This week, we are relaunching our Buyer's Guides due to popular demand, and honestly, we've been wanting to bring them back for a while. We've reworked our format a little bit and have added an overclocking guide for enthusiasts. Every week, you'll see a new Buyer's Guide, and after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Here's the basic format of our Buyer's Guide:

Week 1: Budget System
Week 2: Mid Range System
Week 3: Cutting Edge System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we pick our favorite piece of hardware as well as our runner-up piece of hardware. We've added runner-up hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware (especially for those willing to spend a little more than what we budget for a particular system). At the same time, we can be assertive enough with a first place recommendation so that new buyers aren't indecisive or confused about what to purchase. Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime Pricing Engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on In addition to our Buyer's Guides and RealTime pricing engine, we suggest that you peruse our Price Guides so that you are not only informed about the best hardware for your computing needs, but also where to find the best deals on that hardware.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

Budget Computing

Our Budget systems are mainly concerned about pricing, with reliability a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building a budget system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say performance is ignored because that is just not the case. We like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability and performance, in that order, for today's Budget Buyer's Guide.

Read on to find out more.
Budget System
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  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    to #37 (bhtooefr):

    Seems to me for a budget system, the AXP 2500+ is too expensive: about double the cost of the selected CPU's. A 2500+ would push the system solidly to the value-midrange, not budget. Then you'd also need PC-2700 RAM instead of the slightly cheaper PC-2100 stuff listed.

    I do agree that a Linux distro might have been mentioned, but keep in mind all of Anandtech's price guides are really about the hardware; they toss in an OS to avoid the inevitable "what about an OS?" question. Now of course they get nitpicked about the OS they toss in... I think AT should just say "The guide is about hardware... choose your own OS".

    Regarding the nVidia card as a runner up to the ATI... at the low budget level, nVidia has no runner up that makes any real sense. The 5200 cards just don't perform as well as the 9000/9100/9200 cards in DX8 apps, and the 5200's DX9 support is about useless since it lacks the horsepower to run DX9 code.
  • Entz - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    To #36
    [quote ...
    So what is the real cost of using onboard options such as sound and video in the "real world"?]

    Most nForce2 motherboards have the Soundstorm APU built into their southbridges. This sound chip gives you hardware accelerated 3D sound equal to in quality if not better than even the Audigy line of Soundblaster cards. Not to mention it supports real-time Dolby Digital encoding which is totally amazing. The realtec chip is only used to convert the purely digital output of the Soundstorm APU to the 3 analog connections for normal speakers. It is also used on input (Mic etc). This is not your "normal" onboard audio solution.

    I agree with the author on this. I wouldn't recommend spending *any* money on a seperate sound system if you have a nForce2 board with the MCP-T southbridge (Soundstorm) such as the A7N8XDlx Rev2.
  • Curt Oien - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    All of the pictures are messed up for me.
  • bhtooefr - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Hmm, forget the Western Digital hard drive. I've had too much reliability issues with those, and I'd rather go Seagate. Good choice on the RAM, and great choice on the mobo, but your CPU choice was confusing. Why didn't you go with the 2500+? Also, nVIDIA cards have better Linux support, and I'd STRONGLY consider Linux on a budget system.

    I agree that XP Pro is better than Home, but WHY didn't you go with Linux as at least a runner up, and a nV card as runner up to the ATI card?
  • Eniall8R - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Well the comments prove you can't please all the peolpe all the time, and my question is related to the choice of using the onboard sound.

    I recently upgraded to a p4p800 and a 2.6 P4 with a Saphire 9600 256 mb. I played with the onboard sound option but noticed a HUGE preformance hit in games such as MS Rally, or NFS Underground. Frame rates were either jittery or the game was reduced to less then what I would experience on my P3 1GHz with a GF2. I put the SB Live! back in and the game play is smooth as silk.

    So what is the real cost of using onboard options such as sound and video in the "real world"?

  • MOwings - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    I would definitely go with a different monitor. Check out Envision monitors available at Compusa and other places. I have a 910e 19" that I have been using at work for a couple of years. Totally reliable and great picture. My parents have the 17" flat screen and it also has excellent text and graphics. For the price they can't be beat, imo. The Samsung 955df does not compare to the Envision 985e. Our boss bought a Samsung for us and we had him exchange it for the 985e becase the samsung could not do 75 Hz at 1600x1200. I think it was 67 Hz. Looking on Compusa's web site right now I see the En-775e 17 " for 69.99 after rebates, and en-985e 19" flat screen for 219.99 (probably too high for a budget system I know). I see the 19" on sale in the ads quite often for about what your 17" pick was. I see the 985e at staples for 199. All their monitors have 3 year warranties as well.

    I might also go with an Antec case, slk1600 60$ shipped or slk2600amb, 64$ shipped (newegg). You're paying 20-24$ more but getting a great power supply and case.
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    I'd pair that with a $100 17 inch monitor from a local computer store... an optical mouse on sale from a local computer store, and even a cheap $5 keyboard will do.
  • KenRico - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    It was here at Anandtech that I learned the difference between nFORCE2 400 and nFORCE2 Ultra 400 Chipset - the mainboard featured as recommended budget system is Single Channel.
    The article did feature a Fantastic Budget Case with the TS1 and catch that SPI Sparkle is the most reliable, affordable PS on the market.
    Since Anandtech did state in the preamble they are going to be featuring an article a week, I can make the following recommendations:

    --> Isoalate the items outside the box i.e.: OS, Monitor, KeyBoard, Mouse, Speaker Set, Joystick, Camera & Headset,with a seperate price table; they could even like to cheapest, "Best Value Pick", and "Prefered Item" with links to AT Deal Finder.
    --> With the System Box isolated our Article Authors can give a range of price totals hopefully with a format like Cheapest, Best Value and Prefered or classes like MOST GAME under $500 or Rock Solid Total Cost of Ownership under $300.
    --> System Box isolated - build it and perform the benchmarks! Onboard Video vs discreet $40 video vs. adding RAM vs one class higher in Processor. This would also yield the hard data in an Upgrade decision where the budget is fixed.
    --> AMD PIB Retail Box is on average $6 higher than the OEM offering with heatsink/fan and 3-year MFG Warranty...price the retail and denote the OEM "savings"...then offer a linkable "Pick" for alternate cooling. This may come into play on the Midrange, Cutting Edge, and OverClock Articles where price vs. performance is critical and can still display TOTAL Cost.
    The reason I took the time to make this post is that Anandtech Guides have always reminded me of Sharkeys also and I know with some small modifications to the format or focus they can come through with some Interesting Guides with some data to back it up.
  • kherman - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    Complementary copy....

    As an author of a for-profit site, recomending specific vendors should be avoided. I agree with the recomendations, but it takes away from creditablility.

    Jsut a suggestion for the future ;)
  • thatsright - Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - link

    I'm surprised that AnandTech would part and parcel totally rip of SharkyExtreme's PC buying guides.

    See for yourself:

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