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  • fedora64 - Monday, April 05, 2004 - link

    I have seen soo many reviews talk about how the Via chipset is faster. And for the specific benchmarks used, there is a marginal difference, but then there are the parts most people do not see, and most benchmarks do not cover. The VIA chipset tends to have only one PCI bus in implementation. What that really means is your 10/100/1000 network card, is only a 10/100, since your bus cannot push both IDE and network for large transfers. This is only made worse when using USB/Firewire devices as well. I am certainly not saying that nVidia can do no wrong, they can, and there are many instances where they do, but when it comes down to total system performance, many will find that nforce 3 150 chipset boards will offer noticable performance improvements. Most nforce 3 boards seem to have at least 2 PCI buses some have 3. If you take the gigabyte K8NPro for example, USB IDE and Audio are on a seperate bus from Network and SATA, There is a firewire port on yet another bus. In my case this makes large ssh copies approximately 4x faster getting 6-7MB per second from a VIA chipset board (MSI K8TNeo) and 24-27MB per second from the nForce 3 board (Gigabyte K8NPro). Reply
  • ceefka - Monday, April 05, 2004 - link

    #14 Evan, no reason whatsoever, I just liked to suggest it. I think it is a viable alternative. Do you have a problem with Terratec? Reply
  • l3ored - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    i dont like that it says the k8v will satisfy overclockers when the reviews i have read on it say it doesnt overclock, as well as the rest of the other athlon 64 motherboards. Reply
  • Ken90630 - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    Howdy, Gerbil333: If you don't mind my asking, what components in what high-end computer would require a 430- to 450-watt PSU like you recommend in your post? If you "do the math," as the expression goes, and calculate the wattage needed for devices like those in Evan's recommended system (and even throw in a little headroom for future expansion), neither this system nor even a modestly more demanding one would make any use whatsoever of a 430- or 450-watt PSU. (Unless it's going to be set up in an equatorial rain forest or the Sahara Desert and run at about 60 degress Celsius 24/7 or something!)

    Do you mind if I ask how you're calculating your recommendation?


    PS: The True Power 430 goes for $99.95 plus tax and shipping on Antec's Web site, which means it would run about $117 to $118 total. (I suppose some Web shopping might turn up a slightly better deal, or you could buy it at a retail store & save the shipping cost.) If dedicated rails, voltage feedback and gold-plated connectors are worth spending this kind of money on a PSU, (and it may very well be for some people building a truly "high end" machine), go for it. I personally would want to see how noisy a TP 430 is before buying, but that's just me (I have to work in a quiet environment).
  • Nighteye2 - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    #31, benchmarks are indeed a good idea to add - but in a seperate article at the end of the month, when the guides gets revised for that month. It would be good to see the different classes of systems with their pricetags compared to eachother in a series of benchmarks.
  • Gerbil333 - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    The system doesn't seem nearly high-end enough. I have a 9800 Pro 128mb and an Audigy 2 ZS, and I only consider my system mid-range (the rest of my system is over 9 months old though: A7N8X Deluxe 2.0 w/Athlon XP 2500+, Corsair 512mb TWINX3200LLPT). If you're going to call it high-end, make it high-end! What's with the cheap PSU? I know an Antec 400 will do, but that's not that great. At least get an Antec TruePower of over 430-450W. The case doesn't seem that great, either. I'd spend a lot more than $70 for a case on a "high-end" machine. I paid $88 + $15 for a cathode for my black, aluminum Chieftec -- again, this is a mid-range computer!

    I'd also like to point out that there is much more than a difference in the number of channels between the Audigy 2 and the Audigy 2 ZS. In my opinion, that's not at all what separates the two models. Notice that the Audigy 2 has a SNR of 106db, whereas the Audigy 2 ZS is rated 108db. You may think 2db doesn't matter much, but if you read a bit about SNR and sound in general, you'll realize that 2db is theoretically a much cleaner signal (less noise).
  • Ken90630 - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    Evan: If you don't mind, I'd like to respectfully comment on your recommended power supply (the Antec SL400) for this system.

    I'd like to suggest instead either a PC Power & Cooling Model 310ATX (300 watts minimum output) or a Seasonic SuperSilencer 350 (350 watts minimum, 390 peak) instead of the Antec for this system. No, I don't work for either of these companies (or any computer-related company for that matter), but I have been researching PSUs recently for 2 builds I'm planning for myself and I discovered some interesting things.

