High-End Buyer's Guide - October 2006

by Jarred Walton on 10/9/2006 5:30 AM EST


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  • limiter - Thursday, October 19, 2006 - link

    I purchased one of the MSI 975x Platinum Powerup boards and the Giel ram suggested in this article and I am having issues with boot up and reboots. I have the ram at DDR2-800, 2.4v (which is what my set says to set the voltage at). I tried setting memory timings to automatic and manually at 4-4-4-12 (again what the memory claims it's timings are). Sometimes the system hangs before post on reboot, sometimes from cold start it starts then resets over and over, sometimes it says "Overclocking failed" with no changes to the CPU settings (just memory). Sometimes it boots up just fine... when it does it works great. I have 7.1 of the bios (official release right now), and I have read that a lot of other people are having the same issues. Also you need a PS2 keyboard to make any bios changes which is annoying. Any suggestions from the Anandtech people? Reply
  • thart - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    From: Terry Hart [mailto:tmhartsr@comcast.net]
    Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 11:41 PM
    To: Baliff, Michael; Werder, Nick; Shade, Tom; Santos, Jim; Rice, Robbie; Pope, Jeff; Hart, Scott; Rose, Sam; Johnson, Ken
    Subject: Stuff

    Ken, etc.

    Following links are to recent Anand Tech Recommendations for Mid Range and High End builds. I strongly disagree with their choices, especially for Mid Range.

    1. The DDR-2 Memory has gone up in price and now costs considerably more than standard DDR. DDR-2 adds absolutely zero in performance to any AMD system. Therefore the best value by a considerable margin remains Socket 939 and standard DDR.

    2. This Mad Rush to Dual Core is insane. There is practically zero difference in everyday performance. Almost no applications yet exist to really take advantage of it. A 1.8 GHz Athlon-64 3000 Single Core costs $55 for the retail box. The least expensive 2.0 GHz Athlon-64 3800 Dual Core costs $164.00 for the retail box. The actual difference in performance of these two is very small and certainly not worth 3 times as much!

    3. The nVidia 6150 chipset based Micro Boards are the best I have ever seen. They include Gig Net, Firewire, SATA II 3.0, Raid, S Video Out, Dual Monitor support, splendid 7.1 Audio, and the best on-board Video anyone has ever seen. How one can possibly justify twice as much for the full size MOBO - plus another $100, or more, for a decent Video Card, is hard for me to understand.

    4. These Rosewill Towers and Power Supplies cost a fraction of what Anand recommends. The Rosewill PS'es are just fine and the towers are the easiest to work in and have more bays than any of the ones they recommend, or that I have ever used before.

    5. The NEC DVD Writers are great if you run only Doze. But they DO NOT work on any Linux system. Recently purchased a Retail Box NEC and received no cable(s) whatsoever, no DVD Software Decoder - just NERO 7 OEM. The Retail Box Lite-On DVD Writers with Lite-Scribe are better choices, I think.

    6. Few folks need the Media Center OS. Only advantage I see is if you do install and use a Radio/TV Tuner/Capture card - which almost no one does. Not a thing wrong with plain old $89 Doze XP Home OEM for 99% of users. Nothing in the PRO Version that I need here either?



    Sure wish someone would explain to me why I should spend well over 3 times as much for a Dual Core Socket AM2 than the more than adequate Socket 939 Single Core choices?

  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    1 -- High-end DDR2-800 like the GEIL Ultra costs $280 for 2GB. High-end DDR-500 costs $250 minimum and comes with generally lower performance. AM2 is 5% faster on average compared to a similar 939 setup. DDR is a dead end, with the last batches being manufactured between now and January 2007. Does that mean you need to go out and upgrade from a DDR system to DDR2 system? Certainly not, but I definitely wouldn't save $30 to stick with an outdated platform if you're buying a new computer, which is the point of the buyer's guides.

    2 -- Obviously you have never run any serious multitasking applications. 3D rendering, video encoding, audio encoding, professional image editing, compression/decompression are all more than capable of utilizing more than a single processor core. If you never do anything more than surf the web, write e-mail, and use Microsoft office then you don't need dual cores right now.

    3 -- Obviously you have never used a really good motherboard if you think the 6150 chipset is the best motherboard ever. Or more specifically, you are assuming that your needs are the same as everyone else's needs/wants. I don't even want to think about trying to run games on a 6150 chipset. Of course, we've already run benchmarks http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2553&p...">comparing ATI and NVIDIA integrated graphics. Think those numbers look impressive? A dual GPU configuration like those used in this article packs about 20 times more graphical performance, which can be very useful for high-quality gaming. I don't even want to think about running Oblivion on any integrated graphics chipset.

