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 systems,guides. In addition, we will be adding SFF guides and perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal. For now, though, we will keep with our current format until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you want to let us know what you'd like to see in future guides in terms of component picks and price points, write your thoughts 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. 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.

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 keep 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

  • leigh6 - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Without reading Anandtech's Entry level thread I built an entry level system for my sister in law. Her needs were exactly what you had in your initial description of the build. Coincidentally I used most of your components you recommended. So some comments.

    1. The Seagate Hardrive was PERFECT. Quiet, fairly inexpensive, plenty of storage wtih 80g and with a now 5 year warranty a no brainer.

    2. Radeon 9200se. PERFECT. Absolutely needs nothing better. It does the job and more.

    3. Processor was the 2500 Barton . (Would have used the 2000 but had an extra retail 2500 laying around). Either one would have been fine and I do not think there would be a noticable difference for what she and her 3 kids need. WOULD stay with the 2000 for budget reasons and not use this for an upgrade.

    4. Case. I though my choice was a no brainer.
    Antec slk 2600 with a 300W PS. Not the prettiest case. But for the same price as your model ($65.00) I thought was a much better choice.

    5. Ram. Happen to use 512 Kingston Value Ram DDR 3200. (With many rebates available on this product the final price comes to around $75.00) direct from Kingston.

    6. Motherboard. I wish I had read this before the build. But I did get lucky. The motherboard I am using has been rock solid. But the next build will be with you're recomendation.

    Now a suggestion for the overall concept of your article.

    30 percent of the price of the system is the monitor. I believe that the keyboard, mouse, speakers and MONITOR should be left out of you base price. I think adding the monitor to the final base price of the system unintentionally makes the price look like it is a little too high to be a budget system and running closer to the low end of "Mid Range". So the base price would be $372.00 and NO ONE would agrue the merits. Then seperately discuss the peripherals with prices and then add them WITH Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, and Speakers. (Most have these already before there build).

    Just my thoughts, Leigh

  • gherald - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Here we go again, same as last month...

    The reason to use a 9200SE rather than an onboard nforce2 is text quality. People who build entry level systems care about this sort of thing, and for this a cheap ATI is clearly better than an onboard nforce unless you happen to use Linux, for which ATI drivers suck :(

    To #2 and whoever else mentions Doom 3 or a better 3D video card: congratulations on COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT of "entry level," now get lost.

    As for the case, #4 is a good case in point (bad pun) but we've been through this before. None of us understand what Evan/Anand have against Antec, but they are clearly a better case choice in *every* respect *including* price, and that's pretty much been the consensus for as long as these guides have been around.

    512mb is allways a good idea, even if you're just running xp + wordpad + browser... it can be used for other things like DISK CACHE. There's simply no reason to build a system with only 256mb nowdays unless you are a total bum or live in some third world country and thus cannot afford a decent setup.

    As for dual channel, I wouldn't worry about it. My preference for entrys has always been a single stick of 512mb since I feel that will be more useful 2-3 years from now when it comes time to disassemble this system and spread the components around to other ones, but that's just me. If 2x256mb works for you then so be it, just be sure you get a motherboard that supports dual channel well, such as the NF7/AN7 from Abit.
  • cosmotic - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Sorry, I thought all nf2s had dual channel... And I've never used a video card (intigrated or otherwise) that could not handle high resolution, although I rarely use integrated video cards.

    maybe theres hould be an extreme value system, value, best bang-for-buck, overclock, and super high end system buyers guide.
  • VIAN - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    sorry bout that Reply
  • VIAN - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    I am completely fine with a Web Surfing system having 256MB of RAM, without integrated graphics, it's probably already too much. LOL.

    You don't need 512MB for Web Surfing. 512MB is what's recommended today for gaming at least, in early 2003, it was 256MB the least. Why would Web Surfers need more than that.

    Unless you're setting up some kind of CHEAPO server, there would be no reason for more than 256MB.

  • Cocophone - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    The machine I'm upgrading from is a 1gHz Celeron with 128 ram with Windows 2000.

    I use it as a media server and web stuff and it swaps out the memory far to often. There is nothing worst than swapping out to the hard drive.

    For me 512 MB of ram was worth the extra cost. Like #14 says upgrading to 512 ram is more noticable than going from 3 to 2.5 latency.

  • Degrador - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Ok, a few things here...

    We've been saying in these comments for about the last 5 entry articles that 512MB is a far better option than 256MB with low latency, so even if the recommended isn't 512MB, at least make the alternative more ram instead. Lower latency is never going to give a noticeable improvement to an entry user - it bearly gives a noticeable improvement at any stage.

    Also, the nforce 2 integrated video is a much better option than buying a 9200SE. The only reason a 9200SE might be more preferable is if you'd think about swapping over the motherboard at some other stage. However an entry purchaser is likely not to do that, at the very least, not for quite some time. This'll likely be when PCI Express has taken over, and even if it isn't, swapping over a motherboard would likely mean practically new everything for an entry user.

    While practically nothing requires 512MB RAM, it can also be said that practically nothing requires more than a pentium 1 processor, but having an athlon xp / 512MB of ram is certainly going to be a better option. Especially for future usage. And while the price is the most important factor, every entry level purchaser wants to keep their system for a long time. So simply recommending the cheapest components would make for a useless article - the underlying purpose behind these articles is to give people an indication of what they should buy. And as most people have been saying, everyone wanting to keep their computer for more than a year should seriously be considering at least 512MB of memory.

  • PotatoMAN - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    I really think that for an entry level system it is hard to fight for 512 mbytes of RAM over 256 - Win XP pro runs OK on 128 let alone 256 - so why spend more for performance on an entry level system? Granted, we want the user to use the computer for ~1.5 years w/out the hassle of upgrading/tampering with the machine, but the major focus of the article is price. To my knowledge, I can't recall any programs that REQUIRE 512 of RAM other than games. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    #9- I see you went for 512MB for your bargain system, a very wise choice.

    Given the intention of the article is to recommend something which you can: "keep this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years)", after it recommended a stick of cheap 256MB Crucial RAM for the memory, why was the alternative not a cheap 512MB stick, instead of a lower latency 256MB stick? 512MB instead of 256MB is the biggest performance improvement you could make to that system if its going to be running Windows XP. If people building it are expected to run Windows 98SE or a Linux variant, you should clearly state that at the start of the article. Windows 98SE is very much on its last legs already though, so its not a very good recommendation.

    Apart from the memory issue, a good selection of components.
  • VIAN - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Dual channel is less reliable and adds price. You would have to buy a mobo capable of Dual channel add 30 bucks for that and then two sticks of RAM, try finding 128MB sticks, hah, another 40 bucks. Not worth the performance increase.
    I agree, though, that if you are going all out on a "Web Surfing System", an integrated card might have been just as good and cheaper. You want price and speed is the last, so why wouldn't you go integrated.

    You make a very good arguement against integrated, but the monitor's optimal resolution is most likely 1024x768, so it wouldn't make a difference.

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