You are probably wondering about the strange dollar amount of $825 as the high mark for our Entry Buyers' Guide. If so we have a very pleasant surprise for you. To this point our under $800 systems have centered on some great motherboards with on-board graphics. That $800 budget just couldn't support a graphics card - let alone a truly decent graphics card - and stay under $800 with an LCD monitor, speakers, input devices, and OS.
Things have changed a lot in the two months since we published our last Entry Buyers' Guide. We can now accomplish what seemed impossible just two months ago at the $800 price point and include a dedicated GPU in the Budget AMD and Intel systems. This is not just any GPU either, as it made little sense to include a cheap video card that was hardly better than on-board graphics. Both budget builds now include the exciting new ATI 4770 graphics card we reviewed just a couple of weeks ago.
Our graphics and motherboard editors have been raving about the value the 4770 brings to the video card table, so our quest was to build balanced, full-featured, complete systems that include an HD 4770 and an HD LCD monitor for $800. It was not OK merely to squeak by; we wanted to build a balanced and powerful $800 general purpose and gaming system that would blow away anything you could buy from an OEM at a similar price. To do that we went over our budget just a little bit - to $813 and $819 - but we were unwilling to further compromise the components in the systems to drop the price. If all you need is a basic box, the price for an ATI HD 4770 system is even more enticing at around $530. To see what $825 can buy you in the new high-value builds, turn to our new budget AMD and Intel systems on pages 4 and 5.
For those of you looking for a basic but competent system for your kid, parents, grandma, or yourself, if you're really on a tight budget, look at our Entry Intel and AMD systems. For the first time the basic box actually broke through the $300 barrier in one of the builds. The rest of the components are also better than ever in this category including the latest motherboards with Intel G43 and AMD 780G/SB710 chipsets. They also include a larger, more capable LCD monitor, better speakers, and Microsoft Vista Home Premium, for a complete system price of under $550.
These aren't stripped entry systems or the lowest CPU power we could find; they are capable complete systems based on the best bang for the buck we could put together. We could definitely put together even cheaper systems, but these systems represent a nice blend of performance, flexibility, and expandability that we would actually build for our own kids or relatives, budget-minded friends, or ourselves.
This guide takes a closer look at the complete systems you can build for less than $825 these days. Each component table for the complete system includes a subtotal for the basic system without speakers, keyboard/mouse, monitor, or OS. With a quick glance, you can see the cost to build a basic box that many would consider in a system upgrade. You can also see the total to build a complete system with all the peripherals needed for a balanced brand new system.
Low-end PCs have a reputation for being sub-standard, underpowered, and barely better than off-the-shelf PCs. That certainly was true in the past, but with the continuing drop in component prices, you can get a lot of PC today for your $299 to $825. About a year ago it would cost you about $700 to $750 to put together an Entry system. Today you can build a similar but more powerful system for about $250 less. The worldwide economic slowdown isn't the sole cause of the increased value. It is also the fierce competition between Intel and AMD on the CPU front, and AMD/ATI and NVIDIA in the GPU market. These price, performance, and value wars have made it possible to buy quality components for prices that previously belonged to outdated hardware. You just have to know what to look for.
The Entry System Buyers' Guide is always one of the most read and referred to articles on AnandTech, and it is easy to understand why. Whether it's your first system build or number 1000, the hardest choices are where every penny counts. Value is never about the cheapest price, but about getting the most for the money you do spend. We hope you agree that this Buyers' Guide details some of the greatest value computers we have ever presented in our System Buyers' Guides.