CPU and Motherboard Alternatives

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Retail (heatsink and fan)
Motherboard: ABIT NF7-S Rev.2 (nForce2 Ultra 400)
Price: CPU - $86 shipped. Motherboard - $91 shipped

For an additional $29, you can purchase an Athlon XP 2500+, which runs at 1.83GHz on a 333MHz DDR FSB and comes with a 512K L2 cache, over the Athlon XP 2000+ that runs at 1.67GHz on a 266MHz DDR FSB and comes with just 256K L2 cache. So, in contrast to the Athlon XP 2000+, the 2500+ runs roughly 167MHz faster, comes with double the L2 cache, and has a FSB that is 67MHz faster. All this adds up to better performance that, depending on what applications are run, you may or may not notice. You will be receiving a better performing processor with the 2500+, but don't be surprised if the extra $29 doesn't net you a compellingly different experience compared to the 2000+. Gamers will probably benefit the most from the additions of clock speed, FSB and L2 cache increases with the 2500+, so keep that in mind.

There are other subtle differences between the Athlon XP 2000+ and the 2500+ that are worth noting here, like the 2500+'s higher Vcore (1.65V instead of 1.60V) and larger die size. The Athlon XP 2500+ is also quite an excellent overclocking CPU, and has been for months now, even though they are shipping multiplier locked these days. You may want to check out AMD's mobile version of the 2500+, details of which you can find here.

Also keep in mind that while Athlon 64 processors and motherboards have been widely available for many, many months now, they are still not priced cheaply enough to merit any type of recommendation in an entry level guide. They deserve plenty of recognition in a mid-range guide, however. Perhaps when enough Socket 939 processors permeate the market, the prices on Socket 754 Athlon 64 processors will fall around (and maybe below) the $100 mark, at which point, it would become appropriate to recommend them in an entry level guide. Also keep in mind that Sempron Socket A and Socket 754 processors are coming out in the near future; in fact, they're slowly trickling in now. We suggest that you read our take on Sempron here.

In a lot of ways, the ABIT NF7-S Rev.2 (also known as the ABIT AN7) is a beefier version of the ASUS A7N8X-X. This is primarily due to the NF7-S Rev.2's better feature set, which includes SPDIF, an MCP-T South Bridge for superior sound, and a dual channel DDR capable chipset in the nForce2 Ultra 400 (versus just the nForce2 400, non-Ultra, found on the A7N8X-X). Pushing SATA into the low end mainstream is very important for the development of that technology, too. Also, if you're at all interested in overclocking, the NF7-S Rev.2 is certainly the cream of the crop, along with perhaps the DFI NFII LAN Party series.

If you are still interested in what other motherboard alternatives are out there for entry level users, we suggest that you take a look at nForce2 Ultra 400 boards, which are shipping with features like native GbE, Firewall, and 4-drive RAID. These are the same features found on nForce3 250Gb motherboards. They are just starting to trickle into the market and they may just be in your price range.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the Intel 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.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations Memory and Video
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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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