Buyer's Guide: High-End Systems - August 2000by Mike Andrawes on August 24, 2000 11:31 PM EST
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You do the research on the products. You read all the reviews. You even discuss with friends. But even with all that information, building a perfect, personalized system from scratch can be quite a daunting task. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that we’ve had request after request to provide some system recommendations.
With the third edition of the AnandTech Buyer's Guide, we changed things a little bit, splitting the Buyer's Guide into two parts, one for value systems and the other for high-end ones. Even though it feels like it has been much longer, we had Part 1 for the value systems two weeks ago, and as promised, here's Part 2 with the High-End systems. As noted in Part 1, the Dream System is included in the high-end part of the article.
Despite the slight format change, we'll continue to provide some system recommendations in 3 categories – small office / home office (SOHO), gaming, and professional. Remember that these are just a few recommendations from us if we were building the systems. Obviously, each individual’s needs will vary greatly, but that’s the beauty of building a custom system - it can be tailored to fit those special needs.
Every component, from the motherboard to the case to the monitor, is covered for each system. Sample prices based on a review of popular vendors and price search engines across the web are included as well. Note that shipping is not included in these prices. An OS recommendation is included, but that price is not included in the total system price listed. Components that are not readily obtainable were automatically out of the running for any system in the Buyer’s Guide. Where possible, we’ll link to reviews of the individual products on AnandTech for more in depth information.
Like last month, AMD's Socket-A Athlon (Thunderbird) processor continues to dominate our high-end gaming & professional value system recommendations. The big difference this month is that these CPU's themselves, as well as the supporting motherboards, are much easier to find compared to last month. There's also a number of new motherboard options this month for all Socket-A CPU's, compared with the sole option we had last month.
Intel CPU's have finally been dropped from all the high-end systems except the Dream System for simple cost reasons since prices on AMD Athlons have dropped quite a bit while comparable Pentium III's remain relatively costly for little to no performance improvement (and even a performance loss in some cases). Once simple reason allows Intel to remain the CPU of choice in our Dream System - dual processor support.
As a few people pointed out, RAID 0+1 is actually a better solution then RAID 5 for the best combination of performance and data integrity. But RAID 0+1 requires 1 more hard drive, for a total of 4. This is really only a reasonable option for systems where performance and data integrity are critical and you're willing to pay for such features - in other words, our Dream System, which adds that feature this month.
Also on the RAID front - we've dropped the Promise FastTrak 100 in favor of the built-in Ultra ATA/100 RAID controller on the ABIT KT7-RAID for many of the high-end systems this month.
We've also thrown a hardware MPEG-2/DVD decoder into the Dream System. While the GeForce2's DVD playback is pretty good, it's still not up to par with a dedicated hardware decoder, especially since a dedicated decoder will have Dolby Digital AC-3 output among a few other features that video cards generally do not include.
Finally, we replaced all Windows 98SE operating system recommendations with Windows Millennium Edition (Windows ME) now that it's finally available. Windows 2000 is, however, becoming a much more viable gaming platform as driver updates have surfaced from the likes of 3dfx, ATI, NVIDIA, Matrox, etc., but it's still not quite up to par with a Windows 9x based OS (like Windows ME).