Today, we continue with our Buyer's Guide series of AnandTech Guides. 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.


While entry level (budget) systems should mainly be constructed with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration, mid-range systems have a slightly different order of priority. Reliability is still #1 priority, but performance and price are in a sort of a tie when building that mid-range system. Performance isn't of the utmost importance in this type of system, but it's also not ignored nearly as much as a plain, old entry level system is. Similarly, price isn't of utmost importance either, but buyers building a mid-range system must be mindful of the price of components nonetheless. Performance and price don't lag too far behind reliability for mid-range systems, in other words.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations


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  • qquizz - Friday, June 25, 2004 - link

    I would go with the Barton 2500+ if your an overclocker. Overclocks better/same as 2800+ according to database.
    $75 OEM
  • yankee428 - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    1. I have some friends who comment that they used AMD over Intel recently and needed to go out and get fancy cooling systems because AMD runs hot. This cost them about $30 and basically blew the saving that motivated them to choose AMD in the first place.

    2. Often you quote a price on proc's in your guide, but that price is usually for OEM chip only. Does not include the cooling system.
  • slurmsmackenzie - Tuesday, June 8, 2004 - link


    i read a review in here that put the asus sis655tx as equal or better that most of it's 865 875 counterparts. including the p4p800. while being 15% cheaper. i know the price is higher, but the oc'ing capability on the 2.8 is the hands down favorite for me. i'm a mutitasking encoding junkie! divx rocks!
  • D9r - Saturday, May 29, 2004 - link

    You recommend the ABIT "AN7" nForce2 Ultra 400 motherboard ($96).

    How does that compare with the ECS "KT600-A" (VIA KT600 + VT8237 chipset) ($45)? Both seem to have the same or similar features.
  • jamessmiddleton - Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - link

    The one thing that this review seems to ignore regarding the Athlon64 2800 vs. the AthlonXP 2800 is that you will be able to upgrade to a higher clocked Athlon64 in the future while the XP has no upgrade path that does not require a new mobo. This combined with the 64bitness ensure that the Athlon64 rig will have a significantly longer usable lifespan than the XP. Well worth the $80 for a midrange system, in my opinion. I think that the low end Athlon64 should be the midrange proc of choice for some time to come. Reply
  • gherald - Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - link

    Well #19 that depends on what you're doing with your system... Intel is clearly better at multimedia encoding and getting insane Quake 3 Arena fps :) Reply
  • MAME - Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - link

    no point comparing intel to amd, amd is the clear winner in price and performance Reply
  • Tostada - Monday, May 24, 2004 - link

    The summary at the end says "Western Digital 800BB (40GB) $68" ... I'm sure this is a typo, seeing as the WD800JB 80GB is $68 at NewEgg.

    I do think it is quite odd that WD drives are always recommended, though. Samsung/Hitachi drives are both quieter and cooler, and Hitachi SATA drives are much faster. Do WD drives even use FD bearings? WD is really behind the times, and I really don't like the way they refuse to tell you the transfer rate and platter count of drives. Sure, the drives they send the review sites have 80GB platters, but when you buy one you might get a drive with 40GB platters, because it's the same model number.

    If you're already getting a motherboard with SATA on it, you should be getting a SATA hard drive. The 80GB SATA Hitachi Deskstar 7K250 with 8MB cache and 3-year warranty is $73.25 at NewEgg, and it's extremely fast. It matches the 36GB Raptor in most benchmarks, and is much faster than the WD800JB.

    High-End DriveMark 2002:
    Raptor 740GD: 585 IO/sec
    Raptor 360GD: 467 IO/sec
    Hitachi 7K250: 442 IO/sec
    WD800JB: 375 IO/sec

    StorageReview Gaming DriveMark 2002:
    Raptor 740GD: 749 IO/sec
    Raptor 360GD: 588 IO/sec
    Hitachi 7K250: 588 IO/sec
    WD800JB: 477 IO/sec

    WB99 Max Read Transfer Rate:
    Raptor 740GD: 71.8 MB/sec
    Raptor 360GD: 57.4 MB/sec
    Hitachi 7K250: 60.4 MB/sec
    WD800JB: 49.3 MB/sec

    Idle Noise:
    Raptor 740GD: 42.3 dB/A
    Raptor 360GD: 43.1 dB/A
    Hitachi 7K250: 41.5 dB/A
    WD800JB: 45.0 dB/A

    So, the Hitachi SATA drive is quieter, 25% faster than the WD800JB and costs $5 more. They both have a 3-year warranty.

    I've used plenty WD drives, and I can't criticise anybody too much as long as they're smart enough to get something with a 3-year warranty, but in this situation it's ridiculous to suggest the WD drive.

    The only other choice is the Raptor 74GB, which is $200.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, May 21, 2004 - link

    The only reason I would consider an Athlon 64 2800+ would be if it overclocks well. Relative performance against a 2.8C P4 isn't as nice as comparing a 3000+ to a 3.0C P4 or a 3200+ to a 3.0C. And we all know that a 2.8C can overclock like Big Ben on crack.

    I know this isn't the overclocking system, but with 2500+ Mobile chips costing ~$30 less than the 2800+ and pretty much guaranteed to at least run as fast as the 2800+ with even low end heatsinks, I'm not sure I would stick with Athlon XP on a mid-range non-overclocked system. Either upgrade to a 2.8C P4 or go with the Athlon 64 3000+.

    Of course, last time I ran one of my PCs at stock CPU speeds was... hmmm.... 1996, I guess. Pentium 120. *sigh* Those were the days.....
  • crimson117 - Friday, May 21, 2004 - link

    On the main processor page, you say that while the Athlon 64 2800 is nice, at it's too expensive compared to the price/performance of the Barton 2800.

    Recommended mobo/cpu:
    Barton 2800 ($120) + AN7 ($96): $216

    and the alternative mobo/cpu is:
    P4 2.8C ($179) + ASUS P4P800 Deluxe ($119) = $298 ($83 more than barton)

    But you could get a A64 2800 with lan/audio mobo for about the same money as the pentium alternative!

    Shuttle nForce3 150 AN50R ($125 shipped at ZipZoomFly) + A64 2800 Retail ($184 shipped at ZipZoomFly): $309 ($94 more than barton)

    So for $11 more than your P4 alternative, you have 64-bit capability. I think anyone building a midrange system would appreciate getting next generation technology for $11 more, and it would be a more meaningful "alternative" than a P4 since not only would you get more speed, you'd get an entire new class of capabilities.

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