Recommendation: 1 X 256MB Crucial PC2100 (DDR266) module
Price: $35 shipped

Choosing the right type of memory for a budget system usually isn't too difficult nowadays. PC2100 speeds and CAS 2.5 latencies are common measurements of performance for memory modules, and are virtually the only two important performance-related factors when deciding to purchase memory, besides the actual size of your memory module (256MB is necessary for Windows XP). But if you can't spend a lot of money, performance should be the last thing on your mind when choosing memory. Price and reliability should be your only real considerations, in that order. For whatever reason, Newegg has stellar prices on Crucial memory modules, specifically the 256MB PC2100 kind that we are recommending here today. There are several other vendors in the U.S. selling 256MB Crucial PC2100 memory modules, but for more like $40 instead of $35, which is why we recommend buying from Newegg in this particular case. Though it should be noted that Nutrend and E-Wiz are selling 256MB Crucial PC2100 modules for under $40, they still cost more than Newegg's $35 shipped.

Anyway, with a $35 price tag, a reliable manufacturer in Crucial, and a lifetime warranty, there's simply no way you can go wrong with this memory.

Runner-up: 1 X 256MB Kingston PC2100 (DDR266) ValueRAM module
Price: $40 shipped

Newegg, Nutrend, and ZipZoomFly are three great vendors from which to buy Kingston memory. All three vendors are selling their 256MB Kingston PC2100 ValueRAM modules for roughly the same price, $40 shipped, give or take a dollar or two. In case you're curious, we're recommending PC2100 (DDR266) today because the Athlon XP 1800+ processor that we recommended runs at that exact same speed in terms of its FSB (Front Side Bus), 266.666MHz DDR to be exact. Running your FSB and main memory at the same speed is more often than not going to yield the best performance results, and is exactly why we recommend PC2100 instead of PC2700 or PC3200, not to mention that both of those memories are more expensive for zero performance gain anyway.


Recommendation: 64MB Sapphire Radeon 9200
Price: $58 shipped

The Radeon 9200 is the AGP8X version of the Radeon 9000. Be sure that you're purchasing a Radeon 9200 with a 128 bit memory interface and not the Radeon 9200 video cards that are floating around out there with a 64 bit memory interface (also known as the "9200SE"). Vendors may or may not make this information clear when advertising their 9200 video cards, as the 128 bit 9200 is significantly faster than the 64 bit 9200 in 3D gaming.

As far as the onboard video memory size is concerned, 64MB should be more than enough for the majority of video games out there, and certainly enough for budget users. Additionally, ATI's current series of Radeon video cards continue to maintain excellent 2D IQ standards, and this will be likely more important to buyers on a tight budget than gaming performance. So don't fear, the clarity and sharpness of your 2D text will be excellent with a ATI/Sapphire-made Radeon 9200 series video card.

Runner-up: 64MB Sapphire Radeon 9200SE
Price: $41 shipped

The only other possible budget card that we can recommend at this time would be ATI's Radeon 9200SE, which is exactly what we just recommended above, save for the fact that the SE has a 64 bit memory interface instead of a 128 bit memory interface. Again, the difference going from 64 bit to 128 bit memory interface is noticeable in terms of 3D performance improvement, depending on what games you play. But if you could care less about gaming, a 9200SE isn't a bad way to save $17.


Recommendation: Samsung SyncMaster 17" Flat-Tube (model 763MB)
Price: $146

Samsung's SyncMaster series of monitors are very popular for price conscious buyers. With a 0.20mm dot pitch, 1280x1024 max resolution, and 3-year manufacturer warranty, you're getting a good bang for your buck monitor. You can pick this monitor up at your local Best Buy if you don't feel like waiting several days for your monitor to arrive in the mail.

Runner-up: NEC Diamondtron 17" CRT (model FE771SB)
Price: $175

This is one of the lower end models of the famous Diamondtron series of monitors. Max resolution is just 1280x1024 and dot pitch is a mediocre 0.25mm. However, the clarity and viewable area (16") of this monitor are better than the Samsung SyncMaster 763MB, and at just $30 more. A nice little upgrade if you're willing to spend the extra dollars.

Budget System Budget System (continued)


View All Comments

  • 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. Reply
  • 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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