Buyer's Guide - Mid-Range, October 2004

by Jarred Walton on 10/21/2004 11:00 AM EST


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  • filterxg - Tuesday, November 02, 2004 - link

    I think this type of article is great. I may be in the market in the next 2 months and am reading up. Considering waiting until 64-bit XP comes out. But my Athlon 850 is on its last legs, and no news from Microsoft is bad news for me. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 02, 2004 - link

    I know what you mean on the tech support side. Problem is, even if I told my mom or whomever to buy a Dell, I *know* that I would end up doing the support. My mom wouldn't even know what the hell to say to a Dell support person. I laugh just thinking about it. (Yeah, I built her a PC so that she can get email. Now I get questions asking me why Juno doesn't work and sometimes crashes. Ugh.)

    Also, for those that were wondering about the choice of DVD+R, you can now see where I got the information for the NEC 3500A:

    I had the Pioneer in originally, and Kris let me know in advance that the NEC was slightly preferred. Both are good drives, though, so it's not a decisive win in all areas. (Not like anyone is going to see the comment other than HH, but oh well.)
  • hh - Monday, November 01, 2004 - link

    > HH - Hobbyist DIY vs. "regular" DIY? I don't
    > even know that I gave it that much thought.

    It is merely something to consider.

    >I actually find it fun to build new PCs.

    Glad you enjoy it. My interest is to get on with it to using the PC, not the screwdriver-turning.

    I'll still DIY if the cost savings potential is big enough to motivate...the problem is that that bar gets raised progressively higher as I have less free time. If the OEM price premium is less than 10-20%, I'll pay it in a heartbeat.

    (Of course, this assumes ojbectively equal products, so we're back to system benchmarks questions).

    >Having done plenty of support at companies that
    >use Dell and other large OEM PCs, I wouldn't
    >recommend them to an individual.

    I know and undertand the frustration here. But we've already agreed that DIY's are not for the non-savvy PC user; my mother-in-law is a prime example...she's on dialup but can't figure out how to have the antivirus app do its updates.

    >For businesses that can pay the extra $$$ for
    >the support contracts, sure, go for it, but
    >individual users? I just don't see OEMs as
    >providing enough *quality* support to warrant
    >my recommendation. YMMV.

    The only thing worse than the OEM's are the "Armchair Expert" helpers. Based on their "expert" advice, Mom-in-Law just paid for a hard drive replacement to fix a spyware infection problem.

    The frustrating part is that we both know that this failure mode is going to occur again. I'm tempted to convert her over to Apple to stop it, but that would cause a Family fight, especially since Sis-in-law doesn't want to have to admit that the spyware infections are being caused by her kids surfing on their Grandma's PC...

    Pass me that bottle of Scotch, would you? :-)

  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    HH - Hobbyist DIY vs. "regular" DIY? I don't even know that I gave it that much thought. I know that I personally would never go out and buy an OEM desktop system, but I'm probably far from your typical PC user. I actually find it fun to build new PCs. Having done plenty of support at companies that use Dell and other large OEM PCs, I wouldn't recommend them to an individual. For businesses that can pay the extra $$$ for the support contracts, sure, go for it, but individual users? I just don't see OEMs as providing enough *quality* support to warrant my recommendation. YMMV.

    BBurk: To get a "quiet" setup, the Antec 3700BQE is a great start. If you really want quiet, add in a Zalman CNPS7000A/B heatsink and fan, as it is again nearly silent. You could replace the PSU with one of the fanless Thermaltake or Antec models - only 350W, but that should suffice, I think. Both Seagate and Samsung make near-silent hard drives, although the latest WD, Maxtor and Hitachi really aren't any worse, I don't think. I just say avoid WD Caviar with non-FDB bearings. Also, if possible, look for a motherboard that doen't use a fan on the northbridge, and if you don't need the graphics power, get a graphics card that uses only a heatsink as well. That would make a system virtually silent, at the cost of some performance (especially on the graphics card).
  • hh - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    >Actually, HH, shipping *was* included...

    Sorry, I missed that detail.

    > What you don't get are several upgrades that
    > most hobbyists would like.

    On the contrary. What you apparently missed is that I had very explictly and specifically differentiated DIY'er types upfront and was not talking about the classical hobbiest.

    Instead, I was talking about DIY'ers who do it because of the cost savings, and who generally doesn't care a lick about possible future upgrades: they care about are today vs. OEM and usually not much else.

    > The case/PSU and motherboard are proprietary
    > designs, so if one of those items fails after
    > the warranty expires...

