Buyer's Guide: Value Systems - August 2001by Mike Andrawes on August 3, 2001 11:25 AM EST
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The small office/home office machine has a unique set of requirements. It must provide quick and snappy 2D performance and be very stable. The keys to good performance on such a machine is lots of RAM and a fast hard drive. This system should be able to run almost anything that most business users might throw at it.
- AMD Duron 900 - $65
With Socket-A motherboards now offerring integrated video, thanks to the availability of integrated Socket-A chipsets, we can finally use a Duron processor in our value SOHO machine. Compared to the full blown Athlon, it performs within 5 - 10% of that more expensive chip, and is certainly more than enough power for a machine like this. The Duron should provide a considerable performance boost over the Celeron we were using in our last guide.
For only a few dollars more, a full fledged Athlon can be had if you need the added cache. The price differential to a Duron 950 is about $25, which is interesting because that means in many cases an Athlon 950 would be cheaper than a Duron 950.
For more information on all Duron processors, read our AMD Duron 900 Review.
Motherboard - ASUS A7S-VM - $100
As mentioned previously, the SiS 730S is a better integrated chipset than the KM133 we used in the last edition of the buyer's guide. Now that boards featuring this chipset are readily available, we'll go ahead and make the switch here as well. We'll stick with ASUS, however, for their well known stability, which means their A7S-VM is our pick. Note that this is a microATX board, so if you need a lot of expansion, look for something in a full ATX form factor. However, most of the SiS 730S boards we've seen are microATX, which goes along with the value market for which the chipset is targetted.
With the SiS 730S, like most current integrated chipsets, an extermal AGP 4X slot is supported for upgrading the video at a later date if greater performance is needed or desired. Unfortunately, ASUS has not implemented such a slot on the A7S-VM for no apparent reason. If you can, get the version of the board that enables the integrated LAN in the 730S chipset. It's only a few dollars more, negating the need for an external NIC, which opens up a precious PCI slot and makes the system cheaper overall to boot.
Memory - 256MB Nanya/Mushkin Budget PC133 SDRAM - $50
While we can't point you in the direction of our usual recommendation of 128MB Corsair PC133 SDRAM due to cost, Mushkin's Budget PC133 SDRAM which we included in our latest PC133 SDRAM Roundup actually makes use of NANYA SDRAM chips which happened to work fairly well as you can see from our roundup.
Mushkin Budget PC133 w/ Nanya chips
Click to Enlarge
With memory so cheap now, there's no reason to get less than 256MB. In fact, that 256MB will cost you about the same as 128MB did in our last buyer's guide.
Video card - Integrated SiS 300 Video - "free"
The integrated video on the SiS 730S is actually pretty good in terms of 2D performance and DVD playback. Being based off the mature SiS 300 graphics core ensures that driver support is solid. Unfortunately, ASUS chose not to implement the external AGP 4X slot that the SiS 730S supports.
For more information, see our SiS 730S Chipset Review.
- Samsung SyncMaster 950P - $250
Monitors are one of the few computer components that you can usually hang onto for years to come. With that in mind, we didn't want to go with anything smaller than a 19" on our value SOHO system - besides, once you've worked on a monitor this big, there's no going back.
The best deal we could find on a 19" monitor is now the Samsung 950P, which will run you about $250. That's $50 cheaper than our previous pick of the VL950SL from CTX. It's not a a shortneck, however, but it still uses the same 0.26 mm dot pitch tube from Hitachi that seemingly every manufacturer is using right now.
For a bit more, just about every monitor manufacturer is offering a value 19" model that would fit the bill.