Prices are always dropping on computer components and what was once Mid-Range or High-End will eventually become a budget part. The temptation to upgrade a component here and there is always strong, but we try to balance that with a goal of keeping the price close to $500. As usual, we’ll offer an upgraded version for a bit more money.

An important consideration for any computer system is the intended use. If it will be used primarily for office tasks, such amenities as speakers and graphics cards take a back seat to RAM and processor choice. Generally speaking, though, it’s better to build a well balanced system rather than one with a few high end parts complemented by a bunch of older components. Most of us have encountered a system at one time or another that appears to have reasonable specs only to find that it feels incredibly slow. A fast processor with inadequate RAM and a slow hard drive is a common problem with the OEM systems that we see offered for incredible prices. By the time you tweak such a system to improve performance, you often end up paying as much as the setups that we offer. That’s not to say that OEM systems are all bad, but as with all things, there are compromises made, and some may or may not be acceptable.

Of course, the battle between Intel and AMD rages on with no sign of letting up. AMD systems typically offer better performance and a slightly lower price, and many of the Intel configurations seem to be a case of paying extra for the “name brand” more than anything else. $500 isn’t going to get you a super computer by any stretch of the imagination, though, and for most budget buyers, the actual difference in performance between the various setups won’t be noticed. It’s interesting to look back at our Mid-Range setup from a year ago and compare it to the current market; it’s a little more than half the cost for about the same level of performance.

Now, let’s get to the recommendations.

AMD Recommendations


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  • bob661 - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    Do you remember the cost difference?
  • Zebo - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    "I once calculated the cost of running a 60W lightbulb 24/7 for a year and it was only about $37 - 526 kWHrs at 7 cents per kWHr. "
    Was this after your Dad told you to turn off the lights..he's not made of money? I did the same thing.:)

    BTW I calculated X2 4200+ is cheaper than 820D dispite costing $250 more up front using the same formula (although I pay 14 cents per kWHr).
  • Zebo - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    4/10 BTW which last time I checked was an "F".. as in in Fu**ed up. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    LOL @ suggesting Dell. They have a 4 reseller rating for a reason ya know. They suck. Add in the fact you must get rebates, must get a "hot deal" to relise any savings you're much better off BYO normally. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    Nice to see those back and very good job Jarred.

    Of course I have issue with 1G of ram for a "value"setup.. Any video card with a one. And all should have LCD these days... simply not that much more, $50, for both more view area in 17" and much much better quality than any POS low end CRT.
  • KayKay - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    Good Choice on the MSI Neo4-F Reply
  • Abecedaria - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    For your Intel setup, I would think that a 2.4C (either on eBay or retail) would perform better than any of the options you mentioned for considerably less money. And you'd get 800FSB. And you'd get HT. Granted, the legacy socket 478 and AGP are going to limitations long term, but if you were going to go for better performance, you'd want to upgrade your video card and MB anyhow.

  • bob661 - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    You were most likely CPU limited with that 6600GT in that system. A 9800 Pro wouldn't be.
  • bupkus - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    I tried a 6600GT in my old system-- a Barton OC'd to 2.2GHz --and it didn't perform as well as my nephew's 9800 Pro on a Barton w/ a 333 fsb and mem, so I returned it.
    This Venice seems to perform pretty good without any tweaks. I'm using cheap of-the-shelf PNY 2x512 PC2700 DDR at all default settings. 2T, etc.
  • SDA - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    >> I still feel like I keep repeating myself from Guide to Guide, but maybe you readers don't notice it as much? :)>>
    It's a good idea to repeat important points. You'll have no trouble remembering the recommendations you made in the last few guides, but what about readers that just look at the latest guide or forgot what earlier ones said once or twice on one page?

    wrt the PSU, these systems will probably eat as much power as a couple incandescent lightbulbs, but that doesn't mean a Fortron or something isn't worth the money for an upgrade. At the very least, a better PSU is pretty much guaranteed to last longer (better elcaps, fans, etc.). Remember, there are some components in rock-bottom generics that will die even if you only draw about ten or twenty watts from the things for their entire lifetimes.

    >>Anyway, I don't generally worry much about the mail-in rebate opportunities, as it's basically loaning a company your money at 0% interest for several months.>>
    heh.. that's a great way of putting it. Shame that most people won't get it (how many times have you seen someone brag about a large tax refund?).

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