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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide March 17, 2008


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

    Video Card: GeForce 6600 GT 128-MB - PCI Express

    Current Cost: $143
    Months on list: 2
    Price Change: -$20

    The GeForce 6600 GT 128-MB is a video card tailor-made for our value system, and the day we moved to this mainstream powerhouse represented a significant milestone. It is a serious gaming speed demon for its class, and is the perfect sub-$150 gaming card on the market. Of course, we're always looking to upgrade, and although we did give both the GeForce 6800 128-MB and Radeon X800 128-MB cards a good look, there is still nothing in this price range that offers the same mix of performance and value.

    The GeForce 6600 GT 128-MB is an exceptional video card for the money, and easily outperforms the last-generation GeForce 5900 and 5950-based cards. The NV43 core is a stripped-down version of the NV40 used with the GeForce 6800 GT and Ultra models, with the GeForce 6600 GT featuring 8 pixel pipelines and a 128-bit memory path. This may sound drastic, but NVIDIA has really pumped up the volume, and the standard 500 MHz core and 1 GHz memory speeds really push the framerates. Overall performance is extremely high for the class, especially using newer games and with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

    The GeForce 6600 GT core is manufactured on a 0.11-micron process, and ensures that it runs cooler than the 0.13-micron core found in the GeForce 6800-based cards, and leaves a bit of overclocking headroom in reserve. The 0.11-micron core also pays dividends in terms of power requirements, as although the AGP interface makes an extra Molex connector a necessity, the PCI Express versions do not require external power.

    Due to fluctuating supplies, we haven't selected a specific model, but at this price range, GeForce 6600 GT 128-MB PCIe cards from MSI (pictured above), XFX, Apollo, AOpen, eVGA, and Chaintech (shown below) are readily available.

    We are continuing to list an ATI video card alternative at the same price range. After all, just like AMD and Intel processors, some people feel more comfortable with a video card from either NVIDIA or ATI.

    ATI has positioned the Radeon X700 Pro as the direct competitor to the GeForce 6600 GT, but for our money, the Radeon X800 128-MB PCI Express is the best ATI deal in this class. Basically, it is a lower-clocked Radeon X800 Pro (12 pipes) with 128-MB of 256-bit GDDR3 memory, that sells at around $140-$150 for a basic model. Some retailers have even started labeling the card as an "X800 GT" in order to get the point across. A PowerColor model is pictured below, but similarly-priced cards can be found from Sapphire and MSI.

    Monitor 19": Envision EFT920

    Current Cost: $148
    Months on list: 4
    Price Change: +$7

    The $1,000 budget, combined with our mandate of creating the fastest gaming system for the money, brings with it a few issues on the monitor side. We cannot use too much of our budget in a given area, and the best strategy is to distribute it evenly through the component list. Due to this, we're limited in our selection, as even 15" and 17" gaming LCDs are out of our league, while rising prices and the low availability of CRT monitors makes it even worse. The choice of monitor has never been more difficult, and given that it is a highly personal selection for many (and a non-issue for those with existing monitors), this month we're going with a basic recommendation, along with a few secondary options.

    Over the last few updates we've gone with the Envision EFT920 19" FST monitor as our main selection, and its combination of low price and great features brings it back for another month. The Envision monitor has support for up to 1600x1200 at 76 Hz, and a nice 85 Hz refresh at the standard 1280x1024 resolution. The aesthetics also score high for a value 19" FST monitor, and the Envision EFT920 features a nice, two-tone silver/black casing. Most other 19" flat screen monitors have moved well above the $200 level, and it is becoming very difficult to get the right mix of features, screen size, and price. Clearly, LCDs are the wave of the future.

    If the money is available, then we would recommend moving to a 8ms-16ms 17" LCD. Many of these 17" units have exceptional features and at approximately $190-$230, are really not that much more expensive than a 19" CRT. LCDs are more visually appealing displays, and with a 12-16ms response time, even high speed gaming will show minimal (if any) ghosting, and be much easier on the eyes. The best overall value is currently with the 17" models, and LCDs from BenQ, CMV, LG, Envision, Viewsonic, and even Samsung are available in this price range.

    Please keep in mind that when buying any type or brand of monitor, there is always the slight chance of receiving a defective unit or a flat-screen with convergence issues, so be certain to purchase only from a vendor that offers liberal return and replacement options. This also is important for LCDs, and be sure to check the vendor's Dead Pixel Replacement Policy and investigate any further protection you can buy.


    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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