Buyer's Guide: Value Systems - May 2001by Mike Andrawes on April 25, 2001 12:55 AM EST
- Posted in
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. Despite the slight format change, we 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 - these are not the very lowest prices you can find on the web, but rather are intended to be representative of what's out there. Don't forget to check out our latest Weekly CPU & Video Card Price Guide as well as our Weekly Memory & Motherboard Price Guide for the lowest prices from reputable vendors on those components.
Note that shipping is not included in the prices listed here, but can add up to 5-10% to the total system cost, depending exactly what you get, where you order from, etc. To minimize shipping costs, order as many components as possible from a single vendor or buy things locally where possible. An OS recommendation is included, but that price is not included in the total system price listed. Especially good deals can often be found in the AnandTech Hot Deals Forum where AnandTech readers regularly post good deals they find.
Components that are not readily obtainable at the time of publication are automatically out of the running for any system in the Buyer’s Guide. Where possible, we've linked to reviews of the individual products on AnandTech for more in depth information.
Due to time constraints, it's been quite a while since we have updated our System Buyer's Guide, but we're back at long last. Since it has been such a long time, quite a bit has happened in the market that should effect our system recomendations significantly.
KM133 and SiS 730S motherboards have finally started showing up on the market, so the AMD Duron is finally able to overtake the Celeron as the processor of choice for the value SOHO machine. The KM133 is the better overall solution (as compared to the SiS 730S) in our experience. Besides, the SiS 730S is currently only available from lesser known motherboard manufacturers and we feel sticking with a bigger brand is generally a good idea. While we haven't looked at too many KM133 boards, we're going to go ahead and recommend the ASUS A7VI-VM based on our good experiences with the rest of the A7V series.
In the value video card segment, we've seen the disappearance of 3dfx and the arrival of new chipsets from ATI and STMicroelectronics. With 3dfx gone, there are lots of good deals out there on the remaining stock of their cards, but they effectively come with no support or warranty, so buy at your own risk. It is for that exact reason that we have decided not to include any 3dfx products in this Buyer's Guide.
At the same time, we have the arrival of the Radeon VE from ATI, the Kyro II from STMicroelectronics/Imagination Technologies, and the GeForce2 MX 400 from NVIDIA. While the Radeon VE is not a particularly powerful 3D accelerator in today's market, it does offer dual monitor support. ATI calls it HydraVision and its just a notch behind Matrox's Dual Head. For these reasons, the Radeon VE does not replace the G450 in the value SOHO machine or the GeForce2 MX in the value gaming machine.
The Kyro II, meanwhile, appears to be a great gaming card from what our initial tests have shown, outperforming the GeForce2 Ultra in some cases. However, its still not available and thus not eligible yet for the buyer's guide. We are also hoping to do some more testing with the board before we make a strong recommendation to buy it, so hang on tight for a second look at the Kyro II in the next couple of weeks. If everything goes well, the Kyro II will more than likely replace the GeForce2 MX as the budget gaming card of choice.
The GeForce2 MX 400 doesn't really offer any performance advantage over the standard MX models simply because the MX was already memory bandwidth limited and the MX 400 does nothing to alleviate this bottleneck.
Of course, prices on just about every component in a system have dropped noticeably, with the biggest difference coming with PC133 SDRAM, which is now about half what it was at the time of our last Buyer's Guide. Most of the other components have followed the more traditional gradual decreases in price since there have been no other major announcements in the past few months.