Today we release our sixth Buyer's Guide in the past 6 weeks. You can look forward to Buyer's Guides in the middle of every week, and then, after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Today, we are continuing the refresh of our Buyer's Guides to see what has changed, if anything, in the past 4 weeks. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guides yet, here's the basic format to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Entry Level System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: High End System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we offer our recommendation for a piece of hardware as well as our alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative 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). Alternative picks tell you just that - your alternatives, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be. But at the same time, we can still 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 We list pertinent parts of our RealTime pricing engine at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors all by yourself.

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.

Mid-Range Systems

While entry level (budget) systems should mainly be constructed with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration, mid-range systems have a slightly different order of priority. Reliability is still #1 priority, but performance and price are in a sort of tie when building that mid-range system. Performance isn't of the utmost importance in this type of system, but it's also not ignored nearly as much as a plain old entry level system is. Similarly, price isn't of utmost importance either, but buyers building a mid-range must be mindful of the price of components nonetheless. Performance and price don't lag too far behind reliability for mid-range systems, in other words.

Read on to find out more...

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations


View All Comments

  • reep - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    i would save ~50$ by going for the 2500+ instead of the 2800+ - the difference in performance is hardly worth it. instead, that money could be brought to much better use by spending it on 2x512mb of ram. Reply
  • NeoGodless - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    I agree with #10... this is really the mid range buyers guide. In addition, the dual channel motherboards I've had experience with simply need at least memory slots filled to enable dual channel, and adding additional memory does not disable it. Reply
  • magratton - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    I think many of you are missing the point here. If you want to do the AXPM 2500 and overclock it then that is the "Overclockers" Guide. This guide is for folks who don't know much (a little more than the average joe per se) and want a good system for their needs. To that end these recommendations are pretty decent to me and will certainly make the average gamer around town looking to save a few bucks plenty happy for a while. Either way, people will be much happier with the cost and effectiveness of this system in the long run than the stuff they can pick up at their local (and online) mass-market dealer.

    As to the TogdorJW's comments on RAM, yes, 512MB is really the MINIMUM nowadays, and some note should be given that if you are using this for gaming spending a few more dollars to get to 1GB RAM should be looked into.
  • Myrandex - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    I would get the <$145 Radein 9800se 256bit 128MB from newegg and softmod it to a full blown 9800, and ditto with previous posts about the 2500+ CPUs instead of the 2800, and on the alternative choice I would put the new Athlon64 2800+ instead of that P4.
  • mlsaxx - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Oh, one other thing. I know this is the mid-range, and an extra $100 on RAM is a lot of money. However, it really has to be recommended for anyone that does a lot of gaming, especially on the Athlon XP system. Since you lose dual-channel if you occupy all three memory slots, the 512 MB configurations you recommend are going to be lower performing if they are later upgraded. (I would love for you to do some benchmarks on this, incidentally!) This isn't a real problem for the P4 alternative, since you can upgrade to 4x256 for 1 GB of RAM when it suits you.

    Anyway, for gamers looking at spending the extra money on the Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card, they really need to be aware of how many games are starting to break the 512 MB threshhold. I have 1 GB of RAM and a Ti4200 graphics card, and Battlefield: Vietnam and UT2K4 both run perfectly fine for me at 1024x768 and moderate detail. Others running faster graphics cards (9800 Pro) with 512 MB of RAM are posting a lot of complaints in the BF:V and UT2K4 forums. It might bump the price up another $100, but spending $90 on 2x256 MB of RAM for an Athlon XP and then ditching that to go up to 2x512 in a few months would not be cool.
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Sounds like the new Athlon 64 2800+ will probably become the alternative CPU/mobo next time the mid-range system comes around. Not sure about the longevity of that solution, but then, nothing lasts forever. Highly mature and stable PCI/AGP is probably better than version 1.0 PCIe and DDR2 for the next 18 months.

    For the rest, this is the mid-range system *without* overclocking. In that segment, the 2800+ is a pretty good choice, although the 2600+ is also an option. Can't complain too much about the choices, although I'm certainly itching to see what sort of overclocks can be achieved with the new A64 2800+. :)
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    You could pay more for an XP3000+, or spend just $80 on an XP2500+ and overclock it a bit but thats not what I'd get.

    I'd spend $95 on an XP-M 2500+ (still saving over twenty dollars compared to the recommended XP2800+), set the voltage to the normal 1.65V of an XP2500+ (non-mobile), set the FSB to 200MHz and the multiplier to 11, and bingo -- you've got an XP3200+ :)
  • gofor55 - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Unless you have RAID 0 test results on the ITE based GigaRAID onboard controller, you need to STOP touting this feature. I own a 7N400 Pro 2 and the GigaRAID performance is terrible. It's even a crummy when used as an IDE interface. I had to disable it and add a RocketRAID controller. Reply
  • wassup4u2 - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Why the AXP 2800+ instead of the 2500+? The 2500 is tons cheaper ($81 retail, shipped on newegg), and is only 250MHz slower. It still offers the 333MHz FSB and 512Kb L2 cache. Plus, it's very easily overclockable to the 2.08GHz that the 2800+ offers, even with the retail cooler. Get a better cooler and, presto, you can have yourself a nice little $81 Athlon XP 3200+. Reply

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