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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide May 28, 2009

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    May Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  May 19, 2008

    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 & Intel: 2GB (2x1GB) Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400

    Current Cost: $48
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Although the price drops on DDR2 memory have slowed down a bit, we're still looking at some extreme value in the 2x1GB DDR2-800 range. This fits the budgets of our AMD and Intel platforms, and dual-channel DDR2-800 provides more than enough bandwidth for our two processors. Our choice this month is the standard Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400 memory in a TWINX 2x1GB retail package. These modules are tested for matched pair compatibility and run at standard 5-5-5-18 timings @ 800 MHz.

    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 320GB (WD3200AAKS) 3.0 Gb/s

    Current Cost: $70
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    One of the more difficult areas to upgrade significantly is the hard drive. Our budget doesn't afford luxuries such as 1TB drives, and we need to stretch the money as far as possible for as many GB as we can get. In the last two guides, we've inched up to the 200GB Western Digital and 250GB Seagate drives, and this month we're back in the WD camp with another upgrade. The Western Digital Caviar SE16 320GB offers a very nice combination of speed and price, coming in at only $70 for 320GB.

    Not only do we upgrade the stated capacity by 70GB, but the Western Digital SE16 also remains the company's mainstream performance option. The drive has a full 16MB of data cache and a 7200-RPM rotational speed, while supporting SATA 3.0 Gb/s and perpendicular recording technology. Western Digital offers a 3-year warranty on their OEM drives, which is a bit less than the 5 years Seagate provides, but still within the industry norm. Both of our motherboards can make use of the faster SATA 3.0 Gb/s interface, and will receive enhanced burst mode transfer rates.


    DVD-/+RW: Samsung SH-S203B 20X SATA DVD Writer

    Cost: $24
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    The initial wave of Blu-ray format drives continues its slow advance, but prices remain extremely high, so we're sticking with a DVD+/-R/RW drive. Retail prices on these units are also at historical lows, and the Samsung SH-S203B is an SATA-based drive that is even lower-priced than our previous LG model. Plus, when all the storage drives are SATA, it just simplifies everything from the basic install to system cooling.

    This is a low-cost DVD writer that combines the Samsung brand name with ultra-high write speeds for CD and DVD media. The Samsung SH-S203B offers writing speeds of 20X DVD+/-R, 12X 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.

    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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