Recommendation: Samsung SyncMaster 17" Flat-Tube (model 763MB)
Price: $146 shipped

Samsung's SyncMaster series of monitors are very popular for price conscious buyers. With a 0.20mm dot pitch, 1280x1024 max resolution, and 3-year manufacturer warranty, you're getting a good bang-for-your-buck monitor. You can pick this monitor up at your local Best Buy if you don't feel like waiting several days for your monitor to arrive in the mail.

Alternative: NEC Diamondtron 17" CRT (model FE771SB)
Price: $175

This is one of the lower end models of the famous Diamondtron series of monitors. Max resolution is just 1280x1024 and dot pitch is a mediocre 0.25mm. However, the clarity and viewable area (16") of this monitor are better than the Samsung SyncMaster 763MB, and at just $30 more. A nice little upgrade if you're willing to spend the extra dollars.

Computer Case

Recommendation: CaseEdge TS1 Mid Tower
Price: $40 shipped

You can purchase this case online at or go to a local PC Club to pick it up. Not only is the black and silver edition of this case very good looking, but the setup is very easy to use and convenient in general. For one, the motherboard mounting screws come installed in their proper holes, a welcome change from having to screw them in by hand. Secondly, the hard drive and optical drive bays contain plastic clips that allow you to install your drives simply and easily without screws. All in all, this case basically comes completely "preinstalled", and even includes a 300W PSU (power supply unit). Any AMD or Intel approved power supply will do for a budget system considering how little power a system like this draws, but if you're feeling extra cautious for future upgrades, picking up a Sparkle 300W PSU is a fine choice. The price of a Sparkle 300W PSU is about $21 shipped online.

Alternative: Foxconn Super Case 100-G2-P4 Mid Tower
Price: $45 shipped

While this case isn't quite as easy to use or as aesthetically appealing as the CaseEdge TS1, it is still a fine computer case with all the space that you'll need for your budget system. It comes with an AMD approved 300W PSU, but as we said before, you can always opt for a better 300W power supply if you feel like you need an especially good PSU for future upgrades.

In the end, as long as you purchase a case that accepts an ATX motherboard, the choice of computer case is completely up to you, the consumer. There are many aesthetically appealing computer cases out there - don't let our preferences stop you from exploring other computer cases online or at a local retail outlet like PC Club, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc.

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.

Memory and Video Sound Card and Speakers
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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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