Due to its popularity, we are expanding AnandTech Buyer's Guides. Evan Lieb will continue to make recommendations for the Entry and Mid-Range Systems. Evan will also be launching two new guides in the near future and will be telling you more about those in the next few weeks. Guides for High End System and Overclocking System will now come from Wesley Fink, AnandTech's Motherboard, Memory and Chipset Editor. Once the new schedule gets in full swing, you will see a Guide from Evan every week and one from Wes every 2 to 3 weeks. The final changes to the schedule are still in the works, but the new Buyer's Guide schedule will appear in an upcoming Guide.

It is unlikely that two Enthusiasts would agree on every component in a system, and Editors are no different. Different editors have different ideas of what constitutes a High End and Overclocking System. High End, in my estimation, is not without price limits, but price is much less a consideration than performance. If High-End means anything for the enthusiast who reads AnandTech, then you can spend a bit more for performance that is really better. With this in mind, you will see the scales tip toward performance in my choices. Mid-range is where you sweat nickels and measure every component for bang for the buck. For High End, you pick the best.

As in past Guides, we offer a recommendation for every component that goes into a computer. Our recommendation is our First Choice and we will try to explain why we chose that component. For some components, we will also offer an 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. This is especially true for those willing to spend a little more or to recommend a cheaper component that is of outstanding value. Alternative picks provide you other choices, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be.

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 pricewatch. Relevant parts of our RealTime pricing engine are listed 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.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides, and the changes you are seeing here are the result of suggestions from our readers and Editors. Since we are adding 2 new guides to AnandTech, email your suggestions for new guides to Evan or Wes. Considerations include a Buyer's Guide for SFF (Small Form Factor systems), Gaming System, and Laptop/DTP (Desk-Top Replacement). If you have other suggestions, let us know; the Guides are to help you with your buying decisions.

High End

A High End System is put together with different concerns than an entry level or mid-range system.
  • Entry level systems should be constructed mainly with price and reliability in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  • Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but price and performance are in a not-so-distant tie for second place.
Evan Lieb, our Editor for Entry and Mid-Range Buyers Guides, goes into a more in-depth explanation of the priorities with entry level and mid-range systems in his ongoing Entry Level and Mid-Range Guides that appear each month.

A High End system should represent the best performance that you can buy for a given need. In this case, the given need is defined as a Desktop Computer System built from the best performing computer components that you can actually buy. This differs from other Buyer's Guides, which concentrate on value first. With the extensive testing done at AnandTech by many different Editors, we have personally tested many of these components, and you will see our Editor's Choice components appear frequently in the Buyers Guides.

With performance as the most important consideration in a high-end system, reliability becomes the second most important consideration. Truthfully, reliability is in most cases just as important as performance, since it does no good to put together an expensive high-end system that you can not enjoy due to reliability issues. By definition, price is a distant third consideration, but price is not the same as value. Value is always a consideration in our buying guides because we refuse to recommend high-priced components that provide little or no performance advantage over lower priced components. A component that costs 250% more for a 5% increase in performance is not a good value and does not even belong in a high end system..

Anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that the best performing parts aren't usually going to be the cheapest parts. On the other hand, the value and performance you get for your dollars in today's computer market are the best that we have ever seen in many years in the computer industry. There was a time when the best desktop systems were much more than $10,000; while today, you are hard pressed to spend more than $5,000 on a top-performing system. In most cases, the best performance can be had even less. With this in mind, our only restriction is that our high-end system will cost under $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard


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  • Modal - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    RE #25:

    I just built a system with two 74GB raptors in RAID 0, and I can tell you that they are, surprisingly, not that loud. I'm using a Thermaltake 480W PSU with a fan speed controller; when I have it cranked, I can't hear my hard drives at all. When I have the PSU fan turned down, I can hear them a little, little bit, but its nothing like a 'jet engine.'
  • KenRico - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    #23 and #24 make good points on structure and the $5k target.

    If the Display Speaker and KB&Mouse are removed it gives alot more latitude in the System Components with the $5k ceiling.

    The FX53 is going up +$66 dollars 06/01 a little bird told me. Hopefully the Opteron 150 will remain the same as it is showing at $600ish
  • Ma10n3 - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    Oh, I forgot to clarify something...

    The reason I said AMD was the obvious choice is that the only motherboards available now with support for AGP 8X, PCI-X, and legacy 32-bit PCI currently only support AMD64. Why? Intel doesn't seem to want us to have it all just yet. AMD's chipsets gives us the technology, now.

    Disclaimer: I used to be a die-hard Intel fan, then after doing a little research I found out that AMD is by far the technology leader for the x86, and not just because of the AMD64 chips.

    I guess I couldn't stay off my kick for long...
  • Ma10n3 - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    I have to agree with #23. There are a lot of possibilities with a $5,000 limit, and a lot of biases toward certain brands among the readers (Intel or AMD).

