CPU and Motherboard Recommendations

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2000+ retail (heatsink and fan included)
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: CPU - $57 shipped. Motherboard - $65 shipped

The AMD Athlon XP 2000+ continues to be AnandTech's runaway favorite for Entry Level Systems month after month. We had favored the Athlon XP 1800+, but AMD decided to level off its prices on Athlon XP processors at the 2000+, so it only made sense for us to upgrade our recommendation from an 1800+ to a 2000+ with the negligible price difference. Both the Athlon XP 1800+ and the 2000+ are essentially identical to each other feature-wise, save for one important feature, their clock speed. The Athlon XP 2000+ operates at 1.67GHz while the 1800+ operates at 1.53GHz. As we mentioned countless times before, Athlon XP processors (particularly the entry level kind) offer excellent performance in today's business applications and games while being very light on the wallet. For $57, the Athlon XP 2000+ is as close to a steal as you can get, and of course, will satisfy even the cheapest of cheap systems. Any old CPU cooler should do with an Athlon XP 2000+, even if you buy the retail version that comes with cooling. But if you're looking for something quieter than retail cooling, we suggest mounting a Panaflo L1A fan to reduce noise. You should also try experimenting with your BIOS' speed fan control or even a separate Windows program to reduce noise.

Also, it doesn't hurt to read up on AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December for detailed information on how your Athlon XP 2000+ might perform. Keep in mind that the 2000+ isn't listed in our benchmark charts there, but you can still get a good idea of the performance of the 2000+ by approximating based on how their siblings perform. Though this shootout was published some months ago, the results are still very accurate and applicable to today's programs.

The ASUS A7N8X-X and its older derivatives have been a favorite among the editors here at AnandTech for quite some time, and continue to be a favorite to this day. We have written extensively on ASUS' nForce2 motherboards in the past, namely about their exceptional reliability, feature sets, and excellent price points. The performance that the nForce2 400 chipset brings to the ASUS A7N8X-X is an especially nice bonus considering the price tag, as this is basically the same chipset that you'll find in high end Socket A motherboards minus the dual channel DDR memory support, which is totally unnecessary for entry level user's needs. We've had lots of personal experience with this particular ASUS model, and simply put, we love this motherboard to death. Due to the type of chipset used with this motherboard, you will be able to upgrade to the best Athlon XP processors in the future, namely the 400MHz FSB kind.

All in all, we can't think of much that will go wrong with this motherboard, especially considering how mature BIOS support is at this stage in its long life. Some users who have experience with ASUS' older nForce1 motherboards will certainly adore the A7N8X-X.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:

If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.

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  • thebluesgnr - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    The recommended Seagate ST380013AS is a SATA drive, as the last letter in its name implies. It should be noted that there's no ATA-100 8MB buffer 80GB drive in Seagate's newest line, the 7200.7.

    I personally disagree with the motherboard. You can find nForce2 Ultra 400 from reputable makers and with much better power regulation for the CPU for less than the A7N8X-X.


    the 9200 with a 128-bit memory interface is about 30-40% faster than the 9200SE with a 64-bit memory.


    not everyone is a gamer. Having said that, you could upgrade this system to 2x256MB (preferably on a KT880 or nForce2 Ultra 400 board) and a Radeon 9550 128-bits ($70 on newegg) and it would play pretty much every game out there. Maybe not with high resolutions or filters, but people who care about those things can upgrade gradually.
  • Cocophone - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Ok here is a budget system that I just bought.

    MB Shuttle AN35N Ultra $56.00
    RAM Corsair Value 512 MB $77.00
    VGA Sapphire Radeon 9200 128MB $64.50
    CPU Barton 2500 $87.00

    Total $284.50 from Newegg

    I already have a case, hard drives, and monitor.
    But I think with a little creative searching on the hot deal websites you could spend about $200 for those items.

    I've been reading the Entry level guides for a couple of months and decide I wanted something between Entry Level and Mid-Range.
  • skiboysteve - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Illissius you seem to have simply had a bad experience with your passive cooled card, I use a 9600 nonpro in my shuttle box and it is passive cooled, no problems. My brother also uses a pasive cooled card with no problems.

    Cosmotic, a integrated solution as been talked about in many buyers guides but they are simply not as good as you think. The performance is very very poor, worse than the add in card mentioned here. They also lack features like DX8 or DX9 (depending on which, but you are refering to the DX7 nforce2 IGP) Also, they have problems with acceptable 2d image quality at higher resolutions like 1280x1024.

    Link for performance comparisons:

    I know toms sucks but the R9200 shows a 40% or so performance advantage over the IGP, not to mention DX8.1 and higher 2d image quality.
  • skiboysteve - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    The NF7-S rev2 is NOT the AN7 like you say here:

    "the ABIT NF7-S Rev.2 (also known as the ABIT AN7) "

    The AN7 is a more feature rich version which also includes "uGuru" tech.
  • Illissius - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Here's a factor for the video card I haven't seen being considered: I would not ever again want a card with passive cooling. I had a 9200SE with such, and it routinely overheated, usually during games but sometimes just in windows, and not only on hot days. The config came without a case fan, and adding one helped matters a bit, but it merely caused it to overheat less often - not stop doing it.
    Seeing as the primary goal for the budget system is stability, I think this should be taken into serious consideration, even if it runs a bit counter to the quietness thing - that's entirely secondary in comparison.
  • cosmotic - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Ok, seriously, why arent you guys recomending at least dual channel? Its going to increase performance without increasing price! GOD! And again, integrated nVidia Video cards with nForce2 is cheaper and better than these shitty add-in cards. This is so close the the last price guide for budget, yet it still has the same problems that I pointed out last time. You can make a budget system for 400 bucks with monitor shipped... with the same performance as this... Why arent you recomending it?
  • john1022 - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Re: The CaseEdge TS1 case.

    pcclub shows this at 39.99, plus shipping to my zipcode of @5.00 for a total of 64.99.

    NewEgg is offering the SLK3700AMB with 350 watt power supply for $66.00 delivered.

    Considering the relative quality, especially the power supply, this seems to be a much better deal to me.
  • AtaStrumf - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Where's the feakin' Sempron OC article we were promised ASAP almost 2 weeks ago. Damn it, I realy need to know how the 3100+ overclocks.

    Damn that Doom 3 week! GRRRRRR!
  • kherman - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    IMHO: Even a value computer these days should be able to play Doom 3. Why not a higher end video card?
  • GhandiInstinct - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    In my opinion, better to save up for a system that can actually run good games than spend $542 on this system.

    I think buying systems that are near high-end today, so that you are good for some months to come, makes more sense than buying a system that is out of date performance wise.

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