    As Rod Serling used to say, "Submitted for your approval:" If you compare these 3 supplies, you will see that the Antec has a comparatively poor efficiency rating of 68%, no power factor correction, and an MTBF rating of only 50,000 hours (and that's at 25 degrees celsius, which is misleading 'cuz PSUs typically run hotter than that -- more like 40 degrees celsius -- internally). And an output noise rating is nowhere to be found on Antec's Web site or the product box (presumably because it's probably not so quiet?)

    By comparison, the aformentioned PCP&C 310ATX has a 74% efficiency rating and 99% power factor correction (which will shave a significant number of dollars off one's electric bills), and a noise level down to a nearly-silent 20dBA (and a still-quiet 32dBA at max load). It's MTBF at 50 degrees Celsius (!) is 100,000 hours, and it has a 3-year warranty. Its regulation specs are within 5% on all rails except for the -12V (basically only used for modems, right?), which is rated at 10% tolerance. The price: $49 plus tax & shipping on their Web site.

    Seasonic's SuperSilencer 300- & 350-watt models also, IMHO, seem to beat the Antec. They feature efficency ratings of 80% (!), 99% active power factor correction, they run at a low noise floor of 25dBA during low demand/temp, and also have a 3-year warranty (like the Antec & PCP&C models). And their regulation tolerances are all 5% like the 310ATX (and 10% for the -12V line). The price for the SS300 is about $55-$60, plus tax & shipping.

    Now, you may say, "Well, okay, that's all well and good, but the Antec SL400 puts out 400 watts and is a few dollars cheaper." My thoughts on that would be that an extra 4 or 5 dollars is irrelevant when it comes to a system's PSU, and like you say, "a quality 350W or even 300W power supply may do the job just as well." On balance,
    I personally think it would be better to have a 300- or 350-watt PSU with the specs & features of the PCP&C or Seasonic models than an inferior PSU with a truly unnecessary 400-watt power output capability that will likely go unused. (And who knows what the output REALLY is at higher temps than 25 degrees C?)

    Unless someone has a full tower with half a dozen hard drives, a $400 video card, several GB of RAM, 5 optical drives, dual Xeon processors & a bunch of lighting or something, it seems to me that anything beyond 300 or 350 watts for a PC will be pointless overkill. For awhile now I've been wondering if there is some rational reason why people with 'regular' PCs spend money on 65- or 68%-efficiency, electricity-gobbling, NOISY, gazillion-watt PSUs with often mediocre overall specs and TRUE wattage outputs that fall precipitously at real-world PSU temps. I'm not saying the Antec SL400 is like this (it's probably a decent & reliable PSU overall), but a lot of higher-watt PSUs do appear to be poor investments considering what you really get (and need).

    I always enjoy the system guides, by the way. And I like your mention of the Philips monitor -- it is a nice one. Overall, good stuff. Just offering food for thought for anyone in need of a PSU for this type of system. :-)


    PS: I have nothing whatsoever against Antec as a company. It seems to have a good reputation in enthusiast circles, and the dedicated rail & reg tolerance features of the newer True Power series models are appealing (more companies should follow their lead in this area!). Based on the info currently available, it's just my humble opinion that their PSUs are getting beat right now by some of their competitors' models in the middle price range.
  • pesos - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    Pumpkinierre - yes you are correct about raid 1 -- it *can* improve random reads (not always though) because as you say a smart controller can pick and choose which drive to get the info off of. however as you also point out raid 1 will typically give you a small penalty for writes as they must be committed to both disks before the next operation can begin (unless newer controllers have moved beyond this limitation). I'll have to defer to you on raid 0 with lots of drives (I've never used raid 0 with more than 2 drives). i honestly think that with today's drives you're not going to get your money's worth with any raid setup on a desktop machine. IMHO you'd be better off spending the same money on a decent scsi controller and a 15k rpm drive (with a nice large ata drive for storage)... Reply
  • kherman - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    As long as their is a valid up grade path for 2+ hard drives, who cares.

    120 gig is plenty these days. If you need more space later, add another hard drive.

    As long as a spare hard drive bay exists, who cares?
  • Pumpkinierre - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    #33 RAID 1 improves random read times with an intelligent controller as it can access two or more drives in parallel. Even RAID 0 with large stripe size (and width ie several drives) can help access time (but may reduce transfer rate).

