Index

Today, we release our eleventh Buyer's Guide in the past 11 weeks. You can look forward to Buyer's Guides in the middle of every week, and then, after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Today, we are continuing the refresh of our Buyer's Guides to see what has changed, if anything, in the past 4 weeks. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guides yet, here's the basic format of them to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Entry Level System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: High End System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we offer our recommendation for a piece of hardware as well as our alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware (especially for those willing to spend a little more than what we budget for a particular system). Alternative picks tell you just that - your alternatives, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be. But at the same time, we can still be assertive enough with a first place recommendation so that new buyers aren't indecisive or confused about what to purchase. Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime Pricing Engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on pricewatch.com. We list pertinent parts of our RealTime pricing engine at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors all by yourself.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel that we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

High End

Before we go into a little detail about what you need to know about building a high end system, we need to first reiterate what you should remember about entry level and mid-range systems.
  1. Entry level systems should be constructed mainly with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  2. Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but performance and price are in a sort of not-so-distant tie for second place.
For a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on what you should prioritize with entry level and mid-range systems, take a look at our entry level and mid-range guides from the last two weeks.

Anyway, when building a high end system, performance is usually going to be your most important consideration. That is, when building a high end system, you want to make sure that you're picking the hardware that performs the best for the programs you use the most. While you could say that reliability is the second most important consideration when building a high end system, it would probably be more appropriate to say that reliability is the #1 priority. Understandably, price is a distant third consideration. This should be pretty self-explanatory, as anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that parts aren't going to be cheap. This guide by no means disregards price altogether, as we aren't going to be building a $10,000 system here. Rather, we are building a system that will cost under $5,000, but with the final price much closer to $1,000 than $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • Murst - Thursday, May 06, 2004 - link

    I am looking to build a new system, and I have used this article for a lot of guidance. However, some points I disagreed with. Here is what I have come up with. The case I'm not too sure about yet, as there are also many great choices from other top manufacturers. This does not include a monitor, and I will be looking for an LCD with a fast response time (something good for gaming). Sorry if I left out anything. The prices include shipping.

    Processor
    AMD Athlon 64 3400+
    404
    newegg.com

    Motherboard
    MSI|VIA K8T800 K8T NEO-FIS2R
    126
    newegg.com

    Heatsink
    Thermalright SLK-948U
    43
    newegg.com

    CPU Fan
    Vantec Tornado
    15
    newegg.com

    Power Supply
    Antec TruePower 550W
    106
    newegg.com

    Case
    Cooler Master Wave Master
    153
    newegg.com

    1 GB RAM
    OCZ Gold Revision 2 (2x512)
    284
    computerhq.com

    Sound Card
    Sound Blaster Audigy 2
    76
    newegg.com

    Graphics Card
    ATI X800XT
    500
    not out yet

    Speakers
    Logitech Z-5300 5.1 THX
    153
    newegg.com

    Hard Drive 1
    WD Raptor 10k RPM 74GB
    215
    newegg.com

    Hard Drive 2
    Seagate SATA 160 GB 7200 RPM
    122
    newegg.com

    DVD RW
    NEC 8x DVD RW #2500a
    87
    newegg.com

    Total:
    $2284

    Reply
  • cK-Gunslinger - Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - link

    D'oh! Looks like I missed the boat on this one. Where have I been the past 3-4 days?

    Anyway, this is a pretty good guide, but I agree with quite a few of the other posts here. I keep up with my own system guides just for kicks, and they have always pretty much mirrored Anand's. The biggest differences seem to be in Storage and Monitors.

    With harddrives so cheap today, why do we still recommend only a single drive? You can get quite a bit of performance increase as well as flexibility by simply exploring multi-drive options. Yes, you may increase the total cost of the system by $100-200 dollars, but you'd probably be better off than you would by jumping up to those $250 speakers you recommend.

    Also, I know these systems are primarily used for gaming, so CRTs are rather entrenched, but good LCDs such as the Dell 2001FP work beautifully for games as well as general desktop usage. Again, this adds to the total cost, but if you are going to be staring at your monitor for hours per day, a 1600x1200 LCD with 16ms response will be easy on the eyes.

    Again, I know these guides are highly subjective, but you've done a pretty good job keeping things in order. I just wish you'd be a little more willing to experiment and explore other options. Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • cbcphotog - Monday, May 03, 2004 - link

    1) You made several changes in your latest guide but didn't give any explanation. I'd be interested in knowing why...

    ... The motherboard for the AMD 64 changed from the ASUS K8V Deluxe to the MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R?
    ... The alternate monitor from the Phillips 202P45 to the ViewSonic P225F?