    A valid if generally negligible risk, due to the classical "Bathtub" shaped reliability curve for electronics. Yes, some OEM's have real garbage, but let's also not overhype this objective risk.

    > I realize not everyone can build their own PC,
    > but most Anandtech readers are more than
    > capable of doing so.

    Anotehr truism, but simply not a particularly relevant point to my arguement.

    > That's who we target with our Guides.

    Are you targeting hobbiest DIY'ers, or all DIY'ers?

    I'd say you're really only doing the former.

    FWIW, it appears to me that you've essentially assumed that just because one can DIY that one will always DIY. That can be a bad assumption. IMO, this is possibly why some posters asked about benchmark tests, and why I suggested also including OEM systems in such a comparison too, as I was following the classical business case of a "Make or Buy" decision.

    Please understand that I'm not Anti-DIY or Pro-OEM: I'm agnostic. Our differences are likely because my criteria for when my time investment in a DIY is justified is different than what yours is, and the net result is that I don't automatically reject all OEM's without even a glance.


  • BBurk - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    What reccomendations of changes would you make for a very quiet/silent system? thanks Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 25, 2004 - link

    Actually, HH, shipping *was* included (and added about $50 to the total). That's shipping to the continental US, of course, so if you live somewhere else it would be different.

    I put together a Gateway system with a P4 530 and X300SE, 1GB of RAM, 19" monitor, and 2.1 speakers. Including OS and MS Works (which OEM costs $71) we get a total price - shipped with 1 year warranty - of $1364. Adding Works and XP Home to the P4 system in this guide costs $1385. For all intents and purposes, then, it's a tie in price.

    If you only want a basic system, then, Gateway would be fine. What you don't get are several upgrades that most hobbyists would like. Better graphics, better speakers, better monitor, better case, better motherboard, etc. Gateway will give decent parts in each category, but the emphasis will be on cutting costs.

    The case/PSU and motherboard are proprietary designs, so if one of those items fails after the warranty expires, your only choice is to either buy an expensive replacement from Gateway, or else buy a new case, PSU, and motherboard. Proprietary designs are a really bad thing, people. I would spend more money at a local computer shop for a "generic" PC rather than buy a Dell or Gateway or other OEM.

    My rate for building a PC and installing the OS is $100, which is pretty typical. That amounts to about $25 an hour. If I wanted to cut $100 out of the system cost by going with cheaper components in every area, I could certainly do so, but then reliability is compromised.

    I realize not everyone can build their own PC, but most Anandtech readers are more than capable of doing so. That's who we target with our Guides. Some people think that OEM systems are more reliable due to their warranties and such, but that's not the case in my experience. I would say 90% of the PCs people ask me to help fix are OEM designs. Maybe that's because the non-OEM systems are built by people that can manage on their own, or maybe it's because the parts don't fail as often. I know what I think, but you're entitled to your opinion.

    The only caveat is that I won't build a PC for someone that knows nothing about computers. I can't provide 24/7 tech support. OEMs do give you that, although the quality of the provided support is questionable. :)
  • hh - Monday, October 25, 2004 - link

    #40/Jarred Walton

    > #34 brings up an interesting argument.

    Thanks for the compliment.

    > If you actually went out and bought the same hardware that goes into [an OEM], the price would be a lot lower than what is listed here...The price of OEM systems appears attractive, but in the end you get what you pay for.

    I agree, but offer an alternative perspective. In my view, the're two very common shortcomings in the DIY-vs-OEM arguements.

    The first is trying to decide/define equivalency. Its too easy to get lost down in the weeds (specific components, etc) and essentially ignore system performance.

    For example, I can put together a "kinda looks equivalent" Gateway for $1319 or buy the one DIY and add the OS for $1304 - - - a whopping $15 cost savings for skipping the OEM's assembly, warranty and copy of MS-Works software. The catch here is that the OEM's probably doesn't benchmark at 100% of the DIY, but how close is good enough? 99%? 95%? 90%? 80%?

    There is no simple, cut and dry answer to this question: its a personal opinion based on what significance rankings and (cash) value you want to put on the differences between the two contenders.

    The second shortcoming is in how we choose to count our costs. For example, this article ignored shipping costs, probably because we all know that they'll be different for all of us.

    But in the similar fashion, we also commonly ignore how much our labor is worth when we do a DIY assembly. And we can argue that we do this because we'll all put different values on how much our time is worth.

