Introduction

Take a moment to browse around just about any Internet forum that deals with computing technology and you will almost certainly find numerous people asking for advice on what parts to buy, what sort of system to build, how much money to spend, etc. It has been several months since we last published any Buyers' Guides, so with this update we aim to cover several of the most popular market segments. We will take a look at both entry level and midrange offerings, with some comments specifically on gaming and overclocking.

It shouldn't be surprising that in the past few months we've seen quite a few price changes, and particularly in the realm of CPUs the battle being waged between AMD and Intel has resulted in rapid price cuts. We're not done yet either, as we expect to see further price drops in the coming weeks and months, followed of course by the launch of various new processors from both companies. This intense competition may not be the best thing in the world for the bottom line of the participants, but for the time being the consumer is reaping the benefits. Let's just hope all of the parties involved remain with us for a long time to come.

Some of the other areas have also seen quite a few new product launches, specifically motherboards and graphics cards. In the graphics department, NVIDIA just launched GeForce their 8500 and 8600 GPUs. We had hoped to see some impressive performance numbers out of these parts, something to carry on the legacy of the GeForce 6600 GT. While the cards offer some new features and certainly aren't terrible, the price/performance for the most part simply maintains the current status quo. DirectX 10 parts are now available at price points starting at $100, and midrange performance parts fall just under the $200 price point. Depending on the intended use, the new products may or may not fit your needs. If you're not in any hurry to upgrade, however, AMD will be launching their R600 series graphics parts within the next month or so, and waiting to see how those actually perform and how much they cost might not be a bad idea.

The past few months have also seen the launch of Microsoft's latest magnum opus: Windows Vista. While we'd love to give the new operating system a full recommendation, the fact of the matter is that driver availability/stability/compatibility remains something of a sticking point. We're still definitely at the stage where Vista is more for early adopters than for everyone, and the majority of us at AnandTech continue to run Windows XP as our primary operating system. Given that Windows Vista has been touted as a better platform for gaming, it's ironic that gaming performance/compatibility is currently one of the major sticking points. Once we start to see games that actually launch with DirectX 10 support, we expect the driver situation to finally mature to the point where most people will prefer Windows Vista. At present, individuals are going to be forced to decide between staying with a tried and true platform or potentially dealing with some quirks of the shiny new operating system in exchange for the new features.

As usual, we will be providing several different system configurations. However, it is nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive look at all of the different components currently available and worth consideration in even a small market segment. We will be listing our primary recommendations, but depending on individual needs and availability there are numerous other options that we won't be able to cover. If you have questions, feel free to ask - either in the comments section or in our forums. We will do our best to provide advice. With that said, we'll start with our entry level AMD configuration.

Entry Level AMD
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  • Zepper - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    You don't have to pay a lot for a decent PSU. The iStar TC-350PD1 is under $40 right now on sale. Even Athenatech has some lower end cases with Fortron/Sparkle PSUs. But you don't act like PSUs are important when testing them separately and then turn around and recommend a junk-bucket even for a budget system.

    .bh.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    The case + PSU is $65 shipped. It's actually a pretty decent looking case as well, all told. Now, the iStar costs about $45 shipped at eWiz, which means that you need to find a $20 case that you're happy with or else spend more money. I freely admit that I skimp on PSUs on budget systems, but that's really nothing too surprising. An $80 motherboard with IGP is "skimping", 1GB of RAM is "skimping", etc. They'll all still work fine for most people, but anyone looking to add a GPU, better PSU, etc. quickly vaults into the midrange prices.

    I supported Dell PCs for several years at another job, and I think they skimp at least as much as anything I've listed here. One year, almost all PCs were fine. Between 12 and 24 months, we had probably 10% fail, many with motherboards and several with PSUs. Past two years, I think the failure rate was approaching 20%, again on mobos and PSUs primarily. I feel a lot worse about cutting costs and quality on a motherboard than I do about going with cheaper PSUs, at least in the budget sector.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Oh, and for that matter I think the LCDs on the low end are suspect as well. I tried to go with ones that are getting favorable ratings, but a lot of people basically seem to say, "Wow - LCDs look cool and it only cost $180! 5 stars!" The thing is, for people that don't go beyond that sort of critique, it probably *is* a five star LCD! That's the same with PSUs and cases. I don't think any serious enthusiast is going to build a decent PC using a budget case and PSU.

    For the record, the few times I've used Raidmax cases and PSUs (whatever brand they happened to be), I have never had a complaint. Both systems are still running (Athlon XP 2500+) after four years or so. Not bad for a cheap $65 case and PSU. Was I just lucky? Maybe, but that's my experience with budget systems and Raidmax cases. (And also for the record, the people I built those PCs for thought the case looked "l33t" and specifically chose it; I thought it looked gaudy and stupid. No accounting for taste.)
    Reply
  • jay401 - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    The E6350 and E6450 will increase the amount of L2 cache while keeping the same clock speeds and bus speeds as the E6300 and E6400...

    That would be the E6320 and E6420. The 50 series doesn't come out until August and will sport higher clockspeeds and higher FSB (1333MHz).

    And the question: Any word yet if the Ultra 120 Extreme has been updated to address the concern you guys listed in the review (something about a bracket when trying to mount it on s775 boards)?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • redbone75 - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    I actually saw the E6320 and E6420 available at Newegg.com on thursday night. Strangely enough they aren't listed there tonight. Both processors are available at zipzoomfly.com, though. Reply
  • jay401 - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Dear AMD,

    This is the final proof you have delayed your R600 GPU series for too long: You didn't even get them out in time for the rarely seen Anandtech Buyer's Guide!

    Sincerely,

    Disappointed in Delaware


    :D
    Reply

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