You are probably wondering about the strange dollar amount of $825 as the high mark for our Entry Buyers' Guide. If so we have a very pleasant surprise for you. To this point our under $800 systems have centered on some great motherboards with on-board graphics. That $800 budget just couldn't support a graphics card - let alone a truly decent graphics card - and stay under $800 with an LCD monitor, speakers, input devices, and OS.

Things have changed a lot in the two months since we published our last Entry Buyers' Guide. We can now accomplish what seemed impossible just two months ago at the $800 price point and include a dedicated GPU in the Budget AMD and Intel systems. This is not just any GPU either, as it made little sense to include a cheap video card that was hardly better than on-board graphics. Both budget builds now include the exciting new ATI 4770 graphics card we reviewed just a couple of weeks ago.

Our graphics and motherboard editors have been raving about the value the 4770 brings to the video card table, so our quest was to build balanced, full-featured, complete systems that include an HD 4770 and an HD LCD monitor for $800. It was not OK merely to squeak by; we wanted to build a balanced and powerful $800 general purpose and gaming system that would blow away anything you could buy from an OEM at a similar price. To do that we went over our budget just a little bit - to $813 and $819 - but we were unwilling to further compromise the components in the systems to drop the price. If all you need is a basic box, the price for an ATI HD 4770 system is even more enticing at around $530. To see what $825 can buy you in the new high-value builds, turn to our new budget AMD and Intel systems on pages 4 and 5.

For those of you looking for a basic but competent system for your kid, parents, grandma, or yourself, if you're really on a tight budget, look at our Entry Intel and AMD systems. For the first time the basic box actually broke through the $300 barrier in one of the builds. The rest of the components are also better than ever in this category including the latest motherboards with Intel G43 and AMD 780G/SB710 chipsets. They also include a larger, more capable LCD monitor, better speakers, and Microsoft Vista Home Premium, for a complete system price of under $550.

These aren't stripped entry systems or the lowest CPU power we could find; they are capable complete systems based on the best bang for the buck we could put together. We could definitely put together even cheaper systems, but these systems represent a nice blend of performance, flexibility, and expandability that we would actually build for our own kids or relatives, budget-minded friends, or ourselves.

This guide takes a closer look at the complete systems you can build for less than $825 these days. Each component table for the complete system includes a subtotal for the basic system without speakers, keyboard/mouse, monitor, or OS. With a quick glance, you can see the cost to build a basic box that many would consider in a system upgrade. You can also see the total to build a complete system with all the peripherals needed for a balanced brand new system.

Low-end PCs have a reputation for being sub-standard, underpowered, and barely better than off-the-shelf PCs. That certainly was true in the past, but with the continuing drop in component prices, you can get a lot of PC today for your $299 to $825. About a year ago it would cost you about $700 to $750 to put together an Entry system. Today you can build a similar but more powerful system for about $250 less. The worldwide economic slowdown isn't the sole cause of the increased value. It is also the fierce competition between Intel and AMD on the CPU front, and AMD/ATI and NVIDIA in the GPU market. These price, performance, and value wars have made it possible to buy quality components for prices that previously belonged to outdated hardware. You just have to know what to look for.

The Entry System Buyers' Guide is always one of the most read and referred to articles on AnandTech, and it is easy to understand why. Whether it's your first system build or number 1000, the hardest choices are where every penny counts. Value is never about the cheapest price, but about getting the most for the money you do spend. We hope you agree that this Buyers' Guide details some of the greatest value computers we have ever presented in our System Buyers' Guides.

AMD Entry-level PC
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  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    So it's pretty much a different keyboard with a touchpad for more money? I suppose they could have recommended a DiNovo mini as well, I'd imagine the input devices used are definitely part of the "personal touch" mentioned for the HTPCs.
  • aftlizard - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    59.99 would still keep them under there stated budget and 90 dollars less than the Dinovo keyboard while taking up less space, using less batteries and providing better range than RF.
  • GeorgeH - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    "The WD Green is a variable speed energy saving design"

    Unless I'm very much mistaken, that WD drive does not vary its rotation speed. Their original "5400-7200" RPM claims were purely a marketing thing, a shorthand way of saying "5400RPM power consumption with 7200RPM performance". WD no longer bothers to claim their drives vary in speed, instead merely listing it as "IntelliPower" and nothing more.

    Saying it's variable speed is good marketing for people who don't see anything beyond RPM, but as AnandTech isn't on WD's payroll it seems a little out of place here. ;)
  • Spoelie - Friday, May 15, 2009 - link

    What intellipower means is that the caviar green line is engineered to meet a power target, not a (rotational) speed target. They guarantee that the speed is at least 5400rpm tho.

    If the power budget is 7w, and the current design allows this by spinning the disks at 5800rpm, then that is what you get. The next design revision could bump up the speed to 6100rpm while keeping the same power budget (for example, optically shrunk controller chips, or increased density platters -> less platters needed for the same capacity -- both save power which can be spent increasing rotational speed). That's why you have the caviar green EACS, EADS, ...
  • coda6 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    I agree, I would love to see an article on Anands HTPC set up, or at least a discussion on the possibilities of the current HTPC tech.
  • goinginstyle - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    Back to the HTPC stuff, on page 6, your recommendation is ASUS but the pic is a Gigabyte board from the looks of it.
  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    Fixed.... :)
  • goinginstyle - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    I think the .05% of people who will run VT with an entry level system sporting Win7 with XP mode are making much to do about nothing in this case. Yes, VT support is important for certain sectors but this in an entry level guide for the masses, most of whom have no idea what VT support even means and could care less if they did.
    Anyway, it actually appears some thought went into this guide compared to the previous $800 guide. So good job to the editors who actually did some work instead of mailing in their choices this time.
    I would rather see a separate HTPC guide explore choices from the ION up to the i7 and include CableCard, Tuners, NAS, and other components built around a true HTPC.
  • piesquared - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    There is no better choice for an HTPC motherboard than MSI's Maui board on an AMD platform. And DDR2 is still cheaper than DDR3. That would be my recommendaton anyway.

    Also agree with the above poster regarding Intel's lack of virtualization support.
  • arklab - Thursday, May 14, 2009 - link

    This time you guys really blew it on the Intel CPU choices, and could be giving novices who might rely on your advice a nasty surprise.

    None of the selected Intel CPUs support XT-x - which of course is REQUIRED to run the new virtual XP mode in Windows 7.

    Worst of all, you don't even warn the reader of this situation.

    The AMD CPUs are all OK, of course.

    Please change your recommendations to select "full use" CPUs.

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