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





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    November Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  December 1, 2007

    Motherboards

    When selecting a motherboard for our Value Gaming System, it is important we find the best overall value, while ensuring the most future-proof and high-performance hardware possible. Naturally, these goals are often at odds with each other, and the sticker price is usually the main stumbling block. To find that right combination, the motherboard needs to be affordable, but also have a good mix of performance, overclocking, and onboard features. Whether you're buying a low-cost gaming system or an ultra high-end powerhouse, the motherboard is still one of the most important components, as it provides the backbone for your entire computer and determines your future upgrade path.

    Athlon 64 X2 AM2 Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-S4 (nForce 570 SLI)

    Current Cost: $87
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$8

    Although we kept the Athlon 64 6000+, maintaining the same motherboard was not a slam-dunk. We're always looking to improve, but at under $90, the natural platform choice is still the nForce 570 SLI. The Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-S4 offers a ton of value for its $87 price tag, and it's a no-brainer to include the motherboard again this month. It not only provides a great mix of performance and features, but also opens up the door to SLI video as a potential upgrade. Gigabyte has been consistently delivering on low-priced motherboards lately, and the GA-M57SLI-S4 is certainly at the top of the scale when it comes to sub-$90 AM2 products.

    The Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-S4 is powered by the nForce 570 SLI chipset, and adds enthusiast-level features like SLI to the mix, while providing high-end options like SATA 3.0 Gb/s with RAID, Gigabit LAN, and High Definition 7.1 Audio. The motherboard includes support for all Athlon 64, 64 X2, and FX-based processors using the Socket AM2 package, and includes 4 DDR2 sockets capable of handling up to 16GB of DDR2-800 memory. Onboard expansion slots include 2 x PCIe x16 graphics (SLI x 8 Mode), 3 x PCIe x1, and 2 x PCI, while storage options offer 2 x PATA devices, 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s and 1 x Floppy. The motherboard also has 10 x USB 2.0, 2 IEEE1394a Firewire connectors, Realtek ALC883 8-Channel high definition audio, and Gigabit LAN.

    Core 2 Duo Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L (Intel P35)

    Current Cost: $87
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$5

    It was the same story with the Intel motherboard selection, but extreme care must be taken, as relative prices are higher than with an AMD platform. We also require a 1333 FSB-compliant motherboard, and at this price range, the P35 chipset makes the most sense. Even so, few P35-powered motherboards fall below the $90 price range, and fewer still have the necessary features and options. Gigabyte comes through again, and the GA-P35-DS3L motherboard is a perfect match for our guide - its sub-$90 price tag is incredible for what you get. The Gigabyte board is based on the powerful Intel P35 chipset, which supports both the 1066 and 1333 MHz FSB Core 2 Duo and Quad models, and Gigabyte even supports upcoming 45nm processors.

    The Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L motherboard is powered by the Intel P35 Express + ICH9 chipset, which is a very solid combination for the Core 2 Duo E6750 processor. The 4 DIMM slots support DDR2 in 667, 800 and 1066 MHz formats, with a maximum of 8GB total. Onboard expansion include 1 x PCI-Ex16, 3 x PCI-Ex1, and 3 x PCI slots, while storage options feature 4 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s and 1 x PATA. Other onboard features include 8 x USB 2.0, 8-channel high definition audio, and Gigabit LAN, along with a range of overclocking options, including clock speed and voltage settings for the processor, memory, PCIe, and chipset options.


    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 and LCD Display
    Page 6 Soundcard, Speakers and LAN
    Page 7 Input Devices and Operating System
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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