Introduction

When it comes to Entry Level systems, there are two types of customer. One is the person who's looking for a computer strictly for business -- office work, taxes, email, Web browsing, etc. The second is the customer who's looking for a system that fills all those needs while also serving as a quality gaming machine. While a budget gaming PC can handle all of the typical office and Internet tasks, the reverse isn't necessarily true. As in the past, this month's Entry Level Guide will give a several option for each component. However, rather than simply listing recommended components and alternatives, we will be focusing on suggestions for home office and gaming configurations.

Only you can decide what your actual wants and needs are. If you have no interest in playing games on your computer, our Office recommendations should provide more than enough power. On the other hand, if you are building a PC for the whole family and would like something that can be used by mom and dad as well as the kids, take a look at the Gaming configuration. PC Gaming is not an inexpensive hobby, however, so expect to spend a little more money if you want to add gaming capabilities.

Our end goal is to put together a budget Office PC for around $500 and a budget Gaming PC for under $1000. That might seem like a large margin, but it is very difficult to build a reasonable gaming computer for anything less than $750, and we have included upgrades that we feel will enhance the overall experience as well as the life cycle of the resulting machine. This is an Entry Level Gaming PC that should manage to run most of the cutting-edge games for the next year or more at reasonable rates, provided that you are willing to turn down the graphical complexity a bit.
CPU and Motherboard - Office
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  • skittlekiller - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    One thing that may be useful to inform buyers of is Miscrosoft's basic $15 optical mouse. I work with these very often, I find them to almost compete with Mice like my personal MX510. They're very nice, comfortable, and cheap. They'll do everything you want them to do, and will last you forever. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    ksherman - even inexpensive SFF cases can cost $200 or more, and they are usually more difficult to work with (since they're cramped). For first time buyers, it is difficult to recommend a SFF. If you know what you're doing, though, go for it. We're still looking into recommendations for a SFF System. Stay tuned.

    We could also cut the gaming system down to $750 while sticking with the 9800 Pro if we go with a cheaper case, monitor, 80GB HDD, and socket A. The performance will suffer a lot, though, especially in the most recent games. A 9800 Pro is still 50% faster (or more) than a 9600XT, so the extra $70 is money well spent, especially if you have any interest in gaming. If you get a 9600XT, high detail modes really are not an option for the latest generation games (Doom 3, HL2, Far Cry, etc.) That's just our opinion, though, and we do mention the 9600 Pro/XT as an option.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    I made a few minor tweaks after reading the comments. I remember reading before that the A7N8X-X was single-channel only, but it's easy to forget with the similarity in names. Still, it's not like the single-channel mode really hurts performance, but with the suggestion of dual-channel RAM, we ought to stick with a board that supports the feature. Sorry for the confusion.

    Regarding case and monitor, I tried to make it clear that there are a LOT of options out there, and I don't think any two components are as personal a choice as those items. If money is an issue - and on a budget sytem, it almost certainly is - check out some local computer shops. You have to pay taxes, but you save on shipping, so it usually equals out. Searching for displays - both CRT and LCD - at local stores is also a good idea, especially if you have any large electronics stores like Fryes, CompUSA, or similar in the area. They often have sales on parts that can beat any online purchase.
    Reply
  • ksherman - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    I think that $900 for an entry level gaming system is a little much... why not use a 9600XT (which still kicks, but costs signifigantly less) and an AMD XP 2600, that only costs $75 and still performes well for games. Also, a SFF computer should be considered as an entry level PC, and should have been inluded... but otherwise, i like the review! Reply
  • Ballistics - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    If you are looking for a 17" CRT monitor that can do high rez at high refresh rates look no further than the Viewsonic G75F. 1600 X 1200 @68 Hz and 1280 X 1024 @ 80 Hz. Natch! Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    This article shows socket A is not quite dead yet - I wonder why AnandTech completely ignored the KT880 chipset.

    For what it's worth, I'd recommend ASRock's K7V88 instead of the ASUS A7N8X-X. Save almost $20 for a stable board with SATA support, better sound codec.

    btw, the A7N8X-X doesn't support dual-channel like page 4 of the article says.
    Reply
  • MemberSince97 - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Very clear and informative Jarred. A concise guide for they noobler and confused first time PC builder... Reply
  • jensend - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Seagate's recent PATA drives have all been the sucks. See storagereview.com. For PATA, go Samsung P80- same price, 3-year warranty, significantly better performance (25% or greater difference in every DriveMark 2002 test), lower noise (for details on that, see silentpcreview.com). Seagate's SATA drives are considerably better and I'd call them a dead draw with Samsung's (slightly faster than the P80 SATA drives, slightly louder and slightly more expensive). Reply
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    "... the NEC FE771 is the same display [as the NEC 770] only with a beige enclosure."

    Actually, I believe that the NEC 770 is a shadow mask monitor, and the NEC 771 uses the Diamondtron aperture grill tube. Both models came in different colors.

    Just being picky. I enjoyed reading the write-up.

    Space
    Reply
  • Illissius - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Solid recommendations. Why, though, do you insist on presenting two completely seperate price guides under the guise of a single one? It would be much simpler to, rather than have two pages for everything within the same guide, seperate it into two. Reply

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