When it comes to choosing the memory for our AMD and Intel systems, we still look at these as distinct configurations, rather than using a "one size fits all" memory recommendation. Instead, the two configurations are evaluated separately, and our budget is allocated in the most logical way. Each platform may have its own set of requirements, and we can use this to achieve the best overall 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.
2GB (2x1GB) Corsair TWIN2X PC2-5400 (DDR2-667)
Current Cost: $67
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
Along with lower CPU prices, the DDR2 market also offered up some very serious price drops, bringing 2GB of name brand DDR2 in line with the price of the 1GB no-name matched pair from our last value guide. This is a significant change in the marketplace, and represents a great time to upgrade our base memory specifications. The addition of 2x1GB of Corsair TWIN2X PC2-5400 is simply amazing for an entry-level gaming system, but when prices are so low, we want to make full use of it. A move to DDR2-800 was tossed around, but the added cost was simply not worth it, especially if it entailed a downgrade to the graphics card or processor.
Our Intel P965 and NVIDIA nForce 570 SLI platforms both support dual-channel DDR2, and by utilizing a full 2GB of memory, we make sure that current game, OS, and application requirements are all covered. The 2x1GB format also ensures we utilize the dual-channel memory architectures, and give as much memory bandwidth as we can to the Core 2 Duo and Athlon 64 X2 processors. The Athlon 64 X2 should be mostly unaffected, but as the Core 2 Duo is running on the 1066 MHz bus, dual channel DDR2-667 is right on par with its base requirement.
Western Digital Caviar SE 200GB (WD2000JS) 3.0 Gb/s
Current Cost: $56
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
Our existing 120GB hard drive was becoming a bit limiting, even with a $1K budget, so the decision was made to upgrade this component. 250GB was the optimal goal, but with budget pressure looming, we had to settle for the Western Digital Caviar SE 200GB. This WD drive offers support for SATA 3.0 Gb/s, as well as 8MB of cache, an 8.9 ms access time, and a 7200-RPM rotational speed. Western Digital offers a 3-year warranty with the Western Digital Caviar SE line, and these have proven to be very compatible in our testing. Both of our motherboards can make use of the faster SATA 3.0 Gb/s interface, and will receive enhanced burst mode transfers thanks to the updated interface and hard drive.
Samsung SH-S182D 16X DVD Writer
Current Cost: $27
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: -$2
Even an entry-level gaming system should have at least CDR/RW and DVD read functionality, and we finally made the move to DVD writing in 2006. For pricing and availability reasons, our last guide upgraded to the impressive Samsung SH-S182D 16X DVD writer. This time out the Samsung drive gives us a nice surprise, and value takes a jump higher, as another $2 has been shaved from its retail price.
Samsung is a well-known name in optical drives, and the SH-S182D DVD writer gives us a lot of bang for the buck. The Samsung SH-S182D offers writing speeds of 18X DVD+/-R, 8X 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. The Samsung SH-S182D is certainly an inexpensive way to add DVD writing functionality to our value systems, while getting high-end write speeds and wide media support as added bonuses.
Drive specifications include an EIDE interface, 2MB data cache, and 130ms DVD and 110ms CD access times. Its sub-$30 price makes the Samsung SH-S182D is a steal of a deal, that helps free up some extra cash for other peripherals. The Samsung SH-S182D drive is also available in either black or beige faceplate models, which allows flexibility to match it with your case.