Weekly Buyer's Guide: Budget System

by Evan Lieb on 2/17/2004 10:06 AM EST
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  • Zebo - Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - link

    Great guide evan.

    Couple changes I'd make

    1. Duron 1.8 Ghz will smoke the XP1800 for $40

    2. Shuttle An35N is a equivalent board and cheaper $60

    3. 2100 mem? Whatever..why are you buying a chipset 3200 capable then?

    There I recommend Buffalos CH-5 cas2.5 PC3200 for $44 each a bit more money but signifigantly better performing.


    Reply
  • newuser12 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I know this is a bit late, but I felt it might be good to note....
    Fry's Electronics has a good deal on a motherboard+CPU almost every day (where I live, at least). I find it hard to beat about $70/$80 for an athlon 2200+ with an ECS motherboard and heatsink and fan, or a simliar deal. I know the ECS motherboards are rather bare, but this is after all a budget system. They even had/have a $40 deal for a 1.6 duron+motherboard.
    Reply
  • barton2500 - Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - link

    For a real low budget system, swap with my recommendations here:

    1. Processor: Applebred Duron 1.4 GHz is cheaper and will overclock quite well if you want to. Save about $20.

    2. Motherboard: Asrock K7VMM2. Cheap $59 Cdn and has integrated video/sound/lan. Budget systems aren't mean for gaming. You can always add a video card to that too. A7N8X-X is about $105 Cdn, so the saving is $46 Cdn for the board, and save the video card.

    If you want to game, then go for the AthlonXP, but you can still use a cheaper board with a nicer card like a GF4 Ti 4200.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    I'd second that one #28 Cygni. The duron's the way to go in a budget system. The 9000-9200 arent true Dx9 cards - rebadged 8500s, so you could settle for a Ti4200-4600, solid and compatible. Else a cut down 9600 eg GeXcube which is a true DX9 card. Reply
  • KenRico - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Actually gusmahler hit it on the head the XP2500+ retail is now in sight of $80ish retail with fan.

    As far as "cheapest" you could load up a ECS K7VMMW with a AMD Athlon 80GB SAMSUNG HD 256MB and cheapied case FD and CD for under $240
    Reply
  • gusmahler - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    A few comments:

    * This article doesn't copy Sharky. Sharky's budget was $1000.

    * The XP 2500 is only $40 more than the XP 1800. You can save $50 by going with XP Home instead of XP Pro. The other $10 can be used to upgrade to PC2700 RAM instead of PC2100 RAM. (Actually, I think the difference isn't even $10).

    * I don't think $40 pushes the budget into "mid-range". Even if you keep the same OS, a $40 change from $640 to $680 is tiny, not "mid-range".

    * $57 for a 40 GB hard drive is just stupid. 40 GB will be filled up within a week. Newegg lists the WD 80GB drive for $66 and the 120 GB drive for $88.50. I don't think anyone's budget will be blown by an extra $9.

    I think this guide was pretty lame. I suggested two changes that don't add any money to the system, yet the performance and usability will be markedly improved. Getting the cheapest part for the sake of being cheap is pretty silly when you can increase the performance with minimal additional expenditure.
    Reply
  • txxxx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Why not pick a mainboard with soundstorm? A few $ more only. And where's the CPU cooler price / suggestion?

    As for speakers, wouldnt a budget user be better off with headphones at this price level? And 266 FSB memory, ? Surely DDR 333 is the same price?

    And finally doesnt the A7N8X-X use the nVidia ethernet controller and a Realtek PHY?

    Cant help but think this article was RUSHED out the door. Try harder next time, Evan.
    Reply
  • SKiller - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    39

    I think he was asking about how much CPU time the onboard sounds takes up compared to a dedicated card. While creative cards have problems, they're pretty well known for having low CPU utilization.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Don't you hate it when people double-post, and then post yet again either apologizing or claiming they didn't do it, the website must be crazy? As if we'd otherwise think they meant to double-post if they didn't post again saying they didn't mean to.... doesn't that just add to the original crime?

    BTW, I didn't double-click... the website must be crazy.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    to #37 (bhtooefr):

    Seems to me for a budget system, the AXP 2500+ is too expensive: about double the cost of the selected CPU's. A 2500+ would push the system solidly to the value-midrange, not budget. Then you'd also need PC-2700 RAM instead of the slightly cheaper PC-2100 stuff listed.

