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  • qquizz - Saturday, July 24, 2004 - link

    Can anyone verify this statementin the article? I am considering buying one of these.

    "We're listing a WD Raptor as an alternative purely for speed purposes. Those looking for faster load times and a generally snappier experience will want to play with a powerful drive such as this one. Thankfully, the earlier speed flaws with the 36.7GB were fixed, and WD 36.7GB drives with identical performance to their older 74GB brothers have been shipping for some months now."
  • smithpd - Sunday, July 18, 2004 - link

    I would like to see a different spread of costs on the Buyer's Guides. You have 500 for the entry level, 1000 for the mid-range, and now 3600 for the high end. I submit that many readers would be interested in something that is in the 2000 price category, which I would call midrange. So, how about 500 entry, 1000 budget, 2000 midrange, 3000 high end, and ?? for the god box.

    Your previous high ends were more reasonable and sensible, IMO.
  • gherald - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    Yeah benchmarking is a good idea, and it's been suggested before.

    I think AT is safe in going with reputable ram. Perhaps LL isn't required, but it should at least be the alternative choice. For the main recommendation, I would go with a single ~$100 stick of 512.
  • Dantzig - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    "I will continue to ask AT to assemble these systems and run some benchmarks on them."

    This is an excellent suggestion! It would be wonderful to have each system run the same basic benchmark suite and then graph the results together. This way, it would be easy for a user to determine if a given system will meet his/her specific needs.
  • Zebo - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I also agree with the other posters about 1024MB of ram, in fact you could get 1024MB of Adata Cas 2.5 for almost the same price ($147) as your LL choice. Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Why recommend $126 LL ram Evan?

    When you consider the price/performance it's an extremly poor value over ram such as Cas 2.5 Adata for $77 for two stick of 256MB PC3200.

    Almost double the price, but does it offer anywhere near double the performance? I don't think so. I'm not sure what the performance difference is using LL expensive Corsair... maybe 3-5%?

    I guess I'm too stuck the linear P/P relationships to like this choice.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I totally agree with the memory comments. These days, 256 MB DIMMs are a total dead-end purchase. Sure, you can run dual channel (which is really only important on the P4 platform right now), but then you would be limited to a total of 1 GB of RAM (4x256) for fastest performance and stability. 2x256 + 2x512 would likely be an iffy proposition at best.

    Besides, you could even recommend 1GB of decent quality OCZ for a moderate increase in price. You can get 2x512 OCZ performance RAM that runs 2-3-3-6 on Intel systems for $220, or 2-3-2-6 for $240. Or if you want to stick with Mushkin, you can get their 512 MB value DIMMs for $79 each (2.5-4-4 timings), or a 2x512 Level One pack for $239 (the same 2-3-2 timings as OCZ).

    512 MB of RAM just isn't going to cut it for gaming or other high-end work, which as KnightOwl explained is the only good reason to upgrade from the budget system anyway. It's like recommending someone go out and purchase a moderate sports car... only get the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine! I mean, anyone looking for a sports car is really interested in going faster than a typical car, so they would want a bigger engine (and gas mileage be damned).

    Similar to the RAM argument, there's a problem with the hard drive alternative recommendation. While the Raptor is going to please a bunch of the die-hard fanboys, don't your own tests show that a good 7200 RPM SATA drive is pretty much the same performance as the old Raptor while providing significantly more storage? If you have to have a fast hard drive (for whatever reason), then you really need to get the 74 GB Raptor, as it made quite a few improvements to the original. I suppose the Maxline III isn't yet available, but if you're looking for improved gaming or high-end performance, the Raptor I is only marginally better than 7200 RPM drives, and not even many of them in gaming:

    But hey, thanks for finally adding a better alternative case recommendation and getting rid of the noisy WD JB hard drive! Silence (or at least less noise) is a wonderful thing.

    BTW, just my opinion, but I think $1250 is a better target price for a "moderate" PC (and $750 for a budget PC). You're still forced to cut too many corners to meet the $1000 budget. A moderate PC really needs at least 9800 Pro graphics and 1 GB of RAM these days - even 1 GB of lower performance RAM. Like I said, though, just my opinion. :)
  • gherald - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link


    What I mean by 256mb being useless is in 2-3 years they will be like 128mb are modules today.

