High End Buyer's Guide - September 2004

by Wesley Fink on 8/30/2004 12:22 AM EST


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  • decptt - Sunday, September 12, 2004 - link

    Sep 11, No OC guide again -_-"
    I am waiting for Fink' comment about HS/HSF.
  • rbils - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - link

    Ignore me. I read the comments last week, and didn't bother to read them again before I posted today. Sorry! Reply
  • rbils - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - link

    I didn't notice in the article, but are you using the included (retail) heatsink and fan that ships with the AMD processor? If so, do you feel that it is adequate as installed? I've read so much lately about 3rd party CPU coolers and thermal compound that it has me questioning whether or not the items shipping with the retail CPU are sufficient. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, September 02, 2004 - link

    The 480W True Power has been more than adequate for my tests, BUT the OCZ 520W was my recommendation for the last Overclocking Guide. I personally believe the Antec 480W is more than adequate, but the OCZ 520W does provide an extra margin of safety - particularly if you plan to overclock your video card or seriously overclock the whole system. The OCZ 520 has the added advantage of both 24-pin and 20 pin compatability as well. If you can handle the OCZ price of $150 it is an excellent choice.

    As for coolers, water cooling and phase-change are outstanding, but specialized and expensive, and beyond the scope of our recommendations. I have had good success with the stock A64 cooler made by Ajigo, and it is MUCH better than past AMD coolers - even for some modest overclocking. If you want more, there are coolers that do a better job. My favorites are the Scythe Samurai, the Thermalright SLK948U, and the Thermaltake Silent Boost K8. The Gigabyte 3D Cooler Ultra GT is also great-looking, but it really doesn't add that much in the way of improved cooling over the stock fan. The Samurai, SLK948U, and Gigabyte are Universal HSF and will work on most sockets.
  • southernpac - Thursday, September 02, 2004 - link

    Congradulations on a comprehensive and well thought out guide. I will very shortly be relying on it a lot. Two concerns: As #16 has testified to his 480W PSU being inadequite, I would like for AnandTech to comment on this (we are relying on your advise in making this purchase). I realize that nVidia has revised their power requirement downward, but only after a lot of critism. As I don't want any more heat in the case than is really necessary, SHOULD more than 480W be shown necessary, I would also like your view of OCZ's 520W PSU.

    The one hole in the review certainly appears to be the lack of a recommendation for a better than "decent" (read adequite) cooler. If there are "better solutions" available - the high-end system should have it. Heat is the enemy of electronics, so the best cooler is worth while, particularly at only about $50. However it's not that simple - hence the need for a recommendation. #44 for example advocates his Zalman CNPS7000B-Cu, but if you look at Zalman's own site info on this cooler, Zalman specifically disavows moving any system having an installed cooler weigning over 450g. The 7000B-Cu weighs 755g (50% over Zalman's own limit). Many high-end coolers have similar weight. The just released Gigabyte 3D Rocket heat pipe cooler has just reduced it's weight to ONLY 500g's - but is it still effective now that it's aluminium instead of copper? Wesley please, we need a recommendation! In spite of the above - a great guide! Bill
  • NoGodForMe - Thursday, September 02, 2004 - link

    Great article.

    I'd be interested in seeing if the Thermalright XP-120 fits in the Asus AV8 and other AMD boards for the FX53.

    And most of these products are still hard to find. I'm sure someone will say they can get them, but it's very hard to do. For example, find me a BFG 6800 Ultra OC.
  • southernpac - Thursday, September 02, 2004 - link

  • gimper48 - Thursday, September 02, 2004 - link

    When is the next Overclocking Review?!! Reply
  • swampy11 - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    I certainly agree with your picks for the Hi-end set-up, but here is my question. With the new PCI-Express just around the corner and the supposed "horsepower" gain by this new architecture, should I jump in now with your suggested Hi-end recommendation or wait until the newer GPU and MB bear fruit.... probably fourth quarter?
  • Uff - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    Personally, I had quite a negative experience with my stock cooler, as soon as I locked the cam lever, it bent my motherboard just enough to make my RAM not make contact with the slots in the middle, resulting in failed boots. In addition to that, while it did keep my cpu temps at reasonable levels they were far from perfect.

