System Buyers Guide: $1000 to $2000

by Wesley Fink on 1/12/2009 4:00 AM EST


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  • aenagy - Sunday, February 01, 2009 - link

    I can't find the Xigmatek HDT-D1283 on the Xigmatek web site for thier air cooling products ("> or by Googling (">

    Is the author referring to the Dark Knight-S1283V/Dark Knight-S1283? Which one?

    If so, what is the difference between the S1283V and S1283. Even after downloading the manuals I have not been able to figure it out. Maybe its the difference between the push-pin mounting vs. screws?
  • Joe Schmoe - Monday, January 26, 2009 - link

    Hi folks!!

    I love this site and it was an excellent article.

    I have a slightly different (perhaps warped) perspective on this topic. It's based on too many years of living in poverty so I could keep my hyperfast, sweet internet connection going.

    I'm in the USA so EU readers don't laugh at my appalling slow connection.

    I think your midrange systems might be specced a little bit high.
    It's exactly what I might buy today but, when I was still in college and money was a little tighter my gaming rigs were a little more.. rickety.

    Do that many midrange rigs have blue ray drives?

    Speaking from my heart..

    I think I'm a midrange builder. A midrange PC doesn't have to start off so... well rounded....

    No matter what we tell ourselves or how much we plan it. There are situations when we usually blow all our money on the new CPU (whether its rational or not) and upgrade the rest of the system bit by bit over the next year.

    Practically all the CPU's on the market today are fast enough that's almost an undisputed fact.

    But we have the I7 and the Phenom 2!! brand new!! for sale!! new chips!!

    It's almost impossible to buy anything else. I couldn't bring myself to buy a e8600 instead. I can get a blue ray drive next month. I'd swap one dvd drive between two computers for 6 months if I have too to price in . (I've done that many times)

    If you grabbed a regular DVD drive for now and used the onboard sound for a while. Those are things are easy upgrades-- two paychecks. You saved about $150 which you can through at the processor and board.
    If you drop down to a 4850 (i know it hurts a little) and now can get an I7 920 and the x58 board. Within 6 months you buy a 2nd 4850 and you're golden.

    The same setup for a Phenom 2 build.

    My X-fi Extreme card passes from system to system like its a family hierloom.

    By summer time I'd have the blue ray drive and probably crossfire 4850's.

    My next computer is probably going to be:

    One of the new processors.
    New motherboard.
    My current graphics card.
    My current 4 gigs or RAM 6 gig of ram four of which I own already.

    It's sad but true..

    Well maybe not this time..

  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - link

    Well wanted to thank everyone in the comments section, this and other articles for piecing together my upgrade system. Pretty much replaced everything except for the HD and case. Wanted to give a quick rundown of how it went and my initial impressions of the components:

    -E8500 CPU- You can tell it's been a while since I've built a system. Not seeing pins ON the chip kind of threw me for a loop. :)

    -XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler was very annoying. Currently @35C idle at stock speeds on the E8500. The push pins suck, absolutely, positively suck. I had serious concerns I had damaged the CPU because some of the pushpins refused to stay down and would pop back up rocking the heatsink. The backplate accessory was $15 which would have increased the price of this cooler to top cooler territory. I will have to wait and see how this pans out because I do not have a good feeling about the longevity of those pins (imagine if they were to release when upright and on, that would be a disaster). I will never purchase a pushpin design again that is for sure. Also have quesetionable faith in the design of the base plate that has the heat pipes directly at the base. There are significant ridges that will not contact the cpu core. I used a bit more thermal paste than normal to hopefully fill in these ridges. Oh and this thing is HUGE. I literally sat there for 20min trying to decide which direction I wanted the fan/heatsink to face. There was NO clearance issues (thank you so much Mr. Fink!), which made the decision harder since I was not constrained by the mobo design. I ended up going with the heatsink moving air from the ram towards the back of the case (from right to left if looking at the tower sitting upright). I had originally wanted to go from the bottom of the case to the top, but I was concerned the GPU would block airflow.

    -Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R - As the article mentioned I have no plans on SLI/X-fire and so went with the R model instead. Very nice piece, installed without a problem, retaining bracket for the CPU is well designed/made. I have zero complaints except for the short IDE connectors. Forced me to use a SATA DVD burner since the single one included could not stretch to hit both the HD and the burner even when I moved them closer together. Funny thing: I tried to find the VGA monitor cable on the mobo to do a test run before plugging in the expensive gpu only to realize it has no onboard video! :) Don't need it, but I hate firing up the system for the first time, and like to have the least amount of components in case something fries (never happened yet to me but I still worry).

    -Tuniq Potency 550w PSU - On recommendation by Mr. Fink I grabbed this new PSU. Let's hope it makes the 500-550w PSU roundup that hoepfully will be coming out soon. Seems very high quality for the cheap price ($40 after $40 rebate), not modular which is annoying to me after coming from a modular PSU, but at least sleeved. I have a full tower (I think) and unfortunately the connectors are relatively short and so I had to move my HD closer to the PSU which isn't a big deal and would be a non-issue with a smaller mid-tower.

