually going to be the cheapest parts. On the other hand, the value and performance you get for your dollars in today's computer market are the best that we have ever seen in many years in the computer industry. There was a time when the best desktop systems were much more than $10,000; while today, you are hard pressed to spend more than $5,000 on a top-performing system. In most cases, the best performance can be had even less. With this in mind, our only restriction is that our high-end system will cost under $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard
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  • ghoti - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Thanks for these Guides! I sure appreciate them.

    I'm about to build my first system.

    Anyone know when the MSI K8N Socket 754 MB (mentioned in the Guide) will be available?

    Also, assuming I get the MSI K8N, I plan to use the AMD 64 3200, and would like to put in 2GB(?) memory. Considering possible FUTURE use (in a dual channel application), I guess I'd get a PAIR of 1024's. In checking the MSI memory compatability table, I don't see anything I recognize. Do I need to worry about that? Can I just go ahead and get one of the highly-reviewed brands/ types (e.g., Mushkin Pro). I don't plan to OC, but considering possible FUTURE use in/ with some other MB/ processor, does it make sense to get a higher speed than PC3200?

    Thanks for the input.
    Reply
  • hifisoftware - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Good to hear about the changes, hopefuly giuides will even be better with more time dedicated to them.
    Great review, nice choices.
    I would choose few componenets differently though:
    1. Secondary choice for the HD. Samsung seems to be faster then Segate in real world benches (From xbitlabs testing). Segate is one of the worst performing brands in their tsting.
    2. DVD I like NEC DVD writer more since it cost about the same (+/- few $), but there is a hack to convert it to double layer version.

    Still a great guide, lots of usefull info. Cool
    Reply
  • Ma10n3 - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    For a total budget of $5,000 or less, why not opt for a mobo that can support two Opteron 250s, but only purchase one initially. The TYAN Thunder K8W supports AGP 8x/Pro, has 4 PCI-X slots (hardware RAID anybody?), and a legacy 32-bit/33MHz PCI slot. Also, the onboard gigabit ethernet chip is connected to the PCI-X bus... absolutely no bottlenecks there. And when the Windows 64-bit Home edition comes out you can slap in the second processor and 4 more DIMMS and effectively double your memory bandwidth, due to the NUMA support in Windows 64.

    My point is, if you're going to invest so much in a high-end system, why not make it as future-proof as possible by leaving open extreme expandability paths.

    PCI-X rulez.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    My bad wesley I was comparing the $404 Opteron 148 (2.2) to the $728 FX 51 (2.2). However I'm building this system with the $210 Opteron 144;) and hope to get the FX53 speeds for 1/4 the price....
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    #2 - The same speed Opteron is the 150 at 2.4GHz. It is a bit cheaper at $620 but it is hardly half the price. It is also multiplier locked where the FX is completely unlocked. If overclcoking is not important to you, then the Opteron 150 and 3200 Registered memory would be a good choice and save about $150 total.

    Your point about the Saphire Radeon 9800 PRO is well taken, and I have changed the Alternate to the 256-bit model, which I did find on Pricewatch for $192 shipped.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    #1 I agree or go for one of LG/Philips's 20" 16ms IPS LCD branded by Dell, Viewsonic, NEC, amoung others. At around $700-$1200 it's pretty competitive. Reply
  • Azmedaj - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Typo on the storage page: "Those concerned about data security more than ultimate speed can configure the drives as RAID 0, or mirroring", it Should be Raid 1 Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Opteron is half the price as FX and is the same but for top locked multiplier, but with that ram recommedation you can OC with ease, if that's a concern.

    Also 128MB Saphire Radeon 9800 PRO for $175 shipped is the 128bit verison aka LE, I would get the 256 for $209 shipped.
    Reply
  • JGF - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I like everything except for the CRT monitor. I would swap the samsung out for a 21" mitsubishi diamond pro 2070 or the equivalent NEC model the FP2141SB. Reply

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