When it comes to Entry Level systems, there are two types of customer. One is the person who's looking for a computer strictly for business -- office work, taxes, email, Web browsing, etc. The second is the customer who's looking for a system that fills all those needs while also serving as a quality gaming machine. While a budget gaming PC can handle all of the typical office and Internet tasks, the reverse isn't necessarily true. As in the past, this month's Entry Level Guide will give a several option for each component. However, rather than simply listing recommended components and alternatives, we will be focusing on suggestions for home office and gaming configurations.

Only you can decide what your actual wants and needs are. If you have no interest in playing games on your computer, our Office recommendations should provide more than enough power. On the other hand, if you are building a PC for the whole family and would like something that can be used by mom and dad as well as the kids, take a look at the Gaming configuration. PC Gaming is not an inexpensive hobby, however, so expect to spend a little more money if you want to add gaming capabilities.

Our end goal is to put together a budget Office PC for around $500 and a budget Gaming PC for under $1000. That might seem like a large margin, but it is very difficult to build a reasonable gaming computer for anything less than $750, and we have included upgrades that we feel will enhance the overall experience as well as the life cycle of the resulting machine. This is an Entry Level Gaming PC that should manage to run most of the cutting-edge games for the next year or more at reasonable rates, provided that you are willing to turn down the graphical complexity a bit.
CPU and Motherboard - Office
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    52 - ??? If you have such a high-end graphics card, are you actually thinking about pairing it with a budget systesm? Anyway, yes, it should work, unless it's an AGP Pro graphics card and your motherboard doesn't have a Pro slot. A 550W PSU should be sufficient, regardless. Anyway, you ought to look into getting an Opteron, Athlon 64, or Pentium 4 to go with that card. :p
  • nurazlanshah - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    can i use 3DLabs Wildcat Realizm 200 8x AGP 512MB G-DDR3 ($1500) with my NF2 8xagp motherboard even if i have 550w power supply?
  • MasterFlash - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    Nice article. I like your choice of components. My comp is similar to your recommendations: Antec SLQ-3700, Biostar MN7CD Pro mobo, Athlon XP 2500+, 2x512Mb DDR400 Crucial RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro, 160Gb Seagate HDD, Toshiba DVD drive, generic 19" CRT.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    #49 - Foxconn and CasEdge have been suggested in our past budget guides, so I wanted to branch out a bit. :) I'm not too keen on their look, either, but that's just me.
  • Bulldog66209 - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    I've found that Foxconn/Supercase/CasEdge toolless cases offer good value, are easy to work with, and many are available with truly usable 400 watt power supplies. The local Micro-Center recently had a CasEdge TU-155 on sale for $31. The included power supply rated as capable of supplying 28 amps of 3.3V, 40 amps of 5V, and 17 amps at 12V at a nominal 400 watts. This compares favorably to the Antec which, although only rated at 350 watts, provides 28 , 35, and 16 amps.
  • spartacvs - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    To #41
    What the hell do you put on those HD? I have a 40Gb: few games, few applications, few videos, few mp3 and some small softwares (k9, avant browser, etc). It's only 2/3 full. And when it's 3/4 full, it just mean it's time for a little cleanup. Sure you can easily overload 2 x 120 Gb but your need are certainly not what most of the peoples needs.
  • mino - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    #45 Nicely said.
    I completely agree,
    It just seems to me it's very important to explicitly say what you mentioned here in your post.
    It's beacause there is a HUGE amount of people who save those $20 or so, just because they have no idea what the result may be. The worst(not rare) case is, when such a person is a white-box builder...

    Other than that I forgot to mention in my previous post that this guide is MUCH better then last one(not saying that was bad).

    Keep good work Jarred.

    And one suggestion for case to consider - since I think for value machine reliability is FAR more important than look - I recommend this YeongYang Cetus YY-5601 as an alternative with PSU I mentioned before.

    We have been buying only these cases for a year now on and they ones of the best in $50-60 range.
    they're available for inastance here
  • Ivo - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    The review is very nice and useful but several additional aspects could be addressed too:
    1. The Video/Audio performance for 'Home entertainment' (without gaming - for older buyers :-).
    2. The Cool & Quite (Eco) features of the components and systems.
    3. The micro-ATX SFF systems (not barebones) for LAN-parties, Home-PCs etc.
    4. The LCD-displays.
    5. The long-term price (future software compatibility) of the systems.
    In that sense, possibly, only systems with Athlon64 CPUs (with good cooler) are really interesting.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 7, 2004 - link

    Regarding several of the case comments, that's pretty much what I had in mind. I've built quite a few PCs for friends, family, and even myself. The downsides to the cheaper cases often more than outweigh the $20 or so you might save. Heck, if it were me, I would even try to get up to the SLK-3700 or Sonata cases by Antec (although oddly enough I prefer the 3700 over the Sonata - other than the PSU, of course). They're *so* much nicer to work with than a lot of the other sub-$100 cases.

    Really, cases are a personal choice. What I often consider gawdy or ugly, some people think is "l33t". Conversely, what I think is simple and elegant others will say is boring and dull. Buy what makes you happy, but if you get a cheap, generic PSU and it fails after a few months, don't say we didn't warn you!

    Anyway, thanks to all for the kind comments. I'll look at including some other miscellaneous recommendations in the future. I do have to say that after reading Kris' MythTV articles, I've been itching to build a TiVo-esque PC. I just keep repeating to myselft, "You do NOT need another PC... you do NOT need another PC..." Heheh.
  • Neurorelay - Thursday, October 7, 2004 - link

    Whoops, I see the 6600...okay, mistook the number. :)

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