    But the real bottom line is that our free time is never worth nothing, despite the fact that we invariably choose to ignore it in the cost of doing a DIY PC build, which results in faulty accounting for how much we're really saving.

    FWIW, if anyone really wants to claim that their free time really is worth zero dollars, I have a lot of chores for you to come over and do at my house...heck, I'll even pay a whole $5/hour :-) Funny thing is that I don't ever get any takers at this hourly seems that everyone knows that their time is worth more than this, and yet never includes it in their DIY budget. Hmmm. :-)

  • TrogdorJW - Monday, October 25, 2004 - link

    #45: XP Home will actually work with up to two CPUs, I believe. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, I *think* that MS actually recognizes HyperThreading at a low level and only counts it as one CPU even though it show up as two. Anyone out there able to confirm that for sure? Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Sunday, October 24, 2004 - link

    2 things:

    1) XP Home still isn't SMP-enabled, right? Therefore shouldn't the recommendation be XP Pro if you get an Intel (Hyperthreaded) setup?

    2) Gamers (and others griping about the 9600Pro in this guide) should look to the Overclocking Buyer's Guide released about a month ago. That guide included a 6800GT in a system costing $1113 (without monitor/keyboard/mouse/etc). Downgrading to a 9800Pro would leave the system comparably priced to the systems in this Midrange guide. Also, the case/PSU in that guide was pretty expensive as well.
  • Confusednewbie1552 - Saturday, October 23, 2004 - link

    Great, I've had my computer for 2 months and have been only using it for only a month and already it becomes mid-range. =( I was expecting it to last until at least by spring of 2005 Reply
  • Degrador - Saturday, October 23, 2004 - link

    I know the graphics issue has been mentioned in these comments already, but I just thought I'd add my 2 cents. A gaming article sounds like a great idea, but many people out there looking for a good computer want an all-in-one system. Especially for family buyers, they'll want systems that can do anything, whether it be office work / home business / kids schoolwork / games / burning CDs & DVDs / web surfing / etc. As such, the alternatives are really really great this time, as they give details and reasons for why people should change to other parts. However, I still think you should have included an option for a faster graphics card. You've given alternatives a high end 300GB 16MB cache HD, as well as the (debateably) higher end Raptor, along with high end RAM, and a separate sound card and good speakers, yet no alternative for even a modestly good AGP graphics card (let's be honest, the 9600 Pro is rather mediocre for the games and cards out there these days). I'm certainly not suggesting a 9800 Pro should be the primary graphics recommendation, but perhaps at least an alternative (or even X600 / 6800).

    Other than that, great guide :)
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, October 23, 2004 - link

    Wow! The 90nm parts are "hot" - not in terms of temperature but in terms of demand. They'll come back down soon enough. Hell, at $266 not counting the cost of an aftermarket HSF you might as well get the 130 nm 3500+ retail. Monarch Computers is still saying $215 and $179 for the 3200+ and 3000+ parts, respectively, but they are out of stock until ~Oct. 29. Patience may be required if you don't want to spend more than $200. I think the suggested price of the 3200+ was $199 originally, but demand has pushed that up quite a bit. Reply
  • AlphaFox - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    A64 3200+ 90nm 939 is now $266!!! I dont get how it went up $75 in the past 2 days! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    A few quick comments:

    Seagate vs. Samsung: As far as I can tell, they're about the same. Yes, Seagate comes with a 5 year vs. 3 year warranty. I've got both, and neither one has given me cause for complaint. Which is "better"? I call it a tie, and since I went with Seagate last time, I decided to toss in a Samsung this time. As the article states, Samsung, WD, Seagate, Maxtor, and Hitachi all make very similar drives. "Reliability" when you're talking about mostly new versions is almost impossible to guess.

    NEC vs. Pioneer: Hacked firmware is not necessary, and the drive performs extremely well. There should be a review up sometime soon.

    Prices for the Real Time Pricing Engine seem to be having some issues, so double check them. As for the Mushkin RAM listed in the article, it is not the "Blue" line but an older version. Newegg has it for $75 a DIMM (as of the time of writing).

    #37: You can have a bad example of any company out there. I've had ASUS and Abit boards in the past that I had to RMA. Does one bad experience make the company untrustworthy? I don't think so, and I continue to use Abit and ASUS boards. For socket 939, the selection is very limited, and we've had good results with the MSI Neo2 Platinum. YMMV, of course. I'm not sure why you even bothered with MSI. If the boards was DOA, Newegg will replace it with no hassle in our experience. It takes an extra two weeks or so, unfortunately.

