Today, we release our ninth Buyer's Guide in the past 9 weeks. You can look forward to Buyer's Guides in the middle of every week, and then, after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Today, we are continuing the refresh of our Buyer's Guides to see what has changed, if anything, in the past 4 weeks. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guides yet, here's the basic format of them to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Entry Level System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: High End System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we offer our recommendation for a piece of hardware as well as our alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative 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). Alternative picks tell you just that - your alternatives, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be. But at the same time, we can still 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 We list pertinent parts of our RealTime pricing engine at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors all by yourself.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel that 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.

Entry Level

The main concern for our Entry Level (or "Budget"") systems is pricing, with reliability as a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building an entry level system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say that performance is ignored because that is just not the case. We also believe that you're more than likely going to be keeping this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years), so some of our picks may be geared toward that type of mentality. Overall, we like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability, performance, and longevity, in that order, for today's Entry Level Buyer's Guide.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations


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  • TrogdorJW - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    Here's something that was missed, I think. When talking about the RAM, they mention the CAS 3.0 vs. CAS 2.5 or whatever. However, they're using a 133 MHz bus (PC2100 RAM).

    Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you have PC3200 RAM with 3-3-3-8 timings, it should run perfectly well at PC2100 speed with 2-2-2-6 or possibly even 2-2-2-5 timings. Why? Well, 3200 is 52.4% more than 2100, and 3 is only 50% more than 2. Right?

    Anyway, back in the good old SDRAM days, I remember picking up some CAS3 "PC150" RAM and running it at CAS2 since I had a 100 MHz bus speed at the time. Funny thing was that PC150 was cheaper than PC100 with CAS2. Seems like that's happening in the DDR market now.
  • newuser12 - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    seems like the 512 mg of ram is a pretty universal idea....

    And I agree with whoever is saying that celerons suck ass. "value" and "celeron"? LOL!
  • Etacovda - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    Not a bad choice - ive made similar systems in the past. For a value system, why not get a 40gig WD SE drive... without filling the system up with wares, im sure that would be enough for most uses ;) i doubt they will be buying 10 new games to put on it as that comes to about the same price as the system.

    Great choice on the mobo, there is only 2 gripes i have with that board - the caps are very close to the socket for aftermarket cooler installs, and for some reason the one i had hated mbm5.

    512 of ram is a good idea - theres a 'value' system, then there is just building the cheapest system you can build... there is a difference :p

  • boomerang - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    While I have admired the styling and pricing of the manufacturers of the cases you are recommending for some time, I would never purchase one. The reason being because of the severe air flow restrictions imposed on the rear case fans.

    I can't imagine how any air could even begin to go through those little tiny holes.

    With quiet systems becoming very much desirable these days, I would like to see some cases that could meet those expectations in your guides.

    The quietest fan becomes noisy when the air has no place to go.

  • ZobarStyl - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    If you are building a value-level rig and a customer "has to have Intel" then you have one seriously dumb customer. I mean, fanboys and the perennial fight aside, the value market has always belonged to AMD and a Celeron is a horrible processor to sell anyone when a comparable speed Athlon XP is actually cheaper. And don't say the PR ratings are off when the XP's have more L1 cache than all of the Celeron's L1 and L2 any review on any decent tech website and you will never see a Celeron in any section but the "stay away from these processors" part. Point is I could never sell a Celeron-based system to a customer I would feel like I was cheating him. Reply
  • Booty - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    #10 - Celerons are awful CPUs. I wouldn't put one in a system if *Intel* payed *me*... well, maybe then, but anyway... ;)

    512 MB ram should be the minimum put into ANY system these days, period. I don't agree about using a mATX nForce board, just because they haven't seemed very stable to me - maybe I just haven't found the right memory to use with one, but it's not like I used cheap memory. I think in most cases that onboard video causes more problems than it's worth - if they had dedicated video memory built onto the mobo, that'd be one thing, but I'd rather not have it using up system memory.

    I'd also agree that going with one of the Antec cases (SLK1600 or 3700) or something similar would definately be worth it. You're better spending a little more and having a system that's stable and problem-free than going too cheap and running into problems. But hey, the "techs" out there building these cheap systems are keeping me in business, since I'm always having to replace cheap parts with quality ones when they die a year later.
  • artifex - Sunday, April 18, 2004 - link

    Are SFF designs getting close enough in price for consideration in your monthly budget/mid-range system reviews? Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Saturday, April 17, 2004 - link

    I would replace the motherboard with the MSI K7N2 Delta-L or ABIT NF7 2.0. They cost the same as the ASUS and have better quality (nForce2 Ultra 400 and better power solutions). Specially the ABIT has better quality.

    Dual channel doesn't make much difference but it's likely this system will be upgraded in the future with another stick of RAM so getting the nForce2 Ultra 400 for no extra money at all is a no-brainer imho.

    You may also consider a SiS 748 based board. You can get the ASRock K7S8XE for only $51 shipped ( or the Gigabyte for only $54. But the ASRock is on-pair with the "-X" series boards from ASUS as far as components quality goes.
  • yanon - Saturday, April 17, 2004 - link

    BTW, most mini-ATX NForce2 400 IGP board do come with a AGP port. So, the user always have the option to a better graphic card. Reply
  • yanon - Saturday, April 17, 2004 - link

    To be a true entry-level machine, it should have an integrated motherboard. Any one of those mini-ATX NForce2 400 IGP board with GF4MX video and Cmedia 6 channel sound should be fine. Granted that this type of motherboard will only have a 3 pci slots, but an entry level does not need all those expension slots because people who will buy this type of machine just want to surf the web, listen to mp3, some word processing, basic digital photo editing, and occassional gaming (mostly online java-based games). My cousin can play MOHAA on such a machine. 512 Mbytes of ram is a must and NEC 2500A 8X DVD+/-RW drive should also be part of this system since DVD burning is rising in popularity as the cost for a 50-pack Ritek 4.7G DVD-R is only $40 on Newegg now. Entry-level computer builder should consider using the $50 silver Enermax (including a 350watt powersupply) since it has that expensive aluminum look and 2 frontal USB jacks plus audio/mic jacks. Another advantage of using this case is that it has lots holes in the lower portion of the front panel. Moving the back fan to the front will provide ample cooling to all the components inside. All buyer should consider spend extra $20 to buy a retail cpu instead of an OEM cpu since retail comes with a heatsink-and-fan and 1 year warranty. Buying a cheap heatsink and fan unit for the oem CPU will cost you at least $10 more and without an 1 year warranty for the CPU.


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