Phenom II Buyers Guide: 955BE Edition

by Wesley Fink on 4/24/2009 5:00 AM EST


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  • ccd - Monday, May 18, 2009 - link

    I am building a system using the mobo and heatsink fan. This is not a good combo for overclocking. The reason is the the Xigmatek is so big, that it blocks the use of one of the yellow RAM slots that the Asus manual states are best for over clocking.

    Just a word of caution.
  • ccd - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    I built the system using the components I previously mentioned and you are absolutely correct: the Xigmatek is so big, it does extend over one of the yellow memory slots and this board recommends the yellow slots for overclocking. It might me possible to squeeze memory in the slot under the Xigmatek, but I would worry about it touching the Xigmatek and getting too hot.

    The other issue with this mobo is the location of the connections for the front of your case. The front case connectors for my Lian Li case are too short as the Asus connections are located at the furtheset possible spot from the connectors.

    Other than those two issues, I am happy with this build. The PC turned on and I had no problems once I realized that graphics cards now need to be directly connected to the PS.

    I'm thinking of adding a second graphics card and upgrading the PS.
  • ccd - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - link

    I'd love to hear any comments from more experienced systems builders on the components I plan to use. This is my second build. The first build did not go well. The PC would not turn on and I had no idea where the problem lay. Then I had the extraordinarily bad luck of getting two bad mobos and compatibiity problems between the mobo that finally worked and my PVR card. It cost me $400 to have someone troubleshoot the PC to get it working.

    With the build, I want to use as many parts from the previous build as possible to save on costs and because I know these parts work. That means I am using my case, a Seasonic 400W PS, a graphics card and sound card. The new parts are:

    ASUS M4A79 Deluxe
    AMD Phenon II X4 940 BE 3.0GHz
    Xigmatek Dark Knight 51283V 120 MM
    Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) 240 Pin DDR2 SDRAM 1066 (PC@ 8500)
    WD Caviar Green WD6400AACS 7200

    The choice of boards is based on this guide and comments at Newegg. Seems like a board that has cause very few problems for the majority of people. Also Newegg has a bundle with the AMD chip for a $35 savings.

    The HDD choice is to make sure my 400PS can handle the new system

    Any thoughts?
  • bmuell - Wednesday, April 29, 2009 - link

    Does anyone know what Gigabyte's official response is to using dimm slots 3 & 4 instead of 1 & 2 (since reapers won't fit under the Xigmatek)? The manual recommends slots 1 & 2 for dual channel. I'm surprised Anandtech selected these parts (with or without the knowledge) given the compatibility issue... I have to decide whether or not to exchange my heatsink, my memory, or use slots 3 & 4. Reply
  • SHANE44 - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Whats with all the AMD hate. From reading this article it sounds like AMD has a winner. I personally use intel cpu's and nvidia gpu's but I understand that AMD plays a vital role in both industries. Without AMD who's gonna keep intel and nvidia honest. AMD forces both companies to keep advancing technologically and keep competitive prices. Who knows maybe a few more advances from AMD in the cpu department and my next system might be an AMD. I personally hope the best for AMD in the future. Thanks to Anandtech for the great reviews. I find this to be the most informative sight for all current computer news. Reply
  • Hamlet2000 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Does anyone know if the Xigmatek heatsink on the CPU will conflict with the heatsinks on the OCZ Reaper memory?

    I'm looking at putting together a system based off the performance specs and I'm concerned about spacing issues.
  • Summer - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Depends on how far your slots are from your CPU but I'm almost certain that the first dimm set (row 1 & 2) of most motherboards will be blocked by the Xigmatek heatsink if you plan to use OCZ reaper memory. I have two boards (Asrock AOD790/Gigabyte MA790XT) with s-1283v heatsinks and the OCZ Reaper memory kit will not clear on the dimm set closest to the CPU on either board. However, IMO the S-1283 line is one of the best and affordable air-cooler series out there especially if your case can handle the size.

  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    I haven't had any issues with memory and the Xigmatek, as the fin assembly is raised up a bit on the heatpipes before it can potentially overhang the memory slots. However, I haven't really tried it with the Reaper memory, which was selected because of its fast timings (6-6-6) and effective heatpipe cooling. As you saw in the 955BE launch article, the Phenom II worked better with fast memory timings than it did with higher memory speeds in our OC tests.