    4 -- Rosewill is about is generic of a brand as you can get. While that might be okay for the cases, I would never recommend a $50 power supply for use in a system that costs well over $2000. I'm pretty sure you're convinced that every buyer's guide should be a budget buyers guide, but some people actually like to have the fastest computers available, and some of us actually make use of them.

    5 -- Every motherboard I have ever purchased comes with IDE cables that can be used with your optical drive. Perhaps if you purchased the cheapest motherboards on the market, along with IDE hard drives, you might only get a single cable and find yourself in a difficult situation where you have to go out and spend an extra $4 on another cable? As far as whether or not they work with Linux, I can't say I've tested it, but I'm confused as to why they wouldn't work. Finally, you can get DVD software decoders for free if you need them.

    6 -- Have you ever tried to share your various folders on the network using XP Home? Yes, you can share certain folders, but you can't simply share the whole hard drive, and you will never be able to access certain folders over the network. As I stated in the article, if you only run one computer in your house, he certainly won't notice the difference between XP Home and XP Professional. As for Media Center Edition, it has virtually all of the features of XP Pro plus a bunch of extras of its own, and it costs $30 less than XP Pro.

    Why should you spend more money for dual core socket AM2 system? Well, if you had read this guide carefully, you would notice that I actually don't recommend buying the AM2 systems at all. For people that actually want maximum performance, Core 2 Duo has anything available from AMD beat hands down. Anyway, you obviously shouldn't go out and buy a high-end computer, because clearly you aren't doing anything that needs it.

    I have actually been using a socket 754 system as my primary computer for the last two years, and only the last couple of months did I finally decide to migrate all of my work onto a faster system. Do I notice the difference in performance? You darn well better believe it! Not just in games either. I can do work in Photoshop much faster than before, especially when working with multiple images. But there are plenty of times when the system sits idle just waiting for me to give it something to do, and clearly at such times my new faster system is no better than my old system.

    You might want to read the conclusion one more time, as it contains statements targeted directly at people like yourself: "The best time to upgrade is when you are no longer happy with your computer... or perhaps just after winning the lottery. Many of us still have computers that are over two years old that we use on a regular basis, and while they may not be the fastest systems on the planet, for a lot of tasks they are perfectly adequate."

    I'm glad you're happy with your single core socket 939 system. Just because it's adequate doesn't mean that I should recommend it for anyone going out on purchasing a new computer today. Should someone with an old Celeron system upgrade to socket 939 right now? That would be a pretty pointless upgrade, considering that it doesn't cost much more money to change to something else that would be faster and more future proof. It would be like talking to someone who has an old 1970s car that they're finally going to get rid of, and recommending that they upgrade to a used car manufactured in 1995, because after all that's 25 years newer than their old piece of junk.... In fact, not only should they upgrade to a 1995 model, but they should pay $10,000, because that's a much better than paying $14,000 for a decent 2006 model car.

    Jarred Walton
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, October 14, 2006 - link

    There are also a few other things that you cant do in XP home, such as run as a server, or run IIS, ect.

    Also, I'm not sure whether dual core CPU will be taken advantage of in XP home, although early versions of XP home wouldnt reconize Hyper Threading CPUs (they would only show in the device manager as a single CPU, where in XP pro, they would show as dual CPUs), they have since 'fixed' this, but I havent played in XP home for a very long time, so I can not be sure. Reguardless, 'real' dual CPUs wont be taken advantage of in XP home.

    As Jarred pointed out, more than 'simple file sharing' is not supported in XP home, which may be fine for the casual user, but I think we all can agree the majority of the people reading these comments are not the average user. File permissions also are not as flexable as in XP pro (if availible at all), which in certain situations, can be a big deal.

    There are probably a few things I've missed, but whatever, you get the point.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    Hey Jarred, I'd like to add, that I'm currently using a Asrock AM2NF4-SATA2 board, and as a test, I installed XP, etc, and PLAYED Oblivion on the onboard 6100 graphics . . .

    Needless to say, I ordered a 7600GT from newegg . . . as even @ 800x600 low settings, the system wouldnt play the game faster than 12 FPS, and gameplay was terrible. Hell, my old 3200+ XP system with a 6600GT spanked the crap out of it. Now, Im getting ATLEAST a steady 30 FPS, and the game plays much, much smoother.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    No one said you HAD to spend ANYTHING. This article wasnt written for YOU specificly. I basicly took it as a 'guidelines' article myself.

