Today, we release our fifth Buyer's Guide in the past 5 weeks. You can look forward to Buyer's Guides in the middle of every week, and then, after the end of each month, we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. Today marks our first refresh of our Buyer's Guides to see what has changed, if anything, in the past 4 weeks. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guides yet, here's the basic format of them to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Entry Level System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: High End System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we offer our recommendation for a piece of hardware as well as our alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware (especially for those willing to spend a little more than what we budget for a particular system). Alternative picks tell you just that - your alternatives, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be. But at the same time, we can still be assertive enough with a first place recommendation so that new buyers aren't indecisive or confused about what to purchase. Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime Pricing Engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on pricewatch.com. We list pertinent parts of our RealTime pricing engine at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors all by yourself.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

Entry Level Systems

The main concern for our Entry Level (or "Budget") systems is pricing, with reliability as a close second consideration. While we certainly take into account performance, we do not consider it a vital part of building an entry level system; it is merely something that is considered when price and reliability have been established. This is not to say that performance is ignored, because that is just not the case. We also believe that you're more than likely going to be keeping this entry level system for quite a long time without modification (read: at least 1.5 years), so some of our picks may be geared towards that type of mentality. Overall, we like to think that we will end up picking a balanced array of hardware based on price, reliability, performance, and longevity, in that order, for today's Entry Level Buyer's Guide.

Read on to find out more...

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • Baldurga - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    About second option for GPU, I think a 9600SE 128Mb 128bit for 67 is a great deal. You can find it here:

    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    Ok, is not Tier 1 brand, but with 128bit and 9600 core it is a very good price/perf optio on budget.
    Reply
  • Octoberblue - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    "Western Digital continues to make well priced budget drives that aren't noticeably slower than the 5400RPM variety"

    - Don't understand this comment. Did you mean not noticeably slower than... something else. This is a 7200rmp drive...?
    Reply
  • ehanneken - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    "Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 Ultra 400)"

    Minor correction: The A7N8X-X uses the single-channel nForce2 400 chipset, not the dual-channel nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Newegg have got the Duron 1.8 at $43 conspicuously missing from your roundup. I'd sooner have MHx than cache anyday and the nearest A-XP is the 2200+ at $62 so youd save a few bucks which could go towards a full dx9 card- cut down 9600 or 5750. As dx9 takes a lot of the computation onto the gpu, a full dx9 card favors a weaker system so that's where the money should be spent.
    The Duron also runs at 1.5v, 0.1v below the A-XP and combined with smaller L2 cache makes it cooler and if desired more overclockable.
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    PrinceGaz,

    Bah, changed and properly updated. :)
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    According to the real-time price engine, the XP2000+ is the same price as the recommended XP1800+ ($49) and that the price hasn't changed in the last week. So the XP2000+ would probably have been a better recommendation (I assume the article is under a week old). Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Agreed guys, I'll change PC2100 to PC2700 next time. Even though it means squat for entry level users, you're right, might as well go with the faster memory if the price is identical.

    Originally though, Crucial PC2100 was $35 (Newegg if I remember right), so you would save $5 versus PC2700 and $10 versus PC3200. But Newegg upped their prices after the guide went online. You guys should be wary of those types of things in the future, because vendors will do that on occasion.

    Zebo,

    Were you using the LCD to compare the 9800 Pro to the Shuttle board's nForce IGP graphics? You're definitely a rare case if there's no noticeable difference between the two in terms of text sharpness.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    I have the MN31N and notice zero blurred text on the benQ LCD it runs on.. I also have saphire 9800 ultimate edition and BFG 5900NU so I think I would have noticed by now.

    Here's my rec for overclockers and silent budget system.... Plus you get DVD drive, MCP-T, and better case too.

    CPU & Cooling AMD Athlon XP 1800+ (OEM) - $49
    Cooler Master HSF - $10 $59
    Motherboard Shuttle "MN31N" for $85
    Memory 256MB Buffalo PC3200 - $44
    Video Card Onboard - $0
    Monitor Samsung SyncMaster 763MB $146
    Computer Case Antec SLK1600 - $46
    Sound Card Onboard sound $0
    Speakers Creative Labs SBS270 2.0 $20
    Networking Onboard 10/100 Ethernet $0
    Hard Drive - Seagate 7200rpm 40gig- $59
    CD-RW Samsung CDR-W/DVD Combo Drive,- $47
    Bottom Line - $506

    Then crank it up:)
    Reply
  • gherald - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Text sharpness is definately a concern, good call AT on the R9200.

    But I also think PC3200 should be used instead of 2100. The price difference is small, and it will give you much greater flexibility when it comes time to upgrade, cuz 3200 can actually be used by most modern processors like the P4, A64, and Bartons

    You can even run the 3200 @ 333mhz if you want it synced with a non-OCed 2500.

    I'm kicking myself for having bough a couple PC3000 sticks last year, instead of PC3200. Now I can't use those sticks on new systems...
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Ya medfly I agree..Imean what the point of buying a 3200 capable chipetted board and crippling it with 2100. Ch-5 buffalo PC3200 is only $44 at newegg.

    I also would have gone on-board graphics.. Probablly the smoking Shuttle "MN31N" for $85!! Has the MCP-T/soundstorm for great sound has GF4 MX for video and plenty of overclockers features.

    Oh well can't please everyone. Other than that I loved it.:)

    Reply

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