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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  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    At first, I was shocked at your choice of FX53 as a cpu because this is the last of the Sckt940 FX and upgradeability to later FXs would not be possible. Upgrade ability is not one of your criteria but it certainly is mine as I expect an expensive mobo to span two generations of cpus, video cards and even memory. But really Skt940 is more trustworthy (and possibly cheaper) than even 939 as other posts point out because it is the server cpu-opteron. So the mobo might handle the dual core opterons next year. After this revelation I thought the FX51 might cut a few dollars but your price list has it $20 MORE than its bigger brother! AMD go figure?!

    The FX is still a rip-off and the new Skt 939 3800+ looks like its got a lot of grunt, according to the french article below, but runs hot (104Watts, 50-60C) and this is 130nm- Prescott anyone?:

    They only found 0-5% increase with dual channel for same speed cpu and it had problems with four dimms- dropped to 2T timing or to DDR333 with DS modules. And the price may be expensive with AMDs habit of selective release from the high end like previous a64s:

    With the Skt478 P4 you're limited as an upgrade to P4EEs coming down in price unless 3.6 N'wood or Prescott skt478 appears (which is hardly worth while anyway)- neither of which is likely.

    So the Sckt940 is not a bad option. If only those FXs would drop into the $500 range.
  • SHO235V8 - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I agree that there seems to be a huge spread, but I also assume it will be adjusted in the next mid level guide. I too have been waiting for the 939 boards, but I may not wait much longer considering VagrantZero's points regarding new M/B technologies and DDR2 which will be commonplace by the time I upgrade in a year or two. Besides, there are sometimes issues with the first release version of new technologies. Anyone else know of a better reason to hold off for the new boards? Will dual channel memory be that much faster? Reply
  • Dismal - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I was a little scared at first that the non-FX Athlon 64's would be completely forgotten about when opening the guide. But I was glad to see some mentioning in there. Hopefully they will still stay in the guides. I want good performance but I just can't spend the kind of cash to buy an FX. Recommendations in the mid-range guide don't seem to fit the kind of performance I'm looking for either. (I agree with rdclark's post above about the gap between mid-range and high-end). I don't think I'm savvy enough to go with overclocking. The price of the Athlon 64 3400+ seemed to be a good match for me. Hopefully they'll still remain in the guides. Reply
  • JKing76 - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Aluminum cases don't dissipate heat any faster than steel. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Well I have to say, you did finally remove one of my biggest bet peives with these guides. I never could understand why Evan kept recommending 120GB drives for a high end system, Personally I'm considering getting 160GB for my system, and right now I just have an entry level computer ( AXP 2200+ ). One can never have enough hard drive space! Reply
  • GokieKS - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Great choices, and it's nice to finally have a truly good case being recommend. But since there's still such a big part of the $5K budget remaining, why not something even more high-end, like the SilverStone SST-TJ03 Nimiz? ;)

    The 193P is an excellent monitor, no doubt, but as one of the 19" LCDs limited by a 1280x1024 resolution, the extra $150 or $200 of the Viewsonic VP201 is definitely worth it. And if you have two of them... ^^

    Other than that, just about everything seems fine, even if I personally would go for the A64 3200/3400 instead of the FX53, and pair it up with a nForce3 250Gb mobo.

  • Da3dalus - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Seems like good choices. The only thing I'd choose differently would be the case and the alternative 200GB HD, I'd choose the S-ATA version of that instead of the IDE version. The price difference is really tiny and S-ATA is just plain nicer (I hate those big IDE cables). Reply
  • rdclark - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I'd like to see some performance benchmarking of these systems, especially as this high-end guide's system costs a cool thousand more than the previous high-end guide's. How much of a difference is there, or are you just buying expensive bragging rights?

    The new guide also leaves a fairly large gap between the mid-range and the high-end system; the mid-range is still suggesting an XP2800+, while this jumps right to the highest of the high-end. That removes a valuable basis for comparision (and decision-making) in the Athlon 64 3xxx space, which (IMO) seriously lowers the value of these guides.
  • cosmotic - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    Why not reccomend the DDW-082 instead of the DDW-081? Reply
  • VagrantZero - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    I wouldn't rec you getting 2gb of ram. There's nothing [aka games] out there that uses it, not even D3 or HL2. I doubt 2gigs will really become a good thing until U3 [2006] and by then DDR2 should be coming into its own making your DDR obsolete. I'd say save $300 and get a 3400+/3700+. From x86's article [foreign website, here's the translated url] the 754 3400+ was outperforming the 939 3500+ in the majority of benchs. I'll wait and see how the 3700 handles the 3800, but if it wins I'm sticking with the old socket [I'd have to upgrade my mobo eventually anyways thanks to PCI-E, SATA300, and DDR2 so 939 isn't anymore future proof for me than 754]. Plus there was talk of 104W power requirments [THAT'S MORE THAN THE PRESCOTT!] and that the new socket chips ran almost as hot as intel offerings. It's just one article so take it with a grain of salt, but I have my suspicions.

    Also, if you don't plan to OC Corsair XMSPC3500s would be a great pick.

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