    1. My AMD 3800+ AM2 system gets 3 times as much menmory bandwidth comparred to my AMD 3200+ XP system

    2. Rush, or not, no one SAID yo uhad to.

    3. The nVidia micro 6150 boards are fine IF you dont care about the latest features used in current chipsets, and are ALL budget boards that dont always run 100% stable, even when set 100% stock (I know because I've built a few, and am replying from one right now)

    4. Rosewill PSUs . . . hah. thats about all thier good for, is a laugh.

    5. I think its fiarly safe to say that 95% of people who use cutting edge systems, dont use Linux, period, atleast, not for desktop system.

    6. Here, we're talking ENTHUSIAST, do you think an enthusiast is going to be using XP home ? I know I wouldnt.

    Single core wont multitask any hwere near as well as a dual core system, but hey, feel free to live in the dark ages, if you so feel the need, hell I have a friend who thinks its evil to install SP2 on XP, and refuses to upgrade past his P3 pentium, but, whatever floats your boat, no need to TRY and make someone feel bad about thier article because YOU dont agree with it. See ya *wave*
  • AaronAxvig - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    If I really wanted a high end, no holds barred machine, I could spend way more than you did ($10,000+). For sure I'd go with 15k SCSI drives, RAIDed however to eke the most performance out. And then, I probably WOULD go off the deep end and get the dual-socket motherboard, because guess what: games are going to start using 4 cores (Alan Wake gets thrown around a lot here). Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    The thing is, the Alan Wake demo ran on an overclocked QX6700 and then they even stated that it would run just as fast at stock speeds. Translation: it didn't need faster quad cores. The next big question then becomes: how much does it really need quad cores over dual cores? I will wager it ends up being heavily GPU limited on dual-core systems, and quad core will only make a difference with 2 x G80/R600 or at lower resolutions. No one buying a $4000+ system is going to run at anything less than 1600x1200/1680x1050 if they can avoid it.

    Obviously, you can go higher than the $5600 system. We don't generally recommend even $5000 systems for the majority of people, and the number of people that should get a $10K PC is very small. I'd never put 2x15000 RPM drives in a home computer... high pitched whine, need for extra fans to keep the case cool, etc. means it's solely for bragging rights and not much else. Funny thing is, in most consumer oriented benchmarks a RAID 0 SATA setup is going to pretty much match RAID 0 SCSI. Most tasks simply aren't HDD I/O bound... and if they are, add more RAM!
  • Justin Case - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Why are clock speeds given for the AMD CPUs, but only model numbers for the Intel CPUs...?

    I don't remember Anandtech having any problem publishing AMD's clock speeds back when they were lower than Intel's (even though the CPUs were actually faster). So now that the situation is reversed (Intel has better IPC, but their CPUs' frequency is about the same), why the sudden omission of Intel's clock speeds (and just a reference to "you might get 3 GHz with overclocking")?

    Could it be because Chipzilla's marketing department sent its minions^H^H^H I mean "favourite journalists" a memo telling them to join in on the model number campaign or kiss their free preview samples goodbye? Nah, that couldn't possibly be it....

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Absolutely not! It's merely a matter of me forgetting to put the clock speeds in on the Intel chips. Trust me, when you're trying to hammer out the last bits and pieces of of the 7000 word article, put together the tables, and get everything posted before 8 a.m. Eastern time thing slip through the cracks. :-) I will go in update the tables now.... Reply
  • Zebo - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Anandtech really needs to start doing monitor tests again. I don't know if you used those Acers but they suck bad. And the Dell 24" suffers from serious input lag and poor view angles like the TN Acers. LCD's are not a commodity where you can graph price/size and pick your winner. Does 8 bit means nothing? Color shift? Input lag? Lying specs vs. real specs? Good viewing angles? LCD scaling for gamers?

    The 30" Dell is pretty decent as it's an IPS but not overdriven like the new HP so it's slow.

