Introduction

The school year is now in full swing, and hopefully everyone is enjoying themselves. Some of you might already be in the depths of mid-terms, for which you have our condolences. If you're lucky, you already have a PC that you can use for doing homework, but parents might now find themselves looking towards the purchase of a new or second computer, in order to allow more than one person to access the Internet at the same time. What better way to fill that need than to pick up an economically priced budget PC?

Our last Buyer's Guide looked at the Mid-Range price segment, with a price range of $1250 to $1500. We split the recommendations up into office/business vs. gaming use, and we attempted to utilize the available budget to customize the system as much as possible for the intended market. We'd like to do the same thing for the budget sector, but unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot that can be done past a certain point. We'll give it a shot, though, with the goal of getting as close as possible to $500 for the non-gaming systems and $750 for the gaming configuration. If you want a bit more performance, you can look at the Mid-Range recommendations and try to downgrade some areas. Alternatively, you can take the budget recommendations and upgrade them where necessary. Either way, it should be pretty easy to combine the information from our Buyer's Guides and Price Guides to put together the type of system that you desire.

We'll be including an AMD as well as an Intel configuration for each of the recommendations. Performance and price are competitive in the budget realm, with AMD holding an overall lead at present. However, the lead is more like watching two family sedans drive down a two-lane street, the drivers going about their daily tasks without even realizing that they could be racing each other to the next stop light. If that doesn't make sense, what we're really saying is that for typical family use and basic office tasks, talking about performance really doesn't matter much. If the computer can get the job done and the user doesn't feel that it's too slow, the goal has been achieved. Price is generally a bigger concern than loading a web page one second faster.

Since the last Entry Level Guide, we've had a few changes. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but we do have the expected price drops as well as a few new components on the market. As usual, we'll start with the selection of an appropriate platform and go from there.

Office CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • Rocket321 - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    Is 100 hours an exaggeration or near the true testing time for that type of article? I guess that would leave lots of time to write an article to go with the numbers.

    Just curious.
    Rocket321
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    Read the http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">Venice overclocking article. 100 hours isn't really an exaggeration, if I'm thorough. It's about 5 hours per complete benchmark run, assuming it doesn't crash or fail at some point. (Or just get stuck - WinStones can do that, even on a stable system. It just sits at some point where the script got stuck, and you have to manually restart it. That sucks when you start the benchmark, leave, and come back five hours later to find that it only ran for 5 minutes before getting stuck.)

    So, 1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz is five configurations, and two RAM choices makes for 10 benchmark runs. Given the amount of time there are glitches to address, 100 hours is probably about right. Luckily, I don't have to be sitting at the PC the whole time. Heheh.
    Reply
  • mino - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    Well, as usuall. Someone clearly stole some letters here and there. I apologize for him :)
    just one addon:

    This guide IS one of the best(if not the best) one could find around. No irony here.

    I felt my comment was not clear enough on that matter.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid...">http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview...amp;thre... Reply
  • noxipoo - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    while it is a good guide for the price, I think the price targets needs to be revised or followed better. it is the same issue I had with the mid-range system guide. 1200-1500 is just not mid-range for me. kind of feels like the guy that told me 55 grand for a car is mid-range because there are ferraris that cost a lot more... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    A few quotes from the summary page:

    "You might not realize this, but I actually pick the parts that I want to include and only then tally the cost. As long as I'm within about $100, I usually stick with it - if I overshoot the budget, it's because I really don't feel that it's a good idea to cut corners any further just to shave $50 from the total."

    That should explain my philosophy. Others disagree with it, but if you can spend $500, you can also spend $600. This budget guide is cheaper (for the non-gaming setups especially) then the last one. I also offered advice on how to cut costs of either system:

    "If the $500 price point is really important, dropping to 512MB of RAM and getting rid of the speakers will get you close."

    As well as:

    "Our gaming configurations exceed the target $750 price by a bit more, though there are additional opportunities for cutting costs. Getting the less expensive options on the RAM, HDD, DVDR, display, and speakers will cut the price of each system by $90 without really affecting performance or features much (other than the noticeable change in display size)."

