Weekly Buyer's Guide: Entry Level System - March 2004by Evan Lieb on March 17, 2004 11:22 PM EST
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MonitorRecommendation: 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)
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 CaseRecommendation: CaseEdge TS1 Mid Tower
Price: $40 shipped
You can purchase this case online at www.pcclub.com 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.
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NeoGodless - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - linkI've built a lot of Athlon machines, and so has my co-worker for here at work. I haven't heard of one person complaining about instability or processor failure in all of the time that I have been familiar with computer hardware that couldn't be blamed on software. It's almost amusing to see the reliability argument pulled in when people are trying to decide between AMD and Intel. Anyway, I wanted to say that I personally had two very bad experiences with 9200SE video cards. Perhaps it was just the brand (PowerColor) but the 2D IQ was horrible. Text was barely readable and icons on the desktop had blurred shadows (shadows that didn't belong there). I tried in a few systems, and on a few monitors, and always the same. A regular 9200 (tried both Sapphire and Transcend) did not share those IQ problems. So I always recommend spending the extra $3 for a 9200 and not getting the SE.
zortwood - Monday, March 22, 2004 - linkAlso, that Cooler Master is rated only up to 900MHz Athlons, based on some sites that sell it.
zortwood - Monday, March 22, 2004 - link"We suggest the Cooler Master DP5-5G11A, ... If you're looking for something more quiet, we suggest mounting a Panaflo L1A fan to reduce noise. "
That sounds like a 120mm fan to go on a heatsink that takes 50mm fans? I'm I missing something?
I'm looking for a inexpensive but quiet way to cool my Athlon 1.4G. My existing fan is too noisy.
T8000 - Monday, March 22, 2004 - linkBy realistic I mean testing configurations that are likely to be made with high visual settings, so like I mentioned earlier, testing budget CPU's like Athlon XP and Celeron with $400 GPU's does not make sense, just like adding $300 worth of fast RAM to them.
For C & C generals, I would not recommend playing it with a budget system, but if you must, you should use equal visual settings when you compare performance. And in my experience, user guessed CPU limits usually vanish with a faster GPU.
Also, I have seen too many Athlon systems that did not even manage to keep working for three years of normal use, so I say that it is better to play at 60 FPS with Celeron and be able to save your progress, then to have frequent AMD related crashes at a whopping 62 FPS.
newuser12 - Sunday, March 21, 2004 - linksry, for double post, but I had to mention this: I have never had any problems with any processors, so I cannot really vouch for either intel or AMD here. However, We have at least ....4 computers with Athlon XP processors in our house and I know of some other people elseware, and NONE have had problems with them.
what did you mean by the comment: "
But generally speaking, a Celeron with dual channel memory will perform close to Athlons rating system when used with realistic benchmarks and settings." Realistic?!? what do you mean?
Like I mentioned earlier, please read the budget CPU shootout article. AMD will always have an advantage over Intel in these low end CPU's.
newuser12 - Sunday, March 21, 2004 - link"And most benchmarks favor one CPU or the other, making it possible to have a Celeron outperform an Athlon 64 clock for clock, but also to create the results you mentioned, depending on the benchmarks used."
True, but out of a unch of benchmarks, celerons only did barely OK in media encoding and they got killed in everything else. This is not just a case of benchmarks that favor AMD, this is just a fact: celerons suck. I remeber this comment: "All celerons have to offer is a high clock speed".
The fact that they are generally more expensive than AMD processors(that are much faster in performance) while this is a budget system is another interesting point.
You are right that this would not be a real gaming system, but that using Evan's entry level system, you could make a system that could run many games well enough. Just for kicks, lets talk about C and C generals with celerons vs Athlon XP's.
The celeron I had (2.2) would barely even run C and C. The 1800+ with the same vid card ran it much, much faster. I know I wasn;t GPU limited, so that is not a factor here. The celeron simply could not handle the amount of data it had to process fast enough.
T8000 - Sunday, March 21, 2004 - linkIt is not the performance that makes Celerons stand out, but their reliablity when paired with Intel mainboards does.
And most benchmarks favor one CPU or the other, making it possible to have a Celeron outperform an Athlon 64 clock for clock, but also to create the results you mentioned, depending on the benchmarks used.
Just when you benchmark a $400 GPU with a $75 CPU for games and select settings like 640x480 with no AA and AF, big differences will arise. But those differences are meaningless because nobody would use that CPU with that GPU and nobody with a $400 GPU would ever play with these low settings.
But generally speaking, a Celeron with dual channel memory will perform close to Athlons rating system when used with realistic benchmarks and settings.
Not to mention that none of these budget systems will offer serious game performance, but are more likely to be used for home office, Internet and small server appliances, where reliability is much more important then performance.
newuser12 - Saturday, March 20, 2004 - link25, Apparently you never read the CPU budget shootout where only a celeron 2.6 could barely manage to outperform an athlon 1800+ in media encoding and the celerons got raped in everything else. Celerons suck, period. Although they are Intel's budget CPU's they are still priced higher than AMD's processors which can kick their asses badly, ESP. when it comes to games. I once figured that I would try a celeron.........a 2.2 celeron with a geforce4 (with 64 ddr) AGP was outperformed badly by an Athlon XP 1800+ with a geforce4 (once again 64 ddr memory) PCI card. Badly.
T8000 - Friday, March 19, 2004 - linkFor a budget system, I would go for reliability, as most people want a system that actually keeps on going.
So I would suggest:
CPU & Cooling Intel Celeron 2400 - $71
Mainboard Intel D865GBF - $96
Memory 2 x 128 MB Kingston PC2100 - $52
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 - $537
I think the extra $33 are very well spend, as this memory comes with lifetime warranty and it is much faster because of the dual channel setup. And this mainboard offers a very nice upgrade path, supporting the fastest CPU's available.
Not to mention this setup allows you to tell your friends your real CPU speed without being laughed at.
Evan Lieb - Friday, March 19, 2004 - linkYeah Trogdor and mostlyprudent, definitely a lot you can do with such a small budget these days, and with great upgradeability.
Yeah, if you compare the two on the same monitor you will probably find the nForce IGP to be inferior. Even though text isn't "blurry" (depending on what your standard is, I suppose), sharpness can varry quite a bit.