Introduction

It’s been a while since we really tackled anything at the high end of the computing spectrum. Since our November Gaming Guide, there have been some major changes in most areas. About the only areas that haven’t changed much are the mass storage and optical storage areas and even those have a few new additions. We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll just get right into it and skip all the preliminary niceties.

The biggest decision up front is, as usual, the choice of platform: AMD or Intel. For the mid-range to high end markets, we can narrow our focus quite a bit. There’s little need to look at the budget Sempron and Celeron chips, and socket 754 and 478 don’t hold much interest. Upgraders might be interested in offerings for these platforms, but we'll defer to our recent article covering CPU cores rather than deal with that here. While PCIe cards are definitely the future, we'll also have some advice for those of you who may already have a capable system and are looking to last until the next platform transition – that's about a year or so off, in case you were wondering.

Looking toward the future, there has been quite a bit of coverage recently about the latest processors coming from AMD and Intel, particularly the dual core solutions. At present, none of the dual core chips are really available (other than in OEM systems), but if heavy multitasking describes your typical workload, waiting for the dual core solutions to appear in quantity might be worthwhile. What we’ll focus on in this Guide is the current single core setups, which for most people are still more than sufficient to accomplish any given task. For the High-End buyers – particularly those who want to buy a top-end computer once every three years and then use it with few upgrades – you'll definitely want to take a closer look at our Dual Core Performance Preview before laying down several thousand dollars on a current system.

A word about prices: We're using our RealTime Pricing Engine for the majority of the prices listed, although we also shop around at various online resellers for many of the products. If you can find components for less money from a dealer who you trust, all the better. We don't include mail-in rebates in our price quotes either, which can further reduce the cost. These prices are also just a snapshot in time – May 13 th, 2005 for this Guide – so they are bound to change.

AMD Recommendations
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  • Tujan - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    Err a,thanks for reply..Calin.

    bummer when I do that.
    Reply
  • Garyclaus16 - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    All this article tells me is that my once 'bleeding edge' [939 Athlon64 3200+]system is now merely a mid range PC...save for my pqi turbo 2-2-2-5 :P
    Still...I am sad...I need to save up another 2k now for later this year. > :(
    Reply
  • Tujan - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    Thanks for reply Chris..

    Yeah Ive followed a few stories about the VIA Edens. Just hovering around 1 GHz. With single PCI slot.They too,have onboard graphics. Like pull that off , keep onboard sound maybe,...

    Certainly limiting themselves with that kind of choice.Then Im not what that is suppose to reach. Two PCI-e slots at minimum for me.But this sends the engineers back to work.

    Most vendors Iv seen include the graphics onto the mini-atx motherboards. MSI has an mini-atx w/o graphics ,..775.But isn't seen at vendors. Situation with the power,could make do with feature set of 915..945,955/Nvidias on mini-atx(s),.Since the lan is onboard.Might consider having maybe single Sata as well.

    Not like being able to see clearly now...""I can see clearly now the rain is gone""..:)

    Weird how we will see magic in closed black box embedded solution before we have that choice.
    Reply
  • ProviaFan - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    I agree with #34 for the most part, but anyone heavily into digital photography (whether with DSLR or scanned film) knows that it is very easy to exceed 1GB with Photoshop and a few images with some adjustment layers and layer masks (not to mention that my PC is general purpose and I usually have other stuff going in the background as well). Reply
  • stickx - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    quoted from the guide: "long-time favorite, the OCZ Rev. 2 Platinum. While the price increase is quite drastic, it's worth mentioning that this same RAM cost as much as $275 just a few months back. It uses Samsung TCCD memory blanks"

    Unfortunately OCZ is no longer using TCCD memory in this product. This has been verified on several forums in xtremesystems.org and in dfi-street.com where people have removed the heat spreaders to find chips other that TCCD. I think you need to update your guide for this info.
    Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    Damn people get off thier backs. It a damn guide. Make all the choices you. They are giving thier recommondation, they are not give you ever fcking choice under the sun. No guide can have everyones choice.

    And ars, I don't know what planet your from but if you think epox is even near Asus or MSI in quality then then you full of it. If i saw any sit say Exop is better then ASUS, then I would stop reading them. Better then chaintech ost likely then not the top tier guys.

    And for the record I play alot games and have noticed no improvement with 2GB of 1GB or memory.
    Don know what you do thet 2GB is needed. Now I'm not saying you can;t find a way to use more then 1GB, but how many people actually do and on a regular bases.
    Reply
  • Pythias - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    When you guys refer to response time, is thet grey-to-grey, black-white-black, or total response time? Reply
  • MrOblivious - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    Supposedly the issue with MSI NEO4 boards and 90nm chips has been fixed:

    http://forum.msi.com.tw/index.php?topic=80384.0
    Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    Kris - so you are now saying all mobo makers are essentially equal in terms of support, upgrades, MTBF (bad caps excuse is dead now since they all use good/great quality caps). So what's left to make me choose Asus/MSI? If you are saying reputation, I can just direct you to the forums, their boards are no better or worse than any of the competition. If you are recommending based on sales, thats just dumb. Reply
  • ceefka - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    #1 I don't know how the onboard will handle sound in games, but I'd count on it to do that on the level it is built, i.e. no better than it will play a CD or DVD. It is however safe to say that onboard will definately not work for (semi)professional audio on a PC.

    I always thought that any realtime sound effects were handled by the CPU, unless you have a dedicated DSP-card or multiples thereof which gamers seldom do ;-)

    Jarred: "anyone who doesn't intend to do any recording of audio" and what about those that do? I do read a lot about DAW's on the net, but have to get back to AT regularly to get a the details straight.

    What do you make of this? http://www.rme-audio.com/english/techinfo/nforce4_...

    With the Thonex audio stress test file (downloadable from http://www.adkproaudio.com/downloads.cfm), including memory-intensive data communication via samples/VSTis, and used with Cubase SX/Nuendo 2/3, soundcard latency has to be increased to approx. 2048 samples buffer latency setting with the NF4 to receive glitch-free audio recordings whereas with the NF3, and equivalent software/hardware/soundware equipment, the minimum latency can be significantly reduced (some 128-256 samples). Likewise, cpu load values are significantly higher with the NF4 than with the NF3 ditto - based on exactly the same audio stress test files and equivalent hardware peripherals.

    The Thonex could be nice for your next high end guide when the dualcores are out.
    Reply

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