Index

At the moment, we are experimenting with our Buyer's Guides to see if we can improve on meeting the needs of a wider range of users, both in terms of the components that we recommend and the prices of those components. We will continue to produce an Entry Level, Mid-Range, High End, and Overclocking systems guides. In addition, we will be adding SFF guides and perhaps some type of mobile-related guide to our arsenal. For now, though, we will keep with our current format until we get a feel for what our readers want. So, if you want to let us know what you'd like to see in future guides in terms of component picks and price points, write your thoughts in our comments section, located at the bottom of the page.

We will still continue to evaluate products like we have in all our other guides. 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). To be clear, 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.

Mid-Range

While entry level (budget) systems should mainly be constructed with reliability and price in mind, with performance a fairly distant third consideration, mid-range systems have a slightly different order of priority. Reliability is still #1 priority, but performance and price are in a sort of a tie. Performance isn't of the utmost importance in a mid-range system, but it's also not ignored nearly as much as a plain, old entry level system is. Similarly, price isn't of utmost importance either, but buyer's building a mid-range system must be mindful of the price of components nonetheless. Performance and price don't lag too far behind reliability for mid-range systems, in other words.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • Zebo - Saturday, August 28, 2004 - link

    Alright, lets just settle in on your orginal statement about different users and uses.:) Overall great guide and I even kept 80% of your recs but some need this Horse power is gaming so mine reflects that.

    PQI memory is all the rage right now. Check ou this thread:

    http://www.ocforums.com/showthread.php?t=322406
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - link

    Overall, it's a good guide. We still need a "gamer" system for the mid-range and high-end markets, as that seems to be what most people are having problems with. "Get a 6800 vanilla!" Well, if you game, go for it, but at $300, that's a waste for a lot of people. Personally, I couldn't see building a system without 1 GB of RAM, but 512MB in one stick is the only possible alternative. Even on P4, start with a 512 MB DIMM (at reduced performance) and go to 2x512 in the future. 256 MB DIMMs are just *so* 2002. :)

    My one complaint (sort of) is the Antec 2650-BQE case. I suppose some might differ on this, but I believe that case only has a 120 mm fan in the rear and an 80 mm in the front. The drive cage is also "old-style" Antec. For anyone that hasn't used the "sideways" drive setup in the Sonata and 3700-BQE Antec cases, I think they're head and shoulders above the 2650 design. Shipped, they cost $89 at Newegg, so I think it's worth the extra $10. Still, maybe some people like the old style HDD cage? I don't, but to each his own....
    Reply
  • jensend - Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - link

    For a mid-range system, I was surprised to see the A64 3000 and the P4 3.0C being recommended. The Paris core Sempron and P4 2.8C offer practically equivalent performance for roughly $30 less in either case (and the 2.8C uses up to 13W less juice than the 3.0C as well). 64-bit capability is not really much of an advantage in the midrange, where the amount of memory addressed will never force a 32-bit processor into PAE mode. Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - link

    Zebo, look up the differences between the Chaintech and MSI boards. You aren't paying $50 more for just GbE, you're paying $50 more for GbE, 3 FireWire 400 ports, twice the SATA connectors, two extra USB 2.0 ports, 7.1 sound instead of 5.1, and additional RAID functionality (0 + 1). Yeah, kind of important stuff, wouldn’t you say?

    And no, I’d say there isn’t that much difference between the 955DF and Diamondtron (I’ve owned both). Also, if you’re going to use PQI memory you might as well buy a PC Chips board powered by a Codegen PSU.

    Oh, forgot to mention, the lowest price I was able to find on an NEC FE991SB-BK was $279 shipped, not the $249 you listed. Where’d you find your price?
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - link

    I already said the chaintech was inferior, question is gigabit which no one has in my house worth $50? Nope. The chaintech, overclocking and stabiliy wise was every bit as good as MSI in the 754 mobo roundup done here at anandtech and it's fiddy bucks less. You forgot the additional cost of the diamondtron which is just way better than any shadow mask samsung, use both side by side, you'll never suggest a samsung monitor again. Nothing wrong with PQI and it's half the price.

    Yup getting double video performance and being able to play all high res games on that beautiful NEC is pretty importatnt to me..Who were you targeting?
    Reply
  • 8NP4iN - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    i want to see how an overclocked sempron performs... Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    thebluesgnr, thanks, I fixed that.

    zebo, you system comes out to $996, not $923. You're also using a clearly inferior motherboard and the cheapest of cheap RAM, and all just to upgrade your video card, which some users may not want to do if they don't game heavily. Again, think about it, different users have different needs.

    Milkman95, we’re thinking of upgrading the memory, but are still trying to figure out how many users in this category really need a gig of memory. That said, with newer games coming out and heavy multitasking becoming more common in this segment, I’d say 1GB will be necessary in the near future. Only mid-range users who are on the cusp of high-end would need a gigabyte of memory.
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    thebluesgnr, thanks, I fixed that.

    zebo, you system comes out to $996, not $923. You're also using a clearly inferior motherboard and the cheapest of cheap RAM, and all just to upgrade your video card, which some users may not want to do if they don't game heavily. Again, think about it, different users have different needs.

    Milkman95, we’re thinking of upgrading the memory, but are still trying to figure out how many users in this category really need a gig of memory. That said, with newer games coming out and heavy multitasking becoming more common in this segment, I’d say 1GB will be necessary in the near future. Only mid-range users who are on the cusp of high-end would need a gigabyte of memory.
    Reply
  • Milkman95 - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    Good guide as always. My only comment is that i think its time to move the mid-range ram to 1 gig. 512 is nice, but gamers will notice performance limitations on newer games such as UT2k4, D3, HL2. I would say currently the ram is the limiting factor on this PC not the video card. Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    #12: 4.) that was the reason a wrote IMHO there ...
    You made a point there.
    Reply

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