    -SAPPHIRE 512MB Radeon HD 4870 VapoChill- This is a kickass card. Factory OC'd, very nice heatpipe tech, and while not completely externally exhausted outside of the case, a fantastic design. To top it off with the rebate it was actually $10 CHEAPER than the stock Sapphire 512MB card. Don't have temp numbers yet as I haven't installed Vista and Catalyst drivers. Extremely pleased with this purchase and highly recommend it. There is nothing like being able to keep a video card stock and still being able to OC it more if needed (I hate changing out the coolers on GPU's).

    -OCZ Reaper 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-1066 Dual Channel Kit- This one had me really concerned. Firstly because the package came slightly damaged and I was concerned it may have been damaged (it's just a clamshell blister pack), and secondly because with the heatpipe it is VERY tall for ram. I was concerned the CPU cooler would not clear the ram, but again a massive thanks for Mr. Fink for making sure his components were compatible. Solidly designed, they have some massive heatsinks on them and feel like you could throw them across the room. Let's hope the added weight doesn't cause issues with the socket over time however.

    OK that's about it. One more time thank you very much for the article and followup advice! Now off to game!
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - link

    Forgot to mention all parts were purchased from either Zipzoomfly (Vista and E8500) or Newegg (everything else). Ended up with about $100 in rebates if I so choose to fill them all out (some are $10 and probably not even worth the effort).
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - link

    Quick question. What is the rational behind only 4GB of ram in the non-i7 systems? With DDR2 ram prices so rediculously low and using Vista X64, isn't there a benefit to higher ram amounts?

    Just wondering because I am building a C2D rig and only got 4GB and wondering if I should grab another kit at these cheap prices.
  • robl - Sunday, January 18, 2009 - link

    First off, great article and good suggestions on the components. I'm itching to pull the trigger on an i7 upgrade with lots of memory and can't wait for your i7 motherboard roundup.

    I started pricing the intel midrange, and it looks like the motherboard only has 4 memory slots, yet you suggest a triple channel kit. Perhaps just 2x2GB or 4x2GB should be recommended for this board instead?

    Do you have any suggestions for a good overclockable i7 MB for ~$200 that has 6 memory slots?

    Thanks again!
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - link

    Triple-channel as the name implies means 3. So you get multiples of 3 for the ram amounts. Typically this is 3GB (1X1X1) for the budget builds (I don't know whom would choose this if they are already spending a good bit on a new system), or the much more common 6GB (2X2X2) setup as the guide recommends.

  • StormyParis - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    I think value starts to drop sharply after two cores. Does anyone have stats on CPU utilization over a typical day, with 1/2/3/4 cores ?

    4 gigs is also debatable. To me, it's definitely more 'comfort' than 'value'. Even today's bloated software/OS does not really need that much, in most cases. Running WoW, a browser with 10 tabs, and a handful of other apps in 2gigs causes little to no disk thrashing.

    Also, I don't understand why the monitor is included. There's no need to change monitors when you change PCs, and monitor choice is very dependant on use (purely PC work vs films vs games ...).
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    Our Intel mid-range value system is in fact a Core 2 Duo - two cores. As we detailed in the Guide going for 2GB instead of 4GB will generally save you around $15 in today's market with commodity memory pricing. If saving $15 is that important to you then go for it.

    When we do not list a monitor in system builds many readers complain about the ommission. If including a monitor disturbs you then just subtract out that price from the build.

  • smacfarl - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    The big news in pc performance has got to be the ssd drive.

    I fully expected that you guys would be incorporating $60 sata II flash drives as the boot drives in all these systems in the mid range. Really they should be in the under $1000 systems as well. Sure you can then get a second traditional 500-1RB HDD drive for your movies, music, photos, whatever but even a 32GB flash drive is more than enough to run your OS and main apps from flash. Boot time goes way down and performance up. That's without even using the SSD upgrades announced at CES.

    Seriously where is your head guys? I figure this first review post CES would usher in the new era, but it looks like you guys are sadly behind the curve hear at AnandTech. I am kind of sad because I have always looked at you guys as the leader in terms of system reviews. For example your comment that $300 budget boxes were now feasible minus OS and monitor is right on the money, though many other sites don't want to recognize this reality.

    Wake up Anandtech! Post another guide review with the sdd drives before some else becomes the self-build system review leader.
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, January 17, 2009 - link

    There have been several articles ar AnandTech evaluating the effectiveness of SSDs. The biggest issue in adding an SSD to a System Guide recommendation is the state of Windows Vista, which does not really support SSDs as they need to be supported.

    Windows 7 DOES support SSD technology. With the release of that OS we will all be even more excited about the capability of Solid State Drives. Until then it is diffiuclt to recommend an SSD in a typical entry or mid-range build.