    I do agree that a Linux distro might have been mentioned, but keep in mind all of Anandtech's price guides are really about the hardware; they toss in an OS to avoid the inevitable "what about an OS?" question. Now of course they get nitpicked about the OS they toss in... I think AT should just say "The guide is about hardware... choose your own OS".

    Regarding the nVidia card as a runner up to the ATI... at the low budget level, nVidia has no runner up that makes any real sense. The 5200 cards just don't perform as well as the 9000/9100/9200 cards in DX8 apps, and the 5200's DX9 support is about useless since it lacks the horsepower to run DX9 code.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    to #37 (bhtooefr):

    Seems to me for a budget system, the AXP 2500+ is too expensive: about double the cost of the selected CPU's. A 2500+ would push the system solidly to the value-midrange, not budget. Then you'd also need PC-2700 RAM instead of the slightly cheaper PC-2100 stuff listed.

    I do agree that a Linux distro might have been mentioned, but keep in mind all of Anandtech's price guides are really about the hardware; they toss in an OS to avoid the inevitable "what about an OS?" question. Now of course they get nitpicked about the OS they toss in... I think AT should just say "The guide is about hardware... choose your own OS".

    Regarding the nVidia card as a runner up to the ATI... at the low budget level, nVidia has no runner up that makes any real sense. The 5200 cards just don't perform as well as the 9000/9100/9200 cards in DX8 apps, and the 5200's DX9 support is about useless since it lacks the horsepower to run DX9 code.
    Reply
  • Entz - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    To #36
    [quote ...
    So what is the real cost of using onboard options such as sound and video in the "real world"?]

    Most nForce2 motherboards have the Soundstorm APU built into their southbridges. This sound chip gives you hardware accelerated 3D sound equal to in quality if not better than even the Audigy line of Soundblaster cards. Not to mention it supports real-time Dolby Digital encoding which is totally amazing. The realtec chip is only used to convert the purely digital output of the Soundstorm APU to the 3 analog connections for normal speakers. It is also used on input (Mic etc). This is not your "normal" onboard audio solution.

    I agree with the author on this. I wouldn't recommend spending *any* money on a seperate sound system if you have a nForce2 board with the MCP-T southbridge (Soundstorm) such as the A7N8XDlx Rev2.
    Reply
  • Curt Oien - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    All of the pictures are messed up for me. Reply
  • bhtooefr - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Hmm, forget the Western Digital hard drive. I've had too much reliability issues with those, and I'd rather go Seagate. Good choice on the RAM, and great choice on the mobo, but your CPU choice was confusing. Why didn't you go with the 2500+? Also, nVIDIA cards have better Linux support, and I'd STRONGLY consider Linux on a budget system.

    I agree that XP Pro is better than Home, but WHY didn't you go with Linux as at least a runner up, and a nV card as runner up to the ATI card?
    Reply
  • Eniall8R - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Well the comments prove you can't please all the peolpe all the time, and my question is related to the choice of using the onboard sound.

    I recently upgraded to a p4p800 and a 2.6 P4 with a Saphire 9600 256 mb. I played with the onboard sound option but noticed a HUGE preformance hit in games such as MS Rally, or NFS Underground. Frame rates were either jittery or the game was reduced to less then what I would experience on my P3 1GHz with a GF2. I put the SB Live! back in and the game play is smooth as silk.

    So what is the real cost of using onboard options such as sound and video in the "real world"?

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • MOwings - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    I would definitely go with a different monitor. Check out Envision monitors available at Compusa and other places. I have a 910e 19" that I have been using at work for a couple of years. Totally reliable and great picture. My parents have the 17" flat screen and it also has excellent text and graphics. For the price they can't be beat, imo. The Samsung 955df does not compare to the Envision 985e. Our boss bought a Samsung for us and we had him exchange it for the 985e becase the samsung could not do 75 Hz at 1600x1200. I think it was 67 Hz. Looking on Compusa's web site right now I see the En-775e 17 " for 69.99 after rebates, and en-985e 19" flat screen for 219.99 (probably too high for a budget system I know). I see the 19" on sale in the ads quite often for about what your 17" pick was. I see the 985e at staples for 199. All their monitors have 3 year warranties as well.

    I might also go with an Antec case, slk1600 60$ shipped or slk2600amb, 64$ shipped (newegg). You're paying 20-24$ more but getting a great power supply and case.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    http://secure.newegg.com/app/WishHistoryReview.asp...

