I need advice on building a new Athlon system.

Athlon Building Advice

What Athlon setup would you recommend with a good price/performance ratio based on the preferences below?

When I was on here a few months ago it seem that a mobo built around the GA-7VRXP was highly reccommended. Is this still so or is their a better option now?

CPU- Athlon (Retail) XP?

MOTHERBOARD- I would like a motherboard with few to no known problems with its current revision. Onboard raid or a newtwork card is not a necessity as I don't plan to use it. But its ok if its their. I would like a decent sound card so I won't have to buy that for now.

GRAPHICS CARD- Geforce 4??
HD- Western Digital or Maxtor??
MEMORY- 512 MB?? Brand??
POWER- 400w Antec (I already own)
CASE- ??

I do not plan to overclock.

I Play a lot of the latest games, but I also use MS office prod, Photoshop.


I won't a fast, stable, good running combination of memory, CPU, HD ect.. that goes together well and all the speeds compliment each other.. I would just like everything to be as fast as possible for what they offer without overclocking.

BUDGET: As close to $500.00 as possible for a case, CPU, motherboard, memory, Graphics card, and possible a Hard drive. I am flexible on the price. $500 is just a figure. I am willing to go higher. I do want to watch it because I'll be building two of these identical. One for me and one for my wife.

Thank You
17 answers Last reply
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  1. Hey R,

    Very Informative Post! Not everyone is as good as you at writing their questions down. My question for you: How much "Noise" can you stand? OK, back to my picks for you based on Value:

    CPU: XP 2000+ Retail- $105(I don't like the retail HSF much)or XP 2000+ OEM- $93 & T.I. Dr. Thermal TI-V77L $18
    Mobo: MSI KT3 Ultra2- $80(sound is not the best)
    Graphics Card: Guillemot Hercules 3D Prophet 8500 128mb DDR- $134
    HDD: WD "Special Edition" 80gb 7200rpm 8mb cache ATA 100- $116
    DDR: 512mb Samsung PC2700/333DDR cas 2.5(will run at cas 2.0 flawlessly)- $163
    Case: Maxtop CSX-147K2F-GF-USB-GRAY **Cool Case**- $32

    The total is way over budget at $630.
    You could get less & buy a MSI K7N 420 Pro(on board GF2 MX video, great on board sound) for around $140 & 2 256mb sticks of Samsung PC2700 DDR at $166 & the new Total at $559. But the nForce 420 on board video is not as good as the Radeon 8500 w/ 128mb DDR. Your call save cash?........great video card?

    All prices from www.newegg.com 11/4/'02. Check out the products & ask me about the questionable picks. Good Luck

    Peace Out...................tile


    god knows your entire system setup & he would answer your questions if he could just stop laughing
  2. tom has a kt333 mobo review here (http://www.tomshardware.com/mainboard/02q2/020509/index.html) it's pretty informative. i wouldn't get a geforce4 unless you wanted a 4200. i have a radeon 8500 64mg and it's more than adequite for my gaming needs (apart from the random driver glitches). other than that i would concur with tile's recommendations.

    <font color=red>still humping the american dream...</font color=red>
  3. My recommendations :

    CPU- Athlon XP 2000+ retail $105 or OEM $93 w/ Thermaltake Volcano 7 cooler (IMO, the OEM cpu with Volacano 7 is better than retail)

    Mobo- MSI KT3 Ultra2 $82
    Graphics Card- MSI 64 MB GeForce4 Ti4200 $135
    Ram- Kingston 512 MB PC2700 CL2.5 DDR $160 (or 170)
    HDD- Werstern Digital "Special Edition" 80 GB 7200rpm 8 MB cache ATA 100 $116


    GeForce4 Ti4200 64 MB is better than Radeon 8500 128 MB, and you can buy Kingston PC2100 CL2.5 DDR instead of PC2700 to save money. It costs about $30 less than PC2700. PC2100 is fine with FSB266 AXP's. But if you want to upgrade later to a 333 FSB AXP (2700+ or faster) or an early Clawhammer, you can keep this memory.

