Weekly Buyer's Guide: Mid-Range System - March 2004by Evan Lieb on March 24, 2004 2:27 PM EST
- Posted in
CPU and Motherboard RecommendationsCPU: AMD Athlon XP 2800+ 333MHz FSB (512K L2 cache) Barton
Motherboard: ABIT AN7 (nForce2 Ultra 400)
Price: CPU - $120 shipped (retail heatsink and fan). Motherboard - $102 shipped
AMD's Athlon XP 2800+ gets the nod this week for its, you guessed it, incredible bang for the buck. An Athlon XP 2800+ Barton running at 333MHz FSB goes for just $120 shipped online, and that includes an AMD approved HSF (heatsink and fan). $120 for the performance you get with a 2800+ Barton is an extremely attractive deal, no if's, and's, or but's about it. While AMD is pushing hard for their Athlon 64 processors, the lowest priced Athlon 64 still hovers well over $200 shipped retail online. And while the performance is considerably better with an Athlon 64, for mid-range systems, the extra cost probably isn't worth it. Then again, it all depends on your needs. An Athlon 64 3000+ (512K L2 cache) goes for $222 shipped retail online, and while costing about $100 more than the 2800+, it offers much better gaming performance, among other applications.
March 24th UPDATE: AMD Athlon 64 2800+ processors are currently available for $173 at Newegg.com and $190 at GameVE.com.
ABIT has done a great job with their nForce2 Ultra 400 series of motherboards, even if their relationship with NVIDIA can be somewhat tenuous at times. The AN7 comes with great features like SATA RAID, rear SPDIF, and room for 3 IEEE1394 FireWire ports. In addition, you get the benefit of the best performance possible from any Athlon XP chipset available in the NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400. Overall, there are very few things this board lacks. However, one thing it does lack is IDE RAID, which the Gigabyte 7N400 Pro2 offers, in addition to everything else the ABIT AN7 offers. However, we should note that the 7N400 Pro2 doesn't come with the MCP-T South Bridge, which offers superior sound quality if you're using speakers with a receiver and optical out. This is why we ended up choosing the AN7, as users get the MCP-T South Bridge, which in all likelihood is going to be much more useful for everyday tasks than the IDE RAID on the 7N400 Pro2. Both these motherboards cost just about the same amount, so the choice is yours if you'd rather have better sound or IDE RAID.
You may also want to take note that the ABIT NF7-S Rev.2 that we've talked about here extensively is virtually the same motherboard as the AN7. The primary difference is the Guru overclocking technology onboard the AN7 and a different BIOS to support that technology. Essentially, the AN7 and NF7-S Rev.2 are one in the same motherboard.
Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:
If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.