CPU and Motherboard Recommendations

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2000+ Retail (heatsink and fan included)
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: CPU - $57 shipped. Motherboard - $69 shipped



The AMD Athlon XP 2000+ continues to be AnandTech's runaway favorite for Entry Level Systems month after month. This month is no different. We had originally favored the Athlon XP 1800+, but AMD decided to level its prices off on Athlon XP processors at the 2000+, so it only made sense for us to upgrade our recommendation from an 1800+ to a 2000+ with the negligible price difference. Both the Athlon XP 1800+ and the 2000+ are absolutely identical to each other feature-wise, save for their clock speed; the 2000+ operates at 1.67GHz while the 1800+ operates at 1.53GHz. As we mentioned before, this CPU offers excellent performance in today's business applications and games while being very light on the wallet. $57 is a steal and will satisfy even the cheapest of cheap systems. There aren't many 2000+ processors available in retail, but any old CPU cooler will do. If you're looking for something quieter than retail cooling, we suggest mounting a Panaflo L1A fan to reduce noise or even just using your BIOS' speed fan control to reduce noise.

We suggest that you read up on AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December for detailed information on how your Athlon XP 2000+ might perform. Keep in mind that the 2000+ isn't listed in our benchmark charts there, but you can still get a good idea of the performance of the 2000+ by approximating based on how their siblings perform.



The ASUS A7N8X-X and its older derivatives have been a favorite among the editors here at AnandTech for quite some time, and continue to be a favorite to this day. We have written extensively on ASUS' nForce2 motherboards in the past, namely about their exceptional reliability, feature sets, and excellent price points. The performance that the nForce2 400 chipset brings to the ASUS A7N8X-X is an especially nice bonus considering the price tag, as this is basically the exact same chipset that you'll find in high end Socket A motherboards minus the dual channel DDR memory support, which is totally unnecessary for entry level user needs. We've had lots of personal experience with this particular ASUS model, and simply put, we love this motherboard to death. Due to the type of chipset used with this motherboard, you will be able to upgrade to the best Athlon XP processors in the future, namely the 400MHz FSB kind.

All in all, we can't think of much that will go wrong with this motherboard, especially considering how mature BIOS support is at this stage in its long life. Some users who have experience with ASUS' older nForce1 motherboards will love the A7N8X-X.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:


If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.

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  • Dnana - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    I disagree with the prior comments where people are taking an entry level system and modifying it until it is really not an entry level system anymore - it is really a mid-level system at that point. I think for me the test of entry level is can you beat the $399 after rebate of a Dell Dimension 2400 - along with its goodies. If not, why build your own - why not buy one that comes with less headache of gathering parts and at least has a warranty? I read this article because I was interested if something could be built that is cheaper and better than the Dell Dimension 2400 and it appears not - for an all around Office machine. Let me know if you beg to differ!! - Tom Reply
  • Dantzig - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    I must strongly agree with Tostada on changes to this budget system. However, I'd like to see a number of changes to the guides:

    1. Don't include the display as part of the system. Still have display recommendations at the end of the guide, but just don't add them into the system price. This will make the guides more flexible. Not everyone wants to buy a new monitor and some people may want a high-end display, but a budget system.
    2. Increase the minimum amount of RAM in all of the systems to 512MB. Anything less results in poor performance with Windows XP and anything but the simplest of applications. Heck, even just running IE and MS Office benefit greatly from 512MB, let alone image editing applications and games.
    3. Show a few selected benchmarks to compare the systems. It would be incredibly helpful for users trying to decided which system they need for X purpose. Anandtech shouldn't recommend anything that they haven't tested.
    4. Most of the case recommendations are dreadful. Since cases are so subjective, maybe just allocate $X to a case and then provide a list of popular cases in that price range.
    Reply
  • Dantzig - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Tostada - Saturday, June 12, 2004 - link

    I don't like this low-end system at all. There's no reason for having such an bad hard drive, and there's no reason not spending an extra $10 to be able to play DVD's.

