This week, we are relaunching our Buyer's Guides due to popular demand, and honestly, we've been wanting to bring them back for a while. We've reworked our format a little bit and have added an overclocking guide for enthusiasts. Every week, you'll see a new Buyer's Guide, and after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Here's the basic format of our Buyer's Guide:

Week 1: Budget System
Week 2: Mid Range System
Week 3: Cutting Edge System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we pick our favorite piece of hardware as well as our runner-up piece of hardware. We've added runner-up hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware (especially for those willing to spend a little more than what we budget for a particular system). At the same time, we can be assertive enough with a first place recommendation so that new buyers aren't indecisive or confused about what to purchase. Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime Pricing Engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on In addition to our Buyer's Guides and RealTime pricing engine, we suggest that you peruse our Price Guides so that you are not only informed about the best hardware for your computing needs, but also where to find the best deals on that hardware.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

Budget Computing

Our Budget systems are mainly concerned about pricing, with reliability a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building a budget system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say performance is ignored because that is just not the case. We like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability and performance, in that order, for today's Budget Buyer's Guide.

Read on to find out more.
Budget System
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  • Zebo - Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - link

    Great guide evan.

    Couple changes I'd make

    1. Duron 1.8 Ghz will smoke the XP1800 for $40

    2. Shuttle An35N is a equivalent board and cheaper $60

    3. 2100 mem? Whatever..why are you buying a chipset 3200 capable then?

    There I recommend Buffalos CH-5 cas2.5 PC3200 for $44 each a bit more money but signifigantly better performing.

  • newuser12 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I know this is a bit late, but I felt it might be good to note....
    Fry's Electronics has a good deal on a motherboard+CPU almost every day (where I live, at least). I find it hard to beat about $70/$80 for an athlon 2200+ with an ECS motherboard and heatsink and fan, or a simliar deal. I know the ECS motherboards are rather bare, but this is after all a budget system. They even had/have a $40 deal for a 1.6 duron+motherboard.
  • barton2500 - Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - link

    For a real low budget system, swap with my recommendations here:

    1. Processor: Applebred Duron 1.4 GHz is cheaper and will overclock quite well if you want to. Save about $20.

    2. Motherboard: Asrock K7VMM2. Cheap $59 Cdn and has integrated video/sound/lan. Budget systems aren't mean for gaming. You can always add a video card to that too. A7N8X-X is about $105 Cdn, so the saving is $46 Cdn for the board, and save the video card.

    If you want to game, then go for the AthlonXP, but you can still use a cheaper board with a nicer card like a GF4 Ti 4200.
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    I'd second that one #28 Cygni. The duron's the way to go in a budget system. The 9000-9200 arent true Dx9 cards - rebadged 8500s, so you could settle for a Ti4200-4600, solid and compatible. Else a cut down 9600 eg GeXcube which is a true DX9 card.
  • KenRico - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Actually gusmahler hit it on the head the XP2500+ retail is now in sight of $80ish retail with fan.

    As far as "cheapest" you could load up a ECS K7VMMW with a AMD Athlon 80GB SAMSUNG HD 256MB and cheapied case FD and CD for under $240
  • gusmahler - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    A few comments:

    * This article doesn't copy Sharky. Sharky's budget was $1000.

    * The XP 2500 is only $40 more than the XP 1800. You can save $50 by going with XP Home instead of XP Pro. The other $10 can be used to upgrade to PC2700 RAM instead of PC2100 RAM. (Actually, I think the difference isn't even $10).

    * I don't think $40 pushes the budget into "mid-range". Even if you keep the same OS, a $40 change from $640 to $680 is tiny, not "mid-range".

    * $57 for a 40 GB hard drive is just stupid. 40 GB will be filled up within a week. Newegg lists the WD 80GB drive for $66 and the 120 GB drive for $88.50. I don't think anyone's budget will be blown by an extra $9.

    I think this guide was pretty lame. I suggested two changes that don't add any money to the system, yet the performance and usability will be markedly improved. Getting the cheapest part for the sake of being cheap is pretty silly when you can increase the performance with minimal additional expenditure.
  • txxxx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Why not pick a mainboard with soundstorm? A few $ more only. And where's the CPU cooler price / suggestion?

    As for speakers, wouldnt a budget user be better off with headphones at this price level? And 266 FSB memory, ? Surely DDR 333 is the same price?

    And finally doesnt the A7N8X-X use the nVidia ethernet controller and a Realtek PHY?

    Cant help but think this article was RUSHED out the door. Try harder next time, Evan.
  • SKiller - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link


    I think he was asking about how much CPU time the onboard sounds takes up compared to a dedicated card. While creative cards have problems, they're pretty well known for having low CPU utilization.
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    Don't you hate it when people double-post, and then post yet again either apologizing or claiming they didn't do it, the website must be crazy? As if we'd otherwise think they meant to double-post if they didn't post again saying they didn't mean to.... doesn't that just add to the original crime?

    BTW, I didn't double-click... the website must be crazy.
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - link

    to #37 (bhtooefr):

    Seems to me for a budget system, the AXP 2500+ is too expensive: about double the cost of the selected CPU's. A 2500+ would push the system solidly to the value-midrange, not budget. Then you'd also need PC-2700 RAM instead of the slightly cheaper PC-2100 stuff listed.

    I do agree that a Linux distro might have been mentioned, but keep in mind all of Anandtech's price guides are really about the hardware; they toss in an OS to avoid the inevitable "what about an OS?" question. Now of course they get nitpicked about the OS they toss in... I think AT should just say "The guide is about hardware... choose your own OS".

    Regarding the nVidia card as a runner up to the ATI... at the low budget level, nVidia has no runner up that makes any real sense. The 5200 cards just don't perform as well as the 9000/9100/9200 cards in DX8 apps, and the 5200's DX9 support is about useless since it lacks the horsepower to run DX9 code.

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