Index

Currently, we are experimenting with our Buyer's Guides to see if we can improve on meeting the needs of a wider range of users, both in terms of the components that we recommend and the prices of those components. We will continue to produce an Entry Level, Mid-Range, High End, and Overclocking system each month, and we have decided to add SFF guides and perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal as well. For now though, we will keep with our current format (Week 1: Entry Level System, Week 2: Mid-Range System, Week 3: High End System, Week 4: Overclocking System) until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you feel like letting us know what you'd like to see in terms of component picks and price points in future guides, go ahead and write your feelings in our comments section, located at the bottom of the page.

We are still going to continue to evaluate products like we have in all our other guides over the last few months. That is, 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). To be clear, 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.

Entry Level

The main concern for our Entry Level (or "Budget") systems is pricing, with reliability as a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building an entry level system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say that performance is ignored because that is just not the case. We also believe that you're more than likely going to be keeping this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years), so some of our picks may be geared toward that type of mentality. Overall, we like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability, performance, and longevity, in that order, for today's Entry Level Buyer's Guide.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • Dnana - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    I disagree with the prior comments where people are taking an entry level system and modifying it until it is really not an entry level system anymore - it is really a mid-level system at that point. I think for me the test of entry level is can you beat the $399 after rebate of a Dell Dimension 2400 - along with its goodies. If not, why build your own - why not buy one that comes with less headache of gathering parts and at least has a warranty? I read this article because I was interested if something could be built that is cheaper and better than the Dell Dimension 2400 and it appears not - for an all around Office machine. Let me know if you beg to differ!! - Tom Reply
  • Dantzig - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    I must strongly agree with Tostada on changes to this budget system. However, I'd like to see a number of changes to the guides:

    1. Don't include the display as part of the system. Still have display recommendations at the end of the guide, but just don't add them into the system price. This will make the guides more flexible. Not everyone wants to buy a new monitor and some people may want a high-end display, but a budget system.
    2. Increase the minimum amount of RAM in all of the systems to 512MB. Anything less results in poor performance with Windows XP and anything but the simplest of applications. Heck, even just running IE and MS Office benefit greatly from 512MB, let alone image editing applications and games.
    3. Show a few selected benchmarks to compare the systems. It would be incredibly helpful for users trying to decided which system they need for X purpose. Anandtech shouldn't recommend anything that they haven't tested.
    4. Most of the case recommendations are dreadful. Since cases are so subjective, maybe just allocate $X to a case and then provide a list of popular cases in that price range.
    Reply
  • Dantzig - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Tostada - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    I don't like this low-end system at all. There's no reason for having such an bad hard drive, and there's no reason not spending an extra $10 to be able to play DVD's.

    There's also no excuse for using a Radeon 9200SE. The nForce2 IGP is as fast as the Radeon 9200, and it's actually faster than the 9200SE. Why buy a graphics card that is actually worse than integrated graphics? Yes, I know people complain about the quality of 2D on anything integrated, but quality is certainly acceptable, and most entry systems won't go over 1024x768.

    I honestly can't believe that AT would suggest that drive. It's slow. It's loud. It has a 1-year warranty.

    Dump the Radeon, save $43.

    Get a Biostar nForce2 IGP board with IGP, save $4.

    Get 512MB of Mushkin RAM for God's sake. Spend $33 more.

    Get a Lite-On combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM. Spend $13.50 more.

    Get an 80 GB Samsung with a 3-year warranty. Spend $10.50 more.

    So there you have it. Final cost is an extra $18 for double the memory, faster (LOL!) integrated graphics, the ability to play DVD's, and a faster, bigger, quieter hard drive with a 3-year warranty.
    Reply
  • techblaster - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    ref to my previous post, i found the abit NF7-S board under the nforce2spp category of motherboards.
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    there is also a Abit NF7 board for $67.
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    What is the differnce between these 2 boards. i thought that the v2 of nf7-s supports 400Mhz FSB but i saw 400Mhz FSB speeds listed even under the cheaper version. also how is the gigabyte 7nn400-L board.its a nforce2 ultra chipset. is it better than the Abit's???
    Reply
  • scius - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    I'm going to ahve to back up AT on the hard drive choice. While certianly 40 gigs is tiny now-a-days, there are still many people who simply want a computer to check their email.
    Keep in mind the target audience for a truly _budget_ system... aka. my sister. I'm building her an email/internet/word machine, where gaming and even hard drive space are non-factors (She'll likely be on dial-up, and i know she could care less about having music on her computer).
    So, while for most people reading AT would go with the 80, most people reading AT wouldn't be using a "budget system" in the first place...
    A "budget gaming system" or eqv. OTOH is a different story...
    Reply
  • techblaster - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    hi,
    i was thinking of making that budget system and found the article pretty good. the only thing is newegg and zipzoomfly dont carry the NF7-S rev2.0 board(the rev 2 supports 400FSB). Im looking to purchase a nforce2 ultra 400 board with my XP2500+.any ideas???
    also a real good case i purchased frm newegg is the Raidmax cobra($58) with a 420w SMPS and a side panelwith a LED color fan. it also ships with 2 more exhaust fans(80mm).
    also please advise which would be a better card
    1->ATI 9200 with 128bitbus and 128mb RAm(was thinkin on ECS one on newegg)
    or
    2->nvidia 5200(ultra or non ultra ver???)
    Reply
  • RONMANLY1 - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    Would like to see a mid-range guide oriented to a non-gamer, non-overclocker who wants to have many hds, be able to simultaneously run several programs, download lots of big files from the web or large newsgroups, burn a CD [or DVD soon], move directories, copy files between computers [& a PVR] -- without slowing everything to a crawl.
    My current latest computer has 9 hard drives with over 870 GB [no RAID or PVR yet]. I build an added computer every three years or so and don't believe in upgrading my computers [ex added HDs, etc.]
    Reply
  • Duker - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Aspire Case with 350 PS = $40.00
    MSI KT600 MB = $59.00
    Mushkin 512 PC3200 C2 = $84.00
    GeForce4 Ti4200 = $70.00
    WD 80Gig = $70.00
    Liteon CDRW = $38.00
    AMD 2500 Retail = $80.00
    On board sound = $0
    PHILIPS 107E56 17" CRT = $90.00

    Total $531.00
    Shipping = $55.00

    This system does run Far Cry and will overclock.
    Reply
  • ET - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    I agree that the entry level graphics system could have on-board graphics. This will add a little to the motherboard cost, but still less than buying a separate card. Regarding memory, I think that another 256MB (even slower) would have been a better option than a faster 256MB, in terms of overall performance. Reply

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