Networking: Integrated Dual Gigabit
Current Cost: $0
Consecutive Guides: 11
Price Change: N/A
Both of our recommended motherboards include excellent Dual Gigabit Networking support, making discrete controllers a waste of money and space for most buyers. But those who need more ports might consider an Intel PRO/1000 PT Server Adapter. Intel's long and glorious history in network controllers has all but displaced competitors at this market level, and the PRO/1000 PT is available in single, dual, and quad port designs.
The single port card uses a PCI-Express x1 slot for better flexibility in placement, while multiport cards use an x4 slot. The newer slot standard was chosen because legacy 32-bit PCI can only support gigabit transfers in one direction at a time, while each PCI-Express lane is both twice as fast in each direction and bi-directional. Anyone who can't spare a PCI-Express slot can substitute a 64-bit PCI PRO/1000 MT in 32-bit mode, since these are cross-compatible, but with an obvious loss in performance.
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2 OEM
Current Cost: $139
Consecutive Guides: 18
Price Change: $0
It's hard to believe that all these months have passed and Windows Vista still suffers from several unresolved driver issues and program conflicts. Windows XP has completely matured and is supported by nearly everything, plus it offers better performance in many games, doesn't suffer the SLI performance oddities of Vista, and requires less system memory to run properly.
Microsoft is facing a tremendous struggle to get buyers to adopt Vista, as market resistance has worked its way to several major OEM builders. Large manufacturers like Dell and HP even display "available with XP" logos on many of their PCs and laptops. It's still a tough call, as Vista is the future, but especially for a SLI gaming system, the future is not quite here yet. The good news for XP users is that current CD's have several additional updates wrapped in.
UPS: OPTI-UPS Enhanced Series ES1000C
Current Cost: $110
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: $0
A UPS can be cheap insurance against both power surges (spikes) and brownouts (droops), and even prevent data loss in the event of a complete power failure. The value of this security should never be underestimated for any system, but increases with the cost of internal hardware.
Rated at 1000VA with an exceptional 700W load capacity, the OPTI-UPS Enhanced Series 1000C was previously chosen to support upgrades to SLI graphics and quad core processing, and for this guide we've gotten as far as the two graphics cards. Its moderate price is unchanged and sets it apart from other 700W-rated units, while enough user feedback exists to assure us of the quality in our selection.
OPTI-UPS goes a step beyond similarly priced competitors in both wattage and disclosure. A "typical runtime load" of 45-55 minutes sounds similar to what competing products site, but OPTI also provides the actual runtime capabilities most others won't mention. Specifically, this unit is rated at 3 minutes full load capacity (700W) and ten minutes half-load capacity. The load time numbers may look small compared to the estimated run time, but one must wonder what competitors are tying to hide by not publishing their load times.
Our configurations are expected to "pull" around 500W of actual power during full bore gaming, so users powering both the system and the LCD display should have at least three minutes to save their game and power down if ever their local power grid does go offline. Running less strenuous tasks whenever the grid goes down could bring your "typical runtime" in line with the company's estimates.