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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide September 24, 2008





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

    System Memory

    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.

    AMD: 2GB (2x1GB) Corsair TWIN2X PC2-6400 DHX (DDR2-800)

    Current Cost: $75
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Intel: 2GB (2x1GB) Mushkin PC2-6400 (DDR2-800)

    Current Cost: $53
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Overall DDR2 prices have dropped since our last guide, and this has allowed us to upgrade to DDR2-800. We're maintaining the 2x1GB capacity, but due to the higher Core 2 Duo price, the Intel DDR2 option needs to be toned down a bit. Our AMD system upgrades to 2x1GB of Corsair TWIN2X PC2-6400 DHX, which is a smart buy since the DHX variant is priced lower than the regular modules. The DHX format not only looks cool but also provides enhanced cooling and potentially better memory overclocks, so it's good news all around.

    Our Intel system simply does not have the budget for the same type of DDR2, but we're not exactly losing much with our 2x1GB of Mushkin DDR2-800 (model 996527). This is a great deal right now, and for just a bit over $50, it's impossible to do better in terms of price-performance. We get all the benefits of the Corsair DDR2, but forego the nifty DHX heatsinks in favor of a more standard design. We're still looking at 2GB of DDR2-800 in a dual channel configuration, and at this price, it doesn't affect any of our other choices, especially in the all-important video card or processor areas.

    Hard Drive:

    Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB (ST3250310AS) 3.0 Gb/s

    Current Cost: $65
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    The hard drive has been a problematic area for our guide, and we had been stuck at 120GB for a long time. Then last month we upgraded to a 200GB Western Digital drive that was more in line with capacity requirements. Unfortunately, that model jumped a bit in price, forcing us to search out an alternative hard drive option. But that may have been a blessing in disguise, as the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB is almost a perfect option for a value gaming system.

    Not only do we get a 50GB upgrade, but the Seagate drive also offers support for SATA 3.0 Gb/s, as well as 8MB of cache, an 8.9 ms access time, perpendicular recording technology, and a 7200-RPM rotational speed. Best of all, Seagate offers a 5-year warranty on their OEM drives, which is the best in class. 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 this.

    CD/DVD-ROM:

    LG GSA-H62NK 18X SATA DVD Writer

    Current Cost: $29
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: $0

    Even an entry-level gaming system should have at least CDR/RW and DVD read functionality, and preferably DVD writing as well. Our previous guide marked the transition to a SATA interface as well, as this format makes setup a lot easier and allows for fewer/thinner cables and better airflow. The LG GSA-H62NK 18X SATA DVD was the top buy last month, and we welcome back its excellent combination of speed, functionality and value again this month.

    LG is a well-known name in optical storage, and the GSA-H62NK DVD writer gives us all we need in a primary optical drive. The LG GSA-H62NK offers writing speeds of 18X DVD+/-R, 10X DVD+/-R Dual-Layer media, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, and 32X CD-RW. The LG drive also includes support for DVD-RAM technology, and can read and write it at 12X speeds. Other specifications include a SATA interface, 2MB data cache, and 145ms DVD and 125ms CD access times. At only $29, this LG drive is a very inexpensive way to add DVD writing functionality to our value systems, while moving to a SATA-only interface for both optical storage and hard drives.


    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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