    So, since AMD is the obvious choice for the "Uber" system, what about throwing in an Adaptec 2810SA Hardware RAID controller and setup 8 74/36GB Raptors as one RAID 5 array using hot-swappable bays. Of course, you're going to need a serious case for this as well.

    Noise? You can't be concerned with noise when it comes to the "Uber" system. Maybe some sound-dampening measures could be taken, but other than that... Besides, could you imagine the sound of 8 10K RPM raptors all churning together? POWER. SPEED. PERFORMANCE. That's the only mantra for the "Uber" system.

    Alright, I'll get off my kick for now...
  • Frallan - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    I love reading your guides I don't always agree on choises but that is not the point is it? Just getting a thought through well argumented article to read in an area where I myself have alot ideas and thoughts is very valueble. So therefore Thx for these guids. (Btw #21 pls read up b4 starting to shout your head off).

    Now to the issues:

    1. Re: the overclocking guide (where I really have an interest) Pls. incl. a top performer kit - means not only the best OC in terms of how OC-able but also a maximum performance OCed kit.

    2. Re: The choise of the 10.000 rpm HD:s I have not have the guts to get these drives yet since I have to be in the same room as the box. Just how loud are they in this system? (2*10.000 rpm makes my Jet-enging warning alarm to go off.)

    Thx and keep up the good work - you have picked up the slack where other hardware sites have deterioated the last year :).
  • Mackintire - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    Great job on the guide, I really disagreed on Evan's previous choices. You definately are at least in the ballpark. What confuses me is the $5000 limit. If its a $5000 limit you could do alot more, that would be the only gray area I saw. .............................................otherwise Great Job! Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    Welcome to the System Guide section, Wesley. Now you, too, can get lambasted every time you put together an article by people like #21. No complaints from me, though: I understand that there are always choices to be made. However, that said, I really doubt many people will really consider buying a $3000 PC. The $2000 high-end systems of the past were at least potentially affordable. Please try not to go much higher (despite the $5000 "limit").

    Overall, I really like the recommendations with some explanation of other alternatives. It almost seems like we should have four "high-end" system recommendations, though. One for those where money is no concern, a second for those where money is somewhat a concern, and then double that with AMD systems and Intel systems. (There are people out there that will *never* buy AMD and others that will *never* buy Intel.) So we could get an Athlon FX-53/Dual Opteron 250 system, an Athlon 64 3400+ system, an Intel P4EE/Dual Xeon system, and an Intel P4C/P4E system (depending on how things develop in the future).

    Not sure how feasible this is, but it seems like you really only need to list CPU, motherboard, and RAM for the four separate configurations. The remaining components could remain as they are, with two recommendations on each item (the "uber" component, and the "good" component).

    And finally, I complained about this on other guides, and the high-end guide certainly deserves this complaint as well: why is there no alternate case/PSU recommendation? Surely the Coolermaster with Antec Truepower 430W isn't the only possibility. I would like to see something more silent as a perhaps more expensive option. A case supporing 120mm fans and/or a fanless PSU might be a nice addition.

    Overall, though, great job. It's nice to see things mixed up a little after Evan Lieb's choices. Just don't get too set on the choices each month - maybe you two should alternate on the system guides each month? :)
  • VagrantZero - Thursday, May 27, 2004 - link

    The X800Pro has been shipping for a few weaks now [not in mass quantity but if you want it you can buy it]. It's the XT and 6800U that still hasn't debuted. Reply
  • KenRico - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Anandtech Rocks...but these guides still don't.

    Another gentleman already posted but I agree that the OPTERON 148 is a better price/perfomer for the high end. About $20 more than AMD 64 3400+ with Dual Channel action ready to go.

    So kind of the guide author to post a video card that is not shipping yet either.

    I waded through all the RAM links of "Best Pricing" and the Corsairs specified in the quide are linked below.

    I learn nothing from the guides. They specify High End but still look for "value" in onboard NIC ect...then don't post price performance for CPU.

    Do we really need a guide to show us an Expensive Processor and Video Adapter?

    Where are the benchmarks on this dream system? With no OS quoted this is a collection of parts.
  • IsThatTheTime - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I agree with the 200Gb Seagate option, contrary to what was said earlier, they are blisteringly fast compared to their 160Gb and below versions. See Toms Hardware. I just bought four of them for two PCs.

    Couldn't agree more about the Coolermaster Praetorian, I've two and the solid build quality is breathtaking.....just change all the fans for SilenX one's for a quiet life.

    I think a good high end system should have a totally quiet profile too and would suggest the new "Etasis" 0DB! Fanless! PSU (300W) using heatpipe cooling. Totally awesome! and totally quiet. Luxury low environmental noise should come with a luxury £2000 PC.

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