The school year is now in full swing, and hopefully everyone is enjoying themselves. Some of you might already be in the depths of mid-terms, for which you have our condolences. If you're lucky, you already have a PC that you can use for doing homework, but parents might now find themselves looking towards the purchase of a new or second computer, in order to allow more than one person to access the Internet at the same time. What better way to fill that need than to pick up an economically priced budget PC?

Our last Buyer's Guide looked at the Mid-Range price segment, with a price range of $1250 to $1500. We split the recommendations up into office/business vs. gaming use, and we attempted to utilize the available budget to customize the system as much as possible for the intended market. We'd like to do the same thing for the budget sector, but unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot that can be done past a certain point. We'll give it a shot, though, with the goal of getting as close as possible to $500 for the non-gaming systems and $750 for the gaming configuration. If you want a bit more performance, you can look at the Mid-Range recommendations and try to downgrade some areas. Alternatively, you can take the budget recommendations and upgrade them where necessary. Either way, it should be pretty easy to combine the information from our Buyer's Guides and Price Guides to put together the type of system that you desire.

We'll be including an AMD as well as an Intel configuration for each of the recommendations. Performance and price are competitive in the budget realm, with AMD holding an overall lead at present. However, the lead is more like watching two family sedans drive down a two-lane street, the drivers going about their daily tasks without even realizing that they could be racing each other to the next stop light. If that doesn't make sense, what we're really saying is that for typical family use and basic office tasks, talking about performance really doesn't matter much. If the computer can get the job done and the user doesn't feel that it's too slow, the goal has been achieved. Price is generally a bigger concern than loading a web page one second faster.

Since the last Entry Level Guide, we've had a few changes. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but we do have the expected price drops as well as a few new components on the market. As usual, we'll start with the selection of an appropriate platform and go from there.

Office CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • grimdeath - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    good choice on the samsung 997df monitor, i bought mine for the same price at best buy as well around 2 years ago. its still crips, clean and bright :) im not sure how i hear more ppl voting for other brands after looking at this compared to others(though NEC seems decent)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    I also own an NEC FE991SB that I purchased for $260 or so 18 months back - maybe even two years ago? Overall, I prefer it to the Samsung, but the Samsung has a higher resolution. Both of them cost more now than they did a year ago, though, which pretty much sucks. Sadly, the new NEC CRT models aren't even equal to the old Samsung monitors.
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    An entry level gaming graphics card is Geforce 6600GT?? Sheesh. My friends who are "Hardcore Gamers" have Radeon 9800 Pro/XT.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    I look at "Entry Level" gaming in terms of price, not performance. To me, that means $100 to $150 is ideal, and the 6600GT fits that requirement quite nicely. You can play many games on a slower graphics card, but usually with lower detail settings. Why not spend the extra $30 and get a decent performance boost?

    You can also think about it another way: how much does a current game cosole cost? $150 or so, right? Take a budget PC - because many people will want a PC in the home for other uses - and you can suddenly have a respectably gaming PC for the same amount as a console. The good news is that a 6600GT will play every game currently available at 1024x768 resolution without difficulty. Many games will even handle 1280x1024 or 1024x768+4xAA.
  • DrZoidberg - Friday, October 14, 2005 - link

    I agree, if u play games regularly the minimum card a gamer should get now would be a 6600gt or 9800pro. A 6600gt is only slightly faster than 9800pro so they both similar cards. Most brand new 9800pro (not crappy se edition) on newegg is selling around $120, so its not much cheaper.

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