    If and when the user upgrades to a dual channel system they can just buy a second 512mb stick. 1024mb oughta be more standard by then anyway, we all know Longhorn is going to be a resource hog, and Linux's will allways put it to good use with disk cache.

    I happen to think dual channel is somewhat overrated; for an athlon XP it might be worthwhile but with the 64's integrated memory controller it's just not that big of a deal anymore. Don't AT reviews agree?
  • JackHawksmoor - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I've also got to disagree with the RAM thing. It makes a lot more sense to go with higher latency RAM, and either save the money or get a better GPU, or CPU, or double the RAM. Tom's showed the Athlon 64 has at most roughly a 4% performance benefit with faster RAM, and you can get a MUCH bigger boost than that for the money. IMO low lateny RAM only makes sense for a "high-end" system.

    Also, where's the Asus K8N-E Deluxe review dangnabit!

    Just nitpicking. I love these guides :)
  • chuwawa - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I agree with everything that has been said about the memory.
    I consider myself a mid-range user and I thought the guide was very good except for the video card and memory suggestions.

    Knightowl explained it perfectly. I think mid-range systems are mostly for people that game and do some sort of video editing but can't afford to dish out the money for the best hardware.

    512mb for a gamer really is OK, but 1GB is preferred. However, when you buy 2 256mb modules, you somewhat screw yourself for the future because you will only be able to upgrade to 756mb (well more, but who will recommend buying a 1gb stick).

    Anyway I think recommending a single 512mb stick as the first choice and 2 512mb sticks in dual channel as the 2nd choise would be best.

    As far as the video card recommendations: just switch them. ;)
  • Pollock - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Unless I'm mistaken, that's not a picture of the Antec BQE, but rather a slightly different Antec case.

    Of course, Newegg could also have the pictures wrong, I just don't feel like looking anywhere else.
  • jediknight - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Chances are, if you upgrade to a dual channel (I'll assume within 2 years):
    a) Your DDR memory will be obsolete - everything will be DDR2 or it's successor
    b) 512MB of RAM will not be enough, even for an entry level system

    Best to recommend a single 512MB stick, IMO.. gives you room to upgrade.
  • nullpointerus - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Just got done building a new PC to act as a home video server + console emulator, and I have a few recommendations:
    -- Aspire cases ~$55 shipped, very nice for the price
    -- Geil 512MB PC3200 6-3-3-2.5 for ~$82 shipped

    -- Radeon 9700 Pro $132 shipped (have to be somewhat lucky)

    Also, why recommend a PATA drive when SATA drives tend to create less clutter and perform a bit better? I really wouldn't recommend a raptor for a new mid-range system - games have multigigabyte installs these days, and then you need space for music, CDs, movies. IMO it's better for load times to rip your game CDs to a ~3x larger hard drive.
  • crimson117 - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    The Casedge TS1 is NOT $40 shipped at pcclub. It's $20 shipping to New York and $11 tax/shipping to California. Reply
  • ir0nw0lf - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    PrinceGaz, this is a mid-range system, 1 GB of RAM is overkill for this. 512 MB in a single stick would be ideal here. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Generally very good recommendations I'd agree with, and the first choice of hard-drive (120GB Seagate) is an improvement over a noisy 80GB WD.

    However, the choice of memory is still poor. 512MB isn't enough for this sort of system so you have to go for 1GB (2x 512MB modules). Only the high-end system should be using considerably more expensive low-latency modules as they don't offer enough extra performance to justify the increase in price over regular memory. I know it must be tempting after reading all the memory reviews on AT to go with the best memory available, but it offers only a very small real-world performance increase that doesn't justify the much higher price. Go with 2x 512MB sticks of regular brand-name memory (not cheap and nasty no-name memory).

    Even if you do only want 512MB for some reason, you should get a single 512MB stick if you're building the AMD system as the K8N Neo Platinum (like most S754 AMD boards) only has three DIMM slots. You certainly don't want to limit your future upgrade options by filling two of them with 256MB sticks.