    2) I'm also wondering why you chose the NEC2500A optical drive for this system instead of the NU Tech DDW-082 that recently received you editors choice award.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • NordicNINE - Monday, May 03, 2004 - link

    There doesn't seem to be many CRT reviews lately. Esp for larger models. I'm looking to get a 21-22". I do play games a few times a week and every other week or so, I play games all night, so I want something that works very well for games, but mainly I want something with razor sharp text. I know that aperture grill monitors have brighter colors, etc but they have lower quality text than a good invar shadow mask. So, would the 1100df be a good choice? I was thinking of the NEC 22" Diamondtron monitors but again I'm worried about the text quality and it seems that anytime you see monitors setup somewhere they're running some stupid looping demo that doesn't show text AND they run through some crappy splitter so all the monitors look bad. Reply
  • Philotic - Monday, May 03, 2004 - link

    I second, third, fifth, eighty-seventh...whatever the hard drive recommendation, but my real question is who only uses one hard drive for storage? I personally store my important data on multiple hard drives based on the type of data. I wouldn't store important information on the same drive as my operating system, that's madness! I would use a WD74Gb Raptor as the OS drive because of speed, but I would only use Seagate drives for storage. I also disagree with the speaker selection; I would recommend the Logitech Z-680s or the Creative Gigaworks 7.1s, perhaps the updated high-end Klipsch Promedia 5.1. Video card? I think everyone agrees that this is a poor time to purchase a video card but the guide must go on! Reply
  • Mackintire - Sunday, May 02, 2004 - link

    Evan Lieb,

    Looks like you saw a couple of my posts. I suggested that Seagates 7200.7 drive would be a better drive. Yes, I frequently visit SR. But as someone who orders near 50+ HD's a month I can tell you my personal experience. With 10 hour a day operating time. I have near 70% of our WD based drives have displayed bearing disfunction, by either failing or grinding within a 6 month period. None of the Seagate 7200.7 series drives we have used have failed so far. We currently have a smaller percentage of Seagate 7200.7 drives in the field. And 3 sets of 30 are over the 6 month point with no apparent problems.
    The 7200.7's appear to be slightly faster in general use. I personally own both types of drives and can confirm the Seagate 7200.7 is quieter and runs cooler then the WD 120g JB. This is again my experience.

    Thank you for your response.

    Mackintire
    Reply
  • Mackintire - Sunday, May 02, 2004 - link

    AtaStrumf,

    The drive you are refering to is Seagate's 120gig Barracuda V. The Barracuda V based drives are know to run hot. The Hard drive I am speaking about is from Seagate's 7200.7 series. The 7200.7 series are one of the coolest running drives on the market.

    I know about vowing never to buy another XXXX brand drive again. After returning near 40+ drives to WD I was almost ready to count them out.

    But I gave them another chance by purchasing a 74gig Raptor, and I couldn t be more pleased with it. For now I will stay away from WD normal drives untill they fix them.

    Please be a little more specific next time about what hard drive model you had bad experiances with.

    Mackintire
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Sunday, May 02, 2004 - link

    TrogdorJW, good call, we’ll include an Alternative for the case next time around. We really don’t get much responses for cases, as everyone has their own priority. Look is very subjective with a case, something we don’t have to worry about with HDDs, CPUs, etc.

    Ducsauce, try Newegg.com.

    Mackintire, most user’s experiences are different. Take a look at SR.com’s database of user reviews on WD, Seagate, etc. HDDs. You’re exaggerating the tangible differences in performance as well.

    TrueWisdom, you, like Mackintire, are vastly overemphasizing the real world difference between a Raptor and a JB drive in single user desktop scenarios. Not everyone is going to notice the difference in performance, and certainly not enough to justify a $125+ price delta.

    Nigham, depends what type of RAID array you’re referring to, not to mention the fact that you have to buy a second HDD. And your performance will increase anyway with two HDDs not in RAID, anyway.

    n4v3k, a 480W PSU is not mandatory, we’ve tried lower wattage PSUs with a 6800 Ultra.

    00aStrOgUy00, we’ve tested both speaker systems plenty, and probably more than you have. ;) Also, the whine does not apply to all WD drives, notice we didn’t say ALL drives have this problem (really, no one besides WD truly knows what percentage of their drives whine). Then again, many users will care less with the case we recommended, since it effectively funnels the noise. The Barracuda’s are quieter, but are not faster (and if they were in select scenarios, it isn’t noticeable in the real world), and there’s no hard data that says Barracudas are more reliable than Caviars either. Our experience says both are about the same reliability-wise.

    As for those recommending an FX-53 or dual Raptors in RAID….this isn’t a dream system, this is a high end system. We clearly explained why we didn’t want to recommend A64 FX or P4EE processors, and why we didn’t want to recommend a Raptor. They are not bad choices, just prohibitively expensive for the small benefit in real world. And of course, the accepted definition of “High End” has never been “Fastest hardware on the planet without regard for price or reason”. :)
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Sunday, May 02, 2004 - link

    I tested a Seagate 120 GB SATA drive a long time ago and vouched never to buy one! Why? Because the damn thing got so hot I could fry eggs on it!!! The HSF on an Athlon XP with its fan off is the ONLY thing in a PC that gets hotter than that drive. I really don't see where you get off saying it runs cooler than a 120 GB WD. Reply
  • 00aStrOgUy00 - Sunday, May 02, 2004 - link

    I also forgot to mention, you said the hard drive has an infamous whine. Why recommend it if you know it has this problem? Reply

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