Introduction

Prices are always dropping on computer components and what was once Mid-Range or High-End will eventually become a budget part. The temptation to upgrade a component here and there is always strong, but we try to balance that with a goal of keeping the price close to $500. As usual, we’ll offer an upgraded version for a bit more money.

An important consideration for any computer system is the intended use. If it will be used primarily for office tasks, such amenities as speakers and graphics cards take a back seat to RAM and processor choice. Generally speaking, though, it’s better to build a well balanced system rather than one with a few high end parts complemented by a bunch of older components. Most of us have encountered a system at one time or another that appears to have reasonable specs only to find that it feels incredibly slow. A fast processor with inadequate RAM and a slow hard drive is a common problem with the OEM systems that we see offered for incredible prices. By the time you tweak such a system to improve performance, you often end up paying as much as the setups that we offer. That’s not to say that OEM systems are all bad, but as with all things, there are compromises made, and some may or may not be acceptable.

Of course, the battle between Intel and AMD rages on with no sign of letting up. AMD systems typically offer better performance and a slightly lower price, and many of the Intel configurations seem to be a case of paying extra for the “name brand” more than anything else. $500 isn’t going to get you a super computer by any stretch of the imagination, though, and for most budget buyers, the actual difference in performance between the various setups won’t be noticed. It’s interesting to look back at our Mid-Range setup from a year ago and compare it to the current market; it’s a little more than half the cost for about the same level of performance.

Now, let’s get to the recommendations.

AMD Recommendations
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  • OldPueblo - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    Doh. Anyway, the Asus website has the specs listed and they do say 700Mhz. Is the website wrong then? http://usa.asus.com/prog/spec.asp?m=Extreme%20N620...

    Graphics Engine NVIDIA GeForce 6200 w/TurboCache
    Video Memory 64MB/64bit DDR onboard
    Effective Memory Size 256MB
    Effective Memory Bandwidth 128bit
    Engine Clock 350MHz
    Memory Clock 700MHz(350MHz DDR)
    RAMDAC 400MHz
    Bus Standard PCI Express 16X
    Max Resolution 2048x1536
    VGA Output Standard 15-pin D-sub
    Vedio Output Composite
    DVI Output DVI-D (Available only in TD model)
    2nd VGA Output N/A
    Adaptor/Cable bundled N/A
    Reply
  • OldPueblo - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    JarredWalton, I would buy a 17" LCD - however, I think the resolution is just too small. So I will have to wait for a 19" LCD that has the same resolution, but the text has a readable size, in order not to experience all those artifacts generated by non-native resolution. Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    I still say a sub $75 TC videocards like you recommned is worthless for gaming, even at low res 1024x768 featured on 15" LCDs it studders.. Need 600/700pro or 6200/6600 minimum. Again what's wrong with $50 mobos with inegrated graphics for a budget setup? Millions of Americans who shop at Dell get integrated graphics every year and could care less. But I do bet they opt for 17" or even 19" LCD's with thier package. Reply
  • BPB - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    Geez, how'd I miss that? I was specifically looking for the RS480M2-IL too. Sorry. Reply
  • BPB - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    Geez, how'd I miss that? I was specifically looking for that too. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    They really need some Semprons for S939 - the MSI RS480M2-IL is not very compelling for a budget system without Semprons. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    14/38: the MSI board is mentioned as an integrated graphics alternative. No OC'ing features at all, so not everyone will like it, but I did mention that the cost of a discrete graphics card basically makes the MSI+939 the same price as the budget mobo+CPU+GPU and you get a faster CPU. (See page 2, last paragraph.) Reply
  • BPB - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    #14, I agree with you. Got the MSI RS480M2-IL and built a very nice system for my daughter. With the saving on video card got a better CPU. When she needs it I'll get her a better video card. I started out with the same hard drive as the article and then added another, bigger drive. For a monitor she has the Samsung 17" 730B purchased at Staples, on sale for about $200. Very happy with everything. Also, the MSI board supports the X2 CPUs so it has great upgrading potential should I decide to use it for my video editing system and build something else for her. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    Due to an error in specifications, we have changed the budget GPU recommendation to an X300SE - the cheapest PCIe card with DVI that we could find. It turns out that the ASUS does *not* have 700MHz RAM - in fact, we couldn't find any 64-bit 6200TC cards with 700MHz RAM. The price of the better TurboCache models is getting dangerously close to that of faster models, so we decided to simply cut the price $20 and go with a cheaper card. The graphics page and summaries have been updated accordingly. If you can find a card that offers substantially better performance in the $50 to $65 range, send me an email.

    (Grumble: The overlapping specs on the low-end graphics cards is a nightmare of confusion. /Grumble)
    Reply

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