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    I've got both Dells, and they work fine for everything I do. Overdriving displays is mostly just playing the numbers game. If you can see pixel lag on any of the Dell LCDs mentioned, then you can probably see pixel lag on virtually every LCD on the market. I will be doing some LCD reviews in the near future, but so far I have far bigger issues with prices than I do with performance. I just wish I could get an LCD that ran at a high refresh rate in order to avoid tearing when vsync is disabled. Unless you do professional imaging work where having accurate color values is absolutely necessary, most LCDs will get the job done. As for the Acer displays, they did get put on the bottom of the pricing chart for a reason, and I don't think they are the highest quality displays available. They aren't the worst displays available, and without spending twice as much money it is unlikely that he will seek dramatically better performance or colors in the same size display. Reply
  • limiter - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    I agree on the price, I bought a cheap (under $275), BenQ FP202W 20.1in Widescreen display that got panned by Tom's Hardware as the worst 20.1in widescreen monitor they've ever seen, yet I think it's great. I don't see lag, or the other problems mentioned in their review. I went from a 19in CRT so it's not like I was going from a 15in at 32ms to 8ms and that's why I think it's great. Maybe I just have bad eyes, but I'd buy it again. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    That's a perfect case in point. While it is definitely possible to measure differences between LCDs, the simple truth is that most people can't tell the difference without specialized hardware to measure values. For example, a display that has colors that are off by 10% might not look as good next to a display that has accurate colors. However, if you're viewing them individually in separate rooms, you're going to have a difficult time determining which is better using just your eyes. The lighting in a room often has more of an impact on the display visuals for typical users than the display itself. Reply
  • Howard - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    The efficiency of a PSU has nothing to do with its actual power output. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    No, and I don't believe I said it does. It has to do with how much power is used internally in the conversion process, so a 70% efficient 600W PSU could in theory draw 857W and an 85% efficient 600W PSU would only draw 706W - something like that.

    I guess the text implied that the efficiency meant it could output 500W. What I meant is that it can do 500W output, and it can do it at a high efficiency. There are plenty of "500W" PSUs out there that would fail if you really tried to pull 500W from them. I'll clear up the text....
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Actually, I believe its more like power thats NOT lost to heat while being converted to DC, from AC. Feel free to correct me if Im wrong though :) Reply
  • BigLan - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Given the ati-amd merger, the AMD god box uses nvidia sli while the Intel box uses ATi crossfire. I suspect that in a year that situation will be reversed.

    Good guide btw, it's nice to dream about building a system like this, but I'd stick with my Scythe Ninja for a HSF.
  • limiter - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    How much of this hardware did you guys test together? I wonder especially about the memory and the optical drives simply because there seem to be a number of modules and drives out there that either don't work, or don't work as well as they should with the p965/975x motherboards. I'm looking at building a new system soon and really appreciate these guides, but I would like to see either confirmation that at least the memory was tested with the motherboard/processor combo listed, or that someone else has tested it and you are going off that... I guess just for peace of mind before buying anything. The motherboard manufacturers list a small number of compatible modules, ASUS being the worst. Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link


    How much of this hardware did you guys test together? I wonder especially about the memory and the optical drives simply because there seem to be a number of modules and drives out there that either don't work, or don't work as well as they should with the p965/975x motherboards.

    The majority of the components have all been tested on a large cross-section of boards. Some components work better in certain boards (even though the chipsets are the same) than others. Memory was a very weak area in the P965 launch and it was not the budget memory at the time, it was the upper end memory that was having issues. My opinion on the subject matter is that both the memory and motherboard suppliers had equal issues. The majority of it has cleared up now although it is difficult to understand why certain memory modules and bios updates still have issues playing nice with each other. As far as optical drives, please let us know which one is having an issue, tried over 18 different optical drives from a Kenwood TrueX to a Pioneer Blu-ray without an issue on our current collection of 965/975 boards. At least 11 different hard drives have been used also at this time.
  • limiter - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    I read an article on Toms or HardOCP (that I can't find now) which said they had problems getting one of their DVD drives to work on a P965 ASUS board, but a lot of what I've read comes from Newegg item comments like these for the ASUS P5B Deluxe:


    BenQ & Pioneer DVD-RW IDE drives can't record from Windows on this board for me. Strange really. They show as DVD-RW drives, and work fine in other machines, but when a blank DVD/CD is inserted, Windows changes the drive description to DVD-ROM, and you can't record.


    the primary IDE has problems. It won't let my DVD burner burn DVDs. It will burn CDs but not DVDs. When I try to burn a DVD, some burning software sends the data but the burner never does anything. Other burning software reports an error. I have spent 5 days trying to fix this annoying problem. For a long time I thought it was software or Windows related. I finally re-installed Windows, changed to a Plextor DVD burner, changed the cable, etc. Still doesn't work. I am now convinced that this is a motherboard problem. zevo thinks this is a JMicron IDE controller problem and that makes sense to me.

