CPU and Motherboard Recommendations

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2000+ OEM (no heatsink)
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 400)
Price: CPU - $49 shipped (OEM). Motherboard - $69 shipped

UPDATED March 18th, 2004. After a month, the Athlon XP 2000+ has come down in price so much that it is now selling for exactly as much as the 1800+ we recommended 4 weeks ago. The 2000+ is identical to the 1800+ in every aspect save for its clock speed; 1.67GHz instead of 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. $49 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. We suggest the Cooler Master DP5-5G11A, which is just $10 shipped from several online vendors, if you like a cheap, but effective, cooling solution. If you're looking for something more quiet, we suggest mounting a Panaflo L1A fan to reduce noise.

For more information on exactly how your 2000+ might perform, you can check out AnandTech's very own Budget CPU Shootout from last December. Keep in mind that the 2000+ isn't listed in our benchmark charts there, but you can still get a very good idea of how it performs by looking at how its close brothers perform in comparison to the competition.

The A7N8X-X was our recommendation 4 weeks ago and continues to be our recommendation today. Not much has changed in the last month, so this is a predictable pick. Still, we'd like to reiterate a few things that we talked about before, namely the reliability, features and excellent price that this motherboard offers. The performance that the nForce2 400 chipset brings 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 save for dual channel DDR support. We've had lots of personal experience with this particular ASUS model and simply put, we love this motherboard to death. You can't go wrong with an entry level motherboard like this one.

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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  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    I realize this is on a budget, but since the CPU/motherboard alternative was an extra $40, the graphics an extra $20, the hard drive and extra $18, etc. I would think that suggesting 512 MB of RAM as an alternative might be a good addition.

    It doesn't help in a lot of systems, but if someone is going to add in the 9200 (Pro?) graphics card, the 2500+ CPU, and the NF7-S motherboard all in hopes of making their budget system a more capable gaming system, then the 256 MB of RAM will be a serious problem. There aren't many games coming out that don't use more than 256 MB of RAM now, and several are already using up to 700 MB or so. At the very least, I think it would warrant mention as a *third* alternative in the memory area. Some people aren't going to go and read all of the other guides, after all.

    However, that said, it's pretty impressive what you can put together for $500, especially when the monitor is one third of the price!
  • mostlyprudent - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Just wanted to take a moment and tell you folks at Anandtech how much I enjoy and appreciate these buyers guides. I recently started a new job (outsie the IT field). My employer wanted me to start ASAP, but the OEM they normally buy their PCs from could not ship a system for over two weeks. I mentioned that I was capable of building my own system in a matter of a day or two, and to my surprise and delight, they took me up on it. I found these guides very helpful, if for nothing else than to ratify my own decisions.
    In case you're interested, here's what I assembled:

    Foxcom Supercase 1150 BK
    Fortron FSP300-60N 300W PSU
    AMD Athlon 2500+ Barton
    ABIT KV7 motherboard
    ASUS 64MB Radeon 9200SE
    1x512MB Corsiar Value Select PC-2700
    Western Digital 40GB HD - 400JB
    Samsung 19'' 955DF Monitor
    Creative Labs SBS230 2.0CH Speakers
    WinXP Pro

    While this was far from my first build, it was really nice to have read the buyers guides and have them as a resource for decision making when I had such a short time frame.
  • Zebo - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Were you using the LCD to compare the 9800 Pro to the Shuttle board's nForce IGP graphics? You're definitely a rare case if there's no noticeable difference between the two in terms of text sharpness.
    I did not compare side by side just stating I don't notice blurred text with the on-board graphics. Lucky? perhaps I do notice it's slower than molases at ~2800 3dmark2001.... Need a 9000/9100/9200 to test.
  • Ronnie - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Out of some spare parts I built a system almost identical to that. The only difference was I had a 440mx card laying around and some kingston pc3200. I plan on giving it to my brother in-law.
  • Evan Lieb - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Thanks guys, corrections made.
  • georgeg - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    On the summary chart, you list the Sapphire 64mb Radeon 9200 for $41.00. At that price, don't you mean the 9200SE?
  • gherald - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    >Agreed guys, I'll change PC2100 to PC2700 next time.
    >Even though it means squat for entry level users, you're right,
    >might as well go with the faster memory if the price is identical.

    Ok, but make the 3200 the "alternative". Because, here's a possible scenario:

    About two years from now this system will start to seem obsolete (cuz it's already entry level). When that happens, you'll have these extra PC2700 DIMMs that no one can use. Whereas if you'd used 3200 for just $5-10 more, you would be able to add that memory to a less-old system, such as once of the current P4 or A64s, and make a nice 2GB RAM file server or somesuch on the cheap...
  • Z80 - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Where did you find a new Abit NF7-S motherboard for $82 shipped? Best I've found is about $100 unless you buy a refurb. Maybe you confused the NF7 price with the NF7-S?
  • assemblage - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    I like these series of articles. I've been putting my own system together for years and like playing around with configuring different types of systems for different users.
  • nastyemu25 - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    If you want to be able to watch DVDs, then you can always opt for a combo drive. Its function essentially integrates CD burning and DVD watching into one drive. The burning takes place at a slower 32X speed, but the added benefit is that you're getting a better price for this combo drive versus purchasing an additional drive.

    ^^^^^^^ wtf? the burning takes place at a slower 32x speed?????? ummm, it's 52x32x52x16

    I don't understand how CD burning is taking place at a slower "32x" speed..... there is NO caveat with buying a combo drive....

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