    There's also no excuse for using a Radeon 9200SE. The nForce2 IGP is as fast as the Radeon 9200, and it's actually faster than the 9200SE. Why buy a graphics card that is actually worse than integrated graphics? Yes, I know people complain about the quality of 2D on anything integrated, but quality is certainly acceptable, and most entry systems won't go over 1024x768.

    I honestly can't believe that AT would suggest that drive. It's slow. It's loud. It has a 1-year warranty.

    Dump the Radeon, save $43.

    Get a Biostar nForce2 IGP board with IGP, save $4.

    Get 512MB of Mushkin RAM for God's sake. Spend $33 more.

    Get a Lite-On combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM. Spend $13.50 more.

    Get an 80 GB Samsung with a 3-year warranty. Spend $10.50 more.

    So there you have it. Final cost is an extra $18 for double the memory, faster (LOL!) integrated graphics, the ability to play DVD's, and a faster, bigger, quieter hard drive with a 3-year warranty.
    Reply
  • techblaster - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    ref to my previous post, i found the abit NF7-S board under the nforce2spp category of motherboards.
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    there is also a Abit NF7 board for $67.
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    What is the differnce between these 2 boards. i thought that the v2 of nf7-s supports 400Mhz FSB but i saw 400Mhz FSB speeds listed even under the cheaper version. also how is the gigabyte 7nn400-L board.its a nforce2 ultra chipset. is it better than the Abit's???
    Reply
  • scius - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    I'm going to ahve to back up AT on the hard drive choice. While certianly 40 gigs is tiny now-a-days, there are still many people who simply want a computer to check their email.
    Keep in mind the target audience for a truly _budget_ system... aka. my sister. I'm building her an email/internet/word machine, where gaming and even hard drive space are non-factors (She'll likely be on dial-up, and i know she could care less about having music on her computer).
    So, while for most people reading AT would go with the 80, most people reading AT wouldn't be using a "budget system" in the first place...
    A "budget gaming system" or eqv. OTOH is a different story...
    Reply
  • techblaster - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    hi,
    i was thinking of making that budget system and found the article pretty good. the only thing is newegg and zipzoomfly dont carry the NF7-S rev2.0 board(the rev 2 supports 400FSB). Im looking to purchase a nforce2 ultra 400 board with my XP2500+.any ideas???
    also a real good case i purchased frm newegg is the Raidmax cobra($58) with a 420w SMPS and a side panelwith a LED color fan. it also ships with 2 more exhaust fans(80mm).
    also please advise which would be a better card
    1->ATI 9200 with 128bitbus and 128mb RAm(was thinkin on ECS one on newegg)
    or
    2->nvidia 5200(ultra or non ultra ver???)
    Reply
  • RONMANLY1 - Friday, June 11, 2004 - link

    Would like to see a mid-range guide oriented to a non-gamer, non-overclocker who wants to have many hds, be able to simultaneously run several programs, download lots of big files from the web or large newsgroups, burn a CD [or DVD soon], move directories, copy files between computers [& a PVR] -- without slowing everything to a crawl.
    My current latest computer has 9 hard drives with over 870 GB [no RAID or PVR yet]. I build an added computer every three years or so and don't believe in upgrading my computers [ex added HDs, etc.]
    Reply
  • Duker - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    Aspire Case with 350 PS = $40.00
    MSI KT600 MB = $59.00
    Mushkin 512 PC3200 C2 = $84.00
    GeForce4 Ti4200 = $70.00
    WD 80Gig = $70.00
    Liteon CDRW = $38.00
    AMD 2500 Retail = $80.00
    On board sound = $0
    PHILIPS 107E56 17" CRT = $90.00

    Total $531.00
    Shipping = $55.00

    This system does run Far Cry and will overclock.
    Reply
  • ET - Thursday, June 10, 2004 - link

    I agree that the entry level graphics system could have on-board graphics. This will add a little to the motherboard cost, but still less than buying a separate card. Regarding memory, I think that another 256MB (even slower) would have been a better option than a faster 256MB, in terms of overall performance. Reply

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