    For the ASUS P5W DH Deluxe


    For me, the Intel IDE controller is VERY slow when using a known-working DVD drive. It is stuck in PIO mode.

    I've read some other forum comments about DVD problems on ASUS P965 mobos, but I can't find them right now. If I run across them again I will update. I'm not saying this is a bad motherboard or ASUS is a bad company, and any of this could be user error, unrelated bad hardware, or have been corrected by bios updates. I guess I just get the impression there are more people having issues with memory and DVD burners than usual. Nothing I think needs a too much attention. I am happy to see memory was tested for the article, I look forward to the future article mentioned above on this topic!
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Of course, all the boards are using 975X in this guide and not P965. The problem likely stems from the fact that none of the P965 boards have an Intel IDE controller, since ICH8 doesn't provide one. (Stupid... but that's a topic for another day.) Most boards use third-party controllers can order to offer IDE support, and some of the initial BIOS revisions were very flaky in memory and IDE support. Beyond that, I can't think of anything specific that would be causing issues for people. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    The RAM and motherboard combinations have all been tested (as far as I'm aware) by Gary Key and/or Wesley Fink. Those choices were made with extensive input from Wes and Gary. That's the major sticking point in terms of compatibility - and P965 memory compatibility has improved a lot with the latest BIOS revisions. However, it should be noted that we strongly recommend setting memory timings (and voltages) manually for most high-end enthusiast systems. The SPD settings should work and allow the systems to POST, but they are not optimal by any means. Hope that helps - Gary or Wes might be able to chime in with specific testing results for the RAM+Mobo, although I think there's an article in the works that will cover that aspect regardless. Reply
  • Missing Ghost - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Is there really a good reason to choose AM2 over 939? I think the motherboards for 939 are more mature. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    If you're looking to use older components (like existing DDR RAM), 939 is still fine. That's what I still use for my personal system (mostly because I don't have the time to get a full Core 2 Duo up and running, and I likely wouldn't notice the difference in performance for the apps I run most). If you're building a full new system, there's no reason to get 939 anymore.

    Think DDR2 prices are bad? Take a look at quality DDR - it's no better, and you won't get 1:1 overclocks to DDR-667 or higher with any RAM. $250 or so will get you DDR2-800 that can run faster than any 1:1 overclock on AM2 will need. There will also be no future platforms for DDR (other than budget offerings from maybe SiS or VIA).

    Anyway, AM2 launched in a state that was nearly as mature as 939, and it has quickly matched it overall, if not exceeded it. The prices are about the same, AM2 typically hold a 5% advantage in performance over 939 (for equivalent CPU and RAM speeds), and hopefully AMD will do quad cores on AM2 in the future - 939 is now EOL'ed, and DDR is in a similar boat. I believe the last production runs of DDR will complete in early 2007, and then pretty much everything will shift to DDR2 or later RAM production.
  • mostlyprudent - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Wow! You really covered your bases and made it clear that there are still plenty of options out there to choose from. Nicely done, although it leaves little room for discussion.

    One Guide I would love to see in the future is one that attempts to find the best balance between noise and performance. There are plenty of sites that talk about silencing a PC, but they tend to cripple performance at some level. Anandtech has looked at some components in this respect (i.e. video cards and cases), but it would be great to see the whole package put together. Maybe it's in the context of the best all-purpose PC for those who cannot afford a separate rig for gaming, one for family use, one for an HTPC, a media server, etc.
  • MadBoris - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Glad you guys offered so many alternatives through the guide. I like a reference of what the current best components are in each field, but I end up choosing certain best components. So the alternatives, throughout the guide, were very nice.

    Thanks for these buyers guides, it will really help alot of people out with core 2 duo upgrades and upcoming next gen GPU's. Thanks alot guys.
  • Baked - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    What's with the Ultra High End system w/o a Seasonic or PCP&C PSU?

    And no loving for the Thermalright Ultra-120? Unlike other companies, Thermalright knows how to innovate instead of just blowing up their products. You can get the Ultra-120 w/ a Yate Loon D12L for less than $55 and it'll perform better if not on par w/ the Scythe Infinity, AND it'll stay attached to the motherboard. You expect people to buy your $65 but you can't come up w/ a better mounting system other than the one used by Intel's retail HSF? Poleeeeeeeese.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    See above comment - the Kingwin has been upgraded to a Seasonic S12-500 now. I should have figured the PSU police would come knocking if I didn't spend at least $100 on a "high-end" PSU. Honestly, if you don't plan on overclocking and adding a lot of extras, the vast majority of 500-600W PSUs will work fine. Some are quieter, some are more efficient, but most will handle a moderately high-end configuration.