    2 days later i received my Zalman 7000B-Cu and my temps dropped over 10C even if the cooler was running in silent mode (which is practically inaudible as opposed to the level of noise you get with the retail HSF).

    While the stock cooler might do its job (barely), this was, after all, a high-end guide, and there's nothing high-end about that HSF.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    Uff -
    The two FX53 I've tested both run fine at 2.6GHz (future FX55 spec) with stock cooling. While you will get more potential with better cooling, you are not locked out of using a higher multiplier just because you use stock cooling. The AMD Retail HSF does a decent job of cooling, though there are certainly better solutions available.
  • Uff - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    My point with FX-53 and stock cooling was exactly that: the main bonus you get with FX-53 is that it's multiplier unlocked but to make any use of that you need proper cooling. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - link

    #40 - The DVD prices were pulled at slightly different times for the Recommended and Alternate systems. For consistency, both charts now show a $97 price for the Pioneer 108. Prices constantly change, so any published price will generally be off in a few days or weeks. Reply
  • Goi - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    Why is it that the DVD burner in the recommended high-end system costs $97 yet the exact same one in the alternate high-end system costs $96? Reply
  • krawl3r - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    every single time, these guides ignore 2 of the best PSUs on the market: the PC Power and Cooling 510Deluxe which is miles ahead of the antec. Also ignored is the Fortron 530s. In my experience, the Fortrons are at least on par with the Antecs of not equal.
    P.S. If you spend the money on an FX-53 you might as well get a server board and go with the 940pin version so you can plug in a SCSI RAID card and have an array of 73GB 15k drives....just my $0.02
  • neogodless - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    There is no "be all, end all" guide to anything, particularly in a rapidly changing technology environment. This guide is merely a guide. A place to start from, and go from there. They recommend getting the keyboard and mouse that is right for you, whether it be $70 or $10. However, I think there may be some logic in requesting that there's more of a reasonable scale from budget, mainstream, and high-end. This high-end guide tries to balance having enough money to buy the fastest computer with trying to make it affordable to a relatively wide audience, but really, I think there may be a different way to go about it. I think you could save a lot of money for a minimally slower computer, and by doing that, saving money for your next high-end machine. If you get the absolutely fastest machine, then there really should be no limits on money, and it should really be a no budget dream machine. If you're on a budget, even if it's $5000, you might want to be a little tiny bit stingier, and make sure that six months or a year from now, you still have a good budget for getting a high end rig.

    The only typo I saw was "could care less" in the audio section. Should be "couldn't care less".

    The guides are a lot of work, and I think they are somewhat reasonable starting points. I appreciate them, even though I don't really use them for my own purchasing decisions. They are interesting, and hopefully helpful to some people.
  • jbritt1234 - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    How can you build a $3500 PC and then suggest a $10 mouse??? That's crazy! Lost a little respect for ya there. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    Uff - The improvements from Dual-Channel and 1024k cache vs. 512k cache are cumulative. So while either improvement alone is only 2 to 4% improvement, together the added cache and dual channel make the FX53 5% to 8% faster than the SC 512k 3700+ you suggest. If you want the top performance then the FX53 is the fastest.