    Apart from the memory suggestions, an excellent guide.
  • kherman - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I hope that 3D card you recomended can play Doom!

    Then again, people can always upgrade on their own.
  • Degrador - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I'd have to agree with the memory thing. Time and time again we're shown that the benefit of low latency memory is relatively little, especially considering the premium you pay for it. I always suggest to people buying computers that for the extra cost of low latency, you'd be better off either doubling the ram to 1GB, or upgrading the video card, or getting a faster processor - whatever, all of these will give better performance than low latency memory ever will.

    Also getting 2 sticks of 256MB is as mentioned relatively pointless. A mid-range user is not likely to upgrade anytime soon, meaning either they'll want DDR2 when they do, or they'll want more than 512MB memory. Perhaps if this was an overclocking system, or a high-end, then you could consider them upgrading in future, and what will benefit then. But certainly not for midrange.
  • StormGod - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I will continue to ask AT to assemble these systems and run some benchmarks on them. Reply
  • mino - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    #4 Evan,

    You are wrong with that assumption about memory.
    If anyone wanted to upgrade, from this setup to dual, then it makes much more sense to buy another 512 module also, since anyway CPU and MB will have to be replaced.
    256 module as it stands now, are just for office comps (w/256M) or when someone doesn't have left money for 512 module and plans to buy one in the near future.
    For Combo I will also opt for Toshiba parts rather than LiteOn's.

    Overal, except this little nonsense, pretty good guide.
  • KnightOwl - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I have to disagree with a couple of the recommendations. I don't think you've really identified what the target user is for the mid-level system.

    There are only 3 home user apps that really require an upgrade from an entry level system: 1) games, 2) video editing and 3) lots of MP3 encoding.

    For the most part this means that users shopping for a mid-level system are really looking for a low end gaming rig and the components recommended should not be ones that will cause regrets in the future.

    With this in mind there are 2 areas where the recommendations fall short:
    1. Memory - IMO 1 GB is the minimum for a gaming PC today. There are games on the market now that use more than 512 MB, and most likely most in the future will. As everybody knows nothing kills performance more than when Windows starts swapping pages. For just a little more than you've spent on the 512 MB low latency RAM you can get 1 GB of regular latency RAM. Low latency will give you a modest performance gain when the 512 MB is sufficient, but running out of memory will cause an enormous performance loss.

    2. Video card - while the 9800 Pro is listed as an alternative it really should be the primary (and only) choice. While the $75 increase is a 60% increase in video card cost it only amounts to about a 6% increase in total system price. A user will easily see more than a 6% increase in game performance. That alone should justify the higher price of the 9800 Pro but you should also know that some (many, most?) of the 9800 Pros on the market today actually have the R360 core and users have had good success overclocking them to 9800XT speeds. IMO that makes the 9800 Pro the card of choice for anything but high end gaming rigs
  • MemberSince97 - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Excellent job guys,keep up the good work... Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    rgreen83 and DigitalDivine, we've fixed the price, thanks.

    gherald, we recommended two 256MB modules because if you're a mid-range user, you may be the type of person that'll upgrade to dual channel systems in the future. Buying one 512MB makes the least sense, you have no way of taking advantage of the proliferation of dual channel technology in the future, if that's what that particular user has in mind. So, I'm not exactly sure what you mean when you say 256MB modules will be useless in 2-3 years.
  • gherald - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    For once a decent hard drive recommendation, but getting the picture wrong is a pretty sad mistake. Myself, I'd be inclined to go with the Hitachi 160gb SATA for around $100 from

    Nice alternative case recommendation! I was begining to think you'd stick with that CaseEdge nonsense forever.

    Superb motherboard recommendation! (I own two K8N, it's the best for the money right now, hands down.)

    Why do recommend 2x256mb of RAM when socket 754 AMD64s have a single channel memory interface? Go with a 512mb folks... same exact price/performance. 256mb sticks will be next-to-useless 2-3 years from now.
  • DigitalDivine - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    on the hard drive part, you guys put up a western digital 120GB picture instead of a seagate one. Reply
  • rgreen83 - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    The raptor shown is 36.7gb with a price of $214, are you suggesting the 74gb raptor or should the price be about half that? Reply

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