    BTW, I'm typing this on a system configured with:
    ASUS A8R32-MVP
    Athlon X2 3800+ OC'ed to 2.2GHz (4600+ equivalent)
    X1900 XT + X1900 CF GPUs
    2x1024MB OCZ DDR-500 3-3-3-8-1T
    320GB WD HDD
    160GB Samsung HDD (secondary storage)
    Pioneer DVR-110D
    Antec SLK-3000B case
    ...And a Kingwin 600W PSU

    I bought the Kingwin several months ago on a whim - I needed a PSU fast after an Antec 400W unit failed, and the local shops didn't have a great selection. Note that the Antec PSU was *not* used in this system config! LOL - CrossFire on an Antec? Not for me!

    The system is not extremely quiet... but then that's almost impossible with dual X1900 cards. Full load the system stays well under 500W, and I haven't had any issues with stability whatsoever. Upgrading the system to socket AM2 and 7900GTO cards would drop power requirements, so I still fully stand by the original choice of the 600W Kingwin as a reasonable "budget high-end" PSU. Will it fail gracefully if I exceed the limits of the PSU? No idea - I don't intend to find out either. :)
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Its not about the brand name Jarred, you can find a reasonable PCP&C PSU, hell, you'll pay more just because of SLI 'certification'. Anyhow, sometimes, someone may want a longer hold time, or want rock solid rails, or possibly better efficiency (although seasonic may have PCP&C beat here, depends on models).

    You mentioned something about re-branding, however im not so sure thats completely true. 99.9% of all PSUs probably are made in one of 12 plants in China, HOWEVER, parts, support, , and specifications are not always interchangeable.

    I didnt see how much your KINGWIN PSU was, but something that hits me as more than slightly funny, is why spend 260 us on a motherboard, 300 + on a CPU, 250-300 on memory, and get cheap on the PSU ? I think you'll find that PCP&C PSUs are more efficient, have a much longer hold time, and should exibit a much more solid rail supply. Lets not forget that PCP&C PSUs are rated at 40C, and not 25C like alot of common PSUs on the market. (not everyone lives where its cold, or even cool.)*shrug*
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Seasonic makes PC Power and Cooling PSUs as far as I'm aware (I've seen it stated elsewhere, though nothing official from either company), along with Silverstone and a few others I believe. (I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other PSU manufacturers re-rate the power supplies to a higher wattage however.) While I'm sure there are some companies that would ask to get a lower cost PSU manufactured, I don't think anyone going to Seasonic is looking at price as a primary concern. I would wager heavily that the components that go inside a Seasonic PSU are identical to the components they put in a PC Power and Cooling PSU -- after all, once you're using the best components available, there's not much else to do. The only difference is that Seasonic uses 120mm fans these days, whereas PC Power and Cooling still uses 80mm fans I believe. (I know which of those two options I prefer!)

    In terms of efficiency, all of the high-quality PSUs are going to be 80 to 88%. As far as I understand it, the watt rating is still how much power the PSU can output to components, so basically less efficient PSUs will simply run hotter when outputting the same amount of power, and that the same time they will cost more money because they are consuming more power from the outlet. If that's correct, let's do a quick sample calculation:

    75% efficiency with a 300W PC draw:
    Wall power: 400W
    24/7 Operational Cost: $28.80 per month ($.10 per kilowatt)
    Yearly Cost: $345.60

    85% efficiency with a 300W PC:
    Wall power: 353W
    24/7 Operational Cost: $25.42 per month ($.10 per kilowatt)
    Yearly Cost: $305.04

    Savings per year: $40.56

    So yes, you can argue that buying high-efficiency power supply can pay for itself over the course of the year. Not that we're comparing a pretty average (75%) power supply a with a very good (85%) power supply, and we're also assuming 24/7 operation at a relatively high load. A lot of computers, including the basic AMD system, probably average closer to half that much power draw.

    Something else worth mentioning is that most high-end power supplies -- the type that are supposed to be capable of outputting 700-1000W for example -- often have much lower efficiency ratings when they aren't being heavily loaded. Some PSU companies will actually tell you the efficiency rating at several different loads. Often, you will find that under moderate load even a high-quality 700 W power supply will only be about 70% efficient.