    The FX53 is also completely unlocked, up and down, unlike the 3700+, 3800+, 3500+, or 3400+, which makes it possible to run at 2.6GHz for example at DDR400. All Athlon 64 are unlocked down, but only the FX is completely unlocked.
  • Uff - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    I'm just wondering why anyone in their right mind would buy an FX-53 and run it on stock cooling? Other than making more space in your room by taking out some of the spare piles of money, there is no real gain in it compared to say 3700+ (or even a 2.4GHz 3400+, since tests have shown little gain from the extra 512kb cache). Reply
  • Caligynemania - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    I am surprised that you reccomend mere computer speakers for a high end system. A receiver/speaker system (albeit more expensive) would be more appropriate for a high end system. I realize that this is outside the scope of a computer buyer's guide, but I think anyone who truly appreciates music/sound/noise would be willing to spend the $500 for a set of speakers that will last a lifetime (speakers dont go obselete or break). Combined with a good receiver (additional $100) you can output amazing sound from the radio, tv, computer, dvd. For $500 you can get the amazing NHT SB3 speaker system or the Klipsch RB25's. Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - link

    #30, the AMD system should be somewhat faster in gaming for you. As for 3D studio max, I'm not sure which. Reply
  • stevennoland - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    The vid card price list does not include the X800 XT! What gives? I've tried to find them, but I'm really beginning to belive they don't exist. Reply
  • stevennoland - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

  • jjkusaf - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    oh...and would an Intel system be better for gaming and 3D Studio Max? Reply
  • jjkusaf - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    OK...first of all thanks for taking your time in writing this guide.

    I am in the market of building a new computer and will pretty much use this guide to help make my decisions. My computer will primarily be used for gaming (Doom3, N2003, etc) and 3D Studio Max.

    My first question is about the CPU cooler. I take it that the stock cooler was used (I do not intend on overclocking)? I do not intend on buying the FX...but just the plain ol' AMD 64 3800. If the stock cooler is not recommended...then what cooler is?

    Also...any advantages of the N-Force3 over the Via chipset...and vice versa.

    Thanks for the write up!
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #25 - As was stated on the last page (Final Words) of the Geil Ultra X 3200 review, the Geil tops out around 466 on AMD Athlon 64. That is why we selected a Micron chip memory for the A64 in the Guide.

    #26 - typo fixed.
  • gherald - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    The mid-range system from last month came to just over $1000. Now you are recommending a $3600 system as "high-end"

    C'mon Anand, that's too big of a price step. Three and a half "mid-range" systems for the price of one "high-end" ?!?

    There should be a guide at around the $2000-2300 mark for this to be balanced.
  • danidentity - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Another small typo,

    Page 6, Storage:
    "Anand has shown that there is little performance advantage to SATA 1, but striping is still useful for improving boot times."

    I believe that is supposed to say "little performance advantage to RAID 0", as the link points to a RAID 0 article.
  • Andrevas - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    I'm surprised the OCZ Powerstream 520W wasn't chosen for both systems, IMO it is the best power supply, period.

    And I'd like to know how well the new Geil Ultra X DDR400 sticks fair with the AMD 64 platforms in OCing since they were able to hit DDR561 in your review on an Intel platform.

    Plus no mentioning of the Logitech Z680s?

    Other then those issues, I think the components chosen were great except for the case, but that's more of a matter of personal interest.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #14 and #21 - That sentence was a cut and paste error and has been corrected on the AGP video page. The timeline for 925X/775 has also been updated by removing the time reference. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #17 -
    Thanks for the info on Apple's updated interface. While I agree the picture on the Dell is a bit gainy with smearing on analog, I have found the 2001FP to be outstanding on DVI. With this size flat panel I assumed no one would run anything but digital input.
  • Hikari - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    On the Apple displays and ADC. That is no longer true, they use DVI now.

    There is some new 23" HP that is based on the same panel as the Apple, and I think it is a better deal. Although the Apple is prettier. ;)
  • danidentity - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Few mistakes I'd like to point out:

    Page 3, CPU and Motherboard Alternatives:
    "When Socket 775 was launched a few weeks ago, it did not appear that any of the new 925X/915 motherboards would ever become a recommended Overclockers board."
    ***Socket 775 was launched two months ago, not several weeks ago. Looks like a copy/paste mistake.