    For better sound and added stabilty (MSI KT3 Ultra / KT333 is stable too), buy ASUS A7N266-C instead of MSI KT3 Ultra2. This mobo is nForce 415-D based. This nForce version is onboard graphics free. Comes with S/Pdif output for 5.1 speakers. nForce APU sounds quality is outstanding, compareable to Audigy. Slightly (2-5%) slower than KT333 and supports only PC2100 DDDR. You will not be able to upgrade to 333 FSB AXP's. But it is not very important as KT333 can't unleash full 333 FSB performance, you will need nForce2 for that. ASUS A7N266-C costs about $106. Plus it has onboard 10/100 LAN.

    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A>
  4. I'd save a little money and get the best board available at the same time, the MSI 745 Ultra. As for what CPU to put on it, go to www.pricewatch.com and pick out based on price. You don't need a really fast processor for what you're doing.

    I'd recommend a Radeon 8500 full version for $99 at Newegg.com.

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
  5. (tilepusher)
    Noise- Hum!.. I don't mind noise, but then again I don't want it really loud either.. I guess I'm just not sure unless I actually heard it. For now I'll go with the best performance for price and deal with the noise problem later.

    (toonces)
    Thanks.. Nice review

    (Spitfire_x86)
    Thanks for the advice

    (Crashman)
    Thanks for the advice.. My first thought was to buy the fastest but I wanted to ask just in case their was something quirky with a paticular processor. You know how those things go.. and if will happen I'll get it! Of course unless I ask you guys.


    I'm still reviewing everyones suggestions, but I have to go out of town a few days. I'll post any other questions I have then.

    I do have a few questions.

    FIRST- What about the retail HSF. I have read that the retail is good if you don't plan to overclock. The speeds are so fast already I don't plan on it. Is it ok to use to retail HSF if I'm not overclocking or should I use one of the suggestions above?

    SECOND- Samsung PC2700 or Kingston PC2700. Which one is better or are their any other suggestions? In the past I ordered from crucial.

    THIRD- As far as the motherboard goes it looks like the suggestions are:
    MSI 745 Ultra or MSI KT3 Ultra2. what is the difference and which one is better? I posted this question on another forum I like and the suggestion their was the Epox 8K5A2+ motherboard. Does anyone have a comment on that one and how does it compare to the other two above? Are their any other suggestions?

    Thanks for the responses so far, I really appriciate it.
  6. Yo R,

    My take on your questions:

    1)Retail HSF?: it is not the greatest HSF, I like the T.I. Dr Thermal better, it is the quietest decent HSF that I have used......but you will save about $10 by going with the retail unit.........& if you don't OC, I wouldn't worry & just pocket the $10 & stick with the retail HSF.

    2)DDR? If you are not going to over clock, just get the cheapest of the 3 that you just mentioned: Samsung, Crucial or Kingston. The Samsung is the best of the 3 by far, but if you use the cas 2.5 settting, I don't think you will see a difference. Don't get the Kingston Value DDR, it is not the same grade as the regular Kingston.

    3)Mobos?:

    MSI KT3 Ultra2: Via KT333CE chipset-$80
    MSI 745 Ultra: SiS 745 chipset-$70
    EPoX 8K5A2+: Via KT333CE chipset with raid-$96

    All mobos are good choices. The Via KT333 chipset mobos have better performance(only like 5-10% tops in certain app.s). The SiS 745 chipset is said to have better stability, and is the cheapest mobo of the 3. Come to think of it, I change my mind, I am going to side with Crashman. You should get the MSI 745 Ultra, $10 saved vs. the KT333 mobos & you will never see the difference in overall performance.

    Peace Out............tile

    I wish my imaginary friends could give me better advice
  7. I like the 745 Ultra becuase it has the SiS 745 chipset with no known bugs. It's based on the 735 chipset which also had no known bugs. So it doesn't even have bugs in it's history.

    Other people like the KT3 Ultra 2 because it's a few percent faster in benchmarks. Although I haven't worked with VIA's latest chipset, VIA is a company with a history of bugs.

