High End is not without price limits, but price is much less a consideration than performance. If High-End means anything for the enthusiast who reads AnandTech, then you can spend a bit more for performance that is really better. With this in mind, the scales tip toward top performance in the High-End choices. Mid-range is where you sweat nickels and measure every component for bang for the buck. For High End, you pick the best.

As in past Guides, we offer a recommendation for every component that goes into a computer. Our recommendation is our First Choice and we will try to explain why we chose that component. For some components, we will also offer an 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. This is especially true for those willing to spend a little more or to recommend a cheaper component that is of outstanding value. Alternative picks provide you other choices, which, in some cases, will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be.

Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our RealTime pricing engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on pricewatch. Relevant parts of our RealTime pricing engine are listed 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.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides, and the changes you are seeing here are the result of suggestions from our readers and Editors. Since we are adding 2 new guides to AnandTech, email your suggestions for new guides to Evan Lieb. Considerations include a Buyer's Guide for SFF (Small Form Factor systems), Gaming System, and Laptop/DTP (Desk-Top Replacement). If you have other suggestions, let us know; the Guides are to help you with your buying decisions.

High End

A High End system should represent the best performance, features, and flexibility that you can buy for a given need. In this case, the given need is defined as a Desktop Computer System built from the best performing computer components that you can actually buy. This differs from other Buyer's Guides, which concentrate on value first. With the extensive testing done at AnandTech by many different Editors, we have personally tested many of these components, and you will see our Editor's Choice components appear frequently in the Buyer's Guides.

With performance as the most important consideration in a high-end system, reliability becomes the second most important consideration. Truthfully, reliability is just as important in most cases as performance, since it does no good to put together an expensive high-end system that you cannot enjoy due to reliability issues. By definition, price is a distant third consideration, but price is not the same as value. Value is always a consideration in our buying guides because we refuse to recommend high-priced components that provide little or no performance advantage over lower priced components. A component that costs 250% more for a 5% increase in performance is not a good value and does not even belong in a high end system.

Anyone who is considering building a top-of-the-line system is quickly faced with the reality that the best performing parts aren't usually going to be the cheapest parts. On the other hand, the value and performance that you get for your dollars in today's computer market are the best in many years in the computer industry. There was a time when the best desktop systems were much more than $10,000; while today, you are hard pressed to spend more than $5,000 on a top-performing system. In most cases, the best performance can be had even less. With this in mind, our only restriction is that our high-end system will cost under $5,000.

CPU and Motherboard
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  • decptt - Sunday, September 12, 2004 - link

    Sep 11, No OC guide again -_-"
    I am waiting for Fink' comment about HS/HSF.
  • rbils - Wednesday, September 8, 2004 - link

    Ignore me. I read the comments last week, and didn't bother to read them again before I posted today. Sorry!
  • rbils - Wednesday, September 8, 2004 - link

    I didn't notice in the article, but are you using the included (retail) heatsink and fan that ships with the AMD processor? If so, do you feel that it is adequate as installed? I've read so much lately about 3rd party CPU coolers and thermal compound that it has me questioning whether or not the items shipping with the retail CPU are sufficient.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, September 2, 2004 - link

    The 480W True Power has been more than adequate for my tests, BUT the OCZ 520W was my recommendation for the last Overclocking Guide. I personally believe the Antec 480W is more than adequate, but the OCZ 520W does provide an extra margin of safety - particularly if you plan to overclock your video card or seriously overclock the whole system. The OCZ 520 has the added advantage of both 24-pin and 20 pin compatability as well. If you can handle the OCZ price of $150 it is an excellent choice.

    As for coolers, water cooling and phase-change are outstanding, but specialized and expensive, and beyond the scope of our recommendations. I have had good success with the stock A64 cooler made by Ajigo, and it is MUCH better than past AMD coolers - even for some modest overclocking. If you want more, there are coolers that do a better job. My favorites are the Scythe Samurai, the Thermalright SLK948U, and the Thermaltake Silent Boost K8. The Gigabyte 3D Cooler Ultra GT is also great-looking, but it really doesn't add that much in the way of improved cooling over the stock fan. The Samurai, SLK948U, and Gigabyte are Universal HSF and will work on most sockets.
  • southernpac - Thursday, September 2, 2004 - link

    Congradulations on a comprehensive and well thought out guide. I will very shortly be relying on it a lot. Two concerns: As #16 has testified to his 480W PSU being inadequite, I would like for AnandTech to comment on this (we are relying on your advise in making this purchase). I realize that nVidia has revised their power requirement downward, but only after a lot of critism. As I don't want any more heat in the case than is really necessary, SHOULD more than 480W be shown necessary, I would also like your view of OCZ's 520W PSU.

    The one hole in the review certainly appears to be the lack of a recommendation for a better than "decent" (read adequite) cooler. If there are "better solutions" available - the high-end system should have it. Heat is the enemy of electronics, so the best cooler is worth while, particularly at only about $50. However it's not that simple - hence the need for a recommendation. #44 for example advocates his Zalman CNPS7000B-Cu, but if you look at Zalman's own site info on this cooler, Zalman specifically disavows moving any system having an installed cooler weigning over 450g. The 7000B-Cu weighs 755g (50% over Zalman's own limit). Many high-end coolers have similar weight. The just released Gigabyte 3D Rocket heat pipe cooler has just reduced it's weight to ONLY 500g's - but is it still effective now that it's aluminium instead of copper? Wesley please, we need a recommendation! In spite of the above - a great guide! Bill
  • NoGodForMe - Thursday, September 2, 2004 - link

    Great article.

    I'd be interested in seeing if the Thermalright XP-120 fits in the Asus AV8 and other AMD boards for the FX53.

    And most of these products are still hard to find. I'm sure someone will say they can get them, but it's very hard to do. For example, find me a BFG 6800 Ultra OC.
  • southernpac - Thursday, September 2, 2004 - link

  • gimper48 - Thursday, September 2, 2004 - link

    When is the next Overclocking Review?!!
  • swampy11 - Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - link

    I certainly agree with your picks for the Hi-end set-up, but here is my question. With the new PCI-Express just around the corner and the supposed "horsepower" gain by this new architecture, should I jump in now with your suggested Hi-end recommendation or wait until the newer GPU and MB bear fruit.... probably fourth quarter?
  • Uff - Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - link

    Personally, I had quite a negative experience with my stock cooler, as soon as I locked the cam lever, it bent my motherboard just enough to make my RAM not make contact with the slots in the middle, resulting in failed boots. In addition to that, while it did keep my cpu temps at reasonable levels they were far from perfect.

    2 days later i received my Zalman 7000B-Cu and my temps dropped over 10C even if the cooler was running in silent mode (which is practically inaudible as opposed to the level of noise you get with the retail HSF).

    While the stock cooler might do its job (barely), this was, after all, a high-end guide, and there's nothing high-end about that HSF.

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