    However, the prices of capable SSD drives are dropping fast. There are several current generation 64GB SSD drives selling for less than $150 and a large number of 16GB SSDs for under $100. At those prices it is hard to ignore the potential of the SSD to improve system performance.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    An SSD with the 1TB drive is certainly an option worth considering. It is fairly easy to add that SSD to any of these system builds and the cost is much lower today with memory chips selling for bargain prices. We will talk a bit more about SSD options in a future System Buyers Guide. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Fail to see why when I add up all the Intel Performance Midrange, I get $2024 and not $1999 Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    The Gigabyte motherboard price reduction and rebate we were expecting have now kicked in, reducing the Gigabyte 1366 motherboard cost from $210 to $200 and $185 after $15 rebate. That change makes the total system price $1999, so we have revised both the Motherboard price and grand total price. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    There were many last minute changes to the guides and prices as the prices are very fluid. Our web editor checked prices when he posted and I made some final corrections and checked totals in Excel. One of the changes was overlooked on the system you mentioned. Your $2024 total is correct and the total has been changed. Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    Ahh okay. I understand that prices change as this system will be 3/4 the price 7 months from now. Just wanted to let you know that the total should still add up. Can't wait to see what will happen with the Intel/Jmicron SSD market. Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    You know, I'd really like to see a followup article here with benchmarks of these systems against the best intel has to offer. Not overclocked mind you .. just stock straight on performance difference. It would give people a very good idea of what their spending their money on and the differences those dollars make. For kicks throwing in last years Midrange system would be nice to.

    Just a thought. Hopefully it's taken under consideration.

  • just4U - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Grr didn't have it all typed out before I hit the post button. The thing is .. You have these buyer guides right? The logical next step would be to test them and give people a idea of what their buying. One would think since these items do make it into your buyers guide then perhaps the manufactuer's would be generous enough to supply the parts for the test(s) since they would be in the spotlight and all. :)

    Please consider it. If not now then for future buyer guide articles. I know it's alot of work and all but it's a logical next step to a fuller more complete article.

    Thanks for reading both comments.
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    While possibly not practical (sounds like the Anand team is quite spread out around the world), it would be very helpful to see what you are mentioning. Putting a real world head to head comparison would show exactly what price premium is put on the systems, which would allow us system builders to justify an upgrade or feel better about saving some money with a lesser part.

    I'm just willing to bet all the parts aren't in the same room just waiting to be pieced together...
  • v12v12 - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    As a current Intel fan, and soon to be Intel Upgrader: Typing on a Turion X2, and gaming on an OLD ass XP2500@2.41.... THANK GOD for AMD's new awakening. A hand out of the grave, reaching for something to pull itself from Hades!

    Though AMD isn't quite "competitive" in reality, it's a damn good start and gives me HOPE for CHEAP PRICES!!! The better AMD does, the BETTER for ALL of us! It's hard rooting for the "loser," but when that loser is going to strike a blow to Goliath and cause another potential price war? COME ON DOWN!!! You're a contestant on the PRICE IS RIGHT!!!
  • RonnieJamesDio - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    With the internet alive with horror stories about the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB drives failing in massive numbers I would think Anandtech would withhold such blanket approval of this part until the dust settles. I mean, the equivalent WD part costs 10 bucks more on average and in the last storage roundup they couldn't really choose between them! Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    We are recommending either the WD Caviar Black 1TB or the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000333AS 1TB drives. To be honest, the new Hitachi EK71000 is not bad either if the price comes down. However, we did not and will not recommend the ST31000340AS 1TB drive due to lingering concerns about the quality of the drive at this point.

    We have requested additional information from Seagate concerning the current problems with the 340AS drive but have not experienced those problems with the 333AS at this point. Seagate did comment to us that we should not expect to see the same problems with the 333AS drives due to a different platter/head design along with optimized firmware.

    I have tested four 333AS drives in a Promise NAS unit over the past month by running several VMware applications and other tests that abuse the disks on a constant basis. Temperature readings have ranged from 10C to 50C in a controlled setting and the drives have yet to show a problem when allowed to shutdown for periodic breaks, which have shown to be a major cause of failure on the 340AS drives.

    In the meantime, the WD Caviar Black 1TB drive is a favorite of ours and continues to be the drive we utilize in our new test beds.
  • formulav8 - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    My lord, I would hate to see what you see a Low-End system price to be? This is deinitely not a real world guide from my experience...

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Cripes people... it's just a term. Wes put together a $500 to $1000 guide a couple weeks back, so it makes no sense to start the next level guide at $1000. I think you're all intelligent enough to look at both guides and pick and choose parts based on your final budget. You want a $1250 PC? How about taking the $1500 starting price of the base "midrange" systems in this guide and then downgrade a few parts?

