I hope this helps, I try to give people good advice that has the best financial implications. Also I try to advise people to get hardware that can be upgraded later... but please keep in mind that this all revolves around the motherboard, if you motherboard doesn't support it then you can't get it
When buying a system the first thing I consider is the motherboard, I try and make sure it supports the most advanced technology, even if I can't afford the most advanced hardware to go into it right now - prices drop over time.
I might be able to afford a Asus A7N8X-E-Deluxe motherboard, Athlon XP3200+ *400MHz FSB* with Corsair TwinX DDR400 (PC3200) - kinda like my System 1
But this system cannot
be upgraded, the Athlon XP3200+ processor is the flagship CPU of the Athlon XP#### model. Meaning that if you want to upgrade later you will need a new motherboard.
Things to consider
This is the time for patience, with PCI Express being released and Athlon 64-bit processors flying everywhere you really need to think about what you may want to buy in the future... sadly
it is true that you can't just buy a system that will last 2-3 years, you usually need a few extra MHz to meet the "Minimum Requirements" for the latest game or to knock off minutes from encoding - this is where paying that few extra bucs for a up-to-date motherboard really pays off.
You shake the dust off your motherboard manual to find out that it supports DDR500, the latest Athlon 64-bit (which has hopefully dropped in price now that your system is a year or so old).
Originally bought system:
Asus A7N8X-E-Deluxe - nForce2 - 400 fsb x8 AGP + Gbit Lani + 6Ch Sound + SATA + 1394 + SATA-RAID
AMD Athlon XP 3200 + *400 FSB* Barton (2.20GHz)
512 Mb Corsair XMS, DDR400, PC3200LLPT, Latency 2
Limiting factors of this motherboard... fastest supported processor, with a maximum FSB speed of 400MHz.
"Thought about" system (Intel here comes Kangaroo!):
After a little bit of research it turns out that Intel based systems use the latest technology at the moment, so i'll try and get everything right - compatibility should be correct even though its my first attempt at making an Intel system.
Gigabyte GA-8GPNXP Duo, Supports LGA 775 for Pentium® 4 Processor, 800 / 533 MHz FSB, Dual Channel DDR2 533/400 ; Dual Channel DDR400/333 (2 DIMMs for DDR2, 4 DIMMs for DDR)
4 x Serial ATA connectors
2 x USB 2.0 connectors (4 ports by cable)
1 x FDD connector
1 x UltraDMA 100/66 IDE
2 x UltraDMA 133 IDE
2 x IEEE 1394b connectors (3 ports)
- had to add this
Norton Internet Security 2004
Norton Anti Virus
Norton Personal Firewall
-Norton Privacy Control
-Norton Parental Control
-Norton Spam Alert
GIGABYTE Windows Utility Manager
Adobe Acrobat Reader
520 Intel Pentium® 4 LGA 775 CPU (2.80 Ghz 800FSB) HT 1MB Cache
512 Mb Corsair XMS, DDR, PC3200C2PT, Cas 2
Sorry for all the spam
You can upgrade the CPU to 3.6GHz at the moment, you can also upgrade to DDR2, PCI-Express.
At the moment this particular Gigabyte motherboard has G.E.A.R (Gigabyte Enhanced AGP Riser) - which means you can still use AGP card
The above system would cost you about the same as the "out-of-date" system but it is so upgradeable its scary.
[size=3.5]Think before you buy!