Budget System


Recommendation: AMD Athlon XP 1800+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $49 shipped (add $10 for cooling)

These days, it's nearly impossible not to recommend an AMD Athlon XP processor for a budget system. The prices on low-end Athlon XP processors are just too good. Knowing this, we are of course going to recommend an Athlon XP processor for today's budget system, specifically the 1800+ version running at 1.53GHz. This processor is no performance slouch; budget users who surf the Internet, perform general office-related tasks, and those who play the occasional video game will experience very few (if any) slowdowns with an Athlon XP 1800+ processor. For more information on exactly how your 1800+ might perform, you can check out AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December. Of course, you can't forget your CPU cooler, and in this case, pretty much any AMD approved cooler will do. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A is just $10 shipped from several online vendors.

Runner-up: AMD Athlon XP 1900+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $55 shipped

The Athlon XP 1900+ (1.6GHz) runs just 66.67MHz faster than the recommended Athlon XP 1800+ (1.53GHz) for only $5 more. However, the 67MHz bump in core clock speed will likely end up being almost completely unnoticeable in any application that a budget user uses. However, if you have $6 or so to spare, the 1900+ will fit perfectly as your budget processor. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A will work just fine with this processor as well.


Recommendation: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: $69 shipped

It's always tough to generalize which motherboard is right for users when so many different people have such a varying range of needs in a motherboard. But after some extensive research, we came to the conclusion that the A7N8X-X has the right combination of features, price, and reliability that budget users demand. It's hard to go wrong with a $69 price tag and the performance that comes with an NVIDIA nForce2 400 chipset. Of course, the reliability of ASUS motherboards is well known around the industry. No motherboard manufacturer is perfect, though, and even ASUS produces a lame duck now and then. However, after having tested at least 3 different versions of ASUS' nForce2 motherboards over the last 12+ months, not to mention the fact that this article is being written on a computer based on the ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard, we can confidently say that you aren't going to encounter many motherboard-related problems.

Runner-up: ABIT KV7 (KT600)
Price: $66 shipped

We took an in-depth look at the KV7 last September, where we basically concluded that it was a solid budget board with good features and average performance. Performance still hasn't changed much since then, though BIOS updates to the KV7 has increased performance slightly. In addition, the price of ABIT KV7 motherboards, and KT600 motherboards in general, has gone down significantly since then, nearly 20% in fact. These two developments, in addition to the fact that the KV7 was already an excellent budget board, convinced us that the ABIT KV7 was good enough to be named this week's runner-up in the motherboard category.

Index Budget System (continued)


View All Comments

  • 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. Reply
  • 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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