    The tables are quick summaries of 7000+ words of text, and as such they cannot even begin to convey all of the options that are out there. That's what all the extra writing is for, to explain why the final choices were made.

    And of course, for every person like you who feels the price is too high, there are several others suggesting upgrades like a better PSU, an LCD, a different case, etc. Catch-22. If you can actually put together a complete PC for $500 that people on here would really consider better, I'd be more than surprised. Feel free to post such a system, though, and ask for comments from others. :)
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    I don't think dropping down from 2x512MB of RAM to 1x512MB of RAM would be a good idea on the AMD gaming system, despite it being a S754 CPU with asingle-channel memory, as it would only save $48 at the prices listed. Many games these days require a minimum of 512MB to run acceptably, and having 1GB makes a big difference with many. And then there's BF2 which likes more than 1GB, and others will follow soon.

    Rather than drop down from 1GB to 512MB and cause stuttering in the latest demanding games, you'd be better off saving a similar amount of money by getting a cheaper graphics-card like a standard 6600, or an X700Pro. Let's face it, the sort of games that need more than a 6600 or X700Pro, are also going to need more than 512MB of system memory to run smoothly, so the money is better spent on double the memory rather than a faster graphics-card.

    Apart from that, a good article. Putting together systems on a tiny budget isn't easy as you're always having to weigh the consequences of shifting a few dollars from one area to another.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    Actually, the 512MB RAM comment was for the office systems. For the gaming, I'd just go with the cheaper options (listed in the office configs) for every part, other than the GPU. $95 RAM vs. $87 RAM, $169 CRT vs. $127, etc.

    Adding up the total cost of the "value gaming", you could get:

    AMD:
    Sempron 64 (754) 3000+ - 128KB 1.80 GHz Palermo 75
    DFI Infinity nF4X 77
    Patriot Signature CL2.5 2x512MB 87
    eVGA GeForce 6600GT 128MB 138
    Hitachi 3.0Gbps 80GB 7200RPM 8MB Deskstar 7K80 57
    NEC 3540A Black (OEM) 41
    Foxconn 3GTH-002 plus 300W PSU 70
    Envision EFT720 17" CRT 127
    Logitech X-230 2.1 Speakers 37
    Logitech Internet Pro Desktop 23
    Bottom Line $732

    Intel:
    Celeron D 331 - 256KB 2.66 GHz Prescott 79
    Gigabyte GA-8I945P-G 113
    Patriot Signature PC-4200 2x512MB 74
    eVGA GeForce 6600GT 128MB 138
    Hitachi 3.0Gbps 80GB 7200RPM 8MB Deskstar 7K80 57
    NEC 3540A Black (OEM) 41
    Foxconn 3GTH-002 plus 300W PSU 70
    Envision EFT720 17" CRT 127
    Logitech X-230 2.1 Speakers 37
    Logitech Internet Pro Desktop 23
    Bottom Line $759

    The display is still a big compromise, IMO, but everything else on that alternative gaming setup is almost as good as the higher cost version. I still prefer to spend the extra, particularly on the case/PSU, speakers, CRT, and HDD. The RAM and the DVDR upgrades are less critical.
    Reply
  • RandomFool - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    Not to nit pick but if you're going to make a budget system and set a target price of 750 you really shouldn't go over that by more than 20-30 bucks. I realize gaming systems need more oomph but it is a budget system. You could cut back on ram grab some normal 2.1 speakers (i don't think 5.1 is required at all.) and be alot close to 750 before OS that is.

    Also the price of an OS should be included because without one all you have is a box that wasted electricity.
    Reply
  • flatblastard - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    I couldn't agree with you more. The trend here lately seems to be to blow the budget by $100 or more. The rigs in my newegg wishlist would probably have made better candidates for the entry-level and mid-range price guides of late, and they don't cost more than the budget I originally set for them either. Reply

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