    #34 brings up an interesting argument. If you actually went out and bought the same hardware that goes into a Dell or other OEM system, the price would be a lot lower than what is listed here. Don't even get me started on reliability and warranty concerns. The price of OEM systems appears attractive, but in the end you get what you pay for. DIY PC builders will always get better performance and reliability for the money. Obviously, that's not an option for Apple computers.
  • RandomCoil - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    As with post #33, I don't understand the switch from Seagate to Samsung. The Seagate should be sufficiently fast for this system and the 5-year warranty and quiet operation are significant pluses. Reply
  • sophus - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    i think the RAM was underpriced (and i realize things might have changed since publication):

    Mushkin Blue Line 184 Pin 512MB DDR PC-3200 - Retail

    clicking the link above (and choosing -> $103 ...need 2 so $206 -> $227

    this leads to a difference (approx) of $50 to $75. $200-225 compared to original listed price of $150.

    i wanted to be all over 1GB for $150 but was unable to find the price 8(
  • Bugler - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    You say that the Neo2 939 board has one problem, that being the difficulty removing larger graphics cards. Their bigger problem is unreliability.

    For months I followed your recommendations for MSI but after the 754 DFI came out, I delayed my purchase awaiting a 939 DFI board. The past week I got tired of waiting for DFI and went ahead and purchased the MSI 939 board.

    The damn thing is dead on arrival. In addition, I emailed their tech support before they opened this morning. No response. Newegg had me call MSI. After being put on the call hold dialer for about five minutes, the machine finally said they were hanging up and that I should leave my contact number for tech support to call me back.

    However, they never did. Screw MSI---RMA to new egg.
  • tolerant - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    There are a bunch of 128mb sapphire 9600 pro's on newegg, including an opengl 2.0 bulk card, and an opengl 2.0 retail card. I recently ordered both the 2.0 bulk and retail cards, and instead of being 400 core/300 mem as expected, they ran at 391 core/229 mem. I'm not sure if I had two defective cards, but they got sent back. The price seemed too good to be true when I purchased, and I believe that $108 is a little low too, so if you order this path, make sure you get a 400/300 card. Reply
  • AlphaFox - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    It should be noted that the prices for 90nm CPUs is wacked out: the 3200+ 939 90nm is now $246 and the 3000+ is $215. they have been going UP in the past week; im glad I got my 3200 for $191 a few days ago! Reply
  • hh - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    > Very good. I am impressed. However, are we
    > going to see benchmarks in these anytime soon?

    Benchmarks are merely a tool to try to determine whats better/worse/"equivalent" for its price.

    And I do realize that this may be somewhat contrary to the general intent of the article, but we do have to recognize that DIY'ing falls into two basic motivational catagories: those who do it because they enjoy it (hobby) and those who want to save money vs. OEM (value).

    For the latter, it comes down to cost:performance. As a example, taking the $1250 system upgraded to the 17" LCD monitor and XP/P OS puts us at roughly $1500. Now suppose that we could get an "equivalent" system (performance) but someone else did the assembly, optimization and compatibility hassles, performed the OS installation, and gave us a warranty. Clearly, that PC build wouild be worth more, but how much more?

    One OEM example to consider is the Apple iMac 1.6Gz G5 17" at $1300 + 1GB aftermarket RAM upgrade +$250, which puts us at a $1550 pricepoint.

    For this example, the value-added extras of hardware assembly, optimization/compatibility/debug, the OS install and a system warranty is only $50 more. YMMV if this is small enough for many value-oriented people would be willing to pay for (IMO, yes).

    The remaining question is if such a $1550 OEM system is/isn't "equivalent" to the $1500 DIY system to conclude which is the better overall consumer value.

    And because of the Apple here, the "equivalency" question is a huge gaping hole. That's no accident: I did it on purpose because my intent is to look at this more rhetorically to as to illustrate the philisophical, not to introduce a Mac performance debate (so please don't). Yes, I could have chosen a Dell or Gateway, but I loathe their websites and they typically have too many hardware variables that would only drag us down into the weeds instead of seeing the basics of the big picture first.

    This article was interesting reading. Thanks again.

  • draazeejs - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Why did they change the HDD recommendation from Seagate to Samsung? Does anyone have experience with how loud those drives are? I have a Barracuda IV, 40GB, and that one is totally silent. As far as I have heard the new Barracudas are much louder. Why is that so? Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    If the NEC ND-3500A lives up to the standards of the previous ND-2500A/2510A, then its likely to be the best drive in its class with standard firmware. The quality and value of those drives was unbeatable.

