The Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB AGP video card is our Extreme video card pick for the month. On the surface, the 9800 Pro is more of a clock speed upgrade over the 9700 Pro, as both chipsets share similar features. However the 9800 Pro (R350) ships with a 380MHz core, and a 680 MHz memory speed. The 9700 Pro (R300) comes standard with lower 325 MHz core and 620 MHz memory speeds. With the core and memory speeds bumped up, you can be sure that this video card will not disappoint in the performance arena.
The Radeon 9800 Pro chipset doesn't just stop with the clock speed increases, and ATI has included three major upgrades to the R350 core as well. These include SmoothVision 2.1, which enhances performance at higher resolution and detail levels over 2.0, an updated HyperZ III+ design, which has increased theoretical memory bandwidth, and SmartShader 2.1, that adds an F-buffer which supports fragment shader code of unlimited length.
The Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro card features three outputs: VGA, DVI, and S-Video. Sapphire is kind enough to include a driver CD, PowerDVD, a DVI-VGAA converter, a power cable, S-video cable, composite video cable, and an S-video to composite dongle.
The Mitsubishi 2070SB-BK is once again our Extreme Guide pick. Boasting a great balance of image quality and color, with generous resolutions and refresh rates, the Mitsubishi 2070SB-BK is one fine display device, and one of the best 22" gaming monitors on the market.
The Mitsubishi 2070SB-BK is an impressive 22" monitor, utilizing a Diamondtron aperture grille tube, with a viewable area of 20", a maximum resolution of 2048 X 1536 at 85 Hz, and a tight aperture grille pitch of .24mm. It also includes NaViSet software that enables the user to adjust screen settings via the mouse and keyboard.
Unfortunately, the Diamondtron technology still suffers the same design as the Sony Trinitron, and there are two somewhat-noticeable grey lines running horizontally across the screen. However these lines are not as intrusive in multimedia/gaming applications as they are in productivity applications like Word/Excel. Remember, the Extreme Gaming machine is for games and multimedia, not knocking out reports.
Cost of Sound Card: $225
Months on list: New
Price Change: N/A
The Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy2 Platinum EX is a fully-featured soundcard that makes its first appearance in the Extreme Guide. This pack includes the popular Audigy2 soundcard, but it features an external breakout box, rather than the standard LiveDrive bay expansion that the non-EX series utilize. This soundcard features 6.1 audio, EAX Advanced HD, THX and Dolby Digital EX certification, 6 channel 24bit/96KHz recording with ASIO 2.0, DVD Audio playback, and a whole slew of connectivity options.
Most of the connections are on the external breakout box. These include optical and coaxial digital I/O, MIDI I/O, and two SB1394 /Firewire ports, headphone and microphone jacks. Creative even includes a nifty remote to cap off the bundle.
Creative didn't skimp on the software side either, as the end user is provided with a few software programs for content production, including Sonic Foundry - ACID Style DJ 3.0, Steinberg Cubasis VST 4.0 Creative Edition + Wavelab Lite 2.0 and more.
After months of waiting, Creative has finally stepped up to the plate with a high-end 6.1 speaker solution. The MegaWorks 650 THX 6.1 speaker set offers great sound quality, along with THX certification and 6.1 audio support. The speaker set boasts 600 Watts of total system burst power, a 25Hz to 20KHz frequency response range, and a 99dB signal to noise ratio.
This speaker set includes 6 satellites, a huge subwoofer with an 8" down firing driver, all the necessary cables, and a palm sized wired remote that controls master volume, balance, treble, bass, mute, center and rear speaker balance. Creative was smart enough to include a headphone jack for general users, though we've got the choice between it and the head phone jack on our external Audigy2 EX external box.
With a super combination of sound clarity and power, the Creative MegaWorks THX 6.1 650 speakers (used in conjunction with the Audigy2 Platinum EX and the Mitsubishi 2070SB-BK monitor), will surely entice the end user to listen to music, play games, and watch movies on their Extreme Gaming PC. And now with 6.1 audio in full use, even some of your DVD movies will sound better.