    Page 6, AGP Video:
    "We ended up relaxing our rules by including the Gigabyte 6800 Ultra because several vendors are showing availability in the first 2 weeks of July."
    ***July??? This is August, almost September.
  • JonathanYoung - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link


    Who's complaining about advertisements? That realtime pricing engine is hardly an advertisement... it's a long list of prices and vendors in plain text and zero differentiation between vendors. Again, that's hardly an advertisement.

    I'd read AT's disclaimer on the subject if I were you, particularly the following lines:

    "We select vendors to appear in our Price Guides based on two requirements: solid consumer feedback and having the lowest possible pricing."

    "AnandTech does not sell positions on the Price Guide."

    Note the "We select" and "AnandTech does not sell positions."

  • Aelius - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Actually I own a brand new Apple 20" Aluminum Cinema Display. Dispite the site telling you that it can take a month to ship one to you I got mine in 4 days.

    The stand is increadibly solid. No way to simply knock it over. It's gota be solid metal and most of the weight of the monitor comes from the stand.

    It's very light at around 7 1/2 lbs.

    It's not dinky at all. You can adjust the way the monitor points up and down and it stays the way you leave it. That part is also very solid.

    There are no vents anywhere because the power brick is not built-in and the entire casing is made out of aluminum which absorbs the heat so the top gets fairly warm to the touch after long use.

    The whole thing is increadibly high quality.

    A cool feature of the monitor is that you can adjust the backlight through a + and - touch pad on the right side and the power button is also a touch pad found on the right.

    Far as I know the Apple's come with very few dead or stuck pixles but mine came with 3 dead and 2 stuck blue pixles. Honestly I can't even notice even when I look for it unless it's a black background.

    It's so sharp and bright that it makes my old Viewsonic PF CRT look like an ancient wreck.

    Is it expansive? Oh God yeah and it's worth every penny as far as I'm concerned.

    P.S. There seems to be a quality control issue with 23" displays but mine seems fine and couldn't find any issues with it that others reported on the 23" ones.

    Any questions just PM me as I won't monitor this page.
  • ksherman - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #17- agreed, and according to apple, have a response time of 16ms, so maybe it is worth doing a review of, even though it is several hundred dollars more... and is it just me, or does the stand on the apple display seem like it not be able to support the screen? Reply
  • shuttleboi - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #9: your information is outdated. Apple introduced new monitors a few months ago that have DVI. Check their website. Their new 20" LCD is selling for $1299, which is in line with the equivalent Samsung and Planar models. From what I've read, the Dell 2001fp is extremely grainy with a crosshatch pattern on the screen, so I'm avoiding that. Reply
  • behemoth68 - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    I Just put a BFG 6800 ultra into my system and am currently using an antec true power 480 and you seriously need the antec true power 550 especially since its only 20 more online its the smart move my system voltage was fluctuating a little at 480 but i put the 550 in and it worked great! Reply
  • phray - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    about the price engine thingy:

    i agree with kherman on this. if you want this site to stay free, get used to it.
    if you don't like scrolling down all that much, try pressing the 'End' key on your keyboard.
  • SMOG - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Great article, I continually am impressed by the quality of the articles here, and find the buyer's guides particularly helpful.

    I did find one strange comment in the artical,
    "We ended up relaxing our rules by including the Gigabyte 6800 Ultra because several vendors are showing availability in the first 2 weeks of July." Are these cards still hard to find? (quick search told me that both Newegg and ZipZoomFly had some in stock, but were sold out on many brands)

  • mcveigh - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    what about for a storage drive the new maxtors with 16mb cache and TCQ features?

    didn't Anand hint a little while ago there would be a review of them ?

    of course now he has a wife to keep happy....there goes the place! ;)
  • Booty - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Just agreeing about the price engine thing - scrolling that far is pretty annoying. If they have to have it that way to earn money and keep the site free, so be it... but if not, I know I'd definitely appreciate it being moved. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Good article, I couldn't really fault any of the suggestions this time :) The only things that might be worth considering as this is a high end system is spending an extra $200-300 and throwing in 2GB of memory, either as 2x1GB sticks if they are just as fast, else as 4x512MB. As I do a bit video capturing and editing, and like many broadband users fill a lot of space quickly (don't ask), I'd definitely go for the Maxtor 300MB drive with 16MB cache for $260. Both of those are only minor points though and overall I agree with the suggestions.

