Take a moment to browse around just about any Internet forum that deals with computing technology and you will almost certainly find numerous people asking for advice on what parts to buy, what sort of system to build, how much money to spend, etc. It has been several months since we last published any Buyers' Guides, so with this update we aim to cover several of the most popular market segments. We will take a look at both entry level and midrange offerings, with some comments specifically on gaming and overclocking.

It shouldn't be surprising that in the past few months we've seen quite a few price changes, and particularly in the realm of CPUs the battle being waged between AMD and Intel has resulted in rapid price cuts. We're not done yet either, as we expect to see further price drops in the coming weeks and months, followed of course by the launch of various new processors from both companies. This intense competition may not be the best thing in the world for the bottom line of the participants, but for the time being the consumer is reaping the benefits. Let's just hope all of the parties involved remain with us for a long time to come.

Some of the other areas have also seen quite a few new product launches, specifically motherboards and graphics cards. In the graphics department, NVIDIA just launched GeForce their 8500 and 8600 GPUs. We had hoped to see some impressive performance numbers out of these parts, something to carry on the legacy of the GeForce 6600 GT. While the cards offer some new features and certainly aren't terrible, the price/performance for the most part simply maintains the current status quo. DirectX 10 parts are now available at price points starting at $100, and midrange performance parts fall just under the $200 price point. Depending on the intended use, the new products may or may not fit your needs. If you're not in any hurry to upgrade, however, AMD will be launching their R600 series graphics parts within the next month or so, and waiting to see how those actually perform and how much they cost might not be a bad idea.

The past few months have also seen the launch of Microsoft's latest magnum opus: Windows Vista. While we'd love to give the new operating system a full recommendation, the fact of the matter is that driver availability/stability/compatibility remains something of a sticking point. We're still definitely at the stage where Vista is more for early adopters than for everyone, and the majority of us at AnandTech continue to run Windows XP as our primary operating system. Given that Windows Vista has been touted as a better platform for gaming, it's ironic that gaming performance/compatibility is currently one of the major sticking points. Once we start to see games that actually launch with DirectX 10 support, we expect the driver situation to finally mature to the point where most people will prefer Windows Vista. At present, individuals are going to be forced to decide between staying with a tried and true platform or potentially dealing with some quirks of the shiny new operating system in exchange for the new features.

As usual, we will be providing several different system configurations. However, it is nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive look at all of the different components currently available and worth consideration in even a small market segment. We will be listing our primary recommendations, but depending on individual needs and availability there are numerous other options that we won't be able to cover. If you have questions, feel free to ask - either in the comments section or in our forums. We will do our best to provide advice. With that said, we'll start with our entry level AMD configuration.

Entry Level AMD
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  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    I'd take the features of the 690G over the older nForce 61x0 boards... but then I like that HDMI connection. If you're willing to spend a bit more money, getting the Biostar is the way I'd go. Or spend even more money and just get an entry level GPU, but that would add at least $100 if you want something that can run most games at moderate detail settings. NVIDIA is supposed to be working on an updated IGP, so I'm interested to see what they come out with. If they actually put 8 pixel pipes in an IGP, I'd be ecstatic.

    As for abit, your abit fetish is well known. ;) I wouldn't get the entry level ASUS for overclocking, but I've got their 939 equivalent (6100 chipset) and it's been running fine for a year or so... even with a 20% overclock on a 3800+. Sometimes I need to boot twice because the first POST will fail, but if it boots it's rock solid. Anyway, ASRock is quirky in my opinion, but if you're willing to go with basic parts and not overclock they're usually fine as well. Just stay away from the VIA chipsets.
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    Forgot to mention: has proven to work for me for over 10 years.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    I really liked abit back in the socket 370 era (and the slot 1 timeframe as well). Their Pentium 4 boards didn't do as much for me, and only recently have they started to recover in my opinion. I haven't tried the latest boards, but Gary's experiences with the initial release BIOS on several has been less than stellar. Like most companies, they have hit and miss products these days.

    My old Abit IT5H with a Pentium MMX 200 at 250 MHz was a great system back in the day. I had that system running for at least 5 years - first for me and then for my brother. BE6 and BE6-II were also decent boards, but I had both models fail from leaky capacitors. Abit was good enough to replace the boards (even though one was three years old), but I think the caps issue seriously hurt them for a while. They must have lost a ton of money replacing boards.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    Oh, by the way, we recently sold a system, used, to a customer, that had a BE6 board in it, still works great. We also have ~10 other ABIT boards, all lying about, out of service, but still functional. Then again, we also have some Tyan, and Intel boards(dual slot workstation/server boards), that are fairly old lying about also . . .
  • yyrkoon - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    RIGHT_NOW, we have 5 systems, all using ABIT boards, all working great. These include an AS8, an AW8-MAX. 2x NF-M2 nViews,and an NF7-S2G. Two of these I own personally.

