Introduction

We get regular emails from people looking for advice on what sort of components to use in a new computer. Some people are looking at cheap budget builds for a friend or family member; others are looking at high-end gaming setups capable of smoking the latest consoles. However, by far the most common type of computer is the midrange system, and that's the category we will be covering today.

Depending on whom you're talking to, midrange can start as low as $1000 and extend all the way up to around $2000, which undoubtedly gives a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing components. We're going to split the middle and shoot for about $1500 for each of the systems we configure today, which will include everything that's necessary for the intended market. You can spend more or less than that with a little bit of effort, and certainly those who are looking to reuse a few components from their current system will be able to save some money.

For this guide, we're going to put together four configurations that target different user types. Gaming is something we are asked about frequently, so we will start by putting together two gaming systems - one based on an AMD platform and the other using an Intel platform. We'll follow that with a Home Theater PC (HTPC) and an entry level workstation. As always, many of the choices can be debated, and picking out a single component that is "best" is usually a matter of perspective. This is particularly true for our HTPC and workstation configurations, but we will cover that in more detail momentarily.

Finally, before we get to the actual systems, we would be remiss if we didn't point out all of the upcoming hardware launches. AMD's Phenom processors (dual-core and quad-core) should be launching within the next couple of months, potentially bringing them back into the raw performance competition with Intel (as opposed to right now where they're mostly competing on price/performance). Along with the new processors, we expect to see a lot of new chipset launches for the AMD side from both AMD and NVIDIA. It's been a rough year for AMD, with falling prices and market share. We'll have to wait a bit longer to find out if they can really get back into the thick of the battle, but at the very least AMD aficionados might want to wait a bit longer to see how everything pans out before making their next upgrade.

On the Intel side, most of the midrange updates aren't going to be as dramatic, but we should start seeing 45nm Penryn processors showing up in quantity in the near future. All other things being equal, we would certainly prefer to use a 45nm Intel processor, but whether or not you're willing to wait a bit longer for what amounts to a minor speed bump (generally less than 20%) depends a lot on what sort of system you're currently using. If you need a new computer right now (because of a new job or because your current system broke) then you probably can't wait a few weeks let alone months. If you don't actually need (or really want) to upgrade, then go ahead and wait until you do.

AMD Midrange Gaming
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  • cosmotic - Monday, October 15, 2007 - link

    It would be really cool if you guys built the Intel and AMD system's and put them head to head in benchmarks. Reply

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