Buyer's Guide - Entry Level, January 2005by Jarred Walton on January 9, 2005 12:05 AM EST
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IntroductionBudget computing is about two things: reliability and cost. Most people looking for a budget computer don't have a lot of money, and the last thing that they want is to have to go out and replace parts (or buy additional parts) because of some issue that comes up. Performance would be nice to have as well, of course, but that's a distant concern. We've looked at gaming and office configurations in the past, and while much of what has been said still applies, new technologies are always appearing. They may provide a better option in the long run than some of our previous recommendations.
One of the biggest concerns that we have right now with the budget sector is the platform. AMD currently has socket A parts and Intel has socket 478 parts, and these are often cheaper than the more recent platforms, but longevity is something of a concern. If you think that you'll want to upgrade some of the parts in the future - especially if you plan on getting a faster processor after a while - we would strongly suggest that you avoid the older platforms. AMD plans to discontinue production of socket A parts in the next couple of months and Intel has similar plans for socket 478. They are still decent platforms in terms of performance, though, so we will not totally discount them as a budget option.
Since we've covered budget gaming several times recently, it will not be a concern in this Guide. Adding in a decent graphics card is the major difference between gaming and non-gaming setups, but there are other considerations as well. What we're going to be looking at are some good picks for a reliable system that won't cost a lot of money. We'll shoot for a price of around $500 as the "base model", but we'll also include some reasonable upgrade selections for those who want a bit more power.