High End 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, the scales tip toward top performance in the High-End 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 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 Lieb. 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 should represent the best performance, features, and flexibility 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 Buyer's Guides.

With performance as the most important consideration in a high-end system, reliability becomes the second most important consideration. Truthfully, reliability is just as important in most cases as performance, since it does no good to put together an expensive high-end system that you cannot 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 is quickly faced with the reality that the best performing parts aren't usually going to be the cheapest parts. On the other hand, the value and performance that you get for your dollars in today's computer market are the best 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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  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    Uff -
    The two FX53 I've tested both run fine at 2.6GHz (future FX55 spec) with stock cooling. While you will get more potential with better cooling, you are not locked out of using a higher multiplier just because you use stock cooling. The AMD Retail HSF does a decent job of cooling, though there are certainly better solutions available.
    Reply
  • Uff - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    My point with FX-53 and stock cooling was exactly that: the main bonus you get with FX-53 is that it's multiplier unlocked but to make any use of that you need proper cooling. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    #40 - The DVD prices were pulled at slightly different times for the Recommended and Alternate systems. For consistency, both charts now show a $97 price for the Pioneer 108. Prices constantly change, so any published price will generally be off in a few days or weeks. Reply
  • Goi - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    Why is it that the DVD burner in the recommended high-end system costs $97 yet the exact same one in the alternate high-end system costs $96? Reply
  • krawl3r - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    every single time, these guides ignore 2 of the best PSUs on the market: the PC Power and Cooling 510Deluxe which is miles ahead of the antec. Also ignored is the Fortron 530s. In my experience, the Fortrons are at least on par with the Antecs of not equal.
    P.S. If you spend the money on an FX-53 you might as well get a server board and go with the 940pin version so you can plug in a SCSI RAID card and have an array of 73GB 15k drives....just my $0.02
    Reply
  • neogodless - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    There is no "be all, end all" guide to anything, particularly in a rapidly changing technology environment. This guide is merely a guide. A place to start from, and go from there. They recommend getting the keyboard and mouse that is right for you, whether it be $70 or $10. However, I think there may be some logic in requesting that there's more of a reasonable scale from budget, mainstream, and high-end. This high-end guide tries to balance having enough money to buy the fastest computer with trying to make it affordable to a relatively wide audience, but really, I think there may be a different way to go about it. I think you could save a lot of money for a minimally slower computer, and by doing that, saving money for your next high-end machine. If you get the absolutely fastest machine, then there really should be no limits on money, and it should really be a no budget dream machine. If you're on a budget, even if it's $5000, you might want to be a little tiny bit stingier, and make sure that six months or a year from now, you still have a good budget for getting a high end rig.

    The only typo I saw was "could care less" in the audio section. Should be "couldn't care less".

    The guides are a lot of work, and I think they are somewhat reasonable starting points. I appreciate them, even though I don't really use them for my own purchasing decisions. They are interesting, and hopefully helpful to some people.
    Reply
  • jbritt1234 - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    How can you build a $3500 PC and then suggest a $10 mouse??? That's crazy! Lost a little respect for ya there. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    Uff - The improvements from Dual-Channel and 1024k cache vs. 512k cache are cumulative. So while either improvement alone is only 2 to 4% improvement, together the added cache and dual channel make the FX53 5% to 8% faster than the SC 512k 3700+ you suggest. If you want the top performance then the FX53 is the fastest.

    The FX53 is also completely unlocked, up and down, unlike the 3700+, 3800+, 3500+, or 3400+, which makes it possible to run at 2.6GHz for example at DDR400. All Athlon 64 are unlocked down, but only the FX is completely unlocked.
    Reply
  • Uff - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    I'm just wondering why anyone in their right mind would buy an FX-53 and run it on stock cooling? Other than making more space in your room by taking out some of the spare piles of money, there is no real gain in it compared to say 3700+ (or even a 2.4GHz 3400+, since tests have shown little gain from the extra 512kb cache). Reply
  • Caligynemania - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    I am surprised that you reccomend mere computer speakers for a high end system. A receiver/speaker system (albeit more expensive) would be more appropriate for a high end system. I realize that this is outside the scope of a computer buyer's guide, but I think anyone who truly appreciates music/sound/noise would be willing to spend the $500 for a set of speakers that will last a lifetime (speakers dont go obselete or break). Combined with a good receiver (additional $100) you can output amazing sound from the radio, tv, computer, dvd. For $500 you can get the amazing NHT SB3 speaker system or the Klipsch RB25's. Reply

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