Weekly Buyer's Guide: Entry Level System - August 2004by Anand Shimpi & Larry Barber on August 9, 2004 12:00 PM EST
- Posted in
CPU and Motherboard RecommendationsCPU: AMD Athlon XP 2000+ retail (heatsink and fan included)
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: CPU - $57 shipped. Motherboard - $65 shipped
The AMD Athlon XP 2000+ continues to be AnandTech's runaway favorite for Entry Level Systems month after month. We had favored the Athlon XP 1800+, but AMD decided to level off its prices on Athlon XP processors at the 2000+, so it only made sense for us to upgrade our recommendation from an 1800+ to a 2000+ with the negligible price difference. Both the Athlon XP 1800+ and the 2000+ are essentially identical to each other feature-wise, save for one important feature, their clock speed. The Athlon XP 2000+ operates at 1.67GHz while the 1800+ operates at 1.53GHz. As we mentioned countless times before, Athlon XP processors (particularly the entry level kind) offer excellent performance in today's business applications and games while being very light on the wallet. For $57, the Athlon XP 2000+ is as close to a steal as you can get, and of course, will satisfy even the cheapest of cheap systems. Any old CPU cooler should do with an Athlon XP 2000+, even if you buy the retail version that comes with cooling. But if you're looking for something quieter than retail cooling, we suggest mounting a Panaflo L1A fan to reduce noise. You should also try experimenting with your BIOS' speed fan control or even a separate Windows program to reduce noise.
Also, it doesn't hurt to read up on AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December for detailed information on how your Athlon XP 2000+ might perform. Keep in mind that the 2000+ isn't listed in our benchmark charts there, but you can still get a good idea of the performance of the 2000+ by approximating based on how their siblings perform. Though this shootout was published some months ago, the results are still very accurate and applicable to today's programs.
The ASUS A7N8X-X and its older derivatives have been a favorite among the editors here at AnandTech for quite some time, and continue to be a favorite to this day. We have written extensively on ASUS' nForce2 motherboards in the past, namely about their exceptional reliability, feature sets, and excellent price points. The performance that the nForce2 400 chipset brings to the ASUS A7N8X-X is an especially nice bonus considering the price tag, as this is basically the same chipset that you'll find in high end Socket A motherboards minus the dual channel DDR memory support, which is totally unnecessary for entry level user's needs. We've had lots of personal experience with this particular ASUS model, and simply put, we love this motherboard to death. Due to the type of chipset used with this motherboard, you will be able to upgrade to the best Athlon XP processors in the future, namely the 400MHz FSB kind.
All in all, we can't think of much that will go wrong with this motherboard, especially considering how mature BIOS support is at this stage in its long life. Some users who have experience with ASUS' older nForce1 motherboards will certainly adore the A7N8X-X.
Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:
If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.