Today, we release our second Buyer's Guide since last week. We had originally planned to release our first new Buyer's Guide on Monday last week, but delayed it to Tuesday for pricing reasons. Anyway, as stated in the first edition, you can look forward to Buyer's Guides every week, and after the end of each month we will retool our guides to reflect the new hardware and pricing of that particular time period. In case you haven't read our new Buyer's Guide yet, here's the basic format of them to be released on a weekly basis:

Week 1: Budget System
Week 2: Mid-Range System
Week 3: Cutting Edge System
Week 4: Overclocking System

For every component that goes into a computer, we pick our favorite piece of hardware as well as our runner-up piece of hardware. We've added runner-up 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). At the same time, we can 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 In addition to our Buyer's Guides and RealTime pricing engine, we suggest that you peruse our Price Guides so that you are not only informed about the best hardware for your computing needs, but also where to find the best deals on that hardware.

We are always taking suggestions on how to improve our Buyer's Guides. If you feel we are not including a wide enough variety of systems in our guides, please let us know and we can see if it warrants an additional weekly Buyer's Guide.

Mid-Range Computing
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  • virtualgames0 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Evan, nice article
    Though I'd have to disagree with you on the sound. I personally listened to the Realtek codec with soundstorm on my NF7-S, SB Live! 5.1, and Analog Devices AD1985. I used my Sennheiser HD-497 to test sound quality. SBlive and realtek had similar sound quality, distorted and bright highs. While AD1985 sounded much better than all of them, crisper, sounded almost as good as my headphones plugged into my Onkyo amp.
    Between the soundstorm and the SBLive, Soundstorm the most powerful audio chip made, which gives you much better gaming performance than SBLive. It also supports 60 directional sounds, a feature exclusive to the two most powerful soundchips, soundstorm and audigy 2.
    Based on this, I cannot see how you can recommend SBLive5.1 as an option over soundstorm. I personally upgraded my motherboard just so I can get soundstorm.

    AD1985 sounds flat out better than sound blaster live, I think anyone that heard both of them would agree with me.
  • gofor55 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I got suckered into buying the 7N400 Pro2 by all the "good reviews" only to find out that the GigaRAID on board controller is crap. It barely matches the performance of a single drive and writing to RAID is half the performance. Has any of these reviewers actually tested it, or do they just hype the "cool features". Let me know if they've got a fix I don't know about.
  • Evan Lieb - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link


    Good call. I was under the impression that the DSP in lower-end Audigys had to ability to output 24 bit sound. You're right, it's been corrected.


    Where can you find 9800 non-Pro's? Barely any vendors carry them anymore, if any at all (I couldn't find one vendor). For whatever reason, lots of vendors carry the 9700 Pro.


    The 2500+ is also another good bang for your buck CPU, but it just depends on how much you have to spend and if you're an overclocker.


    That's another good option.


    It's been corrected, thanks.


    The P4P800 Deluxe retail boxes we've purchased have both brackets included.
  • tallman45 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    It should be noted that the pricing of the P4P800 Deluxe does not include USB and Firewire brackets which would add to the $125 price point
  • kcbaltz - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    Why was a 2800+ chosen over 2500+? I only ask because much of what I have read on the forums seems to indicate people think the bang-for-buck sweet spot is on the 2500. Am I just out of date?
  • SDA - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    #5, not in all or even the vast majority of "professional" software, and I don't think it's because of subpar floating-point performance, considering that AMD's implementation of SSE2 is supposedly identical. You could be onto something with the single-channel memory support, though. Perhaps it could also be that the P4 has little trouble keeping its deep pipeline full and its execution units busy with predictable data like that or something... yeah, that doesn't make much sense either, does it.
  • brianbloom - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    Final summary page has a typo on it, showing the HD as only 40GB...
  • T8000 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    For the video card, I would suggest a Geforce FX 5900XT as runner up, as it gives a lot more performance then a Radeon 9700PRO for less then $199.

    In the CPU recommandation, there is a sidenote that Athlon 64 is the fastest CPU. This may be true if you play games, but for professional software, like video editing, the Athlon 64 suffers badly from its sub par SSE2 performance and its single channel memory support.
  • mcveigh - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    I think you should include a dvd reader/ cdrw drive instead of just a cdrw....a liteon model is only like $20 more than an plain cdrw
  • biostud666 - Thursday, February 26, 2004 - link

    You can get an FX 5900 (non-XT/SE) for 183$ a radeon 9800 non-pro for 139$ so why select a radeon 9600 pro?

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