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  • Booster - Thursday, August 26, 2004 - link

    I have to add I can't agree on this value system configuration to the extent that I'd call the choices really unpractical. That system of yours may look good on paper, but have you actually tried to use such a system daily? I bet you'd hate it in a week, and here's why.
    First, the monitor choice. It's by far the most important choice of all, and you recommend a crappy Samsung CRT. This is ridiculous. Try to read web pages, e-mails and text documents on that CRT and I bet you get a headache after no more than just 2 hours (at least that's my personal experience). The only thing that CRT is good for are games, movies and other multimedia stuff, but not for doing any actual work. And games and movies aren't the point of a budget system, according to your own words. Now that LCD prices are rapidly declining, a 15 inch LCD (cheapest of the cheap, with no DVI, in the $300 range, just $150 more than that CRT, and without unnecessary expense of a $50 video card - only $100 - you'll get so much just for additional hundred bucks!) would be so much easier on the eyes of a budget user. That would also eliminate the need for a costly $50 video card, which is, simply put, a complete waste of money in that system (because even the worst quality integrated video would be sufficient to produce no-ghosting image on a 15 inch LCD with 1024*768 resolution at 60 Herz).
    Second, the CPU choice. Athlon XP is a bad choice. It has more power than the Celeron? It sure does, but that's not the point of a budget system, as you say. Price and reliability are more important, I agree, then you need a Celeron, b/c say a 2.0 boxed Celeron costs the same, but it's by far more reliable - it wouldn't burn, in fact it's indestructible, and the boxed cooler is of much higher quality than Athlon XP's bundled cooler, not to speak lots quiter. Performance? Who needs performance in a budget system like that, but the Celeron is fast enough to run anything that system is supposed to run, anyways. Plus take into consideration that you can get a completely integrated Celeron motherboard (with onboard video) for much less than the ASUS board you reccomend, and that the Celeron system would run really cool and quiet and wouldn't require extra case coolers like any Athlon system does, not to speak of high power (and thus expensive) PSUs - a no-brainer choice IMO.
    The case - who needs an ATX case? It's too big, and since there wouldn't be much expansion, a Micro ATX case would suit this system so much better.
    I have to add I agree with this guide's choice of a Seagate hard drive, I was going nuts when I saw you recommend WD in previous guides (those drives suck, they're too loud and there's pretty much nothing else they offer over competing products).
  • xilef - Friday, August 13, 2004 - link

    How about this system that includes dual channel, Barton Core, DVD and a subwoofer for less money. Shipping is less than $50. I've saved this system at Newegg as AugustCheapo.

    POWMAX ATX Aluminum Mid-Tower Case with X-Window, Model "ALV90-511SEL" -RETAIL 35

    Rosewill 52x32x52x16 CD-RW & DVD Combo Drive, Model C523216, Retail 37

    Western Digital 80GB 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive, Model WD800BB, OEM Drive only 62

    Crucial 184 Pin 128MB DDR PC-2700 - OEM (2 pieces) 64

    PROVIEW PS709s 17" CRT Monitor –RETAIL 89

    ASUS "A7N8X-VM/400" nForce2 IGP Motherboard for AMD Socket A CPU -RETAIL 82

    AMD Athlon XP 2600+ "Barton", 333MHz FSB, 512K Cache Processor - Retail 95

    Logitech Z640 5.1 Speakers -RETAIL 49

    Total 513
  • Hoot - Friday, August 13, 2004 - link

    Systems recommended by popular sites like this one always seems to recommend an abit or asus, and they are not always the best choice. How about an mATX system with a very reliable Biosta M7NCG 400 - and it's also overclockabe if you get rev 7.2 (full voltage and multiplier control and will run mobiles.

    APEX Silver Mid-Tower Super Tower with 400W Mustang Power Supply, Model "PC-146/400W" -RETAIL (newegg $28.00)

    Biostar M7NCG 400 mATX (better than the Asus and has IGP to use when you sell the video card yto upgrade. ($65.00)

    Samsung 160 Gig HDD at newegg (IDE $87.00)

    512 MB Kingmax newegg $75.00

    Power color 9600 Pro newegg $126.00

    *This system get't you alot more storage. Better memory as most will not want 256 MB stick for a more power hungry system later - but add to the other 512 stick later to make a gig of ram. Also the powercolor 9600 pro is cheap and very good for gaming.