    E8400 saves you $25 or so.
    If you don't overclock, you can save $40 on the HSF.
    Don't need 1TB of storage? Then how about a 500GB HDD to save $55?
    No sound card saves another $50.
    DVDR instead of BRD-ROM saves $70.
    $80 for speakers that you may not use.

    There you have it: the $1450 Intel system is now only $1130, and you can still downgrade the GPU if you're not a serious gamer.

    The goal of our buyers' guide has always been to give you a good overview of the market and some reasonable recommendations. There is no "perfect" system that will please everyone, and all the complaints about the definition of "midrange", "entry", "budget", "high-end", "dream", etc. are all missing the point. Are these good systems for $1500 to $2000? Are there any serious flaws? Minor quibbles about whether or not you need that much storage are easily fixed.

    Personally, I'd go quad-core Penryn right now over the various other options. That's $100 more than the E8500, but with overclocking you can still get close to the same performance. The">Q9450 is still a good buy if you can find it (2x6MB cache is better than the Q9400 and Q9300, not to mention the cache-limited Q8200). I also always recommend getting a better display if at all possible - assuming you didn't do that some time in the past 3-5 years, naturally. A good display can last through many PC upgrades.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Completely agree. It's all semantics. 1/3 of the comments are complaining about the wording of what mid-range is? At least bring a real criticism to the discussion.

    Now can someone comment on the HSF recommended in the Intel mid-range build? I posted an earlier comment and didn't get an answer but the Xigmatek is no where to be seen that I could find on Anandtech. I ended up ordering it along with the C2D 8500 today, but am going to be pissed if there was a better or cheaper (or both? :) option. Could someone link to me the data that the article referenced?

    From the article:

    "While the stock Intel cooler is adequate for modestly overclocking a Core 2 Duo, better cooling is needed to push the CPU to its limits. The Xigmatek HDT-D1283 120mm Rifle Cooler did very well in our cooling tests and it is a good match to the E8500. OCZ also markets a similar 120 Rifle cooler and either should work well in this system."
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    I tested the OCZ variant of the Xigmatek a couple of months ago and found it performed near the top compared to other coolers in its price range. It did not reach the performance levels of the more expensive Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, but it was in that ballpark.

    At the time I was working hard on Digital Camera reviews and news and we decided to can the article and devote more time to other review areas.

    The Xigmatek is actually available from others as well, but the price for the Xigmatek brand was the best I could find for this cooler. It is a good match to Core 2 processors since they are not generally super difficult to cool. You will be pleased with the performance.

    The Core i7, on the other hand, is something of a cooling challenge (I tried hard to stay positive and not say 'nightmare'). So much so that I will be publishing reviews of Socket 1366 coolers in the nest few weeks. No one is really doing a good job in testing Socket 1366 coolers so we are working on an i7 cooler test platform and testing procedures right now.

    Core i7 overclocks well IF you can cool it properly, but it is already pretty hot even at stock speeds with the Intel Retail 1366 HSF.
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Thank you very much for the reply! I had assumed as much since you mentioned it had been tested but I was going crazy looking again and again at 2008 cooling articles unable to find even the slightest mention of it. $/performance is definitely what I'm shooting for on my latest build and it seems that your recommendation is perfect.

    My only concern is that it uses pushpins for mounting (or spend an additional $15 (not including shipping) for the backplate). Hopefully it won't be too difficult to mount, but I thank you again for this recommendation.

    It may be worthwhile to update this buyers guide to mention that although Anandtech does not have posted data it falls between X and Y on the list for OC'ing, and maybe a 1 sentence mention of installation/noise levels. I'm sure someone else that used the guide for a new build had a similar question as I did.

    You guys really are the greatest at not only writing excellent articles but backing up your articles with responses to comments.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    I wouldn't be surprised if this is an item that Wes has tested but hasn't had a chance to write up yet. (Or perhaps Matt tested it.) I know from personal experience that the testing is only half the battle when it comes to producing an article. :) Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Why the Tuniq tower instead of the Thermalright? The Thermalright seems like a far better cooler based on the reviews on this very site... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Price performance... the Ultra 120 eXtreme is a great cooler, but with a fan it's often twice the cost of the Tuniq 120. All that for a difference of perhaps 2-4C? Take the $50 and put it elsewhere if you want better performance. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I've never heard of this and 20min of searching Anandtech doesn't show it in any CPU cooler roundups that I can find? The Xigmatek AIO or something does show up but clearly this is a different part. Could someone link me to an Anand article that has a review of it? Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Anyone interested see Christof's reply on (now) page 6. Apparently while never written up in an Anand article the cooler was tested in-house and did very well for the $. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    *Mr. Fink was actually the person whom tested the cooler. Edit button, EDIT BUTTON, G-D edit button! Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    $190 E8500

    $165 E8400

    Is there any real benefit to the E8500 over the E8400? I plan on a modest OC, likely not looking to increase the voltage (maybe slightly), is there something I'm missing since the stock frequency seems to be under 200MHz, and the cache size is the same?