    The NF7-S2G had to be replaced, it died a premature death, from what I can tell, it was becasue I was using a very old compaq keyboard ( I still love this keyboard ), that kept comming out of the PS2 port, and eventually, the board died because of it. The AS8 is owned by my business partner, he bought it becasue the ASUS board he bought was dead out of the box (that made 4 in a row for us, over the course of a year, so we stopped using them period). Anyhow, the AS8 exibited dailey lockups, and crashed, we couldnt figure out what was happening for some time. Turned out, it was not the board that was at fault, but the ATI 9600 Pro card, drawing too much power off of the AGP port (found the fix on ABITs forums, the system has been flawless since). The other systems run next to perfect, if not perfect, all are very stable.

    I have owned boards made from just about any manufactuer you can think of, and have had some by companies that are no longer in business, and the reason why I keep going back to ABIT, is because I get tired of the hassles other board OEMs make you go through. However, it is not like ABIT boards are perfect, but I have yet to run into an ABIT board, that was really not at fault, or if it was at fault, the issue was easily correctable. Jarred probably knows about my most recent exploit outside of the ABIT realm, which invloved an ASROCK board, which to say, this ABIT NF-M2 nView replaced . . . and I am very happy I did replace it.

    I have also owned one of the 'leaky capacitor' ABIT boards, and since my business partner here has been an EE for nearly 30 years, he replaced the caps for me, no problem, although, the board has become otherwise unstable, and I am not sure why(does not really mattter, it was a socket A board, that I hacked the BIOS on to run the next generation of socket A 2000+ XP processor on anyhow, but the board ran fine for 5 years). That being said, this was not JUST ABIT this happened to alone, it happened to many OEMs that used japanese caps around this time, and I bet the company responcable, is no longer in business.

    I have good will towards many motherboard OEMs, MSI, Gigabyte, Tyan just to name a few, and if ABIT were to go out of business right now, I am not sure which brand I would be using next, but it would probably be one of those, but I have YET to run into the random problems people claim they have with the random ABIT board, and I usually chalk it up to inexperienced users, trying to build a system. Although, I suppose there could be faulty boards, in a good line . . . My biggest latest problem with ABIT: my NF-M2 nView WILL_NOT boot with a USB HDD powered on , and attached. Well sometimes it will, but it will never make it into windows, until I power down the USB device. Not sure what the problem is, and I suppose it could be fixable to changing a BIOS setting (maybe setting USB devices compatable with thge USB 1.1 standard i nthe BIOS?), but this issue is really, really a minuscule issue in my opinion.

    Maybe my luck with ABIT has just been good ? If that is the case, something is going on, becasue like I have said before, I have been using almost exclusively ABIT boards (yes, there are a few exceptions) for the last 10-11 years. If I am a 'fanboy', that would be the reason why.
  • Zirconium - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    I still remember the BP6 days when Abit was the only one with 1 MHz clock speed adjustments. I still remember how (nerd) pimp I thought I was, running dual 300 MHz celerons OC'd to 450 MHz.
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link


    As for abit, your abit fetish is well known. ;

    Yeah, I not unlike other people stick with things that have proven to work for me. It is pretty much that simple.
  • Sunrise089 - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Thanks for updating the guide Jarred. I think you got the price points just right this time, even if you named them wrong. It really isn't an AMD Gaming vs an Intel Overclocking, it's just the smartest decisions for each at a $1500 price point. Too often in the past the guide hasn't stuck to a set price, instead just calling it "midrange", and therefore AMD's $1300 midrange configuration would get outclassed by Intel's $1600 configuration. Keeping the prices closer helps us see that while we'd all rather have Core 2 Duo in our machines, it does necessatate trade-offs to keep the price competitive.

    Now if you can, how 'bout making these come out a bit more often?
  • tacoburrito - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Considering that the Penryn and Barcelona are coming out later this year, which will mean lower prices for the current generation of procs, is now really a good time to buy and build based on current procs?
  • KeypoX - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    i agree it isnt a good time ... we are in the middle of another transition and we should wait till it levels out. I think the marketing job intel is doing with these price cuts is awesome though. They are about to make a boat load of money.

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