Introduction

Welcome back to another edition of the AnandTech Buyer's Guides. The one constant in life is change, and what was once an ultrafast component invariably will be surpassed by midrange and eventually budget parts in terms of raw performance. Sometimes this progression will occur quickly, and other times it may take a couple years, but in the world of computers we will all inevitably need to upgrade. For the past several years many people have been quite happy with their computer's performance; for typical applications (not games, video encoding, 3D rendering, or other professional applications) even moderate Pentium 4 or Athlon XP systems continue to run quite well. The pending launch of Windows Vista may finally change all that, with performance requirements that appear to be quite a bit higher than Windows XP - assuming of course that you want to make the switch to the new operating system.

Most people are still pretty happy with Windows XP performance and features, and particularly in the business world we don't expect a rapid transition to take place. Most are taking a "wait and see" approach to Vista, or perhaps waiting for the expected Service Pack 1 before making the transition. If you like being an early adopter, by all means feel free to take the plunge at the end of this month when Windows Vista launches. We're not ready to recommend such an approach, however, so our Buyer's Guides will continue to stick with XP for now.

It is worth noting that most new systems (and OS purchases) will come with the option to upgrade to Vista for free (or for a marginal fee), but you need to make sure that you get the correct version of Windows XP depending on which version of Windows Vista you want to run. Basically, at this point we do not recommend that anyone purchase Windows XP Home, as you are only allowed to upgrade to Windows Vista Home Basic. The big problem with Vista Home Basic is that it does not include the new Aero Glass interface, arguably one of the main reasons many people would be interested in upgrading to Vista in the first place. We recommend getting Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 or XP Professional instead, as both of those can be upgraded to Vista Home Premium, and the latter can be upgraded to Windows Vista Business.

There's also the 64-bit question that needs to be tackled, as all versions of Windows XP and Vista are now available in either 32-bit or 64-bit packages. While we would love to say that we've seen a benefit to running 64-bit operating systems, the reality is that there are very few applications that actually perform better in 64-bit mode right now, and there are still plenty of driver issues and other incompatibilities that people run into. If you run applications that use a lot of memory and you plan on installing more than 2GB of RAM into your system, a 64-bit OS might be the right way to go, but if you just want the operating system to get out of your way and let you get to work, we recommend sticking with a 32-bit OS (preferably XP) for now. That recommendation may change in the future, but discretion and patience seem to be the better course of action.

With that information out of the way, our Midrange Buyer's Guide continues to cover the most popular market segment, and the available budget leaves a lot of room for flexibility. Our last midrange guide was in September 2006, making it almost 4 months old. You might think at first that a lot of things would have changed in four months, but other than a few price fluctuations our basic recommendations are very similar. Rather than simply rehash what we have already stated in previous guides, we're going to use this midrange guide to tackle several different configuration options, with prices ranging from $1250 up to over $2000. The top of that price range is more of a high-end computer, but we don't necessarily recommend that you purchase every single component from our upgraded configuration. Rather, consider it a list of the various upgrades that you can make, and choose those which make the most sense depending on your intended use. We will also cover options you might want to consider for gaming and overclocking centric configurations, and in the end we will have several different systems from which you can choose.

Basic Midrange Configurations
POST A COMMENT

43 Comments

View All Comments

  • Mermaidman - Friday, August 31, 2007 - link

    Come on guys, my AMD Barton is getting long in the tooth and UT2007 is around the corner! :) Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    Jarred:

    Thanks again for another stand-out article. Despite what other may chime in (and the usual complaints by the PSU nazis that want us to spend more on a commodity component then a CPU or motherboard) this new system makes MUCH more sense than having many AMD and Intel options for what had basically become guides based on personel preference rather than rational performance. There is no reason to choose AMD for certain applications, overclocking one of them, just as there is no reason to choose Intel in others (say a sub $100 CPU). Just coming out and saying that through a build list is a wonderfull step in the right direction. I think it's crazy that users still insist on an all AMD or all Intel series of builds, when noone insists on all ATI or all nVidia.

    In short, it makes much more sense to break up the builds based on the very different usage requirements - especially due to some users not OC'ing and therefore having totally different CPU, motherboard, and HSF needs than an arbitrary division of the guides based on CPU brand.

    Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • SaII - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    This article has all the PSU configs wrong, get at least a GOOD branded PSU for an 8800GTS
    and that 700W PSU for the overclocking config is over the top over-kill.

    Give the overclocking one the OCZ 600W PSU and 700W OCZ for the gaming rig.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    I'd say if you want a really good PSU for overclocking or gaming, plan on spending around $120 or so, which will get you the 700W OCZ listed or a variety of other high-quality 500-600W PSUs. I will take the PSU complaints under consideration next midrange guide, but seriously for gaming (WITHOUT overclocking), the only thing that really needs more than a good quality 400W PSU is going to be SLI/CrossFire setups, and even then 400W is usually enough. Reply
  • sirdowny - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone heard about any problems with the Tuniq Tower 120 and it's massive weight? Seems like it would be a good cooler assuming it were used in a case that sat horizontally (like an HTPC), but am I the only one who has reservations about letting that brick dangle from my motherboard? Reply
  • SaII - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    I have it, it works wonders, and the only ones that have problems is user error. Reply
  • Zepper - Saturday, January 20, 2007 - link

    Things author should know:
    1- Rosewill is one of Newegg's in-house packagers. Some folks won't or can't buy from Newegg/ChiefValue which is (I say is because they are the same company) the only place you can get the Rosewill brand except for perhaps some Mom & Pop shops who may buy stock from them.
    2- Who actually makes that PSU so the folks referred to above can get one if they want (not that they would when such a unit as the Enhance ENP-5150GH exists with aPFC and full-range AC auto sensing is available for nearly the same money). In most cases Rosewill packages ATNG/Coolmax PSUs - if this IS a Deer then it should NEVER have been recommended - its output ratings are identical to the Coolmax 600 but the physical layout is not.

    In any case, recommending Rosewill comes with risks - not the least of which is becoming a laughing stock in the community (again, if this is really a Deer then that might be well deserved). They do package some decent products like the R6A and R560x case lines - but unless you know the history of the OEM of the item, it's a pig-in-a-poke. Caveat emptor!

    ..bh.
    Reply
  • Le Québécois - Saturday, January 20, 2007 - link

    Are they really rebranding Deer PSU now? Do you know if any other brand use Deer as base PSU?

    This is the worst know brand I can think of. When I worked as a technician in a computer store, every time someone brought us a computer with a broken Deer PSU inside, almost every components of the computer had blown at the same time the PSU did. Using Deer PSU in a computer is almost like putting a time bomb in it.
    Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Saturday, January 20, 2007 - link

    Anyone know whether one of the basic configurations (AMD or Intel) from this article would perform better for a system running primarily Photoshop? I had configured two systems for a friend which are very similar to those in this article and was going to let them decide based on price and the general performance difference between the X2 3800 and E6300. It will basically be a web/email/document PC with the exception of a prosumer Photoshop user. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 21, 2007 - link

    Core 2 Duo will typically be a bit faster in Photoshop, although in my opinion having a lot of RAM is more important for most professional PS work. Now if we can just get a 64-bit PS version so people can effectively use 4+ GB of memory.... :) Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now