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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  • Gholam - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Why not use an nForce2 IGP or KM400 based board and dump the discrete graphics card? Also, $73 case for an office system is waaaaay too expensive - an HEC 6CS3 with a 300W PSU will run you $30-35. Reply
  • Scarceas - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Ozenmacher - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    I think for a budget office system, someone staring at a monitor all day may appreciate an LCD since they generally have better text and do not flicker. In that case, you can find 15 in LCD's online close to 200 dollars with integrated speakers. While integrated speakers suck, they would suffice for the office user and would reduce clutter. In that case, maybe another recommendation would be to subtract the 16 dollar speakers and add a little money towards an LCD for a slightly higher price. If they are really hurting for money, they definitely could subtract the video card as well. Reply
  • ceefka - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    I second that #8. I like this new style too. Thank you Jarred for going the extra mile. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    #7 the best kept secret in ram is the crucial 8T, which Mwave sells also in thier bundles. This stuff can and will clock to 250 Mhz FSB and low timings. 3-3-3 1T. I've talked about it in various threads before and pointed here: http://www.ocforums.com/showthread.php?t=328636

    to show it's outstanding charachteristics.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Excellent work Jarred.

    I really like the idea of and your explinations of "alternative" goods. Like the monitor, 512 ram and 9800 pro. It gives users who may value of aspect or another, while considering thier intended use, some good clues.

    Reply
  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Interesting guide. I may follow some, if not all of these recommendations soon, if I can actually bear to part with money for a new system anytime soon.

    I was wondering if you've noticed mwave.com's deals on the Chaintech board you recommended, paired with Athlon 64s and Kingston memory(I think they have a few other brands available). The price on the three components together is very cheap, and could serve as an excellent base for a budget gamer(or overclocker) system.

    You can get the above-mentioned combo(the RAM is 1x512 megs Kingston PC3200) for $292 + shipping. You get a free Farcry thrown in as well, and you get a better CPU than the Sempron 3100+.

    Also, AMD is reportedly going to be dropping prices across the board on Oct 15. Best to wait 'til then if you're going to buy an AMD system.
    Reply
  • ilancas - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    Calin, certain flash USB devices can apparently be configured to function in place of a floppy drive. At least, that's what I've heard - I have never actually used one personally. Like I said in the article, it's worth the $10 for me. :D Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - link

    "and installing hard drive controllers for XP are a couple of examples that often benefit from the presence of a floppy drive"

    Hello, there is no other way to install a driver for an unusual controller - even in Windows 2003. If you don't have a floppy, you're out of luck

    Calin
    Reply

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