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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide September 1, 2007

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

    Video Card: CrossFire Dual Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB Cards

    Current Cost: $820 ($400+$420)
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    The ATI Radeon X1950 XTX competes fairly well with NVIDIA's flagship, the two-cards-in-one-slot GeForce 7950 GX2, winning at least a few game benchmarks but at a much lower cost. This lower cost afforded us the opportunity to use two X1950 XTX's in CrossFire mode, where the set easily beats a single 7950GX2 - two 7950 GX2 cards would have busted our $4,000 total budget.

    A CrossFire pair of Radeon X1950 XTX cards got us the best performance we could find for under $1,000, and ensures ultra high-end performance, an excellent feature set and headroom for upcoming games. Brand-wise, Sapphire gets the nod on pricing, with its Radeon X1950 XTX at $400 and its CrossFire edition a mere $20 more.

    For those with a little less than the $820 entry fee required for the above CrossFire duo, or for NVIDIA fans in general, the GeForce 7950 GX2 (such as the ASUS pictured below) beats a single X1950 XTX in most applications for just over $550.

    Points against the 7950 GX2 include a general SLI incompatibility with most 975X motherboards and the lack of available SLI motherboards for Core 2 processors: It was far easier to find a good AM2 motherboard for CrossFire than it would have been to find a good SLI motherboard for Core 2. Count on this changing in a few weeks when Nvidia's new nForce 680i SLI chipset for Intel hits retail shelves.

    LCD Display: Samsung SyncMaster 215TW

    Current Cost: $460
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Dell and Apple aren't the only companies marketing gorgeous flat panels; Samsung wants its slice of that pie too. The 215TW is one of the company's newest digital displays, featuring 21 diagonal inches of viewable area in a market full of 20-inch competitors. A 4-way adjustable base allows perfect positioning, something especially useful with so large a display.

    The flat panel's 8ms response time might be a hair slower than a few 6ms rivals, but it's comfortably under the 12ms maximum recommended for gaming. The payoff is that Samsung uses a true 8-bit panel as opposed to 6-bit competitors, for richer colors and an enhanced viewing experience. You can have your image quality and smooth gameplay too, and the cost of entry is a reasonable $460.

    Sound Card: Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS

    Current Cost: $175
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$104

    The PC audio industry has moved at a snail's pace ever since Creative killed its main rivals through a series of legal maneuvers that set competitive technology back by at least five years. The advent of X-Fi marked Creative's first significant move forward, and since game codes are written for EAX, it makes sense to pick one.

    Already a year old, the X-Fi Fatal1ty still represents Creative's top gaming soundcard, with 64MB RAM caching sounds for faster processing and increased frame rates. An ultra-high 109db signal-to-noise ratio and the latest EAX version 5.0 helped put the card on our list on 2005, and these features have kept it there.

    Speakers: Logitech Z-5500

    Current Cost: $260
    Consecutive Guides: 5
    Price Change: +$40

    Another technology that seems to move at best slowly is speakers. The Logitech Z-5500s have been on our list for 16 months, yet many listeners argue these are still the best on the market. To be sure, others vote for Klipsch's ProMedia Ultra; with both top-rated 5.1 kits garnering similar fanaticism, we chose the less expensive of the two.

    We also considered 7.1-channel systems, but could not find any that surpassed the sound quality Logitech builds into this system. For gaming, 5.1 channels provide excellent directional sound, which has not yet been surpassed by 7.1-channel systems.

    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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