Weekly Buyer's Guide: Mid-Range System

by Evan Lieb on 2/26/2004 2:43 PM EST


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  • Atlas5 - Sunday, February 29, 2004 - link

    I'm glad to see Anandtech doing guides again. The site has read like an Electrical Engineering White Paper for the last 3 years. I may start visiting more often.

    Anyway, I just put together a new system and my P4 3.2 only cost $170 and included the heatsink/fan. And by following the links on the video card roundup at Tomshardware, I got my ATI Radeon 9800 Pro for $207.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    While we're on the topic of CPUs, my newly purchased XP 2500+ will NOT overclock to 3200+ speeds. It does do 2.1 GHz okay, but any more than that and I have stability problems. It is an OEM CPU, though, so maybe that's why it doesn't OC as well. I had an Antec copper core HSF unit so already - unused! - so I didn't want to get a retail and end up with an extra HSF sitting around. Probably should have paid the extra $8. No worries, though: I'm going to be shifting this PC over to my brother's dental practice soon anyway, at which time I'll probably get an Athlon 64 to replace it. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    #17... Thanks. I see where I screwed up. It's only the HIGHER COST Seagate hard drives that use a Serial ATA interface that come with the 1 year warranty. WTF is up with that? Granted, performance difference between ATA-6 and SATA isn't anything major right now, but why would anyone pay more for the same hard drive with an SATA interface with a shorter warranty!? So if you're getting a standard ATA drive, the Seagate is okay; it's the SATA ones that have the newer, shorter warranty. Bleh. I also notice that numerous other manufacturers have drives with both 1 year and 3 year warranties, depending on size. (I was only looking at 8 MB cache drives.) Go figure. Reply
  • DaveHull - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    I have to mention, after building two systems with the board, and getting better benchmarks from it than with my 865PE and 875 boards, that the Asus P4S800D-E Deluxe (new SIS 655TX) is a better deal, at $104 shipped, than any board with an Intel chipset. It even has four SATA connnectors and three for IDE. I'm surprised that this board was not recomended, given the praise AnandTech sent its way in this article, especially in the final words section:



  • Z80 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Can't really argue with any of the hardware choices except the SB Live 5.1. Too many bad memories about driver and chipset issues. Maybe all of that was resolved in the current version? Considering the recent price drops, I'd have selected a DVD burner for around $100 instead of the CD burner or DVD player. Reply
  • SKiller - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    #13 Here you go: http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc... Reply
  • skunkbuster - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    i agree with some of these other posters. some of the choices that were made are questionable. why not get an xp2500, and just change the default fsb from 333 to 400, and you will get higher performance than the xp2800.

    also, Soundblaster Live is pretty damn old. the soundstorm is much better sounding.

    and why get that generic-looking compuer case, when you can get a much better quality antec SLK3700AMB case for the same price?

  • Tiorapatea - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    The Abit AN7 is still immature. There are numerous reports of problems with this board. Stick with the cheaper and proven NF7-S Rev2.

    Also, another vote for the 2500+. Why pay more when it is well known that one can very simply overclock these processors? Another possibility is the XP-M Mobile chips, which are unlocked and sell for a small premium, albeit they are hard to find.

    Finally, I have to agree with the posters who have rubbished your mention of Creative's Soundblaster Live. Creative's drivers and tech support are notoriously bad.
  • jbee2002 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    While I certainly think the video card recommendations in the article are fine, I would like to point out that the information "all 9800SE cards do not have a 256bit interface" is incorrect. I own a Hercules 9800SE All-in-wonder, and it IS a 256bit memory interface card. In fact, with the Omega drivers (which enable the switched-off pixel pipelines in the chip) it has exactly the same 3dmark2003 scores as a regular 9800Pro. The TV tuner on the card even has a sticker "9800pro all in wonder" on it :-)


    At 190 Euros, this card is a real steal.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Woah! You recommend the Seagate as a runner up on the hard drive? Maybe you should mention that the 8MB cache WD drives come with a 3 year warranty still, while the Seagate (and Hitachi/IBM and several others) only come with a 1 year warranty. For me, the slight noise increase is not even noticeable with the sound of the fans, and the 3 year warranty seals the deal. I would definitely stick with the WD drives.

    As for the remainder, I just upgraded to an Athlon XP 2500+, but I'm planning to overclock. Pretty much all of the Barton model XP chips scale to around 2.3 GHz with decent HSF, so there's no reason to spend the extra $40 to get the 2800+ IMO.

    I've also heard a lot of bad things about Creative's drivers on the Live! cards, so I'm not sure they're really any better than other solutions. Audigy/Audigy 2 are supposed to have better drivers. (My new system is an Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe and also has SoundStorm, for $110.) Great choice on the speakers, though - exactly what I ordered! :)

    The CD-RW is fine, I guess, although Lite On is still a bit cheaper if that's important and their burners work very well. Funny how you mention that the 9700 Pro is about 35% more than the 9600 Pro and performs about 35% better, but then you say the 9800 Pro isn't worth the extra $15 to $25 because it *doesn't* have a 35% performance increase over the 9700 Pro. That's true, but it only costs about 10% more and it *does* perform about 10% faster than the 9700 Pro. It's certainly an option if people are looking to get a little bit more speed.

