Take a moment to browse around just about any Internet forum that deals with computing technology and you will almost certainly find numerous people asking for advice on what parts to buy, what sort of system to build, how much money to spend, etc. It has been several months since we last published any Buyers' Guides, so with this update we aim to cover several of the most popular market segments. We will take a look at both entry level and midrange offerings, with some comments specifically on gaming and overclocking.

It shouldn't be surprising that in the past few months we've seen quite a few price changes, and particularly in the realm of CPUs the battle being waged between AMD and Intel has resulted in rapid price cuts. We're not done yet either, as we expect to see further price drops in the coming weeks and months, followed of course by the launch of various new processors from both companies. This intense competition may not be the best thing in the world for the bottom line of the participants, but for the time being the consumer is reaping the benefits. Let's just hope all of the parties involved remain with us for a long time to come.

Some of the other areas have also seen quite a few new product launches, specifically motherboards and graphics cards. In the graphics department, NVIDIA just launched GeForce their 8500 and 8600 GPUs. We had hoped to see some impressive performance numbers out of these parts, something to carry on the legacy of the GeForce 6600 GT. While the cards offer some new features and certainly aren't terrible, the price/performance for the most part simply maintains the current status quo. DirectX 10 parts are now available at price points starting at $100, and midrange performance parts fall just under the $200 price point. Depending on the intended use, the new products may or may not fit your needs. If you're not in any hurry to upgrade, however, AMD will be launching their R600 series graphics parts within the next month or so, and waiting to see how those actually perform and how much they cost might not be a bad idea.

The past few months have also seen the launch of Microsoft's latest magnum opus: Windows Vista. While we'd love to give the new operating system a full recommendation, the fact of the matter is that driver availability/stability/compatibility remains something of a sticking point. We're still definitely at the stage where Vista is more for early adopters than for everyone, and the majority of us at AnandTech continue to run Windows XP as our primary operating system. Given that Windows Vista has been touted as a better platform for gaming, it's ironic that gaming performance/compatibility is currently one of the major sticking points. Once we start to see games that actually launch with DirectX 10 support, we expect the driver situation to finally mature to the point where most people will prefer Windows Vista. At present, individuals are going to be forced to decide between staying with a tried and true platform or potentially dealing with some quirks of the shiny new operating system in exchange for the new features.

As usual, we will be providing several different system configurations. However, it is nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive look at all of the different components currently available and worth consideration in even a small market segment. We will be listing our primary recommendations, but depending on individual needs and availability there are numerous other options that we won't be able to cover. If you have questions, feel free to ask - either in the comments section or in our forums. We will do our best to provide advice. With that said, we'll start with our entry level AMD configuration.

Entry Level AMD
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  • xsilver - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    A quick mention of the possible headroom on the 2x1gb Jetram would have been nice?
    eg. does it overclock to cas 4? or does it OC to ddr900? or both? or none?
  • amking0 - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    with all the recent price cuts and rebates floating around, i've finally decided to leave my single core a64 system behind and do an upgrade to something along the following lines:

    650i board (probably)
    2 gb corsair ddr2-800
    old 7800 gt for the time being

    just wanted to comment about the x-fi issues you mentioned in the article tho (since i just ordered one on sale + a $50 rebate) have me worried now D:

    i'm also pondering the move to vista, but i guess i might be sticking with xp a little longer now.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    Why not just use onboard Audio ? I find it hard to belive that anyone could tell the difference between onboard, and descrete audio. regardless, I have had my last several system, all with onboard audio, and dropped in the random audio card, only difference I could tell, was about 3-5FPS in Oblivion, other than that, no difference.
  • FrankM - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    "We tossed around several brands, including SeaSonic and Silverstone, but in the end we selected the Corsair 520W."

    Actually, that Corsair is a rebranded SeaSonic...
    If only reliability and stability is the issue for the PSU for overclocking, there are cheaper quality PSUs available; the real strenght of the Seasonic/Corsair is the high efficiency and very low noise.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    I actually did know that (that it's a rebranded SeaSonic), but didn't think it was necessary to go into the details. Basically, I was looking at some PSUs in the range of $100 shipped, and figured at that point the extra $15 was money well spent to get a very high quality PSU. The SeaSonic model was $15 more than the Corsair, IIRC, so no reason to pay more for the same PSU.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, April 23, 2007 - link

    The Antec EA500W earthwatts PSU can be had for less than $50 usd(after rebate), and had a very favorable review from JonnyGuru. I use one myself, but I am not exactly using it harshly (midly OC'd Opteron 1210, and a 7600GT, 7 HDDs, and an optical). Seems fine so far, but is only about 3-4months old.
  • deathwalker - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    Good grief, since when did a $400 video card fit in the catagory of a Mid-range product? Im going to have to research past guides for mid=range systems to see if AT has just completely broken the mold.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    It specifically is targeting the gaming market. As mentioned, the 8800 GTS 320 is a $120 cheaper option that you might consider. For games, though, the GPU is the bottleneck 95% of the time, so you should get as much GPU power as possible.
  • Ronson - Friday, June 8, 2007 - link

    If a $400 Graphics card is gaming then what are the cheaper cards for? Office use? A $200 Graphics card would have been more reasonable. The $400 card really just belongs in the High End guide.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, April 21, 2007 - link

    AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane - $72.00
    ABIT NF-M2 nView - $94.99
    CORSAIR XMS2 2x1GB DDR2 800 - $122.00
    Seagate Barracuda 250GB - $67.99

    Total - $356.98

    Migrate optical drive, Case, PSU, Keyboard, mouse, and monitor from old system, because if you're reading here, you have a computer already, OR, you are using a friends PC, in which case you need to buy a Dell. All parts are free shipping, from newegg.

    I have to say, I must question your choise of motherboard for the 'budget'/ entry level AMD system. It has been my experience, that anything this inexpencive from ASUS, or ASROCK, is nothing but a piece of junk, with very little driver / BIOS support, if any at all. Not to say the ABIT board I have chosen has had much driver / BIOS support, but it is rock solid, and has many features that put other boards a class or two above to shame. Anyhow . . . </fanboyism>

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