  • razor2025 - Thursday, August 12, 2004 - link

    I think for the money, a good alternative is Nforce 2 IGP board. It'll save anywhere from $30-40 for not having to get a graphic card. The performance of integrated GF4 MX is also decent enough to compete with GF 2 GTS/Ultra in 3D games. With the $30-40, you can add $10-20 and get two stick of same memory for dual channel. In a nut shell, for just adding $10-20 more, you can have a system with 512mb vs 256mb (big difference in real-world, even for budget PC), and a similar 3D performance (maybe a little slower than the 9200(SE). Reply
  • Chaotic42 - Thursday, August 12, 2004 - link

    An XP 2400+ is $1 more. I'd have gone with that instead of a 2000+. Heck, a 2200+ is $6 cheaper. Reply
  • Degrador - Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - link

    I would think that entry level being a general field should include just about all fields - average home users, web surfing, office apps, games, playing music - these are things most users would be doing, and most would be doing all of them (some concurrently even). Entry level is usually for family computers - where everyone needs to use the computer. Mostly 'cause they don't have the budget to have different computers for different family members, each comp with specific tasks.

    For instance, with a friend's family, his dad uses the comp for Autocad (he's a tool maker), his mum uses it for tax / financial management stuff, and he and his sister use it for school / uni work, playing music, and games.
  • gherald - Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - link

    Entry-level w/o a specific label means the most general field imaginable, i.e. average home users, office workers... you know, mainstream stuff. Video editing, gaming, and the like are all distinctly special cases. Reply
  • ceefka - Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - link

    If you lable a system "entry level", I ask what field.

    What would make an entry, mid-range and high end gaming, video editing or DAW PC? Seems like we're talking about 9 different machines. Or you can make suggestions what to add or change depending on what you want the machine to do.

    Would it be possible to do a few benchmarks on the suggested configurations?
  • gherald - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    "entry level gaming" == "mid-range" in my book

    But if you actually think this entry system would be a workable base, it's not to hard to figure out what to change.. 512mb, a 9600, and definately go with the alternative Abit NF7 and 2500 Barton picks.

    Such a thing doesn't warrant a seperate article.
  • Z80 - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Good article, I agree with all of the recommended components. I'm glad you didn't skimp on the monitor. A quality monitor can make all the difference in how someone perceives the usability of a system. I'd like to see an article on an entry level gaming system. I assume it would only entail a couple of minor upgrades to this system configuration. Reply
  • leigh6 - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Without reading Anandtech's Entry level thread I built an entry level system for my sister in law. Her needs were exactly what you had in your initial description of the build. Coincidentally I used most of your components you recommended. So some comments.

    1. The Seagate Hardrive was PERFECT. Quiet, fairly inexpensive, plenty of storage wtih 80g and with a now 5 year warranty a no brainer.

    2. Radeon 9200se. PERFECT. Absolutely needs nothing better. It does the job and more.

    3. Processor was the 2500 Barton . (Would have used the 2000 but had an extra retail 2500 laying around). Either one would have been fine and I do not think there would be a noticable difference for what she and her 3 kids need. WOULD stay with the 2000 for budget reasons and not use this for an upgrade.

    4. Case. I though my choice was a no brainer.
    Antec slk 2600 with a 300W PS. Not the prettiest case. But for the same price as your model ($65.00) I thought was a much better choice.

    5. Ram. Happen to use 512 Kingston Value Ram DDR 3200. (With many rebates available on this product the final price comes to around $75.00) direct from Kingston.

    6. Motherboard. I wish I had read this before the build. But I did get lucky. The motherboard I am using has been rock solid. But the next build will be with you're recomendation.

    Now a suggestion for the overall concept of your article.

    30 percent of the price of the system is the monitor. I believe that the keyboard, mouse, speakers and MONITOR should be left out of you base price. I think adding the monitor to the final base price of the system unintentionally makes the price look like it is a little too high to be a budget system and running closer to the low end of "Mid Range". So the base price would be $372.00 and NO ONE would agrue the merits. Then seperately discuss the peripherals with prices and then add them WITH Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, and Speakers. (Most have these already before there build).

    Just my thoughts, Leigh

  • gherald - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Here we go again, same as last month...

    The reason to use a 9200SE rather than an onboard nforce2 is text quality. People who build entry level systems care about this sort of thing, and for this a cheap ATI is clearly better than an onboard nforce unless you happen to use Linux, for which ATI drivers suck :(

    To #2 and whoever else mentions Doom 3 or a better 3D video card: congratulations on COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT of "entry level," now get lost.

