Currently, we are experimenting with our Buyer's Guides to see if we can improve on meeting the needs of a wider range of users, both in terms of the components that we recommend and the prices of those components. We will continue to produce an Entry Level, Mid-Range, High End, and Overclocking system each month, and we have decided to add SFF guides and perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal as well. For now though, we will keep with our current format (Week 1: Entry Level System, Week 2: Mid-Range System, Week 3: High End System, Week 4: Overclocking System) until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you feel like letting us know what you'd like to see in terms of component picks and price points in future guides, go ahead and write your feelings in our comments section, located at the bottom of the page.

We are still going to continue to evaluate products like we have in all our other guides over the last few months. That is, 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). To be clear, 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.

Entry Level

The main concern for our Entry Level (or "Budget") systems is pricing, with reliability as a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building an entry level system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say that performance is ignored because that is just not the case. We also believe that you're more than likely going to be keeping this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years), so some of our picks may be geared toward that type of mentality. Overall, we like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability, performance, and longevity, in that order, for today's Entry Level Buyer's Guide.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations


View All Comments

  • MAME - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    the via chipsets are not worth saving $20 Reply
  • JuniorXL - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    What about getting the Asus A7V8X-X KT400 instead of the A7N8X-X NFORCE2? Its usually about $20 cheaper and has the same features, just a different chipset. Is the KT400 really that bad? Reply
  • ECarlson - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Two easy fixes for the weekly systems guides:

    1. Especially for us returning readers: Have a one-page synopsis of the changes from the last guide (for each system level). This could even be a cumulative history, including all the changes over time (That would be nice). No need for us to read mostly the same content over and over and over and over and over.

    2. Put the "Next page" button above the price list. It is very annoying to have to scroll past the price list just to get to the next article page. (Of course, if you implemented #1, this would be far less of an issue to regular readers.)
  • cparker - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

  • MAME - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    To the guys suggesting gaming and such: this is a budget system, not a gaming one. Someone even mentioned Doom's not intended to even touch a game like that.

    A $70 case someone else mentioned? You're thinking about the next level up. I think AT did a good job picking out the best product for the price (though some changes can be made).

    But for sure, $10 for 40 MORE gigs! (and 6 more megs for the buffer size)
  • cosmotic - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    What are you talking about? This is a budget system, GF4MX is perfectly fine. Infact, its better than fine. A new video card would be an upgrade. I dont think people paying 500 bucks for a computer would expect to get enough performance out of it to play all these new games. You guys are on crack! "My 500 dollar computer wont play FarCry or Doom3... I WONDER WHY!" Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    From what I hear of those 5200s, they arent worth the candle. A friend who had one with a new system was so disatisfied that he got a computer repairman to swap it for a Geforce4 of some denomination and now seems happy. Admitedly he mainly does 2D graphics. However I agree with an earlier article's post: the entry level system ought to be an integrated graphics solution possibly with upgradeable AGP port. With new IG chipsets from ATI, Intel and nVidia this should make for some competition when allied to Paris/Sempron and 64bit prescott celerons as well as the older socketA's and N'wood celerons. My present favorite: Duron 1.8, ATI IGP 320 mainboard (, 512MB DDR.

  • henan - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    I agree with that 80 gig drive, and also integrated graphics might add more room for other components (ram?).

    I'm very disappointed in the missing OC guide. Last two just haven't been there, but nothing else has filled that gap yet, just a week withiut anything. To me that is the only important one, although the others are good reading. I hope the OC system guide will be back soon!
  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Duker, the problem is that while the 5200 might technically be a DX9 card, it's not fast enough to actually run DX9 graphics at even the lowest quality settings, so it would end up being used as a DX8 card. The 9200SE is probably too slow to run even DX8 titles, but the 9200 is perfectly capable as long as the resolution is kept at 1024x768 or lower and detail settings aren't too high.

    If you want any real chance at running DX9 games, the minimum card would be a 9600 Pro, like this one: At $111, that's way out of the price range of a budget system. (IMO, on a budget system, $100 would be the maximum price of any single part, and $50 would be preferred.

    Anyway, as an alternative, the FX5200 cards might be okay, but they're still pretty much DX9 parts in practice.
  • yossiz - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    I'd really like to see an HTPC builder's guide. One that focuses on quiet, multimedia-oriented PC.

    Also, as someone mentioned already, I think that the RAM alternative should not be a lower latency module, but rather a 512MB module, making your alternative system a much more viable budget gaming machine.

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