Budget System


Recommendation: AMD Athlon XP 1800+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $49 shipped (add $10 for cooling)

These days, it's nearly impossible not to recommend an AMD Athlon XP processor for a budget system. The prices on low-end Athlon XP processors are just too good. Knowing this, we are of course going to recommend an Athlon XP processor for today's budget system, specifically the 1800+ version running at 1.53GHz. This processor is no performance slouch; budget users who surf the Internet, perform general office-related tasks, and those who play the occasional video game will experience very few (if any) slowdowns with an Athlon XP 1800+ processor. For more information on exactly how your 1800+ might perform, you can check out AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December. Of course, you can't forget your CPU cooler, and in this case, pretty much any AMD approved cooler will do. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A is just $10 shipped from several online vendors.

Runner-up: AMD Athlon XP 1900+ OEM (no heatsink)
Price: $55 shipped

The Athlon XP 1900+ (1.6GHz) runs just 66.67MHz faster than the recommended Athlon XP 1800+ (1.53GHz) for only $5 more. However, the 67MHz bump in core clock speed will likely end up being almost completely unnoticeable in any application that a budget user uses. However, if you have $6 or so to spare, the 1900+ will fit perfectly as your budget processor. The Cooler Master DP5-5G11A will work just fine with this processor as well.


Recommendation: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: $69 shipped

It's always tough to generalize which motherboard is right for users when so many different people have such a varying range of needs in a motherboard. But after some extensive research, we came to the conclusion that the A7N8X-X has the right combination of features, price, and reliability that budget users demand. It's hard to go wrong with a $69 price tag and the performance that comes with an NVIDIA nForce2 400 chipset. Of course, the reliability of ASUS motherboards is well known around the industry. No motherboard manufacturer is perfect, though, and even ASUS produces a lame duck now and then. However, after having tested at least 3 different versions of ASUS' nForce2 motherboards over the last 12+ months, not to mention the fact that this article is being written on a computer based on the ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard, we can confidently say that you aren't going to encounter many motherboard-related problems.

Runner-up: ABIT KV7 (KT600)
Price: $66 shipped

We took an in-depth look at the KV7 last September, where we basically concluded that it was a solid budget board with good features and average performance. Performance still hasn't changed much since then, though BIOS updates to the KV7 has increased performance slightly. In addition, the price of ABIT KV7 motherboards, and KT600 motherboards in general, has gone down significantly since then, nearly 20% in fact. These two developments, in addition to the fact that the KV7 was already an excellent budget board, convinced us that the ABIT KV7 was good enough to be named this week's runner-up in the motherboard category.

Index Budget System (continued)
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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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