OK, so you don't want to spend a mint, but get the best price/performance. In many ways, mid-range systems offer the best value. I need one to replace Calvin's PC, so here is the recommendation. Again based on "Anandtech":http://anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=2177&p=1:
* AMD Athlon "3200+":http://hometheaterspot.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php?masterid=1247981&blsrt=1. This is the last of the 1MB cache system, runs at 2.0GHz and the latest revision (CG stepping) can usually overclock from 2.3 GHz (part number ADA3200AEP5AR or ADA3200BOX). Confusingly, there are also some 3200+ that are actually Newcastle core, also CG stepping, running at 2.2GHz but with 512KB cache (part number ADA3200AEP4AX or ADA3200AXBOX for retail packaging). These can overclock to 2.6GHz or so. The "thread":http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid=28&threadid=1373521 explains it, but I've read it four times and still don't quite understand but think the Newcastle is probably better net, net for most applications. For value, BTW, getting an AMD Athlon 2800+ that's a Newcastle with 512KB, CG Stepping, 1.8GHz (ADA2800AXBOX) seems like a great idea, but beware there are some "old" 2800+ out there that are really Clawhammer, C0 Stepping (ADA2800BOX) that only overclock a little bit. Both are about $155. The 3000+ (ADA3000AXBOX) is about$172 so right in the middle. Confused yet? "Digerati":http://www.thedigerati.us/info/amdcpuchart.html explains all this with the deep model n
umbers used for the real nerds among us.
* MSI K8N Neo "Platinum":http://www.pricegrabber.com/user_addprodtrack.php?mode=advanced&masterid=2896814&targprice=50&alert_type=E. This is a board that can really overclock, up to 2.46GHz with a 2GHz Athlon 3200+, not clear how fast the 2800+ can go, but should be similar typically. If you don't need firewire, then save some dollars and get the $75 Chaintech "ZNF3-250":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=2644523/search=chaintech. It overclocks just as well as the K8N, so its just a few features that matter. * Crucial Ballistix "3200EL":http://www.crucial.com/ballistix/store/partspecs.asp?IMODULE=BL6464Z402. You only need one stick since this is a single channel system and can get direct at$139. Only issue is that this memory doesn't overclock as well as the identical OCZ-3500EB, but these only come in pairs.
* Western Digital WD2000JB or Seagate 7200.7 200GB. $130. These are the best price/performance drives right at$0.52 for EIDE. You don't really need SATA as there is no performance difference right now between the two. I actually need a hard drive and will be reusing an older WD1200JB.
* Benq "1620A":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php?masterid=3700000&blsrt=1. Expensive at $110 or so, if reviews of the NEC-3500A are decent and it has bit set, then at$85, its an easy saving to buy it. One interesting thing is that if you buy a Benq 1600 right now, there is a "firmware":http://www.cdrinfo.com/Forum/printable.asp?m=71338 upgrade that will get you to a 1620A and it gives you DL writing, etc. Also upcoming at a "1630":http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/News/Details.aspx?NewsId=9442 with 4x DVD+R DL writing speed and a 1650 which is SATA and not EIDE.
* ATI Radeon "9800 Pro":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=819320. Well its half the speed of the really fast cards, but still good for regular games particularly at 1024x768. $200. The later models with R360 core you can buy a Artic VGA Silencer cooler for$30 and "flash":ttp://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?threadid=17229146 to become an 9800XT.
* Antec TruePower "430":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=560350. Its expensive at $70 if you already have a case or get a complete case with a great power supply from "Antec":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php?masterid=2651469&found=1 for about the same price at$65. Spend this money, the best way to maintain stability is good power and cooling. I'm actually going to reuse a Enermax 350 tht we already have.
Total cost for an upgrade is \$665 for me assuming I keep the monitor, keyboard, mouse, case, power supply and reuse an old hard drive. Not bad to get to 64 bits and a really fast computer 🙂