  • Jynx980 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Good guide. I am planning on building a similar system as the Intel Midrange system. I would like to see power draw and acoustic info though. Why are the CPU heatsinks referred to as Rifle coolers?

    Typo?:the E8600 has been matched with components that are also excellent choices for overclocking.
  • Jynx980 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I am also curious if CPU and video card prices will get a bit of a shuffle soon with the new Phenom and GTX 295. Reply
  • jasonb - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Phenom II is 4x 512 KB, not 4x 512 MB. Reply
  • IHateMyJob2004 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I would love to have someone write up an article (or articles) that revolves around the idea of data storage at home.

    these days, my concerns are with the following:
    1) perosnal finances
    2) images (digital cameras are popular these days)
    3) videos ($300 for a good digital camcorder)
    4) music (all those with iPods step forward)

    None of this is processor heavy, but requires alot of disk space. And since alot of important data is on there, backups are also needed.

    So, maybe come up with various price points with requirements for backup.

    Low end could be simple backup on an external drive.

    Mid end could be the same but with more storage

    High end could be crazy (raid 0+1?) and include multiple backups.

    And some sort of plan for offsite backup (optional) for each build. The high end could use an online service while the low end could just include an extra external hard drive which is kept at another location.

    System builds like this do not exist and I want it and I'm sure alot of us ex-gamers (now 30+ year old parents) have much different concerns than the college crowd.
  • garydale - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    OK, I can appreciate that a lot of people are looking for game machines, but there are also those of us who are looking for machines to do office work, touch up pictures, and edit home videos. Moreover, if you're not stuck on Windows, you can try other things that can give you a nice performance boost.

    None of the machines here use what I consider to be all but obligatory nowadays - a RAID array. Of course, using Linux makes setting up a nice 3-disk or 4-disk RAID5 array easy and cheap. And it really boosts your read performance, something even gamers can appreciate. Since HD access is a real bottleneck, going for a RAID array makes sense.

    Secondly, how about going to a real 64bit operating system? Even the 64bit Vista usually has you running 32bit programs. With Linux however you get 64bit right the way through without having to worry about driver or program compatibility (I'm running Debian/Lenny on my workstation which, although still in "testing", is far more stable than the antique XP, let alone Vista).

    Admittedly, 64bits doesn't always buy you a lot of extra performance, but in the real world, it's a free upgrade. And sometimes it can get you a big payback while it rarely costs you any performance.

    Anyway, I consider my system to be midrange but it costs less than the lower cutoff point, with the 3 HDs, quad-core processor and (if I needed a new one) display being the only expensive parts. Since I'm not a gamer, I didn't bother with a video card. The onboard video handles full-screen HD video nicely so why bother? This also allows me to use the wonderfully economical and quiet PC Power & Cooling Silencer 370 power supply.

    Another cost savings is to use a KVM switch instead of a monitor. Some people are connecting multiple monitors up to a single computer, so obviously this isn't a general solution, but with Linux providing multiple virtual desktops, I find that a single monitor for multiple machines works well. And certainly a reasonable KVM saves money and desk space over multiple keyboard, mouses and monitors.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Mr. Fink,

    Can you recommend a good PSU in the 500-550w range? I've been waiting for the 2nd part of the PSU reviews that have that range as I feel the 750w is overkill for my single gpu build. Maybe send Mr. Katzer an email since he did the 350-400 article?
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    The problem with quality 500-550w power supplies is that the ones I know about actually cost more than the 650W Corsair we recommended in this Guide. The Corsair is a superb 80 Certified PS that will do the job well for you and cost about $80.

    I did find a new Tuniq Potency 550PS that is $40 after a $40 rebate with an initial cost of $80. You can link to it at newegg at"> It is a new PS we have not yet tested, but we generally trust the Tuniq brand and this PS is 80 Certified for your protection.

    Seasonic and hec both have excellent reputations among Power Supplies and they all make many Power Supplies sold under other premium names.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Well I'm going to be your guinea pig, I couldn't pass up the cheap price. I currently have an Antec Neopower480w from my last build (4 years ago?), which while good (and modular which I loved) surely can't be as efficient or hopefully as stable as the Potency. Let's hope the 500-550w roundup includes the Tuniq Potency 550PS Reply
  • Charger71 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    So the latest and fastest AMD chips are midrange? What would high end be? dual socket?

    I don't agree with these builds for midrange. But I understand how they fit in your 1-2k price range. Great performing parts are cheaper now days, like I think you mentioned. You really need to adjust your definition of midrange because your selections leave a large bucket of "low-end" parts out there, which doesn't make sense to me.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    High-End is definitely Core i7. We barely managed to build a complete balanced $2000 system with the lowest cost Core i7 920 that sells for $295. There are two i7 processors above that at $600 to $1000.