    What I want is virtually striped for read RAID 1 ie the controller reads a stripe from each mirrored drive in parallel. As the stripe is virtual not real the controller could vary the stripe size based on the size of the data requested. This would give fast transfer for larger data chunks and fast positioning for smaller files as well as redundancy. The only drawbacks are slower write speeds and <50% capacity efficiency. Given that gamers generally use reads mostly and larger size (80-160GB)HDDs are cheap at the moment, these drawbacks are'nt a great problem. The controller would have to be intelligent but not overly. To my knowledge no one seems to be doing this unless it is one of these hybrids (RAID 1.5?) but being a single drive owner I am not fully au fait with the matter.
  • pesos - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    stickyc - i think you're a little confused. raid is not going to do anything about the "hard drive bottleneck." if anything, raid will slow your system down. yes, it might up your data transfer rate, but that is never the bottleneck. access time is what will kill you, and a RAID 0 setup (which is what I imagine you are recommending) if anything will increase your latency a tad. personally I run a 60 gig WD special edition for OS/apps and a 200 gig WD special edition for storage/games. this way you have two separate drives working for you instead of chaining them together for all operations. unfortunately my drives are parallel so my channels are full with the two drives and two optical drives. SATA would be great in this situation because you could get your drives and optical drives all on their own channels.

    the saddest part of all this is after a few years working in IT, my frankenstein bug is nearly gone. I find myself thinking "yeah it would be great to build my own box again, but man i can grab a Dell with exactly the same components (except a p4 3.2 ghz and no monitor, already have a 20" lcd) and a full 3 yr warranty for $1700. depressing...
  • flatustdm - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    this is the first time i've read the high-end guide. I was a little suprised to see how cost-concious it was. Do you think you could do a "higher-end" article once and a while?

    I do the purchasing of computers for my company (we have no IT department) and usually spend around 5k per machine without monitor. Every now and then I'll find a comparison of workstation machines, but it would be real nice if you guys could fit one in your rotation. Even if it was every 3 or 6 months it would be a welcome read.
  • Minotaar - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    Well, I have to say that this high end buyers guide was better than the last.

    In particular, it was good that pricing information was included on some of the components,.so people actually knew where they could get those parts.

    HOWEVER, there were still a lot of issues:
    When you publish a high end buyers guide, you should actually build the system and give us the benchmarks. I think its great that anandtech does so much benchmarking already with current day video cards and the like, so benchmark your high end systems! I want to know if I buy A,B,C,D etc just like you say, that I will get EXACTLY ASDF.GH fps on UT2004.

    What about heat sink recommendations? Many people are obsessed with silence and cooling performance on their High end PCs because they live work and play right next to them. Heat and noise is a big issue for an increasing number of people! What about zalman's giant passive cooling case? That might be a nice addition to a high end system! does it work? you're ANANDTECH of all places you should know!

    Single vs Dual CPU. the author clearly has never gone duallie, or he would be recommending a duallie box for a high end PC. At work I recently had the opportunity to choose between a celly2.4 and a dual p3-800, and I took the p3 800s. dual is so mucb better, and the masses need to know! Anyone who uses their computer will appreciate the fact that they can play a FPS at full performance while their computer is encoding video. Or un-raring pr0n. or whatever they do.

    Finally, cases. Ok, so you choose NOT to review heatsinks, and you still recommended a case? come on. Why wasnt the Lian Li PC-6070 considered? or any of the cases recommended by

  • Nighteye2 - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    What about the thought of 2 120 GB disks in RAID 0? At a cost of $184 it's still cheaper than a 74 GB raptor, and you have 240 GB of storage space, alongside the speed boost of RAID 0, which is mainly noticable in load times (anyone else finding those obligatory waits during games annoying?)
  • Satariel - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    The Philips 202p4 monitors are capable of a refreshrate of 104hz in 1600x1200.

    "Resolutions span all the way up to 2048x1536 with 1600x1200 sustainable at a high refresh rate of 104Hz"

    Also the video bandwidth is 360 not 320 as they stated on Tweak3d.
  • lostintime - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    I think Anandtech should add a new category: Dream System
  • Zirconium - Saturday, April 03, 2004 - link

    I would really like to see LCD recommendations in future reviews - chiefly because I am a college student and space is a premium. Plus, even at high refresh rates (85 hz), I can't stare at a CRT monitor for too long, but I have no problems with my laptop.

    As for the hard drive: I am looking to build a system, and from what I have seen, it seems like a good idea to get a 36gb Raptor just to boot and load apps from, and then a supplementary 120gb or larger drive to store my warez... I mean my legal backups of DVDs and CDs I own. Perhaps you are limited by retail prices of things - after rebate, you can frequently get a good hard drive for much less ( periodically has links good hard drives for $60 or something in that ballpark).
  • Cybercat - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Meh, nothing's really changed. I can't wait for NF3-250 boards to start showing up! :D Heck, I can't wait for all the great stuff coming out this year. Why can't I just hop into a DeLorian and skip a few months. :p Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    The processor choices are also somewhat questionable. If dropping from a Radeon 9800XT to a 9800 Pro 128 MB card to save $200 is considered acceptable - after all, the 9800XT is only about 10% faster - how can you justify buying a $420+ processor when it's at best 10% faster than a processor that costs $140 less? (In the case of the 3.4C, it's only 6% faster than the 3.2C!) I guess choosing the fastest "mainstream" processor (i.e. not P4EE or Athlon FX/Opteron) makes the system "high end"?

