Basic High-End AMD System

Basic High-End AMD System
Hardware Component Price Rebates
Processor AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ $179 -
Motherboard DFI LANPARTY UT NF590 SLI-M2R/G $160 -
Memory 2GB Kit DDR2 PC2-6400 OCZ Platinum $125 -
Video Card 2x EVGA NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 640MB $700 $60
Hard Drive Samsung SpinPoint HD501LJ 500GB $112 -
Optical Drive Pioneer DVR-212BK $42 -
Operating System Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2B (OEM) $110 -
System Total $1428 $1368
Complete Package $1964-$3623 $1904-$3563

In terms of gaming, there are relatively few titles which will currently take advantage of multiple cores at all, and an even smaller subset of those titles will attempt to use more than two cores in a meaningful way. A high-end system with a price ceiling of $2,000 will therefore be better served by an investment in other system components, rather than in an upgrade to the AMD FX processors. The 5600+ gets the nod over the more expensive 6000+ as the added 200 MHz of the 6000+ generally doesn't improve performance enough to warrant the extra money - investing the money in other areas will generally help more. Still, if you're inclined to spend the $50 more for the 6000+ there's nothing inherently wrong with doing so.

The DFI motherboard provides a strong platform for a high-end system. Coming in at a relatively inexpensive $160, this component provides the full 16 lanes for each graphics card in SLI mode and has all the bells and whistles (FireWire, dual gigabit network adapters, etc.) that are expected on a board in this class. The memory chosen for the system, the OCZ PC2-6400 OCZ2P800LP2GK, is turned specifically for this motherboard. As a result, the memory is capable impressive 4-4-4-1T timings, which noticeably improves the performance of the system.

The EVGA 8800 GTS cards in this system are very close to the fastest gaming configuration available today, trailing only its 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra siblings. Despite the additional $100 in cost, we feel it makes sense to go for the 640MB versions of the card rather than the 320MB. The reason is that 512MB cards have been available for some time now, and games are beginning to require more RAM to run at the highest detail settings. These cards leverage DX10 and ensure that this system can handle anything which the gaming market can throw at it. For users looking to avoid the headaches which occasionally result from running an SLI system, a single MSI NX8800GTX-T2D768E-HD OC as chosen for our Ultra SLI systems will provide performance approaching the GTS SLI option, while reducing the overall system cost. Should you choose that route, you could look at alternative motherboards but we still feel a dual x16 configuration is worth keeping for the future.

AMD's latest offering, the HD 2900 XT, provides performance that is reasonably close to the 8800 GTS 640MB cards, but it comes at a price premium of roughly $100 per card. Our experience with AMD's 2900 XT drivers (particularly in CrossFire mode) has also been less than impressive so far. Performance is great when it works properly, but that doesn't occur as much as we would like. Unless you're interested in joining the beta testing of drivers, an investment in AMD's CrossFire technology makes no sense at this time.

A retail also-ran in years past, Samsung has recently turned in a string of strong drives. The most recent of these, the Samsung SpinPoint T Series, gets the nod for our entry high-end system on the strength of its quiet operation and performance parity with the drives found at the higher end of the spectrum (like the Western Digital RE series). Keep in mind, however, that the current price-performance "sweet spot" can be found in the 250GB-320GB range; the 500GB drive was chosen only because it could fit within the pricing limits set for this guide.

As downward price pressure continues on DVD writers, the choice is now largely one of brand preference. Pioneer writers have a reputation for writing to anything even coming close to a circular shape, and - most importantly of all - don't have the poor reliability record that is associated with some of the other low-price drives. At this price point, however, you can choose virtually any brand of DVD writer you wish. There's really no reason to go for an IDE writer, though - spend the extra $6 and keep the system all-SATA if possible.

Windows XP MCE is chosen for this system due to the lower system overhead compared with Vista. If your memory requirements go above 2GB, or you are looking at running a 64-bit OS, then consider Vista as an alternative. Many of us are still hesitant to upgrade to Vista, but that's slowly changing and by the end of the year we expect Vista to become the predominant enthusiast platform. In the meantime, dual booting is another possibility.