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
  8. SiS 735 was slower than AMD 760. I doubt, SiS 745 is faster than AMD 760. KT333/KT266A/nForce are much faster than AMD 760.

    Problems are fewer with nForce boards compared to SiS 745 boards. For absolute stabiliy and good performance, nForce is the only solution.

    Quote:
    Other people like the KT3 Ultra2 because it's a few percent faster in benchmarks


    No, it's actually Epox 8K5A2+ which is faster by 1-2% in benchmarks. KT3 Ultra2's are known to be more stable.

    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A>
  9. Quote:
    FIRST- What about the retail HSF. I have read that the retail is good if you don't plan to overclock. The speeds are so fast already I don't plan on it. Is it ok to use to retail HSF if I'm not overclocking or should I use one of the suggestions above?

    If you don't overclock, retail HSF is good enough. If you don't overclock and need cooler operation (required for mental peace, otherwise useless), then buy a Volcano 7. Temperature upto 50C is fine.

    Quote:
    SECOND- Samsung PC2700 or Kingston PC2700. Which one is better or are their any other suggestions? In the past I ordered from crucial.

    I am using Kingston PC2100 CL2.5 at CL2.0 without any problem. Samsung may be able to do this, but as I have personal experience with Kingston DDR memory, I recommend it.

    Quote:
    THIRD- As far as the motherboard goes it looks like the suggestions are:
    MSI 745 Ultra or MSI KT3 Ultra2. what is the difference and which one is better? I posted this question on another forum I like and the suggestion their was the Epox 8K5A2+ motherboard. Does anyone have a comment on that one and how does it compare to the other two above? Are their any other suggestions?

    If you concern about absolute stability and not going to use 5 PCI and 3 memory banks, buy ASUS A7N266-VM, costs only $71. Very little more than SiS 745 Ultra and have better performance and better stability. Downside is having only 3 PCI and 2 memory banks.

    Otherwise, buy MSI K7N415 Pro or ASUS A7N266-C. They are cheaper than nForce 420-D boards and have 5 PCI and 3 memory banks. ($100-$110)

    ASUS A7N266-VM has integrated graphics of GeForce2 MX200 level, which will be useless and if you use it, it will decrease performance by good ammount. I think you are not going to use integrated graphics, so it is not a problem.

    At last, KT3 Ultra2 and KT333 stablity is pretty good. Most people don't need more sability than KT3 Ultra2.

    EDIT: Don't forget that NFORCE AUDIO IS MUCH MORE BETTER THAN MSI 745 ULTRA AND ALL SIS 745 BOARDS. KT3 Ultra has better audio than SiS 745 Ultr, but not a match for nForce.

    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A><P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Spitfire_x86 on 11/07/02 01:58 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
  10. Quote:
    Don't get the Kingston Value DDR, it is not the same grade as the regular Kingston.


    But my Kingston Value DDR (PC2100 CL2.5) runs fine at PC2100 CL2.0


    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A>
  11. So like I said, the MSI 745 Ultra would probably be your best choice. A lot of guys love VIA instead because:
    1.) They are masochistic
    2.) VIA is a larger manufacturer and they only support the "most popular" thing.
    3.) They hate underdogs, unless their is an "enemy" perception with the larger company. They mistakenly (or I should say stupidly) see Intel as an enemy without realizing how much VIA has done to hurt AMD.
    3.) VIA was the only choice available for AMD processors for a while.

    Basically, a lot of these guys will lie to you and say they have a stable system with a VIA chipset. I'm here to tell you that I've never seen a VIA chipset system even in the most ideal configuration run for over 2 weeks. And it's not very common for them to run more than a few days.

    In fact VIA is the major reason that Win98SE is thought to be an unstable system. You see, Win2k and WinXP can recover from data errors and 98SE can't. These data errors are usually the result of bugs in VIA chipsets.

    There are thousands of users that have lost files due to the 686B bug. Newer VIA southbridges may be a bit better, but you still see hundreds of users complaining of sound card problems with them.