    Really, I think the main problem is that you haven't clearly defined your "high end" target. Are you shooting for !$2000 high end? If so, then this is about as good as you can get. On the other hand, you list a price of "$1000 to $5000" as the range, which is just way too broad. $1000 is down near the mid-range system configuration, while $5000 would only be achieved by using exotic hardware (i.e. 21" LCD and $400 speakers).

    I think $2000 is a good price point for a high-end PC, and I think you should just come right out and state what you're aiming for. "High end without breaking the bank" is just not doing it for me, since you only seem to be following that rule about 50% of the time.
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I disagree with those disagreeing on the hard drive choice. The point of their "high end" system is to build a really good system for a reasonable price. They say that they want to stay closer to $1000 as opposed to $5000, and if you don't count the monitor, you could build this system for about $1500. Pretty good for a very fast PC!

    Anyway, talking about the hard drives, you've got 120 GB for $92, or 74 GB for $214. Over twice as much cost of a little more than half the storage. Yes, it's faster, but how often will you notice the speed boost? When loading Windows and other applications, you might shave off a few seconds. That's not a big deal to me.

    I suppose 74 GB is enough for general use, but the 37 GB Raptor really isn't an option in my book, unless you get a secondary drive for mass data storage. Games are routinely eating 2+ GB chunks (about 5 GB for Unreal Tournament 2004, I think!), so even 80 GB can go pretty fast. Anyway, I like the thought of using two 74 GB Raptors in a RAID 0 array for the performance, but the $430 price tag just kills it for me.
  • Jeff7181 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I agree with #6... Raptor should definately been the primary choice, ALONG WITH the 120, or possibly a 200 or 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA drive for storage.
    Sheesh... what were you thinking, Evan? Seriously, what's your reasoning?

    Based on this...

    "If you can't live with a 36.7GB or 74GB drive, then we suggest that you simply skip this alternative and stick with the recommended 1200JB. But that's only if storage capacity is very important to you."

    ... comment, it sounds like the Raptor should be your primary choice.
  • kherman - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    For high end systems, it would be nice to see keyboard/mouse recomendations even if it's only mentioned in passing. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    After reading a bit more I'm really woundering about some of your choices... A 120GB hard drive for a high end system? I was going to go 160 the midrange system I'm planning to build. Other than that and the MB most everything else looks ok. Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I keep being dissapointed that they never seen the recommend the Chaintech ZNF3-150. It's the only A64 Motherboard I've seen with a 6 in 1 card reader and front Firewire and USB 2.0 connectors. I would (and will) spend a bit more for these features, espeacially if we're talking high end. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    CPU, mobo, memory, yeah they all sound good to me.

    The 9800Pro for $206 sounds good too, but the alternative of a 9800XT with its $412 price-tag coming in exactly twice as expensive as the 9800Pro for the marginal performance increase it may offer isn't money well spent by my book.

    I don't know how much the current models cost so maybe they're somewhat more expensive than the two you listed, but the NEC/Mitsubishi Diamond Pro monitors are considered among the best available today. The 22" (20" visible) DiamondPro 2070SB I have is over a year old but is capable of 85hz at 2048x1536, or more usefully gives a solid picture at 100hz at 1600x1200 (could do 110hz if desired but not much point). They're trinitron (aperture-grill) type monitors just like that recommended Philips one.

    A non-Creative high-end sound-card solution would be a good idea given how some people aren't only interested in games.
  • Nighteye2 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Why isn't the build-in RAID controller used? I imagine in a high-end system faster load times will be much appreciated. Also, 2 WD 1200JB disk in RAID 0 will be faster then the raptor, overall, and cheaper as well.
  • SHO235V8 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I just wish you could give us more "guidance" on the launch schedules for the "exciting" new products. I am anxiously awaiting the new ATI cards and the 939 Athlons for my new high end PC. Do NDA's preclude you from talking about them. Although video game launches change, at least they give one a target date to count down... ;) With hardware the product is just simply available by the time we see its review on AT! Thanks for bringing the guides back, and I agree that you should pick a LCD monitor for each price point as well. Reply
  • StickyC - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    This is the 2nd or 3rd 'high-end' guide that recommends going SATA, but not RAID. Why not? I'd think that since the HD is still one of the bigger bottlenecks, going the RAID route would be a given.

