We provide nearly weekly updates to the various component categories in our Price Guides, and the information contained within those articles should be enough to tide you over until we update our full Buyer's Guide. We (that is, really I, Jarred) have not updated our Buyer's Guides as frequently as some would like, so we're going to make a better attempt at keeping things updated on a monthly basis. In order to facilitate that goal, some of the discussion about why certain parts are better than others will be omitted, as you can read more about our latest CPU, graphics card, storage (HDD/DVDR), and motherboard recommendations elsewhere.

We do our best to consider all the options, but the simple truth is that without spending numerous pages on each Buyer's Guide, we can't explain every facet about each pick. There are always alternatives to the choices that we make, and you can substitute parts as you see fit. If you don't like our motherboard, or you want a slightly faster (or slower) CPU, GPU, etc., then you can make that change. The overall goal of the System Buyer's Guides is to provide a complete recommendation for every component needed to build a new computer. Some parts are very personal selections, and we won't dwell too long on those choices. If you have a set of speakers or a display that you prefer over our pick, by all means, go with what you like. However, if you're overwhelmed by the number of decisions that need to be made, picking up the exact choices listed in our Guides should give you a reliable computer that anyone would be happy to own.

We're covering the Mid-Range Guide in this article, which is really our favorite sector. The Budget Guides force us to make many compromises that we really aren't happy with. A $500 to $750 computer will be good, but it's not something most enthusiasts would really want. The High End is the other extreme: sure, we lust after those parts, but the truth is that we don't really feel that most people should be spending upwards of $2000 on a computer (unless money isn't a concern at all). The Mid-Range sector is where we get the best overall build, combining quality and performance for a reasonable price.

$1250 is the rough goal, but we'll be going as much as $250 over or under that mark. If $250 extra is too much money, then honestly, it might be better to consider whether or not you really need to spend even $1000 on a computer. $750 computers will do everything that you need them to do, meaning everything but serious gaming or professional work. For professional work, $250 should be a negligible one-time (or once every two years) expense. Gaming, on the other hand, is not even remotely a necessity. It's a hobby, and it's an expensive hobby at that. $250 is the cost of four or five retail games, and most gamers will spend far more than that over the course of the year. If you're able to afford gaming as a hobby, it's not unreasonable to assume that you can spend a few extra hundred on a purchase, provided that the performance warrants the additional expenditure. We should also mention that our prices are current as of the time of writing; in this case, September 7th - check the RealTime Pricing Engine for the latest information.

Our recommendations for the Mid-Range Guide this month are going to be focused around showing the flexibility that a $1500 budget gets you. To that end, we'll be looking at two builds (Intel and AMD) targeted at the gaming enthusiast, and we'll have two other builds (again, Intel and AMD) that look more towards the office/professional market. (We could call it the "SOHO" market, but that's an overused buzz term that we'd just as soon avoid.) Remember, we're buying a complete system with keyboard, mouse, display, speakers, etc. Periodic upgraders can hopefully avoid buying a new display and speakers at the very least. Once you remove those from the equation, we're looking at spending just over $1000 for a computer upgrade. If you sell off your old system to a friend or family member and recoup some of the cost, it's entirely possible to stay close to the cutting edge of technology with an initial investment of $1500 followed by $250 to $500 for upgrading each year.

Gaming CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • GMAN003 - Friday, October 7, 2005 - link

    First of all, Great guide Jarred! Because of your article I am now an AnandTech member for life! @$$kissing aside, here are some of my questions and suggestions for your article.

    1) Would you have noticed any significant speed gains by using different memory types such as DDR500 memory as recommend by DFI on their website? Yes, I know, its more expensive, but for the enthusiast on a budget, wouldn't overclocking memory be more up my ally especially for any future processor upgrades?

    2) For future guides, you may want to consider a more comparable AMD vs Intel office processor. From reading other articles on the web, isn't the AMD64 3800 X2 processor more comparable to an Intel Celeron D 830 processor? In fact, in some benchmarks I have seen the 3800X2 be faster than the Intel Celeron D 840 processor?

    3) I bought almost every part in your gaming system for a friend, except for the case/pwr supply and hard drive. Rolling the dice with an Aspire X-Navigator 500watt just for looks and a Raptor74GB for seek/write times. Any future posts on what you have been able to reach as "stable" OC levels and what your detailed bios settings are would be appreciated. From what I keep seeing around the web, most of my framerates in my games should be in the high 100's FPS. :-D Needless to say, I'm happy with the advice.

    Again, thanks Jarred.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - link

    Heh - old post that I never saw. Glad you liked the article. For overclocking, there are many options. I wrote a "Venice Overclocking" article that covers many of the questions you asked. I'll be doing an Athlon X2 followup.

    I tried to make it clear in the article that the X2 was far superior in performance than the Pentium D. Price was a consideration, and if there were a cheaper X2 than the 3800+, I would have happily used it. Personally, I'd say the 3800+ actually outperforms even the Pentium D 840 in most benchmarks, and only heavy multitasking with four or more processes will favor the Pentium D 840EE. Once you look into overclocking, it really becomes no comparison. 2.6 GHz on the X2 3800+ compared to perhaps 3.2 or 3.4 GHz on the 820.
  • Anubis - Sunday, September 25, 2005 - link

    especially of an office computer SLI is totally useless, you could save 100$ on the office comp and about 70 on the gameing one by going with a non SLI NF4 mobo
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, October 1, 2005 - link

    SLI was *not* recommended for the office configurations. The choice of the X700 Pro as the GPU should be clear evidence of that.
  • Crescent13 - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    There are just a few minior things I would change...

    Jetway SLI motherboard instead of SLI-DR, it might be a bit better value for a mid-range gaming system.

    I personally don't really like XFX, because they don't have that great of service and support, I would get an EVGA 7800GT, of course, that's just my opinion :)

    I think I would get a hitachi 160GB SATAII hard drive, instead of western digital, hitachi has 8.5 MS seek time, western digital is 8.9 MS.

    I would choose a forton source PSU, instead of SunBeam, for more stability.

    I think the logitech x-530's would be a better choice than the labtec areana speakers.

    this is all just my opinion, it's still a good guide :)
  • Googer - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    If you are running a Venice Core Processor why would you run PC3200? Venice is perfectly capable of running DDR500 with out over clocking. AMD Said So.
  • Pythias - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    Because amd cpus benefit more form tight timings than bandwidth?">;thre...
  • SimonNZ - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    because low latency ddr500 cost a small fortune, well mine did anyhow and most people buying in the mid range of the market arnt going 2 notice the difference....hell i dont:P
  • Pythias - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    From what I gather you arent going to notice ddr500 over ddr400 whay spend more money?
  • cryptonomicon - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link


    "With the motherboard and CPU that we've selected, though, you should be able to reach much higher speeds than 1.80GHz. 2.40GHz (267MHz CPU bus with the stock 9X CPU multiplier) is about as sure of an overclock as anything that we've seen."

    no. no overclock is guaranteed and i am pretty surprised i am seeing an advocation for overclocking in this guide. i overclock myself but a brazen statement like that is just inviting hoardes of people to try the board, and not even know what they are getting into. OCing should come into the picture on most gaming hardware but in this guide its more like the OC is sort of an assumed part of the value. i really hate seeing 'sure' associated with 'overclock'. that's just another 100, 200, 1000 people at that i have to troubleshoot for because they don't know what they are doing. allright well that's just a rant, nothing personal.

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