    For systems below $1000 you can check out our Guide from two weeks ago at">
  • shinpickle - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    if you are just making recipes from newegg without building anything??? nothing wrong with that, but you should explicitly state such, if would I build a system from your picks only to find there's a known incompatibility issue you missed, expect some hate-mail.

    without building you really have no proof of the performance per dollar, these articles are very different from most anand articles based on lab research.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    We really do need an edit function here. I meant the i7/Gigabyte combo has been in our labs. The Foxconn used with the Phenom II 920 has also been in our labs for quite a while, as has the Asus motherboard used with the Phenom II 940.

    Believe me when I tell you Gary and Anand scream loudly if we plan to suggest a motherboard they know has been problematic. Those recommendations don't make it to the web page.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    As you should have figured out from the article description the AnandTech staff has actually used and tested most of the components in the system. EACH Editor has input on what is selected in the guides.

    If I question the initial selections, or we have major shifts like the Phenom II launch, I talk with the Editor affected to make sure the changes correspond to their experience with those components or if their recommendation shave changed. We definitely have experience with all the major components in the system, including all motherboards.

    We have also built systems that are similar, but not exactly the same, as most of these configurations. With Phenom II launched last Thursday Editors have worked with the recommended motherboards in the Phenom II systems, but that was with a 940. We don't have direct experience with the 920 on these boards, but we have no reason to expect it would behave differently than the 940 on these boards. The i7/Foxconn has been in the motherboard lab for quite a while, as has the Core 2 Duo/Gigabyte configuration.
  • Zorblack1 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I'm sorry this is silly. If Nvidia was to release a new "highest performing" video card tomorrow that gave the same performance as a 2 year old ATI video card with worse performance/clock cycle everybody would be dooming Nvidia and bashing the company. Reply
  • nubie - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I would quit complaining if I were you, becuase if AMD remains uncompetitive then Intel processors would cost twice what they do now.

    Phenom I was a good processor for servers, Phenom II is a much better processor, and is finally a recommendation for mid-range and entry-level builds again.

    Performance/clock isn't a good metric when determining performance/cost.

    I am not necessarily going to purchase an AMD over a Q6600 clocked at 3.2Ghz, but I might if the performance is better.
  • nubie - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    dammit, because ^^ Reply
  • Jorgisven - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I think one of the big qualms about calling this "mid-range" is that in general, the mid-range has been defined by the absence of the exponential cost/power ratio taking place. Right now, there is a substantial cost for only a fractional performance increase in these systems over something that costs half as much. Even with as much as the claimed "30 percent" performance increase, you're spending twice as much or more. You can build an amazing system, referencing the entry-level article, and the E7300 comes within 72% of the 965! Not the 920... however, the price of that system is 42% of even the 920. Granted, it's not just the processor that's different...With just an extra $50-100 on that entry-level upgrading to the E8600, you get within "88%"! So, in the end, we'll call it a 10% performance increase for a 200% price increase. (because that article references the 965, not this lower 920. I guessed on the 2% difference between the two).

    And a GTX280? Since when is that mid-range performance? It's pretty overkill for the 1920x1080 res of the monitor in my opinion (but it's just that). I'm of the opinion that you should not spend more on your graphics card than your display for a few reasons:

    Displays are harder to upgrade, due to higher cost of shipping when trying to sell. Also, they technically aren't supposed to be thrown away (heavy metals) so they are more expensive to take care of if/when they break out of warranty. I would typically spend more on the monitor, and if needed, upgrade the card later, rather than the other way around.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Using the numbers published in Anand's release review of the Phenom II, here is the advantage the i7 920 holds over the E8600 and the E6750. The E7300 was not tested, and the E6750 generally performed better than the tested E7200, which is why I picked it to roughly represent E7300 numbers. All these are such that 100 means twice as fast or half the time to complete.

    920 over E8600: 50.6, 38.7, 72.4, 136.3, 44.8, 84.3, -6.8, 103.3, 148.6, 111.5, 43.2, 87.6, 64.2, 114.6, 59.3, -5.7, -3.4, 42, -2.7

    920 over E6750: 97.1, 82.2, 118, 214.1, 89.7, 135.4, 24, 174.2, 216.7, 184.5, 100.4, 151.6, 122.2, 180.9, 94.2, 11.9, 19, 74.8, 2.9

    Other than some current games and single-core Cinebench, the 920 is generally at least double the E6750 and 60% faster than the E8600. Replacing the processor, motherboard, memory, and power supply from the E7300 system guide with those from the 920 system guide gives a system price of $1268, so 52.2% higher for what is often more than 100% more performance in tested benchmarks. Obviously for lots of games or other single-threaded programs and internet, etc, the cheaper system is fine, but the 920 offers lots more performance for not a ton more money and on these programs does better than diminishing returns. Getting the price of an E8600 from Newegg today, switching that for the E7300 costs 983, making the $1268 920 system 30% more expensive for upwards of 60% better performance in CPU-intensive applications.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    As I stated on the first page it is my belief that a mid-range system, as defined in this article, should be “computing solutions with some staying power in the market”. I certainly don’t expect that of Entry or Bargain systems. That is the reason I stretched to select Mid-Range systems with Phenom II and an entry i7 Socket 1333 system at the top.

