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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide September 28, 2008





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    October Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Ryan "Speedy" Wissman :  October 31, 2005

    Intel CPU: Pentium 840 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz) LGA775 Retail

    Current Cost: $999
    Months on List: New
    Price Change: N/A

    For the past few months, both Intel and AMD have been focusing on their dual-core chips, and the single core iterations are being pushed to the wayside. As it has become increasingly difficult to simply rack CPU clock speeds any higher, multi-core processors are an increasingly attractive alternative. While both AMD and Intel's high-end dual core processors lag slightly behind their most expensive single core counterparts, we feel that the small performance tradeoff in today's single threaded applications is a small price to pay for massive performance gains in the multithreaded games and applications of tomorrow, as well as ultra-smooth multi-tasking.

    The Pentium 840 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz) features 2MB of L2 cache (1MB per core), full 64-bit instructions (Intel EM64T), 800MHz FSB, Hyper-Threading, and Execute Disable Bit support. In Windows XP, this feature enables hardware DEP (Data Execution Prevention) which prevents malicious code from running by performing additional checks on system memory. The chip also supports the latest LGA775 platforms, and is manufactured using a 90nm process. The retail edition of the Pentium 840 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz) is available online for about $999.

    The Pentium 840 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz) is Intel's enthusiast level dual-core processor, and has no problem holding its own against the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+. In multithreaded applications, especially media encoding, this processor is a silicon powerhouse. With Hyper-Threading support built into each chip, the Pentium 840 EE can support up to two threads per chip for a total of four threads per processor.

    While the 3.2GHz clock speed means that it does not offer the single-threaded performance of the 3.73GHz single core Extreme Edition, we feel that the tradeoff is worth it as many future games and applications will be designed with multithreading in mind. The ability to multi-task seamlessly, such as playing a high-end 3D game while encoding a video and/or running a virus scan cannot be understated. However, for those that absolutely demand the fastest Intel single-threaded gaming performance on the market, then the Pentium 4-3.73 GHz EE will be a better bet.

    AMD CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+

    Current Cost: $884
    Months on List: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Following along the same lines as our Intel processor choice this month, we decided that it was time to move to a dual core model for our AMD system as well. As clock speeds begin to hit the proverbial brick wall, both Intel and AMD have been looking for alternative ways to increase processor performance. Dual-core processors provide the quick fix to this seemingly complex problem. While neither AMD nor Intel's dual core high end solutions can quite keep up with their highest performing single core options, the tradeoff in single-threaded performance is more than made up when it comes to multithreaded applications and multi-tasking.

    AMD's Athlon 64 X2 4800+ features two 2.4GHz cores with a massive 2MB of L2 cache (1MB each), which puts each core in line with the Athlon 64 FX-53. AMD's entire dual core lineup is built on a 90nm process, and has the same 939-pin packaging, and work with most 939-pin AMD motherboards. The dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ rides on AMD's lighting fast Hyper-Transport FSB, features dual channel DDR400 support, and also has the latest in multimedia instruction sets including SSE3. All of the Athlon 64 processors can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit instructions, which will come in quite handy for the Windows XP 64-bit edition as well as Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system that is set to arrive next year.

    The AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is AMD highest performing dual core processor, and at 2.4GHz it is no slouch when it comes to single threaded applications either. The 4800+ generally performs on par, or better than Intel's Pentium 840 EE, especially in single threaded applications. Priced at $884 for the retail edition it comes in at a few dollars less than the Intel chip, and still offers excellent performance. For those of you who want nothing more than a lighting fast rig for today's games the Athlon 64 FX-57 may be your best bet, as at 2.8GHz, the Athlon 64 FX-57 will do better in single threaded applications than the dual core 4800+.

    AMD Heatsink-Fan: Thermalright XP-90C w/92mm Fan

    Current Cost: $63
    Months on list: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Heat dissipation has become a real issue with processors as of late, and making the jump to dual core this month only aggravates the situation further. While water-cooling is always a tempting option, we prefer to use the safer and more cost effective air-cooling method. This month we are making the move to Thermalright's gigantic all-copper XP-90C. The XP-90C is one of the most massive and efficient heatsinks we have ever used, and we have no qualms about recommending it in this guide. This heatsink is copper from top to bottom which means that it is able to dissipate incredible amounts of heat without breaking a sweat, and is just what the doctor ordered for our dual-2.4 GHz Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

    Thermalright's XP-90C is universally compatible with a number of CPUs including the AMD Athlon XP, 64, X2 and 64 FX CPUs, as well as Intel Pentium 4/D/Celeron Socket 478 processors. The all copper construction makes this heatsink extremely heavy, and weighs in at a whopping 690g, so it requires extra care when mounting. This heatsink has support for 92mm fans, and we recommend something such as the Vantec Stealth if you're looking for good performance at sane db levels. Currently, this heatsink is available for about $63, which includes a 92mm fan like the Vantec Stealth.

    Intel LGA775 Heatsink-Fan: Retail

    Current Cost: $0
    Months on list: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Unfortunately, this month we do not have the extra cash to spare for a high-end Intel heatsink. While a high performance heatsink would have been preferable, especially considering the heat output of Intel's dual core processors, the retail HSF that Intel includes is actually quite acceptable. Assuming that you are not going to be overclocking to the limit, the HSF that Intel has been including in their retail processor packages will be more than enough to keep things cool and running smoothly.

    For those of you who abhor the though of using an Intel supplied HSF, the Thermalright XP-90C is an excellent alternative. Using the $5 Thermalright LGA775 RM Retention Bracket, this heatsink will fit our Pentium 840 Extreme Edition without an issue. We also recommend the 92mm Vantec Stealth as it offers the best combination of sound level and performance.


    Page 1 Introduction and Case
  • Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards and Memory
    Page 4 Hard Drives and DVD-R/RW
    Page 5 Video Card, Monitor and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse, Keyboard & Controller
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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