Introduction

You are probably wondering about the strange dollar amount of $825 as the high mark for our Entry Buyers' Guide. If so we have a very pleasant surprise for you. To this point our under $800 systems have centered on some great motherboards with on-board graphics. That $800 budget just couldn't support a graphics card - let alone a truly decent graphics card - and stay under $800 with an LCD monitor, speakers, input devices, and OS.

Things have changed a lot in the two months since we published our last Entry Buyers' Guide. We can now accomplish what seemed impossible just two months ago at the $800 price point and include a dedicated GPU in the Budget AMD and Intel systems. This is not just any GPU either, as it made little sense to include a cheap video card that was hardly better than on-board graphics. Both budget builds now include the exciting new ATI 4770 graphics card we reviewed just a couple of weeks ago.

Our graphics and motherboard editors have been raving about the value the 4770 brings to the video card table, so our quest was to build balanced, full-featured, complete systems that include an HD 4770 and an HD LCD monitor for $800. It was not OK merely to squeak by; we wanted to build a balanced and powerful $800 general purpose and gaming system that would blow away anything you could buy from an OEM at a similar price. To do that we went over our budget just a little bit - to $813 and $819 - but we were unwilling to further compromise the components in the systems to drop the price. If all you need is a basic box, the price for an ATI HD 4770 system is even more enticing at around $530. To see what $825 can buy you in the new high-value builds, turn to our new budget AMD and Intel systems on pages 4 and 5.

For those of you looking for a basic but competent system for your kid, parents, grandma, or yourself, if you're really on a tight budget, look at our Entry Intel and AMD systems. For the first time the basic box actually broke through the $300 barrier in one of the builds. The rest of the components are also better than ever in this category including the latest motherboards with Intel G43 and AMD 780G/SB710 chipsets. They also include a larger, more capable LCD monitor, better speakers, and Microsoft Vista Home Premium, for a complete system price of under $550.

These aren't stripped entry systems or the lowest CPU power we could find; they are capable complete systems based on the best bang for the buck we could put together. We could definitely put together even cheaper systems, but these systems represent a nice blend of performance, flexibility, and expandability that we would actually build for our own kids or relatives, budget-minded friends, or ourselves.

This guide takes a closer look at the complete systems you can build for less than $825 these days. Each component table for the complete system includes a subtotal for the basic system without speakers, keyboard/mouse, monitor, or OS. With a quick glance, you can see the cost to build a basic box that many would consider in a system upgrade. You can also see the total to build a complete system with all the peripherals needed for a balanced brand new system.

Low-end PCs have a reputation for being sub-standard, underpowered, and barely better than off-the-shelf PCs. That certainly was true in the past, but with the continuing drop in component prices, you can get a lot of PC today for your $299 to $825. About a year ago it would cost you about $700 to $750 to put together an Entry system. Today you can build a similar but more powerful system for about $250 less. The worldwide economic slowdown isn't the sole cause of the increased value. It is also the fierce competition between Intel and AMD on the CPU front, and AMD/ATI and NVIDIA in the GPU market. These price, performance, and value wars have made it possible to buy quality components for prices that previously belonged to outdated hardware. You just have to know what to look for.

The Entry System Buyers' Guide is always one of the most read and referred to articles on AnandTech, and it is easy to understand why. Whether it's your first system build or number 1000, the hardest choices are where every penny counts. Value is never about the cheapest price, but about getting the most for the money you do spend. We hope you agree that this Buyers' Guide details some of the greatest value computers we have ever presented in our System Buyers' Guides.

AMD Entry-level PC
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    I think you're talking about a very small group of people that will even need that feature. Virtual XP is a "fix" from MS that's only for older programs that refuse to work right with Win7, and even then you're running with the equivalent of old unaccelerated GPUs. If you have a program that works with Vista, it should be fine on Win7. If you need virtualization that badly, though, by all means make sure you buy a CPU that supports hardware VT. (Intel will be releasing updated versions of many CPUs with VT enabled in the near future.) Reply
  • jelifah - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    Assuming a computer is on an average of 8 hours a day, what cost savings is potentially realized when using a 45nm processor in lieu of a 65nm processor?

    Heck, I'm still on a 90nm Opteron 170 so anyway I could lie to myself, by 'saving' money upgrading, would be appreciated.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    From our http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">Athlon X2 7850 vs. Core 2 E5300 article, idle power for the Intel system will be around 123W vs. 126W for the Intel system. Load power favors Intel by a larger margin, at 148W vs. 188W. If you're like most users and average 90% idle/10% load (possibly even less than that), it would work out to an average power draw of 125.5W for Intel and 132.2W for AMD.

    Eight hours per day, 365.25 days per year, and a cost of $0.10 per kWhr thus yields a total of $38.62 for AMD and $36.67 for Intel (based on these systems). The bigger concern would be potentially higher noise levels under load, I think, unless you plan on running something like Folding@Home in the background.
    Reply
  • jelifah - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - link

    Thank you for taking the time to run all the info, Jarred. Reply
  • Roland00 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    Recently LG has created an e-ips panel (an ips panel that allows more light through thus you don't need a larger backlight.)

    It has already begun to appear in monitors including the dell 2209wa. Unfortunately prices have gone up on this monitor due to high demand, it is now near 280 in price when it was down to 240 when it first launched.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    At $280, that's probably one of the best compromises between price and quality you're likely to see. It's ironic that Dell doesn't even mention the IPS panel in their technical specs... aren't they proud of that fact? Reply
  • Spacecomber - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    They probably don't want to be married to that spec; so, when the supply runs low, they can substitute something else. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    They should be. Is it offered in larger sizes? Reply
  • Roland00 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    LG had (has) plans to make larger size versions of the e-ips panels but I haven't heard anything new for the last 3 months on them. To my knowledge only the dell 2209wa uses the lg e-ips panel. Reply
  • Springfield45 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    Like your editors, I am excited about the 4770 also. I have one sitting on my desk next to my computer. The reason it is not yet IN the computer? I can't find drivers for it. Sapphire (the flavor I purchased) does not have any on their website, nor does AMD. Do you happen to know of a good source for the drivers? Reply

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