    My final complaint, though, has to be the case choice. Okay, it's not terrible, but I think the Antec SX635BII (I think SX630II is the beige version?) is a worthy runner up. It's $71 and comes with front firewire/USB ports and an Antec 350W power supply. The PS is also very quiet in comparison to many I've had.

    Overall, though, very good system for the price. I built almost the exact same thing for a friend recently, with the same monitor, CPU, and speakers. Only change was 1 GB RAM and an FX5900 graphics card, plus some minor differences here and there. I'm looking forward to seeing the Overclocking System. :)
  • virtualgames0 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Evan, nice article
    Though I'd have to disagree with you on the sound. I personally listened to the Realtek codec with soundstorm on my NF7-S, SB Live! 5.1, and Analog Devices AD1985. I used my Sennheiser HD-497 to test sound quality. SBlive and realtek had similar sound quality, distorted and bright highs. While AD1985 sounded much better than all of them, crisper, sounded almost as good as my headphones plugged into my Onkyo amp.
    Between the soundstorm and the SBLive, Soundstorm the most powerful audio chip made, which gives you much better gaming performance than SBLive. It also supports 60 directional sounds, a feature exclusive to the two most powerful soundchips, soundstorm and audigy 2.
    Based on this, I cannot see how you can recommend SBLive5.1 as an option over soundstorm. I personally upgraded my motherboard just so I can get soundstorm.

    AD1985 sounds flat out better than sound blaster live, I think anyone that heard both of them would agree with me.
  • gofor55 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I got suckered into buying the 7N400 Pro2 by all the "good reviews" only to find out that the GigaRAID on board controller is crap. It barely matches the performance of a single drive and writing to RAID is half the performance. Has any of these reviewers actually tested it, or do they just hype the "cool features". Let me know if they've got a fix I don't know about. Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link


    Good call. I was under the impression that the DSP in lower-end Audigys had to ability to output 24 bit sound. You're right, it's been corrected.


    Where can you find 9800 non-Pro's? Barely any vendors carry them anymore, if any at all (I couldn't find one vendor). For whatever reason, lots of vendors carry the 9700 Pro.


    The 2500+ is also another good bang for your buck CPU, but it just depends on how much you have to spend and if you're an overclocker.


    That's another good option.


    It's been corrected, thanks.


    The P4P800 Deluxe retail boxes we've purchased have both brackets included.
  • tallman45 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    It should be noted that the pricing of the P4P800 Deluxe does not include USB and Firewire brackets which would add to the $125 price point Reply
  • kcbaltz - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    Why was a 2800+ chosen over 2500+? I only ask because much of what I have read on the forums seems to indicate people think the bang-for-buck sweet spot is on the 2500. Am I just out of date? Reply
  • SDA - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    #5, not in all or even the vast majority of "professional" software, and I don't think it's because of subpar floating-point performance, considering that AMD's implementation of SSE2 is supposedly identical. You could be onto something with the single-channel memory support, though. Perhaps it could also be that the P4 has little trouble keeping its deep pipeline full and its execution units busy with predictable data like that or something... yeah, that doesn't make much sense either, does it. Reply
  • brianbloom - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    Final summary page has a typo on it, showing the HD as only 40GB... Reply
  • T8000 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    For the video card, I would suggest a Geforce FX 5900XT as runner up, as it gives a lot more performance then a Radeon 9700PRO for less then $199.

    In the CPU recommandation, there is a sidenote that Athlon 64 is the fastest CPU. This may be true if you play games, but for professional software, like video editing, the Athlon 64 suffers badly from its sub par SSE2 performance and its single channel memory support.
  • mcveigh - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I think you should include a dvd reader/ cdrw drive instead of just a cdrw....a liteon model is only like $20 more than an plain cdrw Reply
  • biostud666 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    You can get an FX 5900 (non-XT/SE) for 183$ a radeon 9800 non-pro for 139$ so why select a radeon 9600 pro? Reply
  • gordon151 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    Come on Evan, thought youd know by now that the DSP in the Audigy doesn't support anything higher than 16/48 even though the DACs that it uses do. Thus no 24bit audio on Audigy ES. Only Audigy 2 and up fix this shortcoming. Reply
  • Ecmaster76 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    While it might be iffy on the nforce2 boards external controller, I would definitely reccomend using the SATA version of the Seagate drive on the Asus board (stay away from Maxtor SATA, they use bridge chip that has a bad rep. for compatibility problems). I'm using a SATA Barracuda 80GB, 8MB cache drive and it is sweet! Reply

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