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

  • Duker - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Better card for a few more $$$.
  • Duker - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Why don't you recommend a 128 bit 128 meg GeForce FX5200 for $63.00? Far Cry would laugh at that 64 Meg 64 bit ATI 9200SE and Doom 3 is closing fast. I don't think ATI is a good choice for this system and I use ATI in 3 out of 4 of my personal machines. Is ATI paying you?
  • White Widow - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Ditto on the support for the 80GB drive. If a company is really going to buy 1000 PC's, then they could probably negotiate some volume pricing anyway.

    As for overall system pricing, I think the budget system should be kept as close to $500 as possible. If you are building an internet/MS Office machine for someone, that $500 price point stands out.

    I also agree that the Overclocking System (is there still an Overclocking System Guide??) should NOT be the most expensive, but rather the most bang-for-the-buck. I see such a system pricing out toward the top end of a Mid-Range system.

    Finally, AT has GOT to fix the Price Guide. I'm not ure how it is coded, but most sections of the Buyers Guide discuss two compnents, but onlylist prices for one. How hard can it be to list prices for both CPU's and Motherboards together?
  • Apologiliac - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    CC had a sale for a 120 GB WD 7200rpm for $60! Reply
  • nastyemu25 - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    i'm starting to hate that case Reply
  • kristof007 - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    Is it jst me or there is no overclocking system anymore ? Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    Two major issues that continue to plague the low-end system. First is that hard drive recommendation. If a large corporation is buying a bunch of computers, $10 times 1000 is going to be noticeable. For anyone else, you might as well just go with the 80GB drive and be done with it. Volume levels of the WD drives leave something to be desired, though.

    The other issue is the RAM. You increase the CPU and motherboard costs $40 in the alternative recommendations, mostly for people that want decent gaming performance. You increase the graphics $9, again mostly for low-end gamers. You increase the RAM costs $15, but the difference between CAS 2.5 and CAS2.0 RAM with a low-end system sporting 256 MB of RAM is going to be virtually non-existent. How about something more useful like bumping the price up $37 and recommending a 512 MB Mushkin DIMM like this one: Anyone trying even moderate gaming under Windows XP is going to start encountering severe problems with the more recent games running on 256 MB of RAM.

    Finally, that Foxconn case is just fugly. If you're going to recommend that people buy the extra $20 Sparkle power supply for a total of $61 on the case, there are a lot of other options. $72 for the Antec SLK2650-BQE is one option that would only add $11, and you get an Antec 350W PSU instead of a generic 300W PSU.

    Since you didn't provide this, let's put it in the comments (and I'll throw in my RAM and case suggestions):

    Alternative Low-to-midrange System:
    Athlon XP 2500+ CPU: $80
    Abit NF7-S: $86
    512 MB PC3200 Mushkin: $87
    Radeon 9200: $52
    17" NEC Monitor: $166
    Antec SLK2650-BQE w/ 350W: $72
    WD 800JB 80GB hard drive: $67
    Lite-On CD-RW/DVD combo: $48
    Creative Speakers: $20
    Integrated audio and network: $0
    Total for slightly more expensive - but overall better performing - Low/Mid system: $678

    That took me all of 10 minutes to put those prices together, including finding my alternative RAM and case information. For office use, there's no real need for the alternative, but for low-end gaming, the extra $140 would go a long way toward making the system perform better.
  • gherald - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    #1 I have to agree $10 more for the WD800JB is definately a better deal.

    The article suggests that "Pushing SATA into the low end mainstream is very important for the development of that technology" so the alternative HD should be the WD800JD or perhaps this equivalent Hitachi:
    Of course, you'd need the NF7 motherboard for that.

    #6: The reason is 2D graphics quality; Radeons are much better than onboard Geforces. At work half the stations I administer have Geforce 4 MX's directly on the northbridge and the other half have either a radeon 9x00 or ATI Rage pro 128 card. The differences in quality are clearly noticeable.

    As for prices, #4 is right on the money though I would suggest these approximate price ranges:

    Entry-level: $600 +/- $100
    Mid-range: $1100 +/- $200
    High-end: $2000 +/- $500

    #9 your high end limit is way to high. I'd call more than $2500-3000 an 'uber' system.

    #11 the absolute low limit for high-end is clearly $1500; below is most assuredly in upper-mid-range territory. Also, you are misssing the point of overclocking. Yes many high-end and "luxury" systems (as you call them) can be effectively overclocked, but this does not define an "Overclocking System" per se.

    In my opinion an Overclocking System should be roughly 5 to 15% more expensive than a mid-range one, because they'll need a few quality components like a better PSU, quality motherboard, excellent HSF and PC3500+ memory but their goal is often to get the most bang for the buck. This attitude is clearly exemplified these days by the Mobile Barton / NF7r2 crowd.
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    Suprised to see those Prescott prices:

    2.4E at $123- $35 below 2.4c. making it a low to mid level system chip

    2.8E 533FSB - ~$30 higher than 2.8E 800MHz FSB or 2.8c - crazy, must be the enthusiast/upgrader/o'clocker's P4 of choice.

    the 3.0 and 3.2 are about the same (but with the 533 P4E ahead in price in the 3.0 rank again!). The 3.4E is still $60 ahead of the 3.4c (why? beyond yields, I dont know) and the EEs are'nt coming down in price unfortunately.
  • MDE - Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - link

    You mention that the NF7-S is a.k.a. the AN7, that's not really true, they're different boards, there's a reason Abit didn't name the AN7 the NF7-S 3.0. Reply

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