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 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 until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you like to let us know what you want 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.

Mid-Range

While entry level (budget) systems should mainly be constructed with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration, mid-range systems have a slightly different order of priority. Reliability is still #1 priority, but performance and price are in a sort of a tie when building that mid-range system. Performance isn't of the utmost importance in this type of system, but it's also not ignored nearly as much as a plain, old entry level system is. Similarly, price isn't of utmost importance either, but buyer's building a mid-range system must be mindful of the price of components nonetheless. Performance and price don't lag too far behind reliability for mid-range systems, in other words.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • qquizz - Saturday, July 24, 2004 - link

    Can anyone verify this statementin the article? I am considering buying one of these.

    "We're listing a WD Raptor as an alternative purely for speed purposes. Those looking for faster load times and a generally snappier experience will want to play with a powerful drive such as this one. Thankfully, the earlier speed flaws with the 36.7GB were fixed, and WD 36.7GB drives with identical performance to their older 74GB brothers have been shipping for some months now."
    Reply
  • smithpd - Sunday, July 18, 2004 - link

    I would like to see a different spread of costs on the Buyer's Guides. You have 500 for the entry level, 1000 for the mid-range, and now 3600 for the high end. I submit that many readers would be interested in something that is in the 2000 price category, which I would call midrange. So, how about 500 entry, 1000 budget, 2000 midrange, 3000 high end, and ?? for the god box.

    Your previous high ends were more reasonable and sensible, IMO.
    Reply
  • gherald - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    Yeah benchmarking is a good idea, and it's been suggested before.

    I think AT is safe in going with reputable ram. Perhaps LL isn't required, but it should at least be the alternative choice. For the main recommendation, I would go with a single ~$100 stick of 512.
    Reply
  • Dantzig - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    "I will continue to ask AT to assemble these systems and run some benchmarks on them."

    This is an excellent suggestion! It would be wonderful to have each system run the same basic benchmark suite and then graph the results together. This way, it would be easy for a user to determine if a given system will meet his/her specific needs.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I also agree with the other posters about 1024MB of ram, in fact you could get 1024MB of Adata Cas 2.5 for almost the same price ($147) as your LL choice. Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Why recommend $126 LL ram Evan?

    When you consider the price/performance it's an extremly poor value over ram such as Cas 2.5 Adata for $77 for two stick of 256MB PC3200.

    Almost double the price, but does it offer anywhere near double the performance? I don't think so. I'm not sure what the performance difference is using LL expensive Corsair... maybe 3-5%?

    I guess I'm too stuck the linear P/P relationships to like this choice.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I totally agree with the memory comments. These days, 256 MB DIMMs are a total dead-end purchase. Sure, you can run dual channel (which is really only important on the P4 platform right now), but then you would be limited to a total of 1 GB of RAM (4x256) for fastest performance and stability. 2x256 + 2x512 would likely be an iffy proposition at best.

    Besides, you could even recommend 1GB of decent quality OCZ for a moderate increase in price. You can get 2x512 OCZ performance RAM that runs 2-3-3-6 on Intel systems for $220, or 2-3-2-6 for $240. Or if you want to stick with Mushkin, you can get their 512 MB value DIMMs for $79 each (2.5-4-4 timings), or a 2x512 Level One pack for $239 (the same 2-3-2 timings as OCZ).

    512 MB of RAM just isn't going to cut it for gaming or other high-end work, which as KnightOwl explained is the only good reason to upgrade from the budget system anyway. It's like recommending someone go out and purchase a moderate sports car... only get the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine! I mean, anyone looking for a sports car is really interested in going faster than a typical car, so they would want a bigger engine (and gas mileage be damned).

    Similar to the RAM argument, there's a problem with the hard drive alternative recommendation. While the Raptor is going to please a bunch of the die-hard fanboys, don't your own tests show that a good 7200 RPM SATA drive is pretty much the same performance as the old Raptor while providing significantly more storage? If you have to have a fast hard drive (for whatever reason), then you really need to get the 74 GB Raptor, as it made quite a few improvements to the original. I suppose the Maxline III isn't yet available, but if you're looking for improved gaming or high-end performance, the Raptor I is only marginally better than 7200 RPM drives, and not even many of them in gaming: http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=21...

    But hey, thanks for finally adding a better alternative case recommendation and getting rid of the noisy WD JB hard drive! Silence (or at least less noise) is a wonderful thing.

    BTW, just my opinion, but I think $1250 is a better target price for a "moderate" PC (and $750 for a budget PC). You're still forced to cut too many corners to meet the $1000 budget. A moderate PC really needs at least 9800 Pro graphics and 1 GB of RAM these days - even 1 GB of lower performance RAM. Like I said, though, just my opinion. :)
    Reply
  • gherald - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    Evan,

    What I mean by 256mb being useless is in 2-3 years they will be like 128mb are modules today.

    If and when the user upgrades to a dual channel system they can just buy a second 512mb stick. 1024mb oughta be more standard by then anyway, we all know Longhorn is going to be a resource hog, and Linux's will allways put it to good use with disk cache.

    I happen to think dual channel is somewhat overrated; for an athlon XP it might be worthwhile but with the 64's integrated memory controller it's just not that big of a deal anymore. Don't AT reviews agree?
    Reply
  • JackHawksmoor - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I've also got to disagree with the RAM thing. It makes a lot more sense to go with higher latency RAM, and either save the money or get a better GPU, or CPU, or double the RAM. Tom's showed the Athlon 64 has at most roughly a 4% performance benefit with faster RAM, and you can get a MUCH bigger boost than that for the money. IMO low lateny RAM only makes sense for a "high-end" system.

    Also, where's the Asus K8N-E Deluxe review dangnabit!

    Just nitpicking. I love these guides :)
    Reply
  • chuwawa - Friday, July 16, 2004 - link

    I agree with everything that has been said about the memory.
    I consider myself a mid-range user and I thought the guide was very good except for the video card and memory suggestions.

    Knightowl explained it perfectly. I think mid-range systems are mostly for people that game and do some sort of video editing but can't afford to dish out the money for the best hardware.

    512mb for a gamer really is OK, but 1GB is preferred. However, when you buy 2 256mb modules, you somewhat screw yourself for the future because you will only be able to upgrade to 756mb (well more, but who will recommend buying a 1gb stick).

    Anyway I think recommending a single 512mb stick as the first choice and 2 512mb sticks in dual channel as the 2nd choise would be best.

    As far as the video card recommendations: just switch them. ;)
    Reply

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