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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  • Atlas5 - Sunday, February 29, 2004 - link

    I'm glad to see Anandtech doing guides again. The site has read like an Electrical Engineering White Paper for the last 3 years. I may start visiting more often.

    Anyway, I just put together a new system and my P4 3.2 only cost $170 and included the heatsink/fan. And by following the links on the video card roundup at Tomshardware, I got my ATI Radeon 9800 Pro for $207.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    While we're on the topic of CPUs, my newly purchased XP 2500+ will NOT overclock to 3200+ speeds. It does do 2.1 GHz okay, but any more than that and I have stability problems. It is an OEM CPU, though, so maybe that's why it doesn't OC as well. I had an Antec copper core HSF unit so already - unused! - so I didn't want to get a retail and end up with an extra HSF sitting around. Probably should have paid the extra $8. No worries, though: I'm going to be shifting this PC over to my brother's dental practice soon anyway, at which time I'll probably get an Athlon 64 to replace it.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    #17... Thanks. I see where I screwed up. It's only the HIGHER COST Seagate hard drives that use a Serial ATA interface that come with the 1 year warranty. WTF is up with that? Granted, performance difference between ATA-6 and SATA isn't anything major right now, but why would anyone pay more for the same hard drive with an SATA interface with a shorter warranty!? So if you're getting a standard ATA drive, the Seagate is okay; it's the SATA ones that have the newer, shorter warranty. Bleh. I also notice that numerous other manufacturers have drives with both 1 year and 3 year warranties, depending on size. (I was only looking at 8 MB cache drives.) Go figure.
  • DaveHull - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    I have to mention, after building two systems with the board, and getting better benchmarks from it than with my 865PE and 875 boards, that the Asus P4S800D-E Deluxe (new SIS 655TX) is a better deal, at $104 shipped, than any board with an Intel chipset. It even has four SATA connnectors and three for IDE. I'm surprised that this board was not recomended, given the praise AnandTech sent its way in this article, especially in the final words section:


  • Z80 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Can't really argue with any of the hardware choices except the SB Live 5.1. Too many bad memories about driver and chipset issues. Maybe all of that was resolved in the current version? Considering the recent price drops, I'd have selected a DVD burner for around $100 instead of the CD burner or DVD player.
  • SKiller - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    #13 Here you go:
  • skunkbuster - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    i agree with some of these other posters. some of the choices that were made are questionable. why not get an xp2500, and just change the default fsb from 333 to 400, and you will get higher performance than the xp2800.

    also, Soundblaster Live is pretty damn old. the soundstorm is much better sounding.

    and why get that generic-looking compuer case, when you can get a much better quality antec SLK3700AMB case for the same price?

  • Tiorapatea - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    The Abit AN7 is still immature. There are numerous reports of problems with this board. Stick with the cheaper and proven NF7-S Rev2.

    Also, another vote for the 2500+. Why pay more when it is well known that one can very simply overclock these processors? Another possibility is the XP-M Mobile chips, which are unlocked and sell for a small premium, albeit they are hard to find.

    Finally, I have to agree with the posters who have rubbished your mention of Creative's Soundblaster Live. Creative's drivers and tech support are notoriously bad.
  • jbee2002 - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    While I certainly think the video card recommendations in the article are fine, I would like to point out that the information "all 9800SE cards do not have a 256bit interface" is incorrect. I own a Hercules 9800SE All-in-wonder, and it IS a 256bit memory interface card. In fact, with the Omega drivers (which enable the switched-off pixel pipelines in the chip) it has exactly the same 3dmark2003 scores as a regular 9800Pro. The TV tuner on the card even has a sticker "9800pro all in wonder" on it :-)

    At 190 Euros, this card is a real steal.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, February 27, 2004 - link

    Woah! You recommend the Seagate as a runner up on the hard drive? Maybe you should mention that the 8MB cache WD drives come with a 3 year warranty still, while the Seagate (and Hitachi/IBM and several others) only come with a 1 year warranty. For me, the slight noise increase is not even noticeable with the sound of the fans, and the 3 year warranty seals the deal. I would definitely stick with the WD drives.

    As for the remainder, I just upgraded to an Athlon XP 2500+, but I'm planning to overclock. Pretty much all of the Barton model XP chips scale to around 2.3 GHz with decent HSF, so there's no reason to spend the extra $40 to get the 2800+ IMO.

    I've also heard a lot of bad things about Creative's drivers on the Live! cards, so I'm not sure they're really any better than other solutions. Audigy/Audigy 2 are supposed to have better drivers. (My new system is an Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe and also has SoundStorm, for $110.) Great choice on the speakers, though - exactly what I ordered! :)

    The CD-RW is fine, I guess, although Lite On is still a bit cheaper if that's important and their burners work very well. Funny how you mention that the 9700 Pro is about 35% more than the 9600 Pro and performs about 35% better, but then you say the 9800 Pro isn't worth the extra $15 to $25 because it *doesn't* have a 35% performance increase over the 9700 Pro. That's true, but it only costs about 10% more and it *does* perform about 10% faster than the 9700 Pro. It's certainly an option if people are looking to get a little bit more speed.

    My final complaint, though, has to be the case choice. Okay, it's not terrible, but I think the Antec SX635BII (I think SX630II is the beige version?) is a worthy runner up. It's $71 and comes with front firewire/USB ports and an Antec 350W power supply. The PS is also very quiet in comparison to many I've had.

    Overall, though, very good system for the price. I built almost the exact same thing for a friend recently, with the same monitor, CPU, and speakers. Only change was 1 GB RAM and an FX5900 graphics card, plus some minor differences here and there. I'm looking forward to seeing the Overclocking System. :)

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