Welcome back to another edition of the AnandTech Buyer's Guides. The one constant in life is change, and what was once an ultrafast component invariably will be surpassed by midrange and eventually budget parts in terms of raw performance. Sometimes this progression will occur quickly, and other times it may take a couple years, but in the world of computers we will all inevitably need to upgrade. For the past several years many people have been quite happy with their computer's performance; for typical applications (not games, video encoding, 3D rendering, or other professional applications) even moderate Pentium 4 or Athlon XP systems continue to run quite well. The pending launch of Windows Vista may finally change all that, with performance requirements that appear to be quite a bit higher than Windows XP - assuming of course that you want to make the switch to the new operating system.

Most people are still pretty happy with Windows XP performance and features, and particularly in the business world we don't expect a rapid transition to take place. Most are taking a "wait and see" approach to Vista, or perhaps waiting for the expected Service Pack 1 before making the transition. If you like being an early adopter, by all means feel free to take the plunge at the end of this month when Windows Vista launches. We're not ready to recommend such an approach, however, so our Buyer's Guides will continue to stick with XP for now.

It is worth noting that most new systems (and OS purchases) will come with the option to upgrade to Vista for free (or for a marginal fee), but you need to make sure that you get the correct version of Windows XP depending on which version of Windows Vista you want to run. Basically, at this point we do not recommend that anyone purchase Windows XP Home, as you are only allowed to upgrade to Windows Vista Home Basic. The big problem with Vista Home Basic is that it does not include the new Aero Glass interface, arguably one of the main reasons many people would be interested in upgrading to Vista in the first place. We recommend getting Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 or XP Professional instead, as both of those can be upgraded to Vista Home Premium, and the latter can be upgraded to Windows Vista Business.

There's also the 64-bit question that needs to be tackled, as all versions of Windows XP and Vista are now available in either 32-bit or 64-bit packages. While we would love to say that we've seen a benefit to running 64-bit operating systems, the reality is that there are very few applications that actually perform better in 64-bit mode right now, and there are still plenty of driver issues and other incompatibilities that people run into. If you run applications that use a lot of memory and you plan on installing more than 2GB of RAM into your system, a 64-bit OS might be the right way to go, but if you just want the operating system to get out of your way and let you get to work, we recommend sticking with a 32-bit OS (preferably XP) for now. That recommendation may change in the future, but discretion and patience seem to be the better course of action.

With that information out of the way, our Midrange Buyer's Guide continues to cover the most popular market segment, and the available budget leaves a lot of room for flexibility. Our last midrange guide was in September 2006, making it almost 4 months old. You might think at first that a lot of things would have changed in four months, but other than a few price fluctuations our basic recommendations are very similar. Rather than simply rehash what we have already stated in previous guides, we're going to use this midrange guide to tackle several different configuration options, with prices ranging from $1250 up to over $2000. The top of that price range is more of a high-end computer, but we don't necessarily recommend that you purchase every single component from our upgraded configuration. Rather, consider it a list of the various upgrades that you can make, and choose those which make the most sense depending on your intended use. We will also cover options you might want to consider for gaming and overclocking centric configurations, and in the end we will have several different systems from which you can choose.

Basic Midrange Configurations


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  • KorruptioN - Friday, January 19, 2007 - link

    That 500W unit is built by ATNG, the 600W PSU in the guide comes from Solytech/Deer. Two completely different OEMs. ATNG is still not regarded very highly around the Internets, but they're working on it.

    As for the number of DOAs being higher (which may indeed be true), what happens when the entire computer is taken out by a faulty PSU that fails catastrophically on it's secondary side? Sure they'll give you a new power supply, but you'll still be out of a functioning computer.
  • Operandi - Friday, January 19, 2007 - link

    Rosewill has many OEMs for it's units.

    That unit reviewed by Jonny Guru has absolutely no bearing on the unit recomended in the article. One good Rosewill unit doesn't make the rest of them so. The only thing that matters is how the unit is built, not the sticker on the outside.
  • crydee - Friday, January 19, 2007 - link

    I would of recommended the Corsair HX-520 for the mid-range overclocking guide it's cheaper and performs awesome. You guys saw the 620W version take on 2 8800GTXs >_< Reply

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