    Hacked firmware to add more media types or higher burn speeds with them is a nice bonus for those who want it, but is totally optional. The drives are still excellent straight out the box.
  • deathwalker - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    #28..I don't think recommendations for a Optical drive should be based on "hacked" firmware...I'm sticking with my original thought that the Pioneer drive would have seemed like the likely choice based upon there recent review..having said that though, I'nm sure the NEC drive is a fine drive also. Reply
  • MustISO - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Looking at the memory chart, RAM is really going up. That sucks! Reply
  • iversonyin - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    logitech > MS when it come to mouse Reply
  • MIDIman - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    > The NEC is a little curious though, given the
    > glowing review of the Pioneer a few weeks
    > ago...

    I think the point here might be post hacked firmware. After flashing my 3500a, its quite incredible what its capable of, and its possible that anandtech has already done an NEC article and just hasn't put it up quite yet.
  • Murmandamus - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Great guide!

    I'm considering setting up an HTPC. So I would sure like to see a htpc guide from you guys.

  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Let's just say I have insider information from Kristopher. Blame him. ;) Reply
  • gherald - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    > #5 - Posted on Oct 21, 2004 at 1:34 PM by PrinceGaz wrote:
    > I've just finished reading it and amazingly, I can't fault any of your recommendations!

    I have to agree! In particular it's great to finally start seeing good case/PSUs from Antec and Shuttle.

    The NEC is a little curious though, given the glowing review of the Pioneer a few weeks ago...
  • Avalon - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    For the s754 system, to clarify. Sorry. Wish these posts could be edited :) Reply
  • Avalon - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    If you wanted to cut an additional ~$50, switch out that MSI K8N Neo Platinum and throw in an Epox 8KDA3J. It's only $73 on newegg, shipped, which is within a dollar or two of the Chaintech VNF-250, but has loads more features. After all, you guys gave the 8KDA3+ an editor's choice award, so why not recommend the "value" board in a mid range rig? It's an option to ponder over. Reply
  • dragonballgtz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    A $200 CPU would go better with a 9800Pro IMHO for gamers. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    ksherman, that's basically what I went with, but outside of gaming there is no real need for a fast graphics card. $200 for a graphics card that many people do not want/need is difficult to justify. Rather than create more confusion with talk of gaming alternatives, we are going to look at putting together a Gaming Guide in the near future.

    The Mid-Range PC is such a broad segment that it is virtually impossible to cover all options without writing a 20,000 word article. This one is already long enough, and that was after I removed the gaming options. Here's the basics, though:

    If you want a moderate gaming card for AGP, about the only reasonable choice right now is a 9800 Pro. The 6800/6800GT are too expensive for most people, I think. PCI Express has the 6600GT which tends to be faster than the 9800 Pro by about 10 to 20%. As games are GPU limited in most cases, AMD fans will probably either want to wait for PCI Express motherboards and get a 6600GT, or else bite the bullet and spend $360+ on a 6800GT. Ouch. :)
  • Beenthere - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Nice guide. Lotta work !!!

    I think the biggest issue for most folks looking to build a new PC or even to upgrade within a budget, is prioritizing. As you can see from the comments above, gamers always want a top-of-the-line Video card even when this takes a big bite outta the budget. To do that you gotta cut cost some place else and that may compromise the total system performance.

    Seems to me that an easy means to quantify and qualify the real options for an individual system would be by listing the hardware categories as you've done on a spreadsheet then plug in the hardware and prices accordingly. I think some folks would be surprised to see how their total system price climbs way beyond their original budget when you add $50. here and there to get the "best" of a particular component or to step up to the next level of component.

    As you pointed out, sometimes like with memory, buying the lowest latency modules may cost more than moving up 200 MHz in CPU speed, so the CPU may be a better choice. Your guide and recommendations give PC builders a great head start on getting the most bang-for-their-buck.

    Thanks for the effort!
  • ksherman - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    also, I think that a good description for a mid range system should be a system with a good amount of power (hence the processor choice) with out the price premium. I like mid-ranges because they offer the power i need with the versitility to do anything I will need to do for a while down the road. Reply
  • ksherman - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    It is kinda weird that you recommend such a low-end card for a mid-range system... to me (as everyone else has stated) the 6600 and 9800's should be in the midrange systems. 9600 and similar should be put into low-end systems... in regards to the x300, you state that it is good for those not into gaming so much as other "basic computing tasks", I think that something like that belongs in the low-end systems category. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    I have made a few minor corrections, and I also added a $1000 AMD 754 system to the summary page, for those that might feel $1250 is too much. :)

    #3: Corrected, thanks. MB, GB... sometimes my fingers have a mind of their own.

