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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide September 4, 2007

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    November Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Thomas Soderstrom :  November 10, 2006

    Intel Motherboard: Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H

    Current Cost: $180
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Who would have ever thought Foxconn, OEM producer to the big brands, would introduce a board worthy of top-caliber computing? The 975X7AB-8EKRS2H caught us by surprise first by matching features and performance with its most popular competitors, then by adding this market's first digital VRM for added CPU stability, all while undercutting its competitors' prices. This is a win-win deal for anyone who hasn't committed themselves to one of the former leaders.

    Intel's 975X Express chipset has made a comeback of late, with better overall performance than the newer P965, plus full CrossFire compatibility with bandwidth divided evenly across both slots. Its inability to support a DRAM:CPU ratio of 2:1 hasn't affected performance, since dual-channel capability provides similar performance at slower memory speeds.

    NVIDIA's former chipset superiority has not yet proven itself in Core 2-compatible motherboards. A second strike against NVIDIA is that the company has not yet opened up its drivers to officially support SLI on Intel's chipsets, even though modified graphics drivers have proven it a potentially viable solution. Look for some significant chipset advances in the near future.

    AMD Motherboard: MSI K9A Platinum

    Current Cost: $135
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    The motherboard might be the most important component in a system, but gaming systems also rely heavily on graphics. Maintaining CrossFire capability for both platforms seems almost ideal, until one considers that most of the top Socket AM2 motherboards use NVIDIA chipsets. Fortunately, MSI has a solution to the dilemma.

    The K9A Platinum is arguably the best Radeon Xpress 3200 motherboard on the market, matching the best nForce 590 solutions in the majority of tests and dropping only a hair behind on the remaining few. Dual Gigabit network ports, on-chipset RAID, 8-channel audio, and IEEE1394 FireWire support make the K9A Platinum every bit as full-featured as our Intel motherboard selection, but AMD buyers will be pleased to note that their board comes at a lower price... helping to offset the FX-62 processor's lower performance-to-price ratio.

    System Memory: Corsair Twin2X2048-6400C4

    Current Cost: $300
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Selecting the system memory is easier now that Intel and AMD both support the DDR2, but the great variety of brands and models still presents something of a challenge. Even a $4,000 budget is finite, limiting our DDR2-800 choices to CAS 4 or above. Various tests further narrowed our search to three best-performing brands: Corsair, Crucial Ballistix, and Super Talent. Ballistix dropped out of contention by being more expensive, while recent Super Talent revisions make us wonder whether its newest parts might not match the high standards set by its previous ones.

    Corsair's Twin2x kits include two XMS2 modules from the same test batch - modules famed for their ability to operate stably beyond published specifications. Even at official specs, two 1GB PC2-6400 CAS4 modules for $300 is a good deal, and fast enough to get serious performance from your Core 2 or Athlon 64 system. Corsair also leaves users a bit of overclocking headroom, as their XMS/XMS2 memory owes much of its popularity to the enthusiast market.

    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, LCD Display and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse, Keyboard & Controller
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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