Index Ultra High-end AMD System
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  • rtrkudos - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    You were wrong on the Dell 30" LCD. The newer HC model they ship now has a grey-to-grey of 8ms which is what matters for gaming. They never updated their website to the newer specs. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    I made some clarifications on the LCD selections. Having personally used both the old Dell 3007WFP and one of the new "high color" 30" LCDs, I'm pretty comfortable in saying that very few people would actually noticed the difference in practical use. I know I couldn't. Besides, the 3007WFP-HC actually costs $1500 as opposed to $1300. Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    While I very much enjoy Anandtech's Buyer's guides, I have noticed lately a disconnect between what is recommended in the Buyer's guides and what is reviewed in the other articles. For example, I do not think I have ever seen a review of the Samsung hard drives, yet they show up quite often in recent buyer's guides. Also, the Crucial Balistix used in the ultra high end system. Have we seen a review of these?

    My point is that if I were to go back through Anandtech motherboard, hard drive and memory reviews - pick out the best performers/editor's choice winners - I would come up with a very different system than what you recommend in Buyer's Guides.

    If your goign to recommend a different motherboard, hard drive or memory from what your recent reviews have identified as the "cream of the crop," then give me some benchmarks or other details (not general statements) that demonstrate why.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link

    quote:

    f your goign to recommend a different motherboard, hard drive or memory from what your recent reviews have identified as the "cream of the crop," then give me some benchmarks or other details (not general statements) that demonstrate why.


    We will have the Samsung drives in a review in June. They are not the fastest drives per say in the benchmarks (close enough as not to matter in most applications) but they do offer a great combination of speed, low noise levels, and price per Gigabtye. I was throughly impressed with the latest 500GB model and thought it would be a good choice for a storage drive when matched with the Raptor. In regards to the Crucial DDR2 memory, we are finding it to be an excellent choice once again based on the price to performance ratios in early testing (easily doing DDR2-1140 at 4-4-4-12 timings with 2.25V on the P35 boards). By the way, both of these products were purchased and were not supplied to us for reviews. We do go out and buy components that we identify as being interesting for our readership. ;) Just wish we had the blog sections working so we could discuss/provide details quicker.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Most of the choices are made with input from the other editors. I know some of them (Wes and Gary) have at least done some preliminary testing with parts that are mentioned in this article. Gary specifically recommended the Samsung drives as being worthy of inclusion. The Ballistix RAM is (if I have this right) Micron D9, which makes it roughly the same as most of the other D9 RAM when it comes to running faster than the rated speed. Reply
  • Comdrpopnfresh - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    In any of the first four situations in the article, would adding a third-party soundcard add any performance gains, or have better quality? Say you added an x-fi to the striker extreme. How does the onboard compare to what you'd get with the x-fi? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Depends on if you're running XP or Vista and if you want to jump through hoops in Vista. At this point, I would rate a sound card as an optional accessory, pending fallout from the Vista update. I have to think that Vista is hurting Creative, since it sort of leveled the playing field. Reply
  • hubajube - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    In the article:
    quote:

    The 5600+ gets the nod over the more expensive 6000+ due to the favorable situation with AMD's on-die memory controller for this processor. The added cache of the 6000+ generally doesn't improve performance enough to warrant the extra money - investing the money in other areas will generally help more.


    I thought the cache was the same and only the clock speed was different. Confused.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    yep indeed correct, so many readers and yet only few that notice this wrong statement

    The 5600+ gets the nod over the more expensive 6000+ due to the favorable situation with AMD's on-die memory controller for this processor. The added cache of the 6000+ generally doesn't improve performance enough to warrant the extra money

    the 5600 has 2mb cache and a 2800 clock
    the 6000 has 2mb cache and a 3000 clock

    main difference is current tdp 125W, will change in a few months to 89W, from that moment a 6000 will be a nice buy / competitor against e6600 unless you oc offcourse.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    My bad - I got the 5400/5600 confused with the 6000 situation. I guess there's no "5800+" 512K 3.0 GHz part out there. :) Reply

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