Today, we release our third Buyer's Guide in the last 3 weeks. Again, for those new to our Buyer's Guides, you can look forward to them every week, and after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. The basic format of these guides are as follows:

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.

Cutting Edge Computing

Before we go into a little detail about what you need to know about building a cutting edge system, we need to first reiterate what you should remember about budget and mid-range systems.
  1. Budget systems should be constructed mainly with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  2. Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but performance and price are in a sort of not-so-distant tie for second place here.
For a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on what you should prioritize with budget and mid-range systems, take a look at our Budget and Mid Range Guides from the last two weeks here and here.

Anyway, when building a cutting edge system, performance is usually going to be your most important consideration. That is, when building a cutting edge system, you want to make sure you're picking the hardware that performs the best for the programs you use the most. While you could say that reliability is the second most important consideration when building a cutting edge system, it would probably be more appropriate to say that reliability is #1a priority. Understandably, price is a distant third consideration. This should be pretty self explanatory, as anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that parts aren't going to be cheap, obviously. This guide by no means disregards price altogether, as we aren't going to be building a $10,000 system here. What we are building is a system that will cost under $5,000, but with the final price much closer to $1,000 than $5,000.

With that information in mind, read on to find out our picks for best cutting edge components this week...

CPU picks...
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  • kherman - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link


    Grado SR-60s for $60. Supposed to be one of the best for the price without an amp.

    Just for those that are curious. As a note, they are better than $100 headphones by big names like Sony, Pioneer, etc...
  • VagrantZero - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    The 76GB Raptor is defintely a better buy than it's little brother. For less than twice the price [its $231 on newegg] it offers twice the capacity plus a sizeable performance increase [2 36Raps in Raid O can't keep up with a single 76Rap]. Here's a short clip from storagerreview's preview of it:

    Enter the second-generation Raptor! Announced September 15th, WD's revised offering promised to address nearly all of the complaints leveled against the firm's first entry. Maintaining the line's unique 10,000 RPM spindle speed, the Raptor WD740GD features the following improvements:

    * 74-gigabyte capacity - perhaps the most significant improvement is the migration to a two-platter flagship design. WD also plans to introduce a revised single-platter, 37 GB unit, though perhaps not until most WD360GD units sell through the market.

    * 37 GB Platters - the aggregate areal density of the new Raptor will remain the same as the first. Linear density, however, has been increased, to achieve:

    o 72 MB/sec outer-zone transfer rates - though STR remains non-consequential in the large majority of uses, some folks were disappointed with the 55 MB/sec that the first Raptor delivered. WD is confident enough with new yields to spec a transfer rate that rivals the best available from today's disks.

    o 4.5 millisecond seek time - the Raptor WD360GD specs at 5.2 milliseconds.

    * Firmware-level TCQ - matching a feature available on all contemporary SCSI drives, the new Raptor will feature tagged command queuing? that is, device-level reordering of outstanding requests for more efficient service times.

    * FDB motors - though quiet from an emitted sound-pressure perspective, the original Raptor emitted a slight high-pitch idle whine that could irritate sensitive ears. WD has been on the slow side when it comes to migrating to fluid bearing motors when compared to other manufacturers. Fortunately, the new Raptor uses quieter and ostensibly more reliable FDB motors.

    NOTE that the 76GBs raptor has come down considerabley since the article was written. As stated before, the OEM goes for $231 on newegg:
  • Dismal - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Cool. Now if the games I wanted to play would just come out I could actually build a system like this. I've never actually put one together myself, so I was very pleased to see these articles posted here. Great job AnandTech! Now if I can just get through configuring all the cpu, memory, and other bios settings that I don't know much about I'll be all set ;-P
  • SDA - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Yeah, like everyone else said, more storage needed, and it's great of you to keep this a system people might actually buy.

    As for speakers, in my opinion, Klipsch Promedias are a liiiittle bit overrated. It would have been nice to see headphone recommendations there as well (in that price range, if you actually used 'em a lot, that'd be, what.. HD580s with an amp? Or is that too high-end), but hey.
  • mostlyprudent - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    A few things?

    1. Why Mushkin Level One instead of Level II? I've read your memory articles crowning their PC3500 Level II the faster DDR400 memory you've ever tested.

    2. I have also read that the new 73GB Raptors are faster, on TomsHardware I believe.

    3. I also agree that you need a second storage drive - perhaps a PATA 250GB Maxtor Diamond max Plus 9.

    4. Lastly, I really appreciate that you were at least conscious of price. I've read other articles calling for system in the $7,000 range. Thanks for keeping this grounded in reality!
  • lisnter - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Exactly (almost) the hardware setup I've been considering!

    I would use two Raptor 74GB drives and a single large (~200GB) data drive and as I don't have time to play games (due to two wonderful little kids) I'd opt for a still plenty fast GeForce 5700 video card (XFX? Gainward?). My main requirement is to support dual LCDs. Any other suggestions?

    Thanks for an informative article and truly excellent site.


  • Evan Lieb - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link


    I know you love SCSI! :p
  • Evan Lieb - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link


    Why WOULD we recommend a Promedia system? What makes them better than the ones we recommended?

    Thanks for pointing out the spelling error.


    I'm not aware of the 74GB Raptor being any faster than the 36.7GB version.
  • mechBgon - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Cutting-edge... with an ATA drive? Where's the 15000rpm Fujitsu MAS-series Ultra320 SCSI drives?

    Sorry, couldn't help myself ;) As you were...
  • BCinSC - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Only 36GB Raptor? 73GB is allegedly much faster and double the space to boot.

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