Today, we release our seventh Buyer's Guide in the past 7 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 of them 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 that 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.

High End Systems

Before we go into a little detail about what you need to know about building a high end system, we need to first reiterate what you should remember about entry level and mid-range systems.
  1. Entry level 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.
For a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on what you should prioritize with entry level and mid-range systems, take a look at our entry level and mid-range guides from the last two weeks here and here.

Anyway, when building a high end system, performance is usually going to be your most important consideration. That is, when building a high end system, you want to make sure that 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 high end system, it would probably be more appropriate to say that reliability is the #1 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. This guide by no means disregards price altogether, as we aren't going to be building a $10,000 system here. Rather, we are building a system that will cost under $5,000, but with the final price much closer to $1,000 than $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations


View All Comments

  • Jeff7181 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I agree with #6... Raptor should definately been the primary choice, ALONG WITH the 120, or possibly a 200 or 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA drive for storage.
    Sheesh... what were you thinking, Evan? Seriously, what's your reasoning?

    Based on this...

    "If you can't live with a 36.7GB or 74GB drive, then we suggest that you simply skip this alternative and stick with the recommended 1200JB. But that's only if storage capacity is very important to you."

    ... comment, it sounds like the Raptor should be your primary choice.
  • kherman - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    For high end systems, it would be nice to see keyboard/mouse recomendations even if it's only mentioned in passing. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    After reading a bit more I'm really woundering about some of your choices... A 120GB hard drive for a high end system? I was going to go 160 the midrange system I'm planning to build. Other than that and the MB most everything else looks ok. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I keep being dissapointed that they never seen the recommend the Chaintech ZNF3-150. It's the only A64 Motherboard I've seen with a 6 in 1 card reader and front Firewire and USB 2.0 connectors. I would (and will) spend a bit more for these features, espeacially if we're talking high end. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    CPU, mobo, memory, yeah they all sound good to me.

    The 9800Pro for $206 sounds good too, but the alternative of a 9800XT with its $412 price-tag coming in exactly twice as expensive as the 9800Pro for the marginal performance increase it may offer isn't money well spent by my book.

    I don't know how much the current models cost so maybe they're somewhat more expensive than the two you listed, but the NEC/Mitsubishi Diamond Pro monitors are considered among the best available today. The 22" (20" visible) DiamondPro 2070SB I have is over a year old but is capable of 85hz at 2048x1536, or more usefully gives a solid picture at 100hz at 1600x1200 (could do 110hz if desired but not much point). They're trinitron (aperture-grill) type monitors just like that recommended Philips one.

    A non-Creative high-end sound-card solution would be a good idea given how some people aren't only interested in games.
  • Nighteye2 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Why isn't the build-in RAID controller used? I imagine in a high-end system faster load times will be much appreciated. Also, 2 WD 1200JB disk in RAID 0 will be faster then the raptor, overall, and cheaper as well.
  • SHO235V8 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I just wish you could give us more "guidance" on the launch schedules for the "exciting" new products. I am anxiously awaiting the new ATI cards and the 939 Athlons for my new high end PC. Do NDA's preclude you from talking about them. Although video game launches change, at least they give one a target date to count down... ;) With hardware the product is just simply available by the time we see its review on AT! Thanks for bringing the guides back, and I agree that you should pick a LCD monitor for each price point as well. Reply
  • StickyC - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    This is the 2nd or 3rd 'high-end' guide that recommends going SATA, but not RAID. Why not? I'd think that since the HD is still one of the bigger bottlenecks, going the RAID route would be a given.

    I was under the impression that most SATA "RAID" setups aren't very optimized at using both SATA channels at once and that two SATA channels can easily saturate the PCI bus, so a motherboard solution is the way to go?

    Two 36gb Raptors should be plenty for just about any system. There are very few non-specialized situations where you'd need that fast an access to >70gb of data at once. More than that is likely archival storage (video/music playback) and can/should be handled by external large capacity drives.
  • Pumpkinierre - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    At the Prescott launch, the P4E was supposed to be priced the same as the P4c Northwood. But in your price guide, the 3.4E is $80 more than the 3.4c (and similarly for the 3.2). This wasnt mentioned in your text but would definitely make the Northwood the better choice as performance of this cpu is at least on a par with the prescott.

    I would have expected the price to be the other way round given the heat reputation of these cpus and the fact that DELL have'nt to my knowledge released systems supporting this core. Perhaps its production problems, I've heard some articles refer to the scarcity of P4Es on the market.
  • Evan Lieb - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Hooligan2, there’s no noticeable difference between a PowerColor and ATI 9800 Pro in performance. I wouldn’t stress about it.

    cK-Gunslinger, thanks, its been fixed.

    thatsright, not sure what’s prompted you to say that. Is there any product I’ve listed that you would disagree with based on your own experience and testing?

    Brickster, glad you’re happy. I love that monitor myself. :D

    ceefka, any reason you don’t like the Audigy 2?

    srue, as we mentioned a couple times in this guide, we wanted to bring the price down a little from the previous guide, which was over $2200. Our goal was never to be between $1000 and $5000.

    Swylen, a 3000+ runs 200MHz slower and has half the L2 cache.

    Hooligan2, yup, I wouldn’t disagree with you there. We just didn’t want to cut down the system TOO much.

    WooDaddy, agreed, but $250 is simply unreasonable for a keyboard and mouse combo.

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