    As for the case, #4 is a good case in point (bad pun) but we've been through this before. None of us understand what Evan/Anand have against Antec, but they are clearly a better case choice in *every* respect *including* price, and that's pretty much been the consensus for as long as these guides have been around.

    512mb is allways a good idea, even if you're just running xp + wordpad + browser... it can be used for other things like DISK CACHE. There's simply no reason to build a system with only 256mb nowdays unless you are a total bum or live in some third world country and thus cannot afford a decent setup.

    As for dual channel, I wouldn't worry about it. My preference for entrys has always been a single stick of 512mb since I feel that will be more useful 2-3 years from now when it comes time to disassemble this system and spread the components around to other ones, but that's just me. If 2x256mb works for you then so be it, just be sure you get a motherboard that supports dual channel well, such as the NF7/AN7 from Abit.
  • cosmotic - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Sorry, I thought all nf2s had dual channel... And I've never used a video card (intigrated or otherwise) that could not handle high resolution, although I rarely use integrated video cards.

    maybe theres hould be an extreme value system, value, best bang-for-buck, overclock, and super high end system buyers guide.
  • VIAN - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    sorry bout that Reply
  • VIAN - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    I am completely fine with a Web Surfing system having 256MB of RAM, without integrated graphics, it's probably already too much. LOL.

    You don't need 512MB for Web Surfing. 512MB is what's recommended today for gaming at least, in early 2003, it was 256MB the least. Why would Web Surfers need more than that.

    Unless you're setting up some kind of CHEAPO server, there would be no reason for more than 256MB.

  • Cocophone - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    The machine I'm upgrading from is a 1gHz Celeron with 128 ram with Windows 2000.

    I use it as a media server and web stuff and it swaps out the memory far to often. There is nothing worst than swapping out to the hard drive.

    For me 512 MB of ram was worth the extra cost. Like #14 says upgrading to 512 ram is more noticable than going from 3 to 2.5 latency.

  • Degrador - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Ok, a few things here...

    We've been saying in these comments for about the last 5 entry articles that 512MB is a far better option than 256MB with low latency, so even if the recommended isn't 512MB, at least make the alternative more ram instead. Lower latency is never going to give a noticeable improvement to an entry user - it bearly gives a noticeable improvement at any stage.

    Also, the nforce 2 integrated video is a much better option than buying a 9200SE. The only reason a 9200SE might be more preferable is if you'd think about swapping over the motherboard at some other stage. However an entry purchaser is likely not to do that, at the very least, not for quite some time. This'll likely be when PCI Express has taken over, and even if it isn't, swapping over a motherboard would likely mean practically new everything for an entry user.

    While practically nothing requires 512MB RAM, it can also be said that practically nothing requires more than a pentium 1 processor, but having an athlon xp / 512MB of ram is certainly going to be a better option. Especially for future usage. And while the price is the most important factor, every entry level purchaser wants to keep their system for a long time. So simply recommending the cheapest components would make for a useless article - the underlying purpose behind these articles is to give people an indication of what they should buy. And as most people have been saying, everyone wanting to keep their computer for more than a year should seriously be considering at least 512MB of memory.

  • PotatoMAN - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    I really think that for an entry level system it is hard to fight for 512 mbytes of RAM over 256 - Win XP pro runs OK on 128 let alone 256 - so why spend more for performance on an entry level system? Granted, we want the user to use the computer for ~1.5 years w/out the hassle of upgrading/tampering with the machine, but the major focus of the article is price. To my knowledge, I can't recall any programs that REQUIRE 512 of RAM other than games. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    #9- I see you went for 512MB for your bargain system, a very wise choice.

    Given the intention of the article is to recommend something which you can: "keep this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years)", after it recommended a stick of cheap 256MB Crucial RAM for the memory, why was the alternative not a cheap 512MB stick, instead of a lower latency 256MB stick? 512MB instead of 256MB is the biggest performance improvement you could make to that system if its going to be running Windows XP. If people building it are expected to run Windows 98SE or a Linux variant, you should clearly state that at the start of the article. Windows 98SE is very much on its last legs already though, so its not a very good recommendation.

    Apart from the memory issue, a good selection of components.
  • VIAN - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Dual channel is less reliable and adds price. You would have to buy a mobo capable of Dual channel add 30 bucks for that and then two sticks of RAM, try finding 128MB sticks, hah, another 40 bucks. Not worth the performance increase.
    I agree, though, that if you are going all out on a "Web Surfing System", an integrated card might have been just as good and cheaper. You want price and speed is the last, so why wouldn't you go integrated.

