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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  • Hrel - Thursday, May 28, 2009 - link

    Why spend 100 dollars on that card when you can get the GTS250 for 10 DOLLARS MORE?!! That's right, just 10 bucks.">
    Or, if you run your monitor at a stupidly high resolution for some reason, you can get the 1GB version for only 125.">

    Not sure if you guys at anandtech were just unaware of this or if you really are bias against Nvidia, but the GTS250 is WAY more card for the extra 10 bucks.
  • dndavis57 - Saturday, May 23, 2009 - link

    I've been planning something along the lines of your AMD Budget Build, to replace my deceased Athlon 64-3000 rig, so the Builder's Guide is quite timely.

    Question: If you're not going to use a mobo with ACC, would the Phenom II X3 710 be the value choice or is the additional speed of the 720 worth the slight ($20) price difference?

    I already have a Corsair TX650W PSU, since the $80 price AMIR was too good to pass up. I had planned to reuse my original Antec Sonata, but probably will get a Sonata Elite instead ($89 at my local Micro Center). Does anyone know of any problems with this combo?

    I'm thinking of swapping the mobo for Gigabyte's AM3 version, since it's only $30 more and DDR3 isn't much more than DDR2 these days. I know DDR3 doesn't make much difference on the Phenom II platform, but it may be a reasonable upgrade even if AMD can't make any changes to the existing architecture or BIOS to take better advantage of it. I just have to figure out how tight my budget truly is, since I need to build now.

  • Lummox - Sunday, May 24, 2009 - link

    I am building something like this already. Maximum bang for buck is the BIOSTAR TFORCE TA790GX 128M, It has just about everything including two PCI-E x16 2.0 Slot (CFX x8), firewire, DVI, HDMI, VGA and the 790 and 750 chip sets. Also you can play most games with the eye candy turned off.

    When combined with a X2 7850 it is $129 AR of $10, which I got. This is $3 cheaper than the Entry Level, with better processor and MB.

    When combined with a X2 Phenom II X3 720 it is $199 AR of $10. This is same price as the Budget Level, with better MB.

    When combined with a Phenom II X4 940 it is $250 AR of $10.

    When combined with a Phenom II X4 955 it is $305 AR of $10. and it is on the list of compatible MBs

    All with free shipping. This is same price as the Budget Level, with better MB. The only limit On games is a Power Supply big enough for your eventual graphics card.

    I you build the entry level all you need is a new PS and faster GPU, to turn it into a gaming machine. For memory, You can either buy 1066 now, upgrade later, or leave it at 600. There is not a dramatic difference between 800 and 1066.

    PS all prices on NEW EGG


    For a few bucks more the Foxconn A7DA-S has two x16 and two x8 slots. no on board video

  • pashbe1 - Friday, May 22, 2009 - link

    Let me just start by saying Anandtech has been my hardware education. I have a question for you experts though. I spend 8-10 hours a day on 3d CAD and Rendering and maybe 15 hours a week gaming. My current rig, dont laugh, is an old dual Xeon workstation. I would really like to replace it with the mid-level AMD system that you describe in this article. Here is my concern, every ATi gpu that I have ever had to work with has had problems with the hardware acceleration in CAD. If the acceleration is maxed, the cursor prompts become a garbled box. If I set the acceleration one step down, I get a stutter in when moving around in 3d, and obviously when gaming I get a gimped cursor. So I feel compelled to stick with Nvidia, even if I have to pay a premium. Have the newer ATi cards fixed this problem? What combination of parts can I put together to come up with the performance, overclock ability, and base system price of the mid level AMD system described in this article that uses a good Nvidia card?
  • Hrel - Thursday, May 28, 2009 - link

    you should get the GTS250 from Nividia, it only costs $110 after rebate; and it's MORE card for the money.">

    Here's the 1GB version, since that may be helpful with CAD. Still only 125; both reliable companies.">
  • PC Reviewer - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    first might i add that there is no such thing as "gaming speakers"

    no speakers are good for gaming.. the only way to go is headphones.. now obviously this is entry level but at least shell out a few more dollars for headphones if you are going to insert it with the title "gaming"

    second thing is that case isnt very good. This is on sale for $54 and the quality is way better...">

  • nordicpc - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    Hey guys, the X2 Black Editions don't ship with a stock heatsink. Be sure to pick up a Freezer 64 or something for it.
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    The 7750 and 7850BE retail units we received from Newegg both had heatsinks.
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link


    I would love to see a few comparative benchmarks added to these systems - just to see how the entry-level Intel and AMD compare, for example...
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    early June.. ;)

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