Index

Currently, we are experimenting with our Buyer's Guides to see if we can improve on meeting the needs of a wider range of users, both in terms of the components that we recommend and the prices of those components. We will continue to produce an Entry Level, Mid-Range, High End, and Overclocking system each month, and have decided to add SFF guides and perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal as well. For now, though, we will keep with our current format until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you like to let us know what you want to see in terms of component picks and price points in future guides, go ahead and write your feelings in our comments section, located at the bottom of the page.

We are still going to continue to evaluate products like we have in all our other guides over the last few months. That is, 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). To be clear, 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.

Mid-Range

While entry level (budget) systems should mainly be constructed with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration, mid-range systems have a slightly different order of priority. Reliability is still #1 priority, but performance and price are in a sort of a tie when building that mid-range system. Performance isn't of the utmost importance in this type of system, but it's also not ignored nearly as much as a plain, old entry level system is. Similarly, price isn't of utmost importance either, but buyer's building a mid-range system must be mindful of the price of components nonetheless. Performance and price don't lag too far behind reliability for mid-range systems, in other words.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • KnightOwl - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I have to disagree with a couple of the recommendations. I don't think you've really identified what the target user is for the mid-level system.

    There are only 3 home user apps that really require an upgrade from an entry level system: 1) games, 2) video editing and 3) lots of MP3 encoding.

    For the most part this means that users shopping for a mid-level system are really looking for a low end gaming rig and the components recommended should not be ones that will cause regrets in the future.

    With this in mind there are 2 areas where the recommendations fall short:
    1. Memory - IMO 1 GB is the minimum for a gaming PC today. There are games on the market now that use more than 512 MB, and most likely most in the future will. As everybody knows nothing kills performance more than when Windows starts swapping pages. For just a little more than you've spent on the 512 MB low latency RAM you can get 1 GB of regular latency RAM. Low latency will give you a modest performance gain when the 512 MB is sufficient, but running out of memory will cause an enormous performance loss.

    2. Video card - while the 9800 Pro is listed as an alternative it really should be the primary (and only) choice. While the $75 increase is a 60% increase in video card cost it only amounts to about a 6% increase in total system price. A user will easily see more than a 6% increase in game performance. That alone should justify the higher price of the 9800 Pro but you should also know that some (many, most?) of the 9800 Pros on the market today actually have the R360 core and users have had good success overclocking them to 9800XT speeds. IMO that makes the 9800 Pro the card of choice for anything but high end gaming rigs
    Reply
  • MemberSince97 - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Excellent job guys,keep up the good work... Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    rgreen83 and DigitalDivine, we've fixed the price, thanks.

    gherald, we recommended two 256MB modules because if you're a mid-range user, you may be the type of person that'll upgrade to dual channel systems in the future. Buying one 512MB makes the least sense, you have no way of taking advantage of the proliferation of dual channel technology in the future, if that's what that particular user has in mind. So, I'm not exactly sure what you mean when you say 256MB modules will be useless in 2-3 years.
    Reply
  • gherald - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    For once a decent hard drive recommendation, but getting the picture wrong is a pretty sad mistake. Myself, I'd be inclined to go with the Hitachi 160gb SATA for around $100 from newegg.com

    Nice alternative case recommendation! I was begining to think you'd stick with that CaseEdge nonsense forever.

    Superb motherboard recommendation! (I own two K8N, it's the best for the money right now, hands down.)

    Why do recommend 2x256mb of RAM when socket 754 AMD64s have a single channel memory interface? Go with a 512mb folks... same exact price/performance. 256mb sticks will be next-to-useless 2-3 years from now.
    Reply
  • DigitalDivine - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    on the hard drive part, you guys put up a western digital 120GB picture instead of a seagate one. Reply
  • rgreen83 - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    The raptor shown is 36.7gb with a price of $214, are you suggesting the 74gb raptor or should the price be about half that? Reply

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