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Introduction

It’s been a while since we really tackled anything at the high end of the computing spectrum. Since our November Gaming Guide, there have been some major changes in most areas. About the only areas that haven’t changed much are the mass storage and optical storage areas and even those have a few new additions. We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll just get right into it and skip all the preliminary niceties.

The biggest decision up front is, as usual, the choice of platform: AMD or Intel. For the mid-range to high end markets, we can narrow our focus quite a bit. There’s little need to look at the budget Sempron and Celeron chips, and socket 754 and 478 don’t hold much interest. Upgraders might be interested in offerings for these platforms, but we'll defer to our recent article covering CPU cores rather than deal with that here. While PCIe cards are definitely the future, we'll also have some advice for those of you who may already have a capable system and are looking to last until the next platform transition – that's about a year or so off, in case you were wondering.

Looking toward the future, there has been quite a bit of coverage recently about the latest processors coming from AMD and Intel, particularly the dual core solutions. At present, none of the dual core chips are really available (other than in OEM systems), but if heavy multitasking describes your typical workload, waiting for the dual core solutions to appear in quantity might be worthwhile. What we’ll focus on in this Guide is the current single core setups, which for most people are still more than sufficient to accomplish any given task. For the High-End buyers – particularly those who want to buy a top-end computer once every three years and then use it with few upgrades – you'll definitely want to take a closer look at our Dual Core Performance Preview before laying down several thousand dollars on a current system.

A word about prices: We're using our RealTime Pricing Engine for the majority of the prices listed, although we also shop around at various online resellers for many of the products. If you can find components for less money from a dealer who you trust, all the better. We don't include mail-in rebates in our price quotes either, which can further reduce the cost. These prices are also just a snapshot in time – May 13 th, 2005 for this Guide – so they are bound to change.

AMD Recommendations
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  • ProviaFan - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    And I had an Epox board (8RDA, which was all the rage when it came out) die just over a year old from bad capacitors. Now, I use an Abit NF7-S v2, but found the guide useful as I'm planning an upgrade "soon" (dual core is necessary as I'm a non-gaming multitasker: Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign - at the same time, and SMP is well beyond the budget).

    Thanks Jarred, I appreciated the article, despite the few typos and the whiner(s) in the comment section. :)
    Reply
  • arswihart - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    I think Epox is more than a step above Biostar and Soltek, as for customer support, Epox is lightyears better than Asus and MSI, so not sure what you are referring to there. They also have the best BIOS support I've ever seen, always updated quickly and often, so again I don't know where you are getting your information. Reply
  • kevindarcy - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    For those of us who run our PCs continuously, I think Anandtech should be giving a clear recommendation of Venice over Newcastle, regardless of their respective overclocking potentials, or support of SSE3. According to PC Perspective (http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=127&type=... a Venice CPU consumes 20W less than an equivalent Newcastle at idle, and 37W less under load (!). Where I live, the electricity savings alone, based on the "idle" number, are at least $16/yr, more than enough to justify the (hopefully temporary) price differential, not to mention the "intangible" benefits of having a quieter, cooler-running computer. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    15 - typo. Fixed now.

    1 - Would you buy a LAN card for a PC? Most people would say no, and I feel about the same for audio. If you find the integrated audio is lacking, it's simple enough to add a sound card after the fact.
    Reply
  • whatever - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    quote:
    That means Intel's 845 and 855 chipsets or the aforementioned nForce 4 SLI for 775.

    Isn't 845 and 855 old? don't they mean 945 and 955? (this is from the Intel mobos section)
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    >and I even wonder sometimes if your site is getting some compensation for these recommendations.

    arswihart: Generally we will always recommend at Tier 1 motherboard manufacturer over a Tier 2 one. The peripheral things like product support, updates and MTBF usually sway our opinion in favor of an ASUS/MSI/Gigabyte board over a Biostar/Epox/Soltek board even if they are nearly the same. By the way, Epox's production was actually via another Tier 1 production house until not too long ago.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    *I'm* not in the market for an SLI rig. Very few people really are. My 6800GT is more than powerful enough for what I do, and I think most people feel the same way.

    The reason I went with SLI for the High-End is because I feel people that are interested in spending $500+ on a CPU are probably going to be interested in the bragging rights of SLI. I think the Mid-Range is the sweet spot for computer purchases, so I really look at the High-End market as potential upgrades rather than entire systems. Of course, if you win the lottery or something, go for it! :)
    Reply
  • arswihart - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    i only say that because the products I refer to have been available for many many months, except for the 9npa sli. It is nonsense that you haven't been aware of their existence until today. Reply
  • arswihart - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    you mean you miss all of them, not just some of them Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 23, 2005 - link

    I've been going by the AnandTech Pricing Engine (which is apparently missing the EPoX and Biostar SLI products). I generally search around at Newegg, ZipZoomFly, ChiefValue, Monarch, and several other sites to verify that I've got the best prices I can find as well as most recent product lists, but obviously I miss some of them. Sorry.

    As for the EPoX nF4 Ultra vs. Chaintech, I wouldn't say the EPoX board is bad (though I haven't tested it), but past experience is that it's probably not much better than other options. We'll be coming out with a new nF4 motherboard roundup, so I'll have to see what our other editors say about the various models. :)

    (I did mention nF3, by the way - at the top of the page. I would't recommend it for a complete new system, but for upgraders it's still a reasonable choice.)
    Reply

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