    One thing I've been thinking about for a few days now are dual Opteron systems. A couple of Opteron 250's on a suitable dual S940 mobo would only cost about $1000 more than the FX53 system and mobo. Alternatively a couple of 248's will lower the differential to around $600.

    The important thing is that multi-threaded apps are becoming increasingly common because of HT, and next year when dual core CPUs start appearing it'll be normal for any CPU heavy application to be multi-threaded so as to take full advantage of them. I know you could always replace the FX53 with a dual-core Toledo next year, but why wait for the extra performance when you can get it today with a couple of 250's (and the 250's could be replaced with dual-core Italy's next year giving even more power if desired).

    The extra thousand dollars is a roughly 30% total price increase and is not insignificant, but you'll get considerably more than 30% performance improvement with any multi-threaded CPU heavy application, so its money well spent. In fact its hard not to recommend it as the high end choice as its still comes in under the $5000 limit.
  • iversonyin - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    i would rather have dual dell 2001 then 23" apple

    23" apple is nice but also come with a steep price.

    dont we all love dual-monitor here?

    but if anyone can spend $3600 on a computer, what extras $2000 to them
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    #3 - Typo corrected.

    I agree the Apple is a nice display, but Apple uses a proprietary Digital interface called ADC instead of the standard DVI Connector. Some enterprising manufacturers have developed some conversion connectors but the converter doesn't work with most nVidia video cards. In the end this is not a solution we could recommend right now.

    There is also the cost difference, since the 20.1" Dell is about $800 and the 23" Apple is about $2000. A 260% price increase to go from a great 20.1" display to an Apple 23" display and converter seemed a bit much. There is also a 30" Apple Cinema display BTW.
  • Fr0zeN2 - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Great guide, but...

    Yeah, the pricing engine's been bugging me for a while now too. Honestly, there are sites like pricewatch.com that you can go to to view prices on these, as well as many other similar products. Especially when your listings include products that have absolutely no relevance to the one mentioned (helooo gf5950 prices?).
  • kherman - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link


    This is a free site. If you like it that way, I'd get used to those advertisements.


    Aside from that, 74 gig? If I made a "dream rig" yuo'd be seeing 400 GB+ in RAID 5 (3x200)
  • kherman - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Of course, for this rig, get the BFG 6800 Ultra Reply
  • JonathanYoung - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    I just want to add a comment I've been wanting to make for awhile now... would you please add a link to the next page *above* the realtime pricing engine so that people who do not wish to view the pricing engine don't have to scroll alllllllll the way down just to get to the next page? This was especially bad on the "AGP Video" section of this guide. Thank you! Reply
  • shuttleboi - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    Why hasn't Anandtech reviewed any 6800GT videocards??? Reply
  • Doormat - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link


    Anyways, last page typo:

    2x74GB Western Digital 74GB Raptor 10,000RPM SATA RAID (148MB Total)

    148GB not MB. My 486 had a 170MB HD...

    And I'm curious why you didnt pick the apple 23" cinema display for the LCD? Thats the high end monitor I'd pick... I've seen 'em at an Apple store.. amazing.
  • Doormat - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

  • rjm55 - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    It's good to see that at least the Buyers guide is up to date and recommends a 16X DVD burner. Wondered why you could BUY 16X already and Anand hadn't even reviewed the new fast burners. I take it this means 16X burner reviews are coming?

    Thanks for finally recommending a big flat panel monitor. I love my Dell 2001FP so much I sold the 22" CRT I had before. Great choice!!

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