CPU and Motherboard Recommendations

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 2800+ 512K L2 1.8GHz retail (heatsink and fan included)
Motherboard: MSI K8N Neo Platinum (nForce3 250Gb)
Price: CPU - $186 shipped. Motherboard - $131 shipped

This week, we have finally switched from recommending Athlon XP processors to Athlon 64 processors. The two biggest reasons for this change are: 1) prices on "low-end" Athlon 64 processors have come down noticeably over the last few months, and 2) motherboards to support Socket 754 Athlon 64 technology that were worth buying (namely VIA K8T800 Pro and nForce3 250Gb chipsets) have finally become available from major motherboard makers in acceptable quantities. AMD's Athlon 64 2800+ running at 1.8GHz and coming with a 512K L2 cache is a very fast mid-range processor that has a distinct advantage over Intel due to its ability to run 64-bit operating systems and 64-bit applications if the need were to ever arise. Microsoft has officially and unofficially supported AMD's move to 64-bit desktop computing for years now, and even Intel themselves said they would make their future Prescott processors compatible with AMD's 64-bit technology (dubbed x86-64). So overall, as a mid-range processor, you simply cannot beat the value of an Athlon 64 2800+.

This choice was more difficult to make. Epox does offer a similarly great motherboard to MSI, and so to us, it was indeed almost a tossup. But MSI's K8N Neo Platinum was ultimately chosen because it offered a few extra BIOS features and a slightly lower price. Anyway, offering the nForce3 250Gb chipset itself is easily the biggest feature that the K8N Neo Platinum motherboard carries. This one-chip solution offers native Firewall capability, 4-drive SATA/IDE RAID, and native GbE (Gigabit Ethernet). MSI adds in features like IEEE 1394 FireWire support, 8-channel sound and superb BIOS features and overclocking ability, making this, simply put, an awesome motherboard. MSI plans on using this type of blueprint for their Socket 939 motherboards too, as well as for the nForce3 250Gb Ultra (which adds official 1GHz HT support), and that can only mean more good news for MSI's Athlon 64 market from top to bottom. For more information on MSI's K8N Neo Platinum and Socket 754 motherboards, take a look at Wesley's MSI K8N Neo Platinum review here and Wesley's Socket 754 roundup here.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:

If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.

Index CPU and Motherboard Alternatives


View All Comments

  • Holyhandgren - Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - link

    where can i find the K11 case? i've looked around and havent been able to find it anywhere.. Reply
  • Holyhandgren - Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - link

  • computerfan - Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - link

    I am also looking forward to the SFF review. I am going to be building a system around the Antec Aria. I already have a good idea for most of the components except for the big question mark beside the motherboard. I want an AMD mobo that is fast, without IGP. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Reply
  • wardhand - Monday, June 21, 2004 - link

    Looking forward to your SSF round-up. I'm getting ready to build a budget SFF for my wife. I'm looking at the Antec Aria case and a Athlon XP CPU (probably a 2800). I have not decided on the motherboard, so I look forward to your review. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Sunday, June 20, 2004 - link

    #15 Last maxtor I had was absolutly silent... As is the IBM/Hitachi deskstar I'm currently using as my misc drive. My new WD 120 however I can actually hear which makes it significatly louder than my Maxtor 40GB or my IBM 80GB. Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Sunday, June 20, 2004 - link

    Not a whole lot. Modern graphics cards do most of the visual work, anyway.
  • michaelpatrick33 - Saturday, June 19, 2004 - link

    i have a xp 2400 and i just ordered the x800xt platinum for $435.00 shipped online. How cpu clogged will i be until i upgrade to a 3500 or 3800 around september. I have a 9600 pro now. Also what power supply would i need minimum for the x800xt. i have a 300 watt now thanks sorry for a little off topic Reply
  • justbrowzing - Saturday, June 19, 2004 - link

    These are terrific guides & the idea to expand alternatives is a good one. But bang-for-buck performance shouldn't be the only criterion for selection.

    Component noise is important for many people, or should be, because you don't realize it until after you've bought & installed it that it's driving you crazy--those WD HDDs being a prime example.

    Also, flat-screen monitors just simply can't be ignored anymore, and a 17 in. lcd should be included as a truly alternative monitor, not just another crt. You're fighting a losing battle here: crts just hog way too much desktop real estate & look like tech dinosaurs, no matter how well they perform (though lcds have no image distortion).
  • Xaazier - Saturday, June 19, 2004 - link

    1200 is high end to me :( Reply
  • SKiller - Friday, June 18, 2004 - link

    "The Maxtor drive is the obvious choice as it has no whine thanks to its fluid-bearings"

    Hmm not sure which model of Maxtor you're referring to, but the recent models I've seen are pretty loud. Noticeably louder than WD (assuming they're not the defective "whine" ones) and a definitely louder than Seagate's.

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