    As I said in the Guide, I had first put together a balanced Phenom 9950 system at the $1400 complete system price point. When Phenom II was introduced with an entry $235 920 part (just $55 more than the price of the 9950 on that day) and a top 790FX motherboard dropped its price to $105 it made more sense to pick Phenom II instead at that same $1400.

    The Guide was ready to go last week with very different system selection. We did not have a Phenom II or an i7 in our recommendations then. However we knew Phenom II was coming Thursday, and we also knew it would shake up our System selections. That is why we reworked all the systems over the weekend and delayed posting until today.
  • Jorgisven - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Granted, by the time it gets around to upgrading a system using the Wolfdale or Yorkfield architecture, they will be hard pressed to find something better to upgrade to, as it seems that technology is getting dropped. I just feel this article is about 5-6 months early. I think the prices for these parts will be "mid-range" in about that time or so. So I guess this is a good planning article if you're not doing it this month or next...

    A well thought-out article, but I just disagree with the timing, a bit.
  • tester3000 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    That system is clearly not mid-range. Mid-range is around $800. That's a freaking high end and the $2000 is ultra-high end. Not many people can afford over $1000. $800 is the sweet spot for most people. Without monitor of course. Add another $200 for monitor. Reply
  • boboko - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    >"That system is clearly not mid-range. Mid-range is around $800. That's a freaking high end and the $2000 is ultra-high end. Not many people can afford over $1000. $800 is the sweet spot for most people."

    Maybe. But the type of people who read Anand Tech and build a system from components will almost always keep about half the stuff from their old system. I'm getting ready to build a new PC, and all I'll buy is the CPU, MB, and memory. I'm still debating whether to buy a new video card, or wait a month or two for the prices to go down. But I'll keep my drives, my monitor, my case, my OS, my power supply, and my sound card and speakers, so even using these components that you claim are out of anyone's price range, I'll only be spending around $500, and I might make some of that back selling my old MB and CPU as a barebones that I stick into one of the several cases and PS's I got for free after rebate when Fry's was selling them evey month.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    well, "most people" buy prebuilt from Dell or their local Best Buy, etc. For those building their own system, $1500 would generally qualify as midrange.

    The budget guide had a few builds under $1000 including monitor.
  • Jorgisven - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I'd agree. "Most people" will not be reading articles like this. "Most people who are looking at building their own" have a good idea of their budget, and it's generally higher than "most other people", because performance and control is more important generally speaking. Reply
  • elerick - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I have to agree with the author on this. He talked about the idea of reworking midrange, but ultimately stated his case for not changing.

    You can't please everyone, I build a new rig every 2 yeaars and I always do exactly what this author has put into an article. He choose the latest arcitectures and then picked the most affordable version / upgradeable. That is why the Core i7 920 ($300) and Phenom II ($235 & $275) were picked. I couldn't agree more with those picks for the month of January. Next month those picks could change, based on Intels counter pricing to Phenom II launch.

  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    From article:

    "Phenom II performance is more in line with Intel's latest Core i7, and for that reason we really wanted to select the Phenom II 920 for the AMD Value Midrange."

    OK, the new Pheom II processors are definitely a good step in the right direction but this is a bit misleading to say IMO.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    We have revised the comment to more accurately reflect what we were trying to convey. We don't want to leave the wrong impression on this. Core i7 is definitely the fastest current CPU, but Phenom II competes with i7 much better than Phenom. Phenom II also has a cheaper $235 CPU that offers terrific performance for the price Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Thank you for the revision. I did not want it to seem that I thought you were being biased towards the Phenom II, just that it was a bit misleading in its original form. While architecturally it is closer to the Core i7, performance-wise it's closer to the Q9300/Q9400.

    I think for a mid-grade build the Phenom II is probably in a sweet spot as current high pricing for DDR3 ram and the motherboard (not to mention questionable mobo stability) make total system costs much higher for an i7 build.

    As it is, I'll be building a very inexpensive system based off your $1500 Intel dual-core system as I game on a 19" LCD and do very little work that requires/is enhanced by a quad core. It's going to be a hold over system for a year or two and so I thank you for the 775 mobo and ram recommendation.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    *speaking of the 920, not the 940. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link


    To add from Anand's own 920/940 review:

    "Looking through the performance results, it's also worthwhile to recognize just how fast Intel's Core i7 is. Across the board Core i7 is the fastest thing out there. If the motherboard guys could get X58 board pricing down below $200 and DDR3 memory was available at the same price as DDR2, then the i7-920 would be the clear recommendation. The entry-level Core i7 is pretty much faster than the-top end Core 2 Extreme or the Phenom II."


