Current Cost: $164
Months on list: 3
Price Change: -$46
NVIDIA has been enjoying huge success with their nForce4 SLI chipset, especially after making the leap to offering the chipset for both AMD and Intel processors. The nForce4 SLI chipset is currently the most feature-rich, high-performance chipset available for the Intel platform and its return engagement this month is certainly no surprise. In addition to dual PCI Express video card support, the nForce4 SLI also has a number of features typical of a high-end chipset. Support for dual-channel DDR2 and dual core Intel processors, PCI Express graphics and peripherals, a 1066MHz FSB, SATA2, and EM64T are just a few of features found in the Intel-based nForce4 chipset. Currently, our favorite motherboard featuring this chipset is the ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, which is not only a superb board, but also dropped a whopping $46 this update.
ASUS has continually offered some of the most fully featured, high performance motherboards around, so these often rise to the top of our list when choosing a motherboard. The Asus P5ND2-SLI Deluxe is no exception, and it supports all the latest technologies, making is a perfect home for our new Pentium 840 Extreme Edition processor. In addition to all the usual amenities, the board has support for external SATA drives, dual Gigabit Ethernet, 8-channel audio, and all the peripheral ports you could dream of. Priced at $164 this motherboard isn't cheap, but support for dual PCI Express video cards make the price premium worthwhile.
Current Cost: $189
Months on list: 4
Price Change: +$2
The nForce4 SLI chipset is also the best platform option for high-end AMD systems, and we are sticking with the excellent DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR as our motherboard of choice. The nForce4 SLI chipset has been all the rage as of late, and there is nothing on the market that can offer the same level of performance, features, and future upgradeability. While the nForce4 SLI chipset has support for the latest technologies such as PCI Express, SATA 3.0 Gb/sec., NVIDIA RAID, 8-channel audio and Gigabit Ethernet with hardware firewall, the single most innovative, and potentially valuable, feature is its support for dual PCI Express video cards.
With NVIDIA's SLI (Scalable Link Interface), a motherboard that is equipped with this technology can support up to two PCI Express video cards (NVIDIA only) simultaneously, resulting in nearly twice the performance of a single GPU. Users of 3dfx's Voodoo 2 line of cards will remember the simple upgrade path this offers; you can choose to equip a system with a single GeForce 6x00 or 7800-based card now, and then upgrade performance by adding a second card later on.
The DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR is a nice mix of performance, features and stability, while offering some funky board colors and a unique layout. The board has the usual assortment of onboard amenities like SATA2, dual Gigabit Ethernet, dual-channel DDR, 8-channel audio, along with the usual assortment of peripheral ports. DFI also includes the hotrod extras that the LANPARTY brand is known for, such as rounded IDE cables, a FrontX panel, a PC Transpo carrying strap, and component and cable UV sensitivity, to name a few. Currently, the DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR is selling for about $189, which is rather reasonable considering how feature packed this board really is.
The nForce4 SLI chipset includes support for dual PCI Express video cards, but due to budget constraints, we couldn't take advantage of this month. It's the same story with the Intel system, and the SLI capabilities will reside more in the future-proofing side, with the prospect of dual GeForce 7800 GTX cards being a huge trump card against tomorrow's cutting-edge games.
Current Cost: $308
Months on list: New
Price Change: N/A
As AMD is sticking with DDR memory for the foreseeable future, it seemed an opportune time to upgrade to a full 2GB of system memory. OCZ has been producing some of the fastest and most affordable memory lately, so we have no problem sticking with them for our move into the 2GB realm. While our AMD system only requires PC-3200 memory, we decided to spend a few extra dollars and go with higher rated PC4000 parts. The added headroom will come in very handy in the future, especially for those of you who like to dabble in the art of overclocking. The OCZ EL Gold Edition DDR PC4000 memory has ultra low timings of 3-4-4-8 at 500MHz (PC4000) and the 2GB (2x1GB) Dual Channel kit can be found for about $308 online.
Since Dual-channel memory is the de facto standard for both AMD and Intel systems it only makes sense that we purchase matched pairs of memory. Buying a name brand memory kit ensures that both modules are exactly matched, and leaves no compatibility issues when running in dual-channel mode. The OCZ Enhanced Latency Dual-Channel Gold kit features two 1GBicks of DDR memory, satisfying our platform's dual-channel memory needs.
Current Cost: $297
Months on list: NEW
Price Change: N/A
Unlike AMD, Intel chose to take the plunge and utilized DDR2 memory with their high-end LGA775 chipsets, a pattern NVIDIA followed with the nForce4 SLI Intel chipset.
This month, just as we did for the AMD system, we are moving to 2GB of system memory. The OCZ Gold Edition DDR2 PC2-4200 Dual Channel memory kit offers the best price to performance ratio out of all of the DDR2 memory we looked at, making it the perfect candidate for this guide. This month our Intel processor only requires 400MHz memory, but we opted for the faster 533MHz part, as it gives the additional headroom should you want to upgrade or overclock.
Like all DDR2 memory, the OCZ Gold Edition DDR2 PC2-4200 forgoes ultra low latency timings, in return for high clock speed and wicked overclockability. Despite the higher latencies inherent of DDR2 memory, the OCZ Gold Edition DDR2 memory still has relatively low timings of 3-3-3-8, which makes it some seriously fast DDR2 memory. As our nForce4 SLI chipset includes dual-channel DDR2 support, we are utilizing two sticks of 1GB to take advantage of this performance boost. A matched pair of 2GB (2x1GB) OCZ Gold Edition DDR2 PC2-4200 costs about $297, which is right in line with what we spent on the AMD system this month.