    I'd pair that with a $100 17 inch monitor from a local computer store... an optical mouse on sale from a local computer store, and even a cheap $5 keyboard will do.
    Reply
  • KenRico - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    It was here at Anandtech that I learned the difference between nFORCE2 400 and nFORCE2 Ultra 400 Chipset - the mainboard featured as recommended budget system is Single Channel.
    The article did feature a Fantastic Budget Case with the TS1 and catch that SPI Sparkle is the most reliable, affordable PS on the market.
    Since Anandtech did state in the preamble they are going to be featuring an article a week, I can make the following recommendations:

    --> Isoalate the items outside the box i.e.: OS, Monitor, KeyBoard, Mouse, Speaker Set, Joystick, Camera & Headset,with a seperate price table; they could even like to cheapest, "Best Value Pick", and "Prefered Item" with links to AT Deal Finder.
    --> With the System Box isolated our Article Authors can give a range of price totals hopefully with a format like Cheapest, Best Value and Prefered or classes like MOST GAME under $500 or Rock Solid Total Cost of Ownership under $300.
    --> System Box isolated - build it and perform the benchmarks! Onboard Video vs discreet $40 video vs. adding RAM vs one class higher in Processor. This would also yield the hard data in an Upgrade decision where the budget is fixed.
    --> AMD PIB Retail Box is on average $6 higher than the OEM offering with heatsink/fan and 3-year MFG Warranty...price the retail and denote the OEM "savings"...then offer a linkable "Pick" for alternate cooling. This may come into play on the Midrange, Cutting Edge, and OverClock Articles where price vs. performance is critical and can still display TOTAL Cost.
    The reason I took the time to make this post is that Anandtech Guides have always reminded me of Sharkeys also and I know with some small modifications to the format or focus they can come through with some Interesting Guides with some data to back it up.
    Reply
  • kherman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Complementary copy....

    As an author of a for-profit site, recomending specific vendors should be avoided. I agree with the recomendations, but it takes away from creditablility.

    Jsut a suggestion for the future ;)
    Karl
    Reply
  • thatsright - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I'm surprised that AnandTech would part and parcel totally rip of SharkyExtreme's PC buying guides.

    See for yourself:

    http://www.sharkyextreme.com/guides/MVGSBG/article...
    Reply
  • kherman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Love the article. I just wish a budget 19" was ercomended. That's probably the one major upgrade a budget user would want. Whether for gaming or office type work, that's an important choice.

    IMHO, in the future, several monitors of varrying sizes should be listed each week.

    Just saying, in the future, consider multiple monitor sizes for each week's category that match the cost associated with that week.

    I suppose the big argument is that for my needs of Office programs and occasional gaming, I need little more than a budget rig, but I still wanth te 19 inch monitor to give my eyes something big to look at. I suppose that's true for alot of 27 year old married people ;)

    EXCELENMT REVIEW!

    It's good to see these rig ideas again. Thanks for bringing them back. With time at a minimum, it's a VERY nice way to keep up with PC technology.

    Karl
    Reply
  • capodeloscapos - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I cant believe that the photos are BMPs!!!!! (who is the HTML editor of that page?)
    In my 56 K modem its really annoying.
    Change it for JPEG, please.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I would have gone with a Duron 1.6 Applebred, a Shuttle AN35N-Ultra, and a Radeon 9100... but thats me. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Weird... I really didn't double-post that. Clicked once, got the first 20 posts, went to page 2, and there were two posts. I guess it was just a glitch in the system. Or maybe a Ghost in the Shell? :p Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And no, I don't work for Newegg. That's just where I get all my parts. Personally, regardless of where you shop, I think it's best to get everything from one supplier if possible. It helps on warranty issues, and you usually save on shipping. I'm sure ZipZoomFly.com and several other places could end up at a relatively close price to what I list from Newegg. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And no, I don't work for Newegg. That's just where I get all my parts. Personally, regardless of where you shop, I think it's best to get everything from one supplier if possible. It helps on warranty issues, and you usually save on shipping. I'm sure ZipZoomFly.com and several other places could end up at a relatively close price to what I list from Newegg. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Actually, here's my take on a killer deal for a really good system. It has 1 GB RAM, 2500+, 80GB hard drive, 9600 video card, and 5.1 speakers. Anyway, it's a lot more than your budget system, but it could be downgraded (like only 512MB RAM and a 9200 video card, and drop the speakers) quite easily. For about $900 without software, or $1150 with shipping, two year warranty, and Windows XP Professional, it's more of the mid-range category. Still, I like it. I've built this exact system for one guy who only games occasionally, and he thinks it's great.