    "We must not forget that Phenom II is competitive with a 45nm derivative of a 2+ year old architecture."

    Again I'm not bashing AMD's Phenom II chips, just that it is very misleading to say the performance is more in line with the i7.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    All of your comments add to the perspective on Phenom II. I believe I made it very clear that at $2000 the entry i7 was likely faster than the Phenom II. I also said on p.4 "Phenom II performance is more in line with Intel’s latest Core i7" and that is certainly true. The L3 cache of Phenom II is definitely more like i7 than the cache design of the Phenom CPU.

    However, Anand also points out the real advantage in the CPU/Board price enjoyed by the entry Phenom II 920. As I also said Intel's cheapest i7 is $300. There is no $235 i7 and cheap but capable motherboard as there is for Phenom II.

    The article was crystal clear that Intel still owns the top, and that is i7, but AMD is competitive now in the mid-range to lower high end, where it was not before. This is not being a fan-boi as I personally run i7, but if I've given AMD a little more slack in this article I will not apologize. AMD has been trailing Intel for a long time, and in fairness Phenom II performance and overclocking came as something of a surprise to reviewers. Most did not expect the chip to be as comnpetitive as it is. AMD deserves a little credit here. I will probably use a Phenom II in my next build, as competition is good for all of us.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I was wondering about that as well. Anand's launch review of Phenom II seems to show that outside of gaming the i7 920 typically holds 10-20% better performance, with occasional tests showing even more. So at the $2000 price point that would likely make the AMD system the better gaming system due to the video card, but the i7 system likely faster in most other applications.

    Are any of the ~$200 X58 motherboards going to offer 6 RAM slots? 12GB would be even more expensive with only 4 slots.

    As the PCIe X1 slots are often lost in an SLI/Crossfire setup, do any of these boards have trouble using a X1 sound card in an X16 slot? IIRC someone reported previously that some boards didn't like running X16 slots slower than X4.
  • Jaramin - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Somehow, this doesn't feel very midrange to me. It's as if the class was defined by the price instead of the performance.

    The value midrange aught to be performance midrange, and performance midrange is clearly high end, because one bumb ahead leads us to ultra-high end, you know, the machines we dream to have but would never buy?
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    We did not use the term Midrange to start an argument, although a discusiion of the definition of Midrange is always interesting. Since we described our Bargain Systems as Under $1000 I have changed the title description to $1000 to $2000. I hope that removes any confusion about what is covered in the guide. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    From the Introduction:

    "Midrange can start as low as $1000 and extend all the way up to around $2000, which gives a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing components. In this era of declining prices and increasing value, the midrange also covers a wider area than in the past - just as we saw in the under $1000 segment. Our budget systems near $1000 were really representative of what we might have called midrange in the past. Similarly, our $2000 system is closer to what may have been defined as high-end in earlier guides.

    It's fair to ask, then, why we haven't tossed the price classes for our guides and defined new ones. That option was considered, but the fact remains that high-end prices have not declined like midrange and entry prices. New architectures have also been recently introduced at the high-end, so the definition of high and mid are shifting as the Intel Core i7 and Phenom II move into our computing space. We are already seeing a few X58 boards that will be selling for around $200, which would allow a decent Core i7 build at around $2000. Similarly, you can build a very capable Phenom II box for that same $2000."

  • AntiM - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I consider midrange to be in the $600 to $800 price range. Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Would that include a midrange 19-20" monitor (~150-200), Windows OS ($100), midrange speakers (~$75), and midrange keyboard/mouse ($25)? That's at least $400 right there, leaving just $200-$400 for the rest of the parts. Reply
  • ifkopifko - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Exactly... I wonder where the low end starts and ends according to this.

    Also... A little bit overkill PSUs in the value midrange builds, don't you think? And why oh why 16:9 monitors instead of 16:10?

    But otherwise... good review... And now just the benchmarks are left ... :-)
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Another possibility is Entry - under $750, Mid-Range - $750 to $1500, High-End - $1500 up.

    The concern here is that there are still dream $600 to $1000 processors for sale. The LOWEST-priced Core i7 machine is still $2000 as a balanced system, and based on a $300 Core i7 CPU. The other two are $600-$1000. That, and another couple of higher-end Phenom II CPUs would shift the definitions again.

    If lower prices fit your mid-range search look at the top systems in the System Buyers Guide: Under $1000 and the lower systems in this Midrange Guide.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    I have (im)patiently been waiting for this review before I start the process of building my mid-range system and will be reading this article very carefully and hopefully the comments section can bring to light some extra info.

    Thank you Mr. Fink
  • Jorgisven - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    "G.Skill triple-channel DDR2-1333 6GB"

    Hang on a sec...DDR2? @ 1333?
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Both typos have been corrected. With the Phenom II intro there have been many recent price changes and configuration changes. Reply
  • elerick - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    The chart shows $120 for the Phenom II 940 black. Should be a little higher.

    Been a good read so far, still not done.

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