Weekly Buyer's Guide: Entry Level System - March 2004by Evan Lieb on March 17, 2004 11:22 PM EST
- Posted in
MemoryRecommendation: 1 X 256MB Crucial PC2100 (CAS2.5)
Price: $40 shipped
This week, we recommend Crucial memory modules primarily because Crucial continues to offer excellent customer support, warranties, and just plain reliable memory modules. This particular memory module is rated at CAS 2.5 and is on par with other PC2100 modules from the likes of Kingston, Mushkin, etc. 256MB of memory should be more than enough for most entry level applications unless you decide to start gaming or using other applications that require significant main memory capacity, in which case, we'd recommend 512MB of memory instead. We'd also recommend upgrading other parts of your system if that's the case (like video, for one), but we'll get to that in a moment. Anyway, make sure you buy your memory from a reputable online vendor, and if you're not sure what to do, just visit crucial.com and buy directly from them. Crucial's web site is very specific about which memory modules you need. If it's confusing, just make sure to look for the modules that we've recommended here today and make sure they are unbuffered, non-ECC memory modules.
Alternative: 1 X 256MB Mushkin Blue Line PC2700 (CAS2)
Price: $50 shipped
Mushkin's Blue Line offers a PC2700 module that runs at a low Cas Latency of 2.0 instead of CAS 2.5, like with Crucial's PC2100 module above. In addition, this is a PC2700 module, which of course means it's capable of 333MHz DDR frequencies. This memory is ideal for the 2500+ that we recommended today as an alternative CPU, as it perfectly matches that processor's FSB speed, offering the best possible performance. Still, it's $10 more for only a little bit more performance, mostly unnoticeable. In addition, for a few dollars more, you can purchase PC3200 memory running at CAS2 (like OCZ's Performance series of modules), so it depends on exactly how much performance you need.
VideoRecommendation: 64MB Sapphire Radeon 9200SE
Price: $41 shipped
This week, our recommendation is the Radeon 9200SE instead of the regular 9200. This is mostly due to the fact that we changed our format for secondary picks ("alternatives" instead of "runner-up" hardware), but nonetheless, it is still fitting of an entry level system. While the 64-bit memory interface of the 9200SE (SE indicates the halved memory interface) cripples gaming performance considerably compared to 128-bit video cards, it's still an acceptable card for the light to occasional gamer, and of course, more than necessary for non-gamers. 2D IQ quality will live up to business users' needs as well as the regular Joe Shmoe's needs; that is, crisp text and excellent clarity in general. At $41, it's hard to find a better video card with said feature set.
Alternative: 64MB Sapphire Radeon 9200
Price: $57 shipped
The Radeon 9200 is the AGP8X version of the Radeon 9000. This is the non-crippled 128 bit memory interface version of the 9200SE. Vendors may or may not make this information about memory interface differences clear when advertising their 9200 video cards, so be sure to check. Gaming performance is considerably better with the regular 9200 than the 9200SE, and 2D IQ is identical, if not better in some cases depending on whether or not you choose to pick a higher quality version of ATI's 9200 (from Gigabyte, for example). You should definitely be considering this card for your entry level system instead of the 9200SE if you're at all interested in some semi-serious gaming. As far as the onboard video memory size is concerned, 64MB should be more than enough for the majority of video games out there, and certainly enough for budget users. There are 128MB versions of this card available, but it's completely unnecessary to upgrade to them when looking at the price differential.
Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on memory and video 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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Baldurga - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkAbout second option for GPU, I think a 9600SE 128Mb 128bit for 67 is a great deal. You can find it here:
Ok, is not Tier 1 brand, but with 128bit and 9600 core it is a very good price/perf optio on budget.
Octoberblue - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link"Western Digital continues to make well priced budget drives that aren't noticeably slower than the 5400RPM variety"
- Don't understand this comment. Did you mean not noticeably slower than... something else. This is a 7200rmp drive...?
ehanneken - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link"Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-X (nForce2 Ultra 400)"
Minor correction: The A7N8X-X uses the single-channel nForce2 400 chipset, not the dual-channel nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset.
Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkNewegg have got the Duron 1.8 at $43 conspicuously missing from your roundup. I'd sooner have MHx than cache anyday and the nearest A-XP is the 2200+ at $62 so youd save a few bucks which could go towards a full dx9 card- cut down 9600 or 5750. As dx9 takes a lot of the computation onto the gpu, a full dx9 card favors a weaker system so that's where the money should be spent.
The Duron also runs at 1.5v, 0.1v below the A-XP and combined with smaller L2 cache makes it cooler and if desired more overclockable.
Evan Lieb - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkPrinceGaz,
Bah, changed and properly updated. :)
PrinceGaz - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkAccording to the real-time price engine, the XP2000+ is the same price as the recommended XP1800+ ($49) and that the price hasn't changed in the last week. So the XP2000+ would probably have been a better recommendation (I assume the article is under a week old).
Evan Lieb - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkAgreed 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.
Originally though, Crucial PC2100 was $35 (Newegg if I remember right), so you would save $5 versus PC2700 and $10 versus PC3200. But Newegg upped their prices after the guide went online. You guys should be wary of those types of things in the future, because vendors will do that on occasion.
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.
Zebo - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkI have the MN31N and notice zero blurred text on the benQ LCD it runs on.. I also have saphire 9800 ultimate edition and BFG 5900NU so I think I would have noticed by now.
Here's my rec for overclockers and silent budget system.... Plus you get DVD drive, MCP-T, and better case too.
CPU & Cooling AMD Athlon XP 1800+ (OEM) - $49
Cooler Master HSF - $10 $59
Motherboard Shuttle "MN31N" for $85
Memory 256MB Buffalo PC3200 - $44
Video Card Onboard - $0
Monitor Samsung SyncMaster 763MB $146
Computer Case Antec SLK1600 - $46
Sound Card Onboard sound $0
Speakers Creative Labs SBS270 2.0 $20
Networking Onboard 10/100 Ethernet $0
Hard Drive - Seagate 7200rpm 40gig- $59
CD-RW Samsung CDR-W/DVD Combo Drive,- $47
Bottom Line - $506
Then crank it up:)
gherald - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkText sharpness is definately a concern, good call AT on the R9200.
But I also think PC3200 should be used instead of 2100. The price difference is small, and it will give you much greater flexibility when it comes time to upgrade, cuz 3200 can actually be used by most modern processors like the P4, A64, and Bartons
You can even run the 3200 @ 333mhz if you want it synced with a non-OCed 2500.
I'm kicking myself for having bough a couple PC3000 sticks last year, instead of PC3200. Now I can't use those sticks on new systems...
Zebo - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - linkYa medfly I agree..Imean what the point of buying a 3200 capable chipetted board and crippling it with 2100. Ch-5 buffalo PC3200 is only $44 at newegg.
I also would have gone on-board graphics.. Probablly the smoking Shuttle "MN31N" for $85!! Has the MCP-T/soundstorm for great sound has GF4 MX for video and plenty of overclockers features.
Oh well can't please everyone. Other than that I loved it.:)