    #7: RAID 1 hardware controllers should not incur any noticeable performance penalty, as they simply tell both hard drives to write the same data. Better RAID 1 controllers will actually have improved read performance, as they can pull data from two sources. I have not done any extensive testing of this, however, and would guess that most integrated RAID controllers lack that feature. If anyone knows for sure, speak up.

    #12: I didn't put much of an emphasis on gaming, as I hope to cover that more in an upcoming Gaming Guide. We'll see if that gets a green light - it's been a while since we covered that topic in depth, I think, although the Doom 3 craze touched on it.

    #15: Stay tuned. That's all I will say for now. The Pioneer is still a good choice, though.

    #16: Is that typo corrected now? If not, which page are you seeing that on, since I checked both the Display and Summary pages for the error.

  • Desslok - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    That monitor costs as much as the whole system would?

    NEC/Mitsubishi FE991SB-BK 19" 1274?????

  • deathwalker - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Great article...I am a little surprised at the Optical Drive choice of the NEC 3500A @ $73, reason being is that you just reviewed the Pioneer 108 and called it the best drive reviewed to date and its only $78. Reply
  • Tides - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    when i think mid-range i do find it hard to look below 9800/6600. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    This article wasn't focussing on a system where gaming will be a major consideration. The reason for recommending a 9600 Pro (or X300) for discrete graphics is that DX9 hardware will be required for Longhorn when it arrives. A 9800 Pro would be overkill for that. Reply
  • neogodless - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Okay, the price on the 19" monitor IS definitely a typo though! Also, personally I'd spend a touch $100 more for a 9800 Pro (over the 9600 Pro) if at all possible because I think a ~10% increase in overall cost for a much better gaming experience is worth it... Reply
  • neogodless - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    n/m... I see it's the 939 pin part... going on the assumption that dual channel increases that chips performance enough for a 200+ higher rating... Reply
  • neogodless - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    The Athlon 64 3200+ (90nm) is a 2.0Ghz 512kb cache part? Is that a typo? Should that read Athlon 64 3000+ ? Reply
  • tappertrainman - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Great Job! I definitely like these style "guides" rather than the CPU motherboard guides by themselves. Also, I think a great idea would be to start an "upgrade" guide similar to these. You could have an entry-level mid-level and high-end upgrade guide each month? Thanks for the hard work. Reply
  • gimper48 - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Very good. I am impressed. However, are we going to see benchmarks in these anytime soon? Reply
  • southernpac - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    I am very inclined to take your recommendation and use a Raid 1 (mirrow) back up strategy. Do I incur a performance "price" for making the constant back-up? If so, will it be significant enough for a simulations gamer to really notice the difference (I'll be using a higher-end system)? Reply
  • Kong Basse - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Thank you for another good article.
    The article was absolutly not too long, only proclaim that I have is: The 9600 id getting a little old by now, but then again, it still isnt too bad for gaming, even though it hardly runs Doom3 and HL2.
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    I've just finished reading it and amazingly, I can't fault any of your recommendations!

    I'd say you've covered pretty much everything you set out to starting with solid recommendations for a base system, and providing excellent reasons for why someone might want to choose one of the alternatives suggested.

    Probably the best system guide to date. Well done.
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    pg.3 under AMD CPU Alternative: "The 3400+ is also an option for additional performance and at 2.4 GHz, it is only slightly slower than the 3800+ at roughly half the cost. Our past tests have shown that the additional 512K of L2 cache does not usually boost performance of the Athlon 64 processors as much as an additional 200 MHz of clock speed will, so we recommend the Newcastle cores over the Clawhammer variants"

    It should be 3700+ rather than 3800+ as we are talking about S754 processors.
  • HVAC - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    I think you should revise the comments on the price of the hard drives to reflect 58 and 59 cents per GIGAbyte, not per MEGAbyte. Reply
  • JClimbs - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Good article, I like seeing multiple choices and reading the +'s and -'s for each. Reply
  • Tides - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    you mention ocz for 220 bucks but a gig of pqi @ 2-2-2-5 (TCCP samsung chips) goes for 30more which as we've seen in your own reviews does awesome. Reply

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