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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  • Gary Key - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    We debated this choice. We feel like the Biostar 690G board is an excellent choice and is probably our favorite 690G board although the Sapphire board has been impressive with the latest BIOS release. The debate originally was to spend a little less on the Asus board and get the 3800+ X2 instead of the 3600+ X2, in the end it was the Asus/3600+ and moving up to a nice 19" monitor to come in under $700.
  • OrSin - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Sorry but buying the slow C2D and then pairing it with $70 HSF to me is counter productive. Why spend almost 60% of the CPU+hsf combo on cooling. The intel stock cooler with a faster CPU will still OC fine and get to atleast the same speeds and the 4300. With more head room and lower voltage. Also their are several after market HSF that cost under $30 that work great. Sorry I dont see paring this monster HSF with the lowest CPU.
  • iluvdeal - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    I'm thinking the same thing, the escalating cost of some HSFs are muting the price/performance you are getting out of your CPU. You might as well spend that extra $70 on a higher CPU and just use the stock HSF.

    Maybe AnandTech can do an article involving much overclock you get for your money? For example, if you can achieve a 20% OC for "free" using the stock HSF, how does that overclock increase as the price of the HSF goes up?
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    60%? Try 34%. 70/(135+70)
  • MarxMarvelous - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    I agree - especially when you can get a Scythe Ninja for $40.">
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Different strokes for different folks....

    I like to get a top-quality HSF if I'm serious about overclocking, and I'd say there's a reasonable chance you *won't* get 3.6GHz out of the E4300 without it - about 50/50 depending on CPU. As for cost, an E6400 with Scythe Ninja as an example will end up costing a bit more, but to 3.6GHz you will also need a board and RAM that can run at 450 FSB/DDR2-900 without issues. More likely than not, you will end up spending more money on the RAM just to be safe, and in the end performance is about the same.

    Anyway, we have our separate review sections for a reason, and people still don't come to a single consensus on individual parts. When you have to then put together a complete build, every little decision can be debated. Going with a Tuniq 120 for $50 seems like a better idea than a Scythe Ninja if you don't want the Ultra 120. I just like the fact that you get to choose a fan that suits your needs with the Ultra 120 - either for quiet or for maximum OC or somewhere in between. The heatsink only runs about $50, but I figured another $10-$20 for the fan is typical.
  • OrSin - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Oh yeah still good article. It give people a very good picture of where things are.
  • mostlyprudent - Friday, April 20, 2007 - link

    Did I miss it, or is there no discussion of the Raidmax case in the article? Anyone know which brand PSU that case uses?
  • Zepper - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    The PSU in the Raidmax Apex - I can't read the "E" number under the RU seal so I could check it out on the site. IAC, it's a junk-bucket with less than half its watts available on its one +12 rail - not even designed for a modern system where the 12V rail is king. For some reason Jarred never acts as if the PSU is the cornerstone of a stable system. I'd be ashamed if I was Jarred.

    He got lucky on the fancer system as the PSU in the Athenatech is made by Topower. Not great by any stretch, but not a junk-bucket either.

  • Chunga29 - Sunday, April 22, 2007 - link

    It's a budget PC for God's sake! Look at the components and tell me with a straight face that even a low-end PSU is going to fail to provide enough power. If you can do that, then I have the name of a shrink that can help with your uhnealthy PSU obesession. IGP + no overclocking + 1 drive = about 110W power draw.

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