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Monthly Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

November 2006 Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Thomas Soderstrom November 10, 2006

Introduction

It's hard to believe a year has passed since our last Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, and while many things have changed, others have remained the same. Intel's sensational Core 2 architecture marks the biggest update from last year's lineup, as AMD's Athlon 64 X2/FX can no longer be considered the top-performing desktop processor. Pricing, however, comes into AMD's favor, so that including an X2 configuration could allow leftover money to spend on such necessities as games.

We still have a sizeable $4,000 budget to play with, and the good news is that much of this year's fastest hardware is less expensive than last year's gear. Yet as big as a $4,000 budget is, it's far from limitless, and tossing in too many expensive peripherals can eat that up in no time. As such, we'll keep our focus on budget-appropriate desktop parts to build the fastest gaming system ever seen on these pages.

Extreme PC Budget: $4000

Case: Cooler Master CM Stacker 830

Current Cost: $240
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

Many of the same qualities that made the WaveMaster our former choice has allowed Cooler Master to stay in the spotlight with its CM Stacker 830. Quality construction with chip-proof aluminum panels make for a case that should outlast its stylish appeal.

Low weight and high cooling are the 830's fortes, and its modular design even supports outdated technologies such as BTX motherboards. Side, top, and front panel mesh assure adequate ventilation for up to nine 120mm fans, but our project requires only the two that are included.

An incredible nine 5.25-inch external bays convert into a 6+4 configuration using a removable 3-bay to 4-drive internal cage. Other accessories include a removable 4x120mm side fan bracket. Though other configurations are supported, these are the most useful.

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610

Current Cost: $160
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

There are a great number of respectable power supply manufacturers at this level, including old favorites like Sea Sonic and Sparkle Power, yet PC Power & Cooling managed to get our attention by offering a single-rail power supply with 49A available to any combination of 12V devices. This beats multi-rail systems that are usually limited to 18A per rail, in that it allows high-power graphics cards to draw more than 18A without powering down.

Other factors in PC Power & Cooling's favor are a peak load capacity of 670W, ripple current limit of +/- 0.05%, MTBF of 100,000 hours, and an efficiency rating of 83%. Though a few other high-end units can match these specifications, the popular move to multiple rails sets the Silencer 610's 49A single-rail apart.


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