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 - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    Hire jpayton to writer these guides.

    This system will destroy what you have for much less. Better monitor, Better video card and expensive ram is a waste. Heck you could have a gig of ram and still be less than $1000. Is the GB's firewall, and gigabit ethernet worth $50? Not to me.

    CPU & Cooling AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (retail cooler) $169
    MOBO- CHAINTECH "VNF3-250" nForce3 250 $75
    Memory 512MB PQI PC3200 $69
    Video Card 128MB Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro $193
    Monitor NEC/MITSUBISHI FE991SB-BK SuperBright Diamondtron CRT 19" $249
    Computer Case Antec SLK2650-BQE Mid Tower (includes Antec 350W PSU) $79
    Sound Card Onboard sound $0
    Speakers Logitech Z640 5.1 $56
    Networking Onboard 10/100/1000 Ethernet $0
    Hard Drive SAMSUNG 80GB 7200RPM IDE $63
    CD-RW Lite-On 52x32x52x16 Combo Drive $43

    Bottom Line - $923
    Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - link

    Nice recommendations Evan! I think it's about the first buys guide I've read that came close to offering the same hardware I actually ended up choosing for my own mid-range system (some of my choices are pricier but hey). For comparison, here's what I came up with.

    A64 3000+ With Thermaltake Silent Boost K8 cooler
    Chaintech ZNF250 MB (nForce 250 & 6 in 1 card reader!)
    1GB Corsair Value Select
    120GB WD PATA + 80GB IBM PATA
    ATI Radeon 9600XT
    Asus 52x32x52x CD-RW
    16x40x DVD-ROM (hand me down from previous system)
    ZIP 100 ATPI Internal
    Built in broadcom GB Ethernet (I think it's broadcom).
    Reply
  • KrazyDawg - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    SharkyExtreme also has a buyer's guide for value, mid range, and extreme if anyone wanted to see a different site's perspective. I'm not stating that AnandTech's guides are inadequate. It's just another review site. Both sites almost list the same hardware so it should help strengthen a user's decision. I don't agree with some of the hardware they added to their recent guides such as the generic ram for Intel but everything else looks good. Reply
  • gherald - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    > I went with the MSI Neo-FSR since I didn't need the extra features on the Platinum

    You're missing the point dude. It's not about features -- although they can be nice -- it's about the all around performance and reliability or shall we say "solidness" of the motherboard.

    The K8N is much better than the FSR in this and all other respects. Trust me, I've worked with both.. you made a mistake.

    Anyone who doesn't spend the extra $20 for a K8N Platinum is being foolish.

    I'd take an A64 3000 paired with a K8N over a A64 3200 paired with the FSR any day!
    Reply
  • BopTop - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    This weekend I ordered a system almost exactly like this for my first ever self-build - I went with the MSI Neo-FSR since I didn't need the extra features on the Platinum, got an Athlon 64 3200, gig of Corsair ValueSelect Ram after reading So's memory recommendation on the forums, and a GeForce 6800 GT - granted, it costs more than the midrange system, but for my budget, I was looking for a very capable gaming computer that could run DoomIII well. Reply
  • Swaid - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    Time for me to chime in on my experience with that NuTech drive, its utter garbage! I had problems with it reading stamped CDs (motherboard and video card driver CDs), it would literally lock up the system when seeking! Even the lastest firmware didn't help the situation. The NEC (2500A with DL bios hack) drive I have been loving, though I don't bother with Dual Layer burning since it's too damn expensive still! I have had zero problems with those and I regret ever straying from that drive for my system builds since the NuTech drive was a nightmare from the get go. Lots of false hope in that NuTech drive. Reply
  • NightCrawler - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    Nutech DDW-082 burner is a piece of junk !!!!!


    Stay away from this burner and this company !!!!!

    Pioneer, LiteON or NEC have all been reviewed at cdfreaks.com and cdinfo.com and come out way above in terms of writing quality.
    Reply
  • gherald - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    1) Indeed, 2x256mb makes zero sense on a single-channel platform like socket 754. Go with a single stick of 512mb, folks.

    2) Yes the 74G is noticeably better than the 36G and a better investment (I should know, I own 2 of each)

    3) I agree The CRT Recommendation is good.

    4) Here is where we differ. Strongly. Now I feel like starting a rant about motherboard manufacturers to knock some sense into your head... you really need to "get with the times." Your statement about MSI may have been true a year ago, but as the article says:

    "MSI has indeed produced the best Athlon 64 motherboards in two platform flavors [s754 and s939] that you can buy. This is a big step forward for MSI, whose image has been tarnished in the enthusiast community in recent quarters."

    This is 100% correct. I've personally worked with five socket 754 motherboards: One via-based MSI, two MSI K8Ns, and two via-based Epox. Of these, one of the epox has died, the other performed "ok." The via-based MSI has also been "ok" but the two MSI K8Ns are absolutely stellar. And the new non-standard-ATX MSI layout is *VERY* nice.

    For now, MSI leads the pack in A64 boards.
    ABIT does so for Intel and legacy Socket A.

    ASUS seems to have been floundering ever since the pioneering A7N8X was challenged by the NF7, although their post-canterwood Intel boards do look interesting.

    Epox used to be an overclocker's dream, but now that the other major players have gotten their act together Epox really has nothing notable to offer except bad support.

    Gigabyte still makes pretty good boards, but they're overpriced as usual.
    Reply
  • mino - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    1.) since You recommend A64 s754 as primary alternative, it DOES NOT make sense to recommend dual memory config -> BTW 2 modules per channel cause need for 2T timing on A64 which makes bigger penalty than going from CAS2.5 to CAS2!

    2.) HDD alternative makes NO sense. When You want to recommend Raptor then chose 74G part! Also some 80G/160G Samsung P80 SATA would be much more reasonable for mid-range

    3.) I really appreciate that for CRT alternative you chose high-end part since these times it is hard to fing good 19"CRT if man does not know exactly what to look for.

    4.) Epox A64 board would IMHO be MUCH safer way to go, since I have not seen serious product from MSI(here called "microshit") in last 2 years.
    Except MSI's server boards naturally.

    Besides that, nice guide.
    Reply
  • ciwell - Monday, August 23, 2004 - link

    One thing I noticed is that the Pricing Engine for the Storage drives lists a Seagate 200GB hard drive for $32.00 from Dell.

    Clicking on the link brings me to the Dell page, but the drive is really $132.00...odd. Not sure what is up with that.

    Other than that, great guide.
    Reply

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