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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide March 21, 2008

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    September Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  September 21, 2005

    System Memory: 1-GB Corsair Value PC3200 DDR

    The AMD and Intel system prices continue to move closer together and this month these are at virtually equivalent levels. Even so, we're still looking at these two systems as distinct configurations, rather than using a "one size fits all" memory recommendation. Instead these are evaluated separately, and the budget is allocated in the most logical way. Each platform has its own set of requirements, and we can use this to achieve the best overall DDR memory value. We believe that maximizing the $1K budget is what real-world buyers would do, which is even more important with fluctuating memory prices.

    AMD: 1-GB Corsair Value PC3200

    Current Cost: $97
    Months on list: 2
    Price Change: +$4

    Intel: 1-GB (2x512-MB) Corsair Value PC3200

    Current Cost: $90
    Months on list: 3
    Price Change: +$7

    When it comes to system memory, we concentrate on getting the best deal for both platforms, which means maximizing value while taking into consideration the individual features and limitations of the AMD and Intel systems. Corsair Value Select PC3200 DDR is the choice for both platforms, but the configuration is where these differ. For the dual-channel Intel system, it's logical to grab 2x512-MB of PC3200 for only $90. Moving any higher on the DDR chart would be overkill, just as going with high-end PC4200 would be a waste of our budget.

    The Intel 915PL platform supports dual-channel DDR, but also comes with the limit of a single DIMM per channel. By utilizing 1-GB of PC3200, we are ensuring that really never becomes an issue, as a value system configuration with 1-GB of name brand DDR is not something you will need to upgrade anytime soon. The 2x512-MB format also ensures we utilize the dual-channel memory architecture to its fullest, to keep up with the 800 MHz CPU bus.

    The integrated DDR controller of the Athlon 64 3400+ is very powerful, but it is a single-channel memory architecture, and a lone 1-GB stick of PC3200 is just as good as 2x512-MB, and does not incur a performance penalty. This month we have the extra budget for a single 1-GB stick of Corsair Value PC3200, but due to the 3 DIMM sockets on the ASUS motherboard, using 2x512-MB is not the issue it was on the previous MSI board. If money is tight, then going the 2x512-MB route is not a big deal, but for only a $7 premium, leaving an extra DIMM socket free might be a good idea.

    We've budgeted for Corsair Value PC3200, but there are other brands at the same range, such as Kingmax, Geil Value, Samsung, PDP, Rosewill, or Komusa DDR. Overall, the 1-GB of total memory capacity ensures that both of our value PCs will be able to handle current 3D games with ease, and have a lot of headroom for upcoming ones as well.

    Hard Drive:

    120GB Seagate Barracuda - SATA NCQ (ST3120827AS)

    Current Cost: $77
    Months on list: New
    Price Change: N/A

    When we moved to current platforms for both the AMD and Intel systems in our last update, we also moved to an SATA hard drive for both configurations. The Intel 915PL and NVIDIA nForce4 are designed with Serial ATA in mind, and have the SATA ports to prove it, so it's only natural we go in this direction. Price is definitely not a factor between the two formats, as Serial ATA drives continue to drop in relation to PATA models, and most are priced equivalently.

    Last time out, the 80-GB capacity of our Western Digital Special Edition drive was a real issue, as 120-GB should really be the starting point of any current system design. This month, due to some price cuts in other areas, we're happy to announce the arrival of the Seagate Barracuda 120-GB SATA drive to our guide. This model has a 7200 RPM speed, includes a healthy 8-MB of cache, and also brings high-end SATA features like NCQ to the fold. The i915PL motherboard definitely supports this feature, although there is some question whether the nForce4-4X chipset does as well. Either way, it's a nice upgrade in terms of capacity and speed, and finally brings our data storage component up to spec.


    Toshiba SD-R1612 52x32x52x16 Combo Drive

    Current Cost: $25
    Months on list: 3
    Price Change: -$6

    Even an entry-level gaming system should have the ability to write to CDR/RW and read DVD media, and there is no easier or more cost-effective method than with a combo drive. These drives are popular for both value and convenience, as these units can handle the gamut of CDR/RW writing, CD reading and DVD playback duties. This month we're moving to the Toshiba SD-R1612 combo drive, which costs only $25, performs at 52X CDR, 32X CDRW write speeds, and 52X CD and 16X DVD read speeds, and includes data underrun technology for smooth and stable data writes. The Toshiba drive also features a 2-MB data cache, and gives us a very inexpensive way of adding CDR/RW and DVD-read options to our value gaming systems.

    Page 1 Introduction and Case
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards
  • Page 4 Memory, Hard Drive and CDRW/DVD-ROM
    Page 5 Video Card and Monitor
    Page 6 Soundcard, Speakers and LAN
    Page 7 Input Devices and Operating System
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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