Introduction

As shown in our recent Entry-level Buyers' Guide, you can now build a decent entry-level PC for around $500 - including an LCD monitor and the Vista Home Premium OS. If you already have a monitor and OS, or use one of the free operating systems like Ubunti or another Linux variant, you can get your desktop system cost down to about $300. We don't recall a time when so much power was available in the computer industry for so little money.

Of course that $500 machine, while surprisingly capable for basic computer tasks, is certainly not the paragon for gaming, graphics, or raw computing power. As you move up the price scale you gain in all of those parameters. We started to beef up those areas in the bargain systems and reached prices closer to $1000. The next ladder rung is broadly defined as midrange. Most of our readers are looking to buy in the midrange category, which generally provides the most performance for the dollar and computing solutions with some staying power in the market.

Midrange can start as low as $1000 and extend all the way up to around $2000, which gives a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing components. In this era of declining prices and increasing value, the midrange also covers a wider area than in the past - just as we saw in the under $1000 segment. Our budget systems near $1000 were really representative of what we might have called midrange in the past. Similarly, our $2000 system is closer to what may have been defined as high-end in earlier guides.

It's fair to ask, then, why we haven't tossed the price classes for our guides and defined new ones. That option was considered, but the fact remains that high-end prices have not declined like midrange and entry prices. New architectures have also been recently introduced at the high-end, so the definition of high and mid are shifting as the Intel Core i7 and Phenom II move into our computing space. We are already seeing a few X58 boards that will be selling for around $200, which would allow a decent Core i7 build at around $2000. Similarly, you can build a very capable Phenom II box for that same $2000.

For today's Midrange Systems Guide we will put together two Intel systems and two AMD systems. The first pair are targeted for a complete system price of around $1500 - without monitor and OS that would be somewhere around $1200. This segment targets the best value possible with each component giving the overall best-bang-for-the buck in the midrange.

The second pair of systems target Midrange Performance. At about $500 more than Value Midrange, these $2000 complete systems invest that extra $500 in performance improvements. Without the 24" monitors and OS, the Performance Midrange systems would cost around $1600. The Midrange Performance segment is built around a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU or the fastest Phenom II you can currently buy. Both are very high performance for the money - and high performance by almost any other measure.

In the last few weeks we've looked at almost all the components you would need to build your new PC. This includes motherboards, memory, cases and power supplies, video cards, displays, and storage. Since we have already covered component classes and individual items in detail, you will find the above a useful reference to the components chosen in the system guides.

Intel Value Midrange
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  • smacfarl - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    The big news in pc performance has got to be the ssd drive.

    I fully expected that you guys would be incorporating $60 sata II flash drives as the boot drives in all these systems in the mid range. Really they should be in the under $1000 systems as well. Sure you can then get a second traditional 500-1RB HDD drive for your movies, music, photos, whatever but even a 32GB flash drive is more than enough to run your OS and main apps from flash. Boot time goes way down and performance up. That's without even using the SSD upgrades announced at CES.

    Seriously where is your head guys? I figure this first review post CES would usher in the new era, but it looks like you guys are sadly behind the curve hear at AnandTech. I am kind of sad because I have always looked at you guys as the leader in terms of system reviews. For example your comment that $300 budget boxes were now feasible minus OS and monitor is right on the money, though many other sites don't want to recognize this reality.

    Wake up Anandtech! Post another guide review with the sdd drives before some else becomes the self-build system review leader.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, January 17, 2009 - link

    There have been several articles ar AnandTech evaluating the effectiveness of SSDs. The biggest issue in adding an SSD to a System Guide recommendation is the state of Windows Vista, which does not really support SSDs as they need to be supported.

    Windows 7 DOES support SSD technology. With the release of that OS we will all be even more excited about the capability of Solid State Drives. Until then it is diffiuclt to recommend an SSD in a typical entry or mid-range build.

    However, the prices of capable SSD drives are dropping fast. There are several current generation 64GB SSD drives selling for less than $150 and a large number of 16GB SSDs for under $100. At those prices it is hard to ignore the potential of the SSD to improve system performance.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    An SSD with the 1TB drive is certainly an option worth considering. It is fairly easy to add that SSD to any of these system builds and the cost is much lower today with memory chips selling for bargain prices. We will talk a bit more about SSD options in a future System Buyers Guide. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Fail to see why when I add up all the Intel Performance Midrange, I get $2024 and not $1999 Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    The Gigabyte motherboard price reduction and rebate we were expecting have now kicked in, reducing the Gigabyte 1366 motherboard cost from $210 to $200 and $185 after $15 rebate. That change makes the total system price $1999, so we have revised both the Motherboard price and grand total price. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    There were many last minute changes to the guides and prices as the prices are very fluid. Our web editor checked prices when he posted and I made some final corrections and checked totals in Excel. One of the changes was overlooked on the system you mentioned. Your $2024 total is correct and the total has been changed. Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    Ahh okay. I understand that prices change as this system will be 3/4 the price 7 months from now. Just wanted to let you know that the total should still add up. Can't wait to see what will happen with the Intel/Jmicron SSD market. Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    You know, I'd really like to see a followup article here with benchmarks of these systems against the best intel has to offer. Not overclocked mind you .. just stock straight on performance difference. It would give people a very good idea of what their spending their money on and the differences those dollars make. For kicks throwing in last years Midrange system would be nice to.

    Just a thought. Hopefully it's taken under consideration.



    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Grr didn't have it all typed out before I hit the post button. The thing is .. You have these buyer guides right? The logical next step would be to test them and give people a idea of what their buying. One would think since these items do make it into your buyers guide then perhaps the manufactuer's would be generous enough to supply the parts for the test(s) since they would be in the spotlight and all. :)

    Please consider it. If not now then for future buyer guide articles. I know it's alot of work and all but it's a logical next step to a fuller more complete article.

    Thanks for reading both comments.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    While possibly not practical (sounds like the Anand team is quite spread out around the world), it would be very helpful to see what you are mentioning. Putting a real world head to head comparison would show exactly what price premium is put on the systems, which would allow us system builders to justify an upgrade or feel better about saving some money with a lesser part.

    I'm just willing to bet all the parts aren't in the same room just waiting to be pieced together...
    Reply

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