Introduction

As shown in System Buyers Guide: PCs for Under $800 you can now build a decent entry level PC for around $500 - including a true 1080p LCD monitor and the Vista Home Premium OS. If you already have a monitor and OS, or use one of the free operating systems like Ubuntu or another Linux variant, you can get your desktop system cost down to a bit over $300. We don't recall a time when so much power was available in the computer industry for so little money. Of course that $500 machine, while surprisingly capable for basic computer tasks, is certainly not the paragon for gaming, graphics, or raw computing power.

As you move up the price scale you gain in all of those parameters. We started to beef up those areas with systems costing closer to $800 in the last Entry System Buyers Guide. The next ladder rung is broadly defined as the midrange. Most of our readers are looking to buy in the midrange, which generally provides the most performance for the dollar, and computing solutions with some staying power in the market. We were ready to post our midrange recommendations early last week, but with significant new video card introductions scheduled for late last week the guide was delayed a few days. This made it possible to include the latest video offerings in our performance midrange systems.

The slow worldwide economy and fierce competition has had their impact on even the definition of midrange. Today we define our midrange guide as starting as low as $800 and extending up to around $1800, which gives a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing components. With generally declining prices and increasing value, the midrange also covers a wider area than in the past - just as we saw in the under $800 Entry segment.

New architectures have been introduced in the past few months, so the definition of high, mid, and entry have been shifting as the Intel Core i7 and Phenom II settle into our computing space. Several Core i7 X58 boards are now selling for around $200 or less, which allows a decent Core i7 build with the cheapest Core i7 CPU at around $1800. That represents the very top of the midrange price spectrum, and some would argue we should limit Core i7 to the high-end and limit midrange to perhaps a $1600 cap. That argument has merits; however, it is hard to ignore the Core i7 920 with a cost of less than $300 for an upper midrange recommendation. Similarly, Phenom II processors are priced from $125 to $225. Since Phenom II, built on 45nm, is faster and much more overclockable than other recent AMD processors, we how consider the Phenom II the CPU of choice for any midrange AMD system. Anything less is an entry AMD PC.

For today's midrange guide, we will put together two Intel systems and two AMD systems. The first value pair are targeted at a base system price of around $800, with a complete system price of around $1150. This means our complete system recommendations in the midrange are now some $350 less than the value systems detailed in our last midrange guide published just 3 months ago. These $1150 systems represent the best-bang-for-the buck in the midrange. The speed at which even the best value component prices are dropping is remarkable right now. Price drops are a given in the computer industry, but there are the first signs that "bad economy" reductions may be slowing or stopping, as a few of the component prices actually increased since the last guide.

The second pair of systems target midrange performance. At about $500 to $650 more than value midrange, these $1650 to $1800 complete systems invest that extra cost in performance improvements and upgraded peripherals. The midrange performance segment is built around a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU or the fastest Phenom II you can currently buy. Both are very high performance for the money - and high performance by almost any other measure.

Without the 26" monitors and OS, the performance midrange systems would cost around $1100 to $1250. This price spread is a result of the firm pricing for the Intel Core i7 and the release of greater value components in the last three months for Phenom II. It is not the result of DDR2 versus DDR3 as memory prices for 2 and 3 are getting closer. In fact, DDR3 memory prices have dropped significantly across the board since our last midrange guide.

These new midrange system recommendations also include the most recent introductions in the GPU or video card market. For performance midrange you will find AMD 4890 video cards. We would also include the NVIDIA GTX 275 as an equal recommendation, but you cannot yet buy a GTX 275. In the coming weeks, once those parts begin to show up, those who prefer NVIDIA over AMD can make such substitutions. For more details on our video card recommendations, you should take a closer look at our Video Card Buyer's Guide - Spring 2009 and the follow-up HD 4890/GTX 275 review.

Intel Value Midrange
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  • quan111000 - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link


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  • jmvillafana - Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - link

    The article is excelent. Still if you could run benchmarks with the presented systems we could compare what $1,800 Vs $800 provide.
    Reply
  • Googer - Monday, April 13, 2009 - link

    I must disagree with your selection of Seagate 7200.11 drives after all the problems they have had with failure reminiscent of the IBM Deskstar (deathstar) 75GXP days. Instead, I'd advise users to go with a WD Velociraptor or WD Black edition or a Nice SSD. Reply
  • Leyawiin - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    I haven't done a ground up build in years. There's always something you can recycle from a previous build if you do this regularly. I was pricing an i7 940 build with a 300GB Velociraptor, 4GB of DDR3 2000, X58 mobo, Coolermaster V8 HS/fan and a GTX 285. Very strong system and using the still good Cooler Master case, X-Fi sound card, DVD drive and case fans it will be less than $1,700. I might be able to pare it down further. Reply
  • Leyawiin - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Oh and please can the "this is useless unless you live in the US" crap. They can't cover all the international pricing variances - the guides can at least be used as a starting point in your overpriced, uncompetitive locales. Reply
  • papapapapapapapababy - Friday, April 10, 2009 - link

    Buyers Guide. Buyers. not -USA- Buyers Guide, or System builders guide. so, yes, is kinda useless 2 me.

    also, the "Intel Value" config is total crap. stock cooler? XD here, nubcake...



    1)

    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler $36.99

    2)

    Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 $119.99 > @ 3.4 GHZ (FASTER + lower temps, noise, price)


    also just one hdd? then that mobo is an overkill


    3) g31 mobo (ASUS P5KPL-AM) just $37.50 ! thats value (GREAT MOBO, in mot kiding, rock solid, ocs like mad, great sound)



    4) GTX 260 896MB for $159.99 + a real psu not that pos

    my system >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    >>>>>>>>>><< anand "tech"


    Reply
  • papapapapapapapababy - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    useless guide unless you live in the usa. ( im sorry 4 you)
    btw, this is why i always laugh at those American console users, "but the 10.000 computer" " comfy couch" " consoles offer more value" type of guys. they just fail to realize that consoles are super overpriced retro garbage compared to ANY pc . Yes, total garbage, example? console cpu: even a dino like a amd64 3000, or hell even a slow ass barton xp is faster that the " xbox triple core" or the potato of " cell".
    Reply
  • edgardavids - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Why do you suggest DDR2-1066 for mid range AMD system? The board can support DDR2-1066 with AM2+ CPU only, X3 720 is a AM3 processor. Is it considered a waste to invest on DDR2-1066? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    See above: AM3 CPUs work with DDR2, and performance wise there's not a huge difference between DDR2 and DDR3 AMD systems. DDR3 is slightly more expensive, but you also need a DDR3 motherboard. Ultimately, the AM2+ boards seem to offer a nice balance of price, performance, and features - whether you use an AM2 or an AM3 CPU. Reply
  • taruncharles - Wednesday, April 08, 2009 - link

    Hi,

    Nice article once gain. I am planning on using the same kinda rig for my mid-range value PC.

    In the mid-range value setup, you have used DDR2 1066 with Biostar TA790GX 128M. But, I noticed that the specifications for this motherboard say that it supports DDR2 1066 only for AM2+ CPUs. Whereas the CPU in your setup is AM3..
    Will this work properly here. Or should I be using 800Mhz DDR2 with X3 720 and Biostar TA790GX 128M?..

    Thanks
    Reply

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