    I was under the impression that most SATA "RAID" setups aren't very optimized at using both SATA channels at once and that two SATA channels can easily saturate the PCI bus, so a motherboard solution is the way to go?

    Two 36gb Raptors should be plenty for just about any system. There are very few non-specialized situations where you'd need that fast an access to >70gb of data at once. More than that is likely archival storage (video/music playback) and can/should be handled by external large capacity drives.
  • Pumpkinierre - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    At the Prescott launch, the P4E was supposed to be priced the same as the P4c Northwood. But in your price guide, the 3.4E is $80 more than the 3.4c (and similarly for the 3.2). This wasnt mentioned in your text but would definitely make the Northwood the better choice as performance of this cpu is at least on a par with the prescott.

    I would have expected the price to be the other way round given the heat reputation of these cpus and the fact that DELL have'nt to my knowledge released systems supporting this core. Perhaps its production problems, I've heard some articles refer to the scarcity of P4Es on the market.
  • Evan Lieb - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Hooligan2, there’s no noticeable difference between a PowerColor and ATI 9800 Pro in performance. I wouldn’t stress about it.

    cK-Gunslinger, thanks, its been fixed.

    thatsright, not sure what’s prompted you to say that. Is there any product I’ve listed that you would disagree with based on your own experience and testing?

    Brickster, glad you’re happy. I love that monitor myself. :D

    ceefka, any reason you don’t like the Audigy 2?

    srue, as we mentioned a couple times in this guide, we wanted to bring the price down a little from the previous guide, which was over $2200. Our goal was never to be between $1000 and $5000.

    Swylen, a 3000+ runs 200MHz slower and has half the L2 cache.

    Hooligan2, yup, I wouldn’t disagree with you there. We just didn’t want to cut down the system TOO much.

    WooDaddy, agreed, but $250 is simply unreasonable for a keyboard and mouse combo.
  • WooDaddy - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link


    I know you said that the keyboard and mouse is a personal preference type purchase, but I think a keyboard mouse combo is definately worth considering especially since this is a high end system; the Logitech DiNuovo bluetooth keyboard and mouse system.

    I saw this for the first time at the CES and was blown away. If anything, it's definately worth mentioning. It typically runs $250 too. Definately high-end material.
  • Hooligan2 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I would probably go with the 3200 Reply
  • Swylen - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    And you made the price an issue going for the 9800 Pro over the XT yet you chose an Athlon 64 3400 for $400+ when a 3000 is half the price for a comparable performance. Reply
  • meccaboy858 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

  • meccaboy858 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

  • meccaboy858 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    How about both an LCD and a CRT! Some of this stuff is questionable, but still cool to get a general idea. Reply
  • Brickster - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Reply to #6
    "And how about an LCD monitor?"

    As Mr. Lieb said last month...Price vs. Performance. My Phillips will kick the dog doo out of any LCD in that price range.

  • srue - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    120GB hard drive in a "high end" system? Seriously, make the Raptor the first choice. Better yet, two Raptors. And how about an LCD monitor? If you are trying to keep the price between $1000 and $5000, you could add a grand worth of upgrades to this system and still be below the halfway point. Reply
  • ceefka - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Would a Terratec Aureon 5.1 Sky be an alternative soundcard? It also has 24/96 and even 192Khz on playback, professional specs. It goes for around € 70,00. Reply
  • Brickster - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    I got the monitor here:
    Alternative: Philips 22" (20" viewable) 202P45 CRT

    The thing is amazing! I am very happy with it even though I payed a little extra. I can't even believe I was on 17" before this.

    Dream come true.
  • thatsright - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    You have a picture of a ASUS Motherboard where it should be a picture of the ABIT IC7-G.

    And it seems like you folks only 'pick' products from your advertisers or manufactures which send AT review samples (tisk, tisk).

    I like the AT system guides somewhat, but I still believe that the sys guides are put together with a lot more care and style.

    Am I banned yet?
  • cK-Gunslinger - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    On the summary chart, you only show 2x256MB for the memory configuration. That should be 2x512MB, no? Reply
  • Hooligan2 - Friday, April 02, 2004 - link

    Why do you recommend the powercolor radeon9800 when I always see the ATI Radeon 9800 doing better in the benchmark gaming tests? (sorry if I missed it...I am new to the site) Reply

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