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 guides for an Entry Level, Mid-Range, High End, and Overclocking system, and we will be adding SFF guides as well as perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal. Let us know what you'd like to see in terms of component picks and price points in future guides by writing to us 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 keep 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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  • PotatoMAN - Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - link

    I am not bagging on Antec cases or anything, I was just referring to Tostada's estimate and that while price was a point in his argument, that if you get an Antec case rather than his generic case, you will be spending more than Evan. While you may think it is time for an update, I disagree. I know that there are many viable alternatives to the Asus board, but if it isn't broke, why fix it?

    If it is a matter of price, I will conceed that the Shuttle may be a better buy. For an entry system it is hard to justify $10+ for a name. Not that I disagree with the Asus board, but to Evan I would like to point out that the Shuttle board according to newegg.com has about 3X the vote count as the Asus and about 4X the review count to get the rather high 4 star rating (same as the asus) on newegg (all customer reviews and votes). Granted, this is just one online merchant, it is a huge supplier of computing happiness fulfilling about 10,000+ orders a day. If the newegg reviews aren't enough, try to check out the customer support offered by the manufacturer. By simply visiting the mfgr's websites shuttle does seem a little more 'spiffy' and organized than asus'. Personally I would like to see an investigation into their real customer support... and then a good decision can be reached from there. But when you read AT's guides, you are still getting a slight bias from the reviewer's personal experiences (what else can they go by?) whether it be success or not... you just have to decide whether or not the credibility is there. Since I don't doubt the credibility of AT or Evan, I still would have to say that this is a good guide.
    Reply
  • spartacvs - Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - link

    Patato,
    It's always good to hear from other peoples experiences. Just want to clarify few things.

    Many Antec cases are cheaper than the 63$ cost of the CaseEdge TS1 Mid Tower plus 300W PSU. We just want to point out that they are good alternative picks.

    As for the integrated video, I still think that, while you can have better results with a ATI card, it is good enaugh. And you can buy a video card later on.

    I cannot really tell if Asus is really better than the other boards because I don't have the experience. But others peoples seems to think asus is not perfect and you can have products as good as asus with other brands (not only shuttle). If you look at newegg product rating (one example among many). The asus board is rated 4 stars, just like many other boards (counting only thoses with many voters). The Asus A7N8X-X is the MB suggested since february. We just feel it might be time for a update, wheather it's asus or another brand. If Evan think nothing is better than this board based on his criteria, I respect his decision but we are just asking (and suggesting).

    As for the DVD playability, I admit it is a tradeoff. But I think I sould be suggested at the summary of the guide that you can buy a dvd player, a 19in crt and a decent 5.1 sound system. The expenses might not be worth only to watch dvd but if you play games on that computer, it is therefore worth the expenses.

    Oh, and I agree with you that Evan's guide is good and I thank him for doing them. It is not because we suggest some things that we means it's crap.

    Regards,
    Reply
  • PotatoMAN - Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - link

    I would just like to say I love AT and all the effort I see here. For some reason, I get the vibe that they are AMD fanboys (slightly), but I can deal with that as I am one too =). Anyway, I would just like to point out that while Tostada's entry level system does shave off a few bucks, it doesn't include a better PSU as in Evan's. For the Antec, you are spending more than Evan would be.

    I work as an IT at a school and support about 200 PC's in a lab environment. I would have to say these computers get abused over and over again (they are used as food stands sometimes, and sometimes the food spills) but they keep on tickin'. For HDD's we use all different kind of brands, and as WD is probably ok on paper, I would have to say I have gotten more dead WD's w/in one month of operation than Seagates. Also, with power supplies, they are really not too bad if you go with a sparkle to save a few bucks over an antec.

    Out of all the copmuters I have worked on, I have only replaced a handful of power supplies (we use cheapos - powerman and q-max) and most of the time, it is a bad fan and the PSU can deliver stable rails. I would only offer the Antec if the user was seudo tech savvy and may upgrade their system - otherwise if they will not open the case sparkle is fine.

    Ram is another issue that really depends on the user. We run so many network oriented programs on the stations that you can notice a difference between 256 and 512 megs of RAM - but I do have to admit the only real difference is 1 time use situations (boot, and loading of a particular program). As an entry level system, 256 is probably fine - but if you go with integrated video you will need the 1/2 gig of RAM - which brings me to my next point.

    If you go with integrated video, you will need the extra memory. With memory being as much as it is, you really are not saving any money either way. As far as 2D IQ, I have always been partial to ATi over nVidia in this respect, but as far as the user is concerned they probably will not be able to notice a difference. But from an IT standpoint I like to have seperate components to their individual functions. Not that I expect the integrated video to break, but when you support 200+ computers you see some whacky stuff. Personally, I would like to replace just a video card rather than a motherboard (and video card).

    As far as the Shuttle vs. Asus boards - well, Asus is tried and true while Shuttle has been not up to the same level. Granted, I would say you can save money on buying a Shuttle, and it wouldn't be too much of a gamble, but I still think it is more of a gamble then buying an Asus.

    With the DVD playability - well, as a systems builder I want my clients to have as much versatility out of thier system as possible, and I would choose the alternative Even has set out as I see it totally justifies the additional cost. All in all, I guess all my rambling is good for is to point out that the system specs ultimately depends on the user. As far as an entry level user is concerned, the uses are more limited than that of a mid-high level user, but the different uses are appearant, and Even makes a valient attempt to try and point this out by listing alternatives. But in a world where possibilities are endles, it would be impossible to list every single GOOD possibility. I would just like to thank Evan for making this extensive guide (as well as others) because it makes life so much easier for some of us who need to shop for a system in a certain price range. If you wanna spend your time hunting down a deal to shave off $4, I am sure you can - but I for now trust the credibilty that Even and AT represent in an effort to save time. Thanks AT!
    Reply
  • Cocophone - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Crimson117, I like your logic.

    The alternative picks should not be just something else. There should be a compelling reason to pick them. For example, cheaper, or more features, or better looking.

    Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    And the CaseEdge TS1 isn't $40 shipped... to NYC shipping costs $20, to California it's $11 for shipping/tax. Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Foxconn Case Alternative: "While this [Foxconn] case isn't quite as easy to use or as aesthetically appealing as the CaseEdge TS1..."

    If it's not as easy to use as the first pick, or as aethetically appealing, yet it costs $5 more, why do you consider it a good alternative?
    Reply
  • justbrowzing - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Evan,

    Re: lcd monitors, that's really great news & will be a big feather in your cap. This segment's in such rapid evolution right now & comprehensive, objective testing's sorely lacking.

    You can certainly break it out and have a stand-alone monitor buyer's guide & do monthly updates like your mobo & processor guides once you're over the testing hump. good luck with it
    Reply
  • justbrowzing - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Agentbolt - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Evan,

    Thanks, the CaseEdge certainly looks cooler than most Antec cases. I will give it a look the next time I am looking for a bargain case. If someone asks me what PSU to buy I usually just say Antec to make sure there's no chance they come back to me a week later saying it blew up on them :)
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    justbrowzing, you're absolutely right, it is a major oversight. Right now we're working on getting some more LCDs in the labs so that I can work with other editors in recommending the best LCDs for a particular segment of users. Bare with us. :)

    Agentbolt, only reason I didn't recommend the Antec is because I actually like the CaseEdge design and usability more than the Antec's. But, it does come with a very solid 300W Antec PSU, and that's certainly a big plus. We'll probably make it an alternative in a future guide.
    Reply

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