    Link:
    http://secure.newegg.com/app/WishR.asp?ID=600488
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I suppose you should probably start by giving a definition of "budget" systems. For me, I consider budget to be around $750, mid-range to be $1250, and high-end to be anything more than $1500. $500 is a "Dell Special" where you end up going with the bare minimum for a new system. An extra $250 spent would have allowed you to double the RAM, double the hard drive, get a 19" monitor, and go with a nicer case like an Antec. Oh, well.

    My biggest complaint about the setup has to be the monitor, though. I'm not sure about the Samsung, but I have a ton of NEC FE771SB monitors at work. (Okay, 140 of them, not a "ton".) They're okay, but at $175, that's way more than I would be willing to pay. First, image clarity is not that great, IMO. Second, the "Super Bright" option is just plain stupid. I would have liked to see a 19" monitor like the Samsung recommend as a runner up. It costs $20 more, but getting a really good monitor can be a very long-term investment. It's the one piece of equipment that could actually last ten years or more! (I have a Cornerstone 21" monitor that I purchased six years ago, and I'm still perfectly happy with it. $550 then, and a comparable monitor still costs $400.)

    So, here's my recommended monitor:
    Samsung 955DF-T/T for $175

    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    Shipping would add about $20 or $25, depending on where you live. (I'm west cost, but east coast might be significantly more from Newegg.)
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Actually, make that $135 OEM. Students get a discount on their OSes, but it depends on what university you attend. Check with your university book store. Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Yeah, there's a typo with the WinXP Pro price, it should be $137 shipped (OEM version). For some reason I didn't change that before posting the article.

    As far as choosing the HDD is concerned, extra storage or speed really isn't all that important if it ends up costing more, this is a budget system. Though, I suppose I should have recommended the 9200SE instead, but that's why I put it in as a runner-up. :)
    Reply
  • everman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Linux not even OS runner-up? This is a budget system, why not save $275 and use something...free?

    Knoppix would be mindlessly easy to install on that system for example.
    Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Nicely put together system. I do have to contend with one of your selections though... I just had zipzoomfly.com ship me a 80GB IBM/Hitachi deskstar HD 2MB cache for 68 bucks. While your selection is a bit cheaper, I don't think it's so much cheaper that it's worth giving up 2x HD capasity. 40GB can fill up quick these days! Other than that excellent choices for a budget system. Reply
  • eyeguy - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I agree that a budget deal is just get a computer with OS from HP/ Compaq for less than $400. Somehow MS does not want us to buy XP except in a bundle - otherwise get an n-force2 so you can upgrade to dual channel and OC if you want. Onboard nforce2 video is fine in an office (and free) Reply
  • dutchdabomb - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    What's the deal with the .bmp images? Why not PNG or JPEG? Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Might add the InWin cases like a few others have now fan ducts on the side so when air is drawn in the processor fan gets it first.

    I would spend an extra $15 to have Muskin PC3200 Blue Line ram just for when you would upgrade or for that matter PC3200 is almost the same anyhow since it is the current higher selling memory speed.
    Reply
  • Regs - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    And of course, when everybody thinks Budget computer, they think of their budget computer.

    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Well I would never get that Foxconn Case. A computer was made with this case for a friend of mine from CompUSA, and the covers on this case do not fit perfectly and the metal used is easy to bend. Not to mention the power supply in the case sucks.

    The InWin cases are very sturdy and precise fitting. Unfortuneately they do not come with Sparkle power supplies anymore.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    The Radeon 9100 is another good budget choice for about the same price. It's just a relabeled 8500, and is very similar to the 9000/9200, but I think it's faster than even the Pro versions of the 9000/9200 chips (depends on the application I guess). I put one in my kid's computer; works great for his games.