    The SiS 745 is a newer version of the SiS 735. The 735 was so good and so fast that VIA had to extort motherboard manufacturers into dropping their plans. In fact, Asus, MSI, and Abit already had finished sample boards when VIA told them that if they didn't drop the line, VIA would short order them on VIA chipsets which were more popular. The problem VIA had with the SiS 735 chipset is that it was much faster than the KT266, and the KT266A was not yet ready for production.

    You'll hear guys come up with all sorts of lies, like the 735 was slower than blah blah blah. Fact is it was faster than the KT266 but a hair slower than the KT266A. VIA hasn't released a significantly faster chipset since the KT266A, the KT333 and KT400 give you a few more features with no noticable increase in performance.

    Which brings us to the 745. No compatability issues. No stability issues. No data errors. No PCI latency issues to cause problems with your soundcard. And just a few percent slower than the latest KT400 chipset from VIA. Add to that, the MSI 745 Ultra is only $65 at many only retailers.

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
  12. Quote:
    You'll hear guys come up with all sorts of lies, like the 735 was slower than blah blah blah. Fact is it was faster than the KT266 but a hair slower than the KT266A


    Until nForce/KT266A, AMD 760 was the fastest Athlon chipset. SiS 735 was faster than KT266, but IT WAS UNABLE TO OUTPERFORM AMD 760. So AMD 760 was the standard chipset for benchmarking Athlon CPUs until KT266A was available. All nForce/KT266A/KT333 outperform AMD 760 from slight to good margin.

    Why don't you talk a bit about nForce? You can't tell SiS 745 superior than nForce in terms of stability or performance. nForce gives stability with performance. SiS 745 can't do that. And all SiS 745 boards come with AC97 audio. You know how much nForce APU is better than AC-97. nForce boards come with onboard 10/100 LAN.

    ASUS A7N266-VM is the choice for people in budget who don't need 5 PCI and 3 memory banks. ASUS A7N266-C or MSI K7N415 Pro is a complete replacement of MSI 745 Ultra. Only people who need 5 PCI and 3 memory banks, should buy MSI 745 Ultra. Very few people use all 5 PCI slots and 3 memory banks.

    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A>
  13. Actually nForce is a great chipset. nForce 2 should be even better.

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
  14. Oh, and BTW, because most configurations can't use the first PCI slot (shared resources with the AGP slot), 5 slots with one unusable means 4 usable slots which I consider a minimum, since I'd be using at least 3 cards and would like extra slot for future expansion. But I understand why someone else could get by with fewer slots.

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
  15. Actually nForce owners need less PCI slot than other mobo owners. No need of LAN card. No need to buy audigy or lower class sound card, if he doesn't own one.

    Quote:
    Oh, and BTW, because most configurations can't use the first PCI slot (shared resources with the AGP slot)


    Why? nForce onboard GPU uses AGP bus, not PCI bus. And if anybody doesn't use onboard GPU and use discrete graphics card, what will happen in that case?

    I am using a nForce board (MSI K7N420 Pro). I am using onboard GPU and 2 PCI devices. (APIC disabled, default setting). I am not using first PCI slot. Is the first PCI slot usable in my current setup? If not, will it become usable when I use a discrete graphics card?

    Let us know <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/community/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=25703#25703" target="_new"> What File compression format you use? </A>
  16. Yo S,

    We are talking about PC2700/DDR 333 not PC2100/DDR 266.

    In response, yes Kingston Value Ram PC2100 is fine. It is the Value Ram PC2700 that does not over clock(with aggressive settings) or run well at cas 2.0 at stock voltages. I do not have this ram so I could be wrong, I am just repeatting what I saw on another site.

    Peace Out................tile

    I wish my imaginary friends could give me better advice
  17. I've already said nForce is a good chipset. Have I argued against it?

    The biggest problem I've seen with PCI slots is IRQ sharing not working between two bus mastering devices. Since most of the cards I use are bus mastering, I can't run anything in PCI 1 because it shares an IRQ with AGP. Not only that, but NO ONE should even WANT to use the first PCI slot because doing so can cause your graphics card to overheat!

    <font color=blue>You're posting in a forum with class. It may be third class, but it's still class!</font color=blue>
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