    PC Power and Cooling aren't bad PSUs, but they are definitely overpriced relative to other options. Either the best power supply on the market? I don't personally think so, although they are *one* of the best. Given the choice between a high-quality Fotron Source (700 W model for instance) and the competing Seasonic or PC Power and Cooling model, I'm going to save you $50 and go with Fotron Source.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    Well yeah, the more efficient PSU is going to save you money in a few years, but after a point, that doesnt bother me as much as the Typical PSU being rated at 25C. What does this mean? This means, that if ambient (inside the PC case ) is above 10-15C, your PSU, inside, is going to be over 25C, which means, you're going to be losing power, AND efficency.

    I dont recall the formula, but lets assume you lose 5% power per 5C over the rated maximum tempurature, and the temp inside the PSU is 30C. This basicly means IF your PSU is rated at 600W @ 25C, at 30C, its actually only capable of 570W maximum (continuous). Now, this may look fairly trivial, however, I'm thinking real world, its actually more than 1% loss per 1C.

    Anyhow, it doesnt bother me one bit spending $200 us even on a PSU thats going to take care of my current system, and several afterwards.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    PCP&C Started in a garage in 1981 (ish) in California. How long has Seasonic been around ? If you go to PCP&C's website, you can read an article written about how PCP&C got started, and why the owner/president is so 'anal' about certain issues. Some of which, I agree with.

    It's possible the plant in China that makes Seasonic PSUs also make PCP&C, but I hardly think they are re-branded. This is how it works, everyone (basicly) has thier PSUs made in China to reduce costs, and maximize profits, if someone TRIED starting a PSU manufactuering plant in the US, they would most likley go bankrupt, before they became noticed. Even the PSU companies CLAIMING to be in Tiawan, are actually just 'store fronts' for the actual part being manufactuered in China.

    How do I know this you ask ? I've had a lengthy chat with a friend in person, who worked in the buisness, and described to me how it works. From the conversation, I gathered that PCP&C PSUs ARE designed by the US company, and the company also picks out he parts to be used etc, but everything gets sent over to China, is put together, and sent back to be sold. I suppose its even possible that Seasonic is the middle-man in all of this, but I will just about garuntee that the owner of PCP&C retains the IP for his designs, after all, he started off as an un-known Electronics Engineer, making quieter PSUs, that had longer hold up times for friends, before he got into the buisness (or so he claims, but I've zero reason to doubt the guy on his word here).

    The way I see it, SOMEONE puts all the parts together, BUT PCP&C still makes thier own PSUs by design/parts.

    Again, let me re-iterate, PSU efficeincy has to do with power lost to heat while converting AC -> DC ;)
  • BladeVenom - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    I would rather go with the power supplies that you recommended in you midrange buyer's guide. Kingwin doesn't have a good reputation, and the last review I saw for one of their power supplies would make me hesitant to even use it in a low end PC. http://www.jonnyguru.com/PSU/Absolute600W/">http://www.jonnyguru.com/PSU/Absolute600W/

    Another thing that suprised me was the Bluegears b-Enspirer. It sounds interesting, but I could only find a couple of short reviews for it. Since you're recommending it, are you going to do a review of it soon?
  • KorruptioN - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Agreed. The Kingwin (based on a Superflower) isn't the best choice available. You guys seemed to pick it out based on the fact that it offered "600 Watts". It doesn't even offer a second PCI-E power connection (according to JonnyGURU's review). Combined with the 30A +12V rating, it isn't good enough for dual-GPU configurations, IMO.

    Antec's NeoHE 500W (in the later revisions) or one of XClio's modular PSUs are better overall choices, I think.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    I'm quite sure that the Kingwin does have dual PCIe plugs: http://www.kingwin.com/pdut_detail.asp?LineID=&...">Specifications. Perhaps JohnnyGuru got an early revision that was messed up - that happens more often than I'd like with hardware review sites, as we often get product before it's publicly available. Obviously, it's the "low-end" of this roundup, which means part of the choice was made for pricing reasons. I guess I forgot to make my standard disclaimer clearly visible:

    Fotron Source, Seasonic, Enermax, and a variety of other PSU manufacturers (well, a lot of them are just rebranded Fotron Source or some other OEM design) are good choices that will almost always cost a bit more money. For the baseline AMD model, you certainly don't need a 600W PSU. If you're looking to upgrade in the future and keep the PSU, getting something better is recommended.