    You make a very good arguement against integrated, but the monitor's optimal resolution is most likely 1024x768, so it wouldn't make a difference.
  • thebluesgnr - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    The recommended Seagate ST380013AS is a SATA drive, as the last letter in its name implies. It should be noted that there's no ATA-100 8MB buffer 80GB drive in Seagate's newest line, the 7200.7.

    I personally disagree with the motherboard. You can find nForce2 Ultra 400 from reputable makers and with much better power regulation for the CPU for less than the A7N8X-X.


    the 9200 with a 128-bit memory interface is about 30-40% faster than the 9200SE with a 64-bit memory.


    not everyone is a gamer. Having said that, you could upgrade this system to 2x256MB (preferably on a KT880 or nForce2 Ultra 400 board) and a Radeon 9550 128-bits ($70 on newegg) and it would play pretty much every game out there. Maybe not with high resolutions or filters, but people who care about those things can upgrade gradually.
  • Cocophone - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Ok here is a budget system that I just bought.

    MB Shuttle AN35N Ultra $56.00
    RAM Corsair Value 512 MB $77.00
    VGA Sapphire Radeon 9200 128MB $64.50
    CPU Barton 2500 $87.00

    Total $284.50 from Newegg

    I already have a case, hard drives, and monitor.
    But I think with a little creative searching on the hot deal websites you could spend about $200 for those items.

    I've been reading the Entry level guides for a couple of months and decide I wanted something between Entry Level and Mid-Range.
  • skiboysteve - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Illissius you seem to have simply had a bad experience with your passive cooled card, I use a 9600 nonpro in my shuttle box and it is passive cooled, no problems. My brother also uses a pasive cooled card with no problems.

    Cosmotic, a integrated solution as been talked about in many buyers guides but they are simply not as good as you think. The performance is very very poor, worse than the add in card mentioned here. They also lack features like DX8 or DX9 (depending on which, but you are refering to the DX7 nforce2 IGP) Also, they have problems with acceptable 2d image quality at higher resolutions like 1280x1024.

    Link for performance comparisons:

    I know toms sucks but the R9200 shows a 40% or so performance advantage over the IGP, not to mention DX8.1 and higher 2d image quality.
  • skiboysteve - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    The NF7-S rev2 is NOT the AN7 like you say here:

    "the ABIT NF7-S Rev.2 (also known as the ABIT AN7) "

    The AN7 is a more feature rich version which also includes "uGuru" tech.
  • Illissius - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Here's a factor for the video card I haven't seen being considered: I would not ever again want a card with passive cooling. I had a 9200SE with such, and it routinely overheated, usually during games but sometimes just in windows, and not only on hot days. The config came without a case fan, and adding one helped matters a bit, but it merely caused it to overheat less often - not stop doing it.
    Seeing as the primary goal for the budget system is stability, I think this should be taken into serious consideration, even if it runs a bit counter to the quietness thing - that's entirely secondary in comparison.
  • cosmotic - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Ok, seriously, why arent you guys recomending at least dual channel? Its going to increase performance without increasing price! GOD! And again, integrated nVidia Video cards with nForce2 is cheaper and better than these shitty add-in cards. This is so close the the last price guide for budget, yet it still has the same problems that I pointed out last time. You can make a budget system for 400 bucks with monitor shipped... with the same performance as this... Why arent you recomending it? Reply
  • john1022 - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Re: The CaseEdge TS1 case.

    pcclub shows this at 39.99, plus shipping to my zipcode of @5.00 for a total of 64.99.

    NewEgg is offering the SLK3700AMB with 350 watt power supply for $66.00 delivered.

    Considering the relative quality, especially the power supply, this seems to be a much better deal to me.
  • AtaStrumf - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Where's the feakin' Sempron OC article we were promised ASAP almost 2 weeks ago. Damn it, I realy need to know how the 3100+ overclocks.

    Damn that Doom 3 week! GRRRRRR!
  • kherman - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    IMHO: Even a value computer these days should be able to play Doom 3. Why not a higher end video card? Reply
  • GhandiInstinct - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    In my opinion, better to save up for a system that can actually run good games than spend $542 on this system.

    I think buying systems that are near high-end today, so that you are good for some months to come, makes more sense than buying a system that is out of date performance wise.

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