We like to start our Guides by explaining what the target market is, just to avoid confusion. There are numerous ways to tweak any system within a given budget, and more often than not, we hear comments about why we didn't use product X or forgot to mention feature Y. For some people, specific features and upgrades are going to be important, while others are really just interested in a decent computer that will handle the typical tasks that they are likely to perform.

The Budget sector is the low end of computer systems, naturally, and expecting a computer that only costs $500 to be fast in all areas is unrealistic. Compromises must be made, and most often, we look to drop performance and features a bit while still maintaining an acceptable level of performance. The biggest deficiency in most budget systems is their graphics support. Pre-built OEM systems from Dell, Gateway, etc. often limit the amount of upgrading that can be done; for example, by removing the graphics slot (either AGP or PCI Express X16). If you never plan on running complex graphics on your computer, it may not matter, but with hardware accelerated graphics becoming a more central component of future versions of Windows, we consider an AGP or PCI Express expansion slot to be mandatory in our recommendations.

One thing that we would like to get out of the way right now is the possibility of purchasing a pre-built system. They are rarely ideal configurations, but most of the large OEMs can offer software and hardware bundles that are difficult to match. We won't bother recommending them in our Guides, but feel free to comparison shop. One pre-built system that we would like to specifically mention is the new Apple Mac Mini. If you haven't already heard about it, you can read up on the features and performance in Anand's initial review as well as his attempts at turning the Mac Mini into a Home Theater PC / Digital Video Recorder. Starting at $500, the Mac Mini is an attractive, small design. By the time you add a display and upgrade the memory to 512MB, it will cost significantly more than our budget recommendations. Still, for a computer neophyte, it may be the best solution.

We would like to be able to put together a reasonable PC for $500, but realistically and given some of the current trends, we're going to end up at closer to $650 for this Guide. We feel the upgrades that we've made for the additional $150 are worthwhile, but if you want something cheaper, the recommendations from our last Budget Guide can be had for about $550. That said , we'll move into our actual recommendations. Prices and availability are subject to change at any time, but we try to select parts that are easily acquired just about anywhere in the world. We will also have some alternative recommendations for those looking to improve performance by spending a bit more money. Now, on with the show!

CPU and Motherboard - AMD
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  • jwf1776 - Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - link

    my sources are showing Thermaltake W0013 Xaser Silent Purepower 480W at $60 as the cheapest acceptable atx 2.03 available
  • jwf1776 - Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - link

    47 - the point is that it was "important to make sure that the alternative PSU included a 24-pin power connector" and it did not

    you dig?
  • Jep4444 - Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - link

    a 20-pin PSU will work on a 24-pin mobo
  • jwf1776 - Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - link

    the alternative power supply EG375P-VE-SFMA doesn't have a 24pin rail!!

    I ordered it at found out the hard way.

    please make a correction!
  • Jep4444 - Thursday, March 17, 2005 - link

    looking at those X300HM, you can clearly see the higher memory HyperMemory cards fair better with AA than the higher clocked low memory ones

    scrolling down the page, their isn't a direct 32MB/64MB comparison of the 6200TC but both are benched and you can see the 64MB 6200TC is faster than the 32MB only when AA is on

    I guess it doesn't entirely matter though given the 32MB one can't even be found on newegg ATM(or atleast i couldn't find one)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - link

    41 - Ah, that could very well be. In that case, I'd be curious to see the difference in performance between the 32MB and 64MB 64-bit TC cards. :|
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - link

    42 - I had no idea Rosewill was related to Newegg. Newegg itself is just the online reseller of another company, ABS Computers or some such. At least, that was my understanding. Rosewill's RMA process seems a little questionable (i.e. restrictive), which doesn't really jive with them being Newegg. Of course, maybe it's just Newegg's way to sell certain products without needing to provide as much customer support?
  • Zepper - Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - link

    Just in case the author didn't know, Rosewill isn't an independent company. It is the in-house packaging division of Newegg (like Mad Dog is to CompUSA, etc.). You can often find the same item for less under its actual name than in a Rosewill box.
  • Jep4444 - Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - link

    The one benchmarked in the article under the name 64b is the 32MB/64bit one as mentioned on the first page and the 32b is 16MB/32bit

    I've seen a couple benches suggesting that the onboard RAM only makes a noticeable difference when AA is turned on at which point the 32MB cards seem to hit rock bottom dropping a significant amount of FPS(the ATI one does it too)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - link

    Jep4444 - I'm still not entirely sure on whether the 6200TC-32 is a 32-bit or 64-bit interface. Looking at the performance, it appears to be a 32-bit interface as the TC-64 beats it by a large margin. Then again, the presence of more local memory might cause the performance difference. Anyway, regardless of whether the TC-32 is a 32-bit or 64-bit interface, I would definitely stick with the TC-64 or full 6200 over the TC-16/32.

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