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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide July 18, 2009

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    July High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  July 9, 2008

    Memory: 2x2GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8500 (TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF)

    Current Cost: $136
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    For a high-end 32-bit gaming system, 2x1-GB of DDR2-800 is the minimum target, but with both of our platforms supporting at least DDR2-1066, and memory being so inexpensive, we're moving to 2x2GB of DDR2-1066. It's actually quite easy to do right now, and with prices depressed, we're moving another step up to Corsair Dominator memory. The 2x2GB Corsair Dominator TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF kit is an excellent value at only $136, and this will ensure our gaming systems have enough memory for both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.

    The Dominator memory is similar to the standard XMS2-8500C5 TwinX kit we selected in our previous guide, and uses standard 5-5-5-15 timings at 1066 MHz, along with support for lower 667 and 800 MHz speeds. Like other DDR2-1066 modules, these do require a bit more voltage to run at 1066 MHz, and the default is 2.1V. But as with many high-end Corsair modules, the Dominator PC2-8500 modules are set to initialize at JEDEC standard 5-5-5-18 values at 800MHz - then the end user can adjust voltages and clock speeds higher.

    The Corsair Dominator TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF dual channel kit features two 2GB sticks of high-speed, low latency PC2-8500/DDR2-1066 memory, which sport an estimated $136 online price. Corsair tests and confirms these Dominator modules for dual-channel compatibility, then immediately packs them up for sale. The Dominator DDR2 modules feature a DHX (Dual-path Heat Xchange) system for increased cooling, and Corsair includes an optional Air Flow fan, which can be used if additional cooling is required. Corsair also offers a full lifetime warranty on their Dominator DDR2 modules.

    Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA 3.0 Gb/sec.

    Current Cost: $210
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Hard drive prices continue to drop, and in concert with a loosening of the system budget, we are finally able to include one of the newer 1TB models. We selected the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340AS 1TB OEM drive, which has now dropped very close to the $200 level. We thought about dual 500GB models in RAID, which would equate to about the same price, but the allure of 1TB was too much, along with the fact that adding a new hard drive is one of the easiest system upgrades you can make.

    The Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB drive includes a 32MB data cache and 7200-RPM spindle speed, while supporting both SATA 3.0 Gb/sec. and NCQ, and features 8.5 ms average read, and 9.5ms average write, seek times. The Seagate Barracuda features Perpendicular Recording Technology, which increases the storage density of each platter. The Barracuda line is renowned for low noise, performance and quality, and Seagate is confident enough to back their OEM hard drives with an excellent 5-year warranty.

    DVD-/+RW: Samsung SH-S203B 20X SATA DVD Writer

    Cost: $30
    Consecutive Guides: 3
    Price Change: $0

    The initial wave of HD-DVD and Blu-ray format drives continue their slow advance, but prices remain extremely high for the R/RW models, so we're sticking with a DVD+/-R/RW drive. Retail prices on these units are also at historical lows, and it's tough to imagine these going any lower. The Samsung SH-S203B is an SATA-based drive, and is a very popular model for new systems. When all the storage drives are SATA, it just simplifies everything from the basic install to system cooling.

    This is a low-cost DVD writer that combines the Samsung brand name with ultra-high write speeds for CD and DVD media. The Samsung SH-S203B offers writing speeds of 20X DVD+/-R, 12X DVD+/-R Dual-Layer media, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, and 32X CD-RW. The Samsung drive also has support for DVD-RAM technology, and can read and write it at 12X speeds.

    Page 1 Introduction and Case
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards
  • Page 4 Memory, Hard Drive and DVD Writer
    Page 5 Video Card, LCD Display and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse and Keyboard
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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