    That said, I'll pop out the Kingwin and put something else in there. I'm not going to go with PCP&C for the price, that's for certain. They make fine power supplies (well, Seasonic does), but while they warrant a mention on the Ultra configuration, they can't really fit into an ~$2000 budget without having to sacrifice other areas just to accommodate a PSU that's overkill. Hopefully you're all happy with spending $35 more to go from an okay Kingwin 600W to a great Seasonic 500W. :)
  • KorruptioN - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Jarred, you're linking to a different PSU altogether. You are linking to the ABT-600MM, where the original PSU selection in this PC guide was the ABT-600CW. It does look like the specification has been updated to include two 6-pin PCI-E power connections, but that doesn't really change the fact that it doesn't have a lot of juice where it matters the most.

    Either way, good choice on that Seasonic S12-500. How about the new M12-500? Or is that too much to ask :P
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Ah, then the mistake was yours (well, someone's anyway - whoever linked the JohnnyGury review). The original PSU was indeed the Kingwin Maximum Power ABT-600MM 600W -- I have the spreadsheet right in front of me, and I'm sure it was not the CW version. Figures; people like to get up in arms over PSUs, but then they rarely do anything more than say "OMG it's not a Seasonic/[insert favorite brand]!". You can get the ABT-600MM http://www.xpcgear.com/abt600mm.html">right here - that's the price I used in the original text. Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link


    Another thing that suprised me was the Bluegears b-Enspirer. It sounds interesting, but I could only find a couple of short reviews for it. Since you're recommending it, are you going to do a review of it soon?

    Yes, we will be reviewing it in the coming weeks. While not in the same class as the X-FI for gaming, it is better than the on-board solutions while providing just about every option you would want in a HTPC card considering the price.
  • poohbear - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    hate to point this out about this whole article, but if price was'nt an issue, wouldnt i just buy something prebuilt from falcon northwest, voodoo pc, or alien ware? im not sure which audience this article caters to, but i doubt they're a DIY audience that follows anandtech. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Try configuring a similarly equipped "ultra" system at any of the vendors you mentioned for $5500 - including a 30" LCD, remember, plus speakers and all the other stuff. Note that all prices include shipping to the continental US (although tax is not included). Sure, you get support from one location, but we're not here to constantly recommend system vendors.

    There's a huge DIY audience that reads AnandTech, and at least this gives people a baseline price list that they can look at when they're considering pre-built systems. We try to cater to all markets, not just the vendors that buy advertising.
  • Powersupply - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    As always someone has to be the annoying person who feels this or that is missing. Today it is me.

    1. I can't see why Thermalright Ultra-120 should be missing from the selection of CPU coolers. It performs on par or better than the Infinity with the same fan.

    2. Why not putting more than 2 harddrives into the "Ultra High-End Platform"? After all you went with a stacker case who got plenty of space. 2 x Raptor + 2 x Other HDD would be sweet.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Added mention of the Thermalright. As for the HDDs, I quote from the original text:


    Lastly, we come to the storage subsystem. Anyone looking for even more extreme performance could always add a couple of 150GB Western Digital Raptor drives in RAID 0, but for an ultra high-end computer we prefer more storage over slightly faster hard drives. Thus, we have chosen two 500GB Western Digital hard drives, which you can once again choose to run in RAID 0, RAID 1, or simply as individual drives, giving you up to a full terabyte of storage. You could further upgrade to RAID 1+0 for performance and redundancy, although that would also require four hard drives which is more than most people want to install in a home computer. We certainly aren't recommending this configuration as the best choice for every single person: get what you feel is most beneficial for your storage needs.

    I believe that fully covers your second comment, right? It's always an option, but it's not required by any means.
  • yacoub - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    The Antec P150 is such a superb case I can't believe it does not many any of your four case recommendations. It is an ideal case in that it is built for quietness, airflow, ease of cleaning, and ease of access. Everything about it is pretty much perfect AND it's not upside-down like the more "popular" Antec P180 case, nor does it have a silly topvent. It's also a little more reasonably-sized (I don't know of anyone building a gaming PC that needs more than 2-3 5.25" bay drives nor room for more than 3-4 hard drives. Really, this case has it all. It's probably the one part of my current build I'm most satisfied with and have been since purchase, which was when they first came out about a year ago. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link


    The choice of case is going to be largely based on personal preference.

    Some people love the P180, others love the P150, and still others think the ASUS plastic monstrosity is the coolest looking case ever. I figured with a choice of the SLK-3000 and P180, I needed someone other than Antec to represent the case section. :)

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