    Also, anyone who has access to a Fry's Electronics should check their newspaper ad (or just go in anytime from Friday through Tuesday). They almost always have an AthlonXP 1800, 2000 or 2200 (T-Bred B each time I've bought) paired with a ECS K7VTA3 v8.0 (KT333CF) board for $55 to $70 total (yes, barely more than the price of the CPU or MB alone). They often have similar bundles for higher Athlon's and P4's, but the deal isn't nearly as good.
    Reply
  • medfly - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    use maxtor hard drives instead, fluid bearings. The low end wd drives are ball bearing and after some time get damn loud with bearing whine. Use an albatron nforce 2 board and save about 8 bucks.
    if you dont care about gaming at all, radeon 7000's go for about $30 at new egg. Also, never buy a retail copy of M$, get it oem and save a huge chunk of change.
    Reply
  • andreasl - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I was in this situation just a month ago when buying a budget system. But I ended up with an XP2500 and a Radeon 9000Pro. The 9000Pro cost about as much as the 9200 but is clocked higher. The only other difference is AGP 4x vs 8x. So if you can find a 9000Pro for about the same price I really recommend getting that one instead. Reply
  • ITdude - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Nice System doesn't include a Monitor though.

    I would have gone with:
    AMD XP 2500 Barton (+$30.00)
    Nforce 2 IGP built in Video (+$25.00)
    Skip the Radeon 9200 (-$58.00)
    and if at all possible get 512MB RAM (+$35.00)
    Reply
  • taleril - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    How about keyboard and mouse choices? Just go generic and cheap? Reply
  • anilphv - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I prefer eMachines or HP pre-Configured PCs for this budget. These machines look nice and comparable hard ware and software configurations. There are lot of better deals for these machine in the web also.

    http://www.emachines.com/products/products.html?pr...

    Specifications
    CPU: AMD Athlon™ XP 3000+ Processor
    QuantiSpeed™ Architecture operates at 2.167 GHz
    512KB L2 cache & 333MHz FSB
    Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
    Chipset: NVIDIA® nForce™2
    Memory: 512 MB DDR (PC 2700)
    Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
    Optical Drives: 48x Max. CD-RW Drive; 16x Max. DVD Drive; 3.5" 1.44MB FDD; 8-in-1 Media Reader(USB 2.0, Secure Digital (SD), Smart Media, Compact Flash, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Micro Drive, Multimedia Card)
    Video: NVIDIA® GeForce4™ MX graphics (1 AGP 8x slot available)
    Sound: nForce™ 6-channel Audio
    Modem: 56K* ITU v.92 ready Fax/Modem
    Network: 10/100Mbps built-in Ethernet
    Peripherals: Premium Plus Multimedia Keyboard, 2-Button Wheel Mouse, Amplified Stereo Speakers
    Dimensions: 7.25"w x 14.125"h x 16"d
    Internet: AOL 3 month membership included, click here for details
    Ports/Other: 5 USB 2.0 ports (4 in back; 1 in Media Reader), 1 Serial, 1 Parallel, 2 PS/2, Audio-In & Out
    Pre-Installed Software: Microsoft Works 7.0, Microsoft Money 2004, Encarta Online, Adobe® Acrobat® Reader™, Microsoft Media Player, Real Player, Power DVD, Internet Explorer, Netscape® Navigator, MSN®, CompuServe®, AOL (with 3 months membership included**), Norton AntiVirus 2004 (90 day complimentary subscription)
    Reply
  • NeoGodless - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Can not view Page 4. Causes IE to crash.
    Otherwise, similar to budget systems I have built. I used the Shuttle, and prefer putting 512MB systems in Windows XP... which allows for the nForce2 chipset to make use of dual channel memory. I've seen several Radeon 9200SE cards with poor 2D image quality and never recommend them to anyone. Spend the extra $5 to $15...
    Reply
  • kuk - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    This takes me back to SharkyExtreme's guides ... Reply
  • shiftomnimega - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I would hae definitely gone with XP home and heck while you're buying all those parts get the OEM version for around 90 bucks. Reply
  • Ecmaster76 - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I recommend the Shuttle AN35 series of motherboards. They are a little on the plain side, but they use the nforce2 ultra ($60 single or dual for about $5 more). They also include integrated sound and nteworking. Reply
  • Bonesdad - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Seems like an alternatie OS is in line too...linux or WinXP Home. Especially if this is budget. I guess if this is destined to be an office PC, XP Pro is good, but if it is a home PC...savings can definately be had. Reply
  • elturco - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    isnt it funny that you are recommending a $270 Os for a $520 computer? if it is a budget system, you should recommend a decent linux OS. Reply
  • KillaKilla - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Well put.
    Personally I would have liked to see a performance system buyer's guide, but that's just me.

    Also I would have suggested an 80
    (or 120GB, it's like ~$10 more, I think) GB WD SE HDD, but that's assuming you're using it as a storage/backup system.

    -KillaKilla
    Reply

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