Today, we release our third Buyer's Guide in the last 3 weeks. Again, for those new to our Buyer's Guides, you can look forward to them every week, and after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. The basic format of these guides are as follows:

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.

Cutting Edge Computing

Before we go into a little detail about what you need to know about building a cutting edge system, we need to first reiterate what you should remember about budget and mid-range systems.
  1. Budget systems should be constructed mainly with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration.
  2. Mid-range systems place reliability as a number one priority, but performance and price are in a sort of not-so-distant tie for second place here.
For a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on what you should prioritize with budget and mid-range systems, take a look at our Budget and Mid Range Guides from the last two weeks here and here.

Anyway, when building a cutting edge system, performance is usually going to be your most important consideration. That is, when building a cutting edge system, you want to make sure you're picking the hardware that performs the best for the programs you use the most. While you could say that reliability is the second most important consideration when building a cutting edge system, it would probably be more appropriate to say that reliability is #1a priority. Understandably, price is a distant third consideration. This should be pretty self explanatory, as anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system needs to realize that parts aren't going to be cheap, obviously. This guide by no means disregards price altogether, as we aren't going to be building a $10,000 system here. What we are building is a system that will cost under $5,000, but with the final price much closer to $1,000 than $5,000.

With that information in mind, read on to find out our picks for best cutting edge components this week...

CPU picks...
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  • NordicNINE - Saturday, May 1, 2004 - link

    Don't aperture grill monitors have lower quality text? I'm looking at a 21"/22" monitor also right now and almost everything I read states that aperture grill monitors may have better graphics and brighter colors, they have lower text quality.
    Since the 1100DF is a high end shadowmask monitor, wouldn't it have better text?
    How is the color brightness compared to the Phillips and the 1200NF?
  • pieman7 - Monday, March 15, 2004 - link

    Thanks a bunch for your ealier response. Still regarding the Philips 202P45: You mentioned it's 2048 x 1536 max resolution. Online vendors I've seen selling this CRT also list this as its max. However, at the Philip's web site ( it lists the max resolution as 1920 x 1440. Who's right? Have you or anyone else been able to actually get it to display at this resolution?
  • demonbug - Monday, March 8, 2004 - link

    Speakers/Sound card:

    First of all, why not go with an Audigy2 Platinum, since this is a cutting-edge system? It costs more, but gives you so many cool input options that it seems like it would be a great idea - you seem to have put together a great cutting-edge gaming system, but it might be nice to give it a little more versatility.

    As for speakers, as several others have done, I would suggest Klipsch Promedias. I've only got the 2.1 system (I've had it for years), and it kicks the ass of every other speaker system I've heard (though I must admit I haven't heard either of the two you recommend outside of a store). Additionally, according to published specs by both companies, the Klipsch speakers have significantly better frequency response than the Logitech speakers, and much better THD than the Creative Labs speakers (10%???? Thats the worst number I have ever seen).
    If price is the reason you recommended the ones you did, fine, just say so. From personal listening experience, the Klipsch speakers offer incredible sound quality (for computer/multimedia speakers - still don't compare to a stereo), and while I haven't heard the systems you recommend, the specs suggest that the Klipsch speakers are quite a bit better.
  • Evan Lieb - Saturday, March 6, 2004 - link


    I've only used the 1200NF and PF2141SB, not the P225FB. The 202P45 isn't quite as good as those, but that's more of a personal preference. Gaming is just as good and 2D text clarity MAY be worse with the Phillips. Overall, very little difference and certainly not worth $100. At least, that's IMO. Every monitor, even monitors that are of the exact same brand and model, can be significantly different in performance.
  • pieman7 - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    I seem to be one of many who is in the market for a higher end monitor and your high praises for the Philips 202P45 got my attention. This is the first time I've seen any reviews for this CRT. It meets my price range, but am wondering how it compares to other 22in CRTs I've looked at:
    Samsung 1200NF
    Viewsonic P225FB
    NEC FP2141SB
    These CRTs are at about $100 or so more expensive, but in your opinion does the 202P45 still hold its own as far as picture quality, text clarity, and minimal geometric distortion? If so, then the 202P45 would seem to be a no-brainer choice.

    Your thoughts very much appreciated.
  • Brickster - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    Posted by Fink:
    "I would agree that it would likely be best to wait for 939 and an FX chip in Dual-Channel unbuffered configuration if you want the best and you're willing to wait 2 or 3 months for the hardware to appear. For now, FX51 is still the top performer. "

    I agree. I have two top end games coming out this month that I have been waiting a long time for. However, upgradeability with the upcoming 939 is going to be the way to go for me, so looks like I am going to have to wait longer for my upgrade -- It's definitely worth the wait.
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    While I do agree with Evan that the 3400+ is the best upeer value in any system you can buy (the 3200+ is the best value cpu - period), I believe Cutting Edge means the best you can buy. Since you can build the best performing machine I have ever tested for only $486 more, then Wes' Pick for CUTTING EDGE SYSTEM:

    Athlon 64 FX51 $745 (vs. $418 for 3400+) +$331
    Asus SK8V $209 (vs. $139) +$70
    1GB OCZ PC3500 ECC Registered (2X512MB)$300 (vs. $215 for 1GB unbuffered) +86

    The FX51 with Dual-Channel ECC memory is STILL the fastest system you can buy, and the Asus SK8V is the best-performing motherboard I have ever tested. This FX51, Dual-Channel ECC system is not a lot faster than the 3400+, but for only $486 more (Total $2701) you can have the ABSOLUTE BEST instead of almost there. It is also Dual-Channel, and all of AMD's A64 performance systems will soon be DC with the move to Socket 939.

    Since Socket 754 will be gone soon, I would also weigh the fact that Socket 940 has more longevity than the 3400+ system and will likely be around a while longer and STILL be a top performer with either FX or Opteron.

    I would agree that it would likely be best to wait for 939 and an FX chip in Dual-Channel unbuffered configuration if you want the best and you're willing to wait 2 or 3 months for the hardware to appear. For now, FX51 is still the top performer.
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    While I understand Evan's selections, I disagree with some of them, based on my reviews published at AnandTech, and testing that has not yet appeared in reviews.

    1 - My pick for top Athlon 64 motherboard would be the MSI K8T Neo, with the AOpen AK86-L as an extremely close runner-up at a lower price. Both are exceptionally stable and overclock well, with the AOpen a better overclocker. The Asus K8V is a decent A64 motherboard, but it is not a good overclocker and is not particularly stable in my experience.

    2 - The Asus P4C800-E is the ONLY motherboard recommended by both Corsair and OCZ for DDR550. It is the best performing, highest overclocking, and most stable P4 motherboard I have tested and would be my recommendation. The runner-up would be the DFI 875B LANParty, which is the second best overclocking board I have tested and is also exceptionally stable and performs very well in Revision 2 clothes. I would also give high marks to the SiS-chipset Asus P4S800D-E. All three of these selections also have PROVEN complete compatibility with Northwood, Prescott, and Extreme Edition.

  • VIAN - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    Sorry for posting a question already answered with the HDD issue.
  • VIAN - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    The Western Digital Raptor 36.7GB 10,000RPM SATA? Isn't that supposed to be the loser with a false promise. The great performance that it hyped up was only shown up with the 74GB version. I think that the 74GB version would be a way better buy.

    No second Optical Storage? What if you want to burn CD to CD or DVD to DVD?

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