    After your question I measured some Reaper samples here and the first slots may be a question mark with the Xigmatek. To be safe you could select:

    1 - Crucial Ballistix 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model BL2KIT25664BA1336 with 6-6-6 tings at $68

    2 - OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ3P13334GK with 7-7-7 tings at $60

    3 - OCZ Intel Extreme Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ3X16004GK at 7-7-7 timings at $53 after $30 rebate.

    These are all standard profile dimms and they snuggle underneath the Xigmatek cooler just fine. The important thing for the Phenom II memory controller is to shop for the tightest timings you can afford with speed of at least DDR1333. For Intel we would probably look for even faster speed, but higher speed does not help that much on Phenom II's memory controller.

  • Hamlet2000 - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Great, thanks for the reply. It's great that you read the comments and respond. I was looking at OCZ Gold memory at 8-8-8-24 since the price was $44 after the rebate, but I'm reconsidering now . . .

    Thanks again.
  • The Sly Syl - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    I'm using the Xigmatek Dark Knight on my FoxConn A7DA-S motherboard with 4 sticks of ram. They all fit fine, Even the Reaper memory with the overly large cooler would fit into 3 of the slots, its only the slot closest to the CPU that might have clearance issues.

    The lower end of the fins are considerably higher than I'd imagine any regular sized stick of ram would ever have to worry about.
  • Hamlet2000 - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    I ordered the OCZ Platinum 4GB just in case - the last thing I want to deal with is memory that doesn't play nice with my heatsink when I'd rather just enjoy my new build.

    Here's what I purchased:

    AMD Phenom II X4 955 $245
    GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P $125 after rebate
    -$20 New Egg combo(CPU/mobo)
    OCZ Platinum 2x2GB DDR3 1333 7-7-7-20 $59
    Western Digital Caviar Black 640MB $75
    XIGMATEK Dark Knight $39

    At the end of the day I'll pay $530 with shipping. I'll use my old case, graphics card, sound card, monitor, etc. Not bad for a top of the line AMD CPU, AM3 mobo with DDR3 memory. And since most of the time the computer is used for gaming, AMD Phenom is a no brainer for price/performance.

    Below is my current build so as you can see it has been a few years - looking forward to today's modern speed.

    Now if only Windows 7 was available today!
  • Hamlet2000 - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Oops I didn't mention the board I was looking at, which is the Gigabyte 790XT, which is what was this site recommended. So if the CPU cooler is in the way of the memory perhaps anandtech needs a new recommended memory module (I'm assuming without looking it up that the Gigabyte 790XT prefers the memory in slots closest to the CPU). Reply
  • tshen83 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Two of the top three articles are pumping the Phenom IIs as if anyone with a BRAIN would buy one.

    Seriously? You are recommending the Phenom IIs with "In WIN" Power supplies and Seagate hard drives?

    Why not rename to

    For a value system, I don't see anything that will beat either the Xeon W3520(i7 920) for single socket system or Dual Xeon E5504s on Asus Z8NA-D6C. Ditch the seagate and get the Western Digital Caviar Black, and ditch the "inwin" for an antec or PC power and cooling 750W. Ditch the freaking Radeon for a Geforce GTX275.
  • AlexWade - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Question: How long have you been on Intel's payroll? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    The two articles also clearly said you should buy an Intel Core i7 if you have $290 or more to spend on a CPU. If you want to spend less on a rig then the articles recommend you buy a Phenom II.

    We also chose the WD 1TB for the Performance rig with a discussion of the issues with the early Seagate and the advice to choose the WD at $105 or the Seagate at $85. As for the nVidia 275 it is $30 more than the 4890. We also like to use AMD GPUs with AMD chipsets and processors if it makes sense - all else being equal.

    Did anyone pay you to post your accusations here? We hear that one of your recommended brands has paid staff whose primary job is to make accusatory comments that question the integrity of websites that recommend anything other than their brand. Since you always have something accusatory and blatantly nasty to say about every review lately we have to wonder. Our integrity is beyond reproach - can you say the same?
  • C'DaleRider - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    I guess since I am graced with having a MicroCenter close enough to make shopping there a viable option, I don't have to put up with the Newegg price gouge on Core i7 920 cpus and can buy them for $230, and even get the luxury of having a B&M store to do instant and easy returns for items, instead of the typical 2 week ship-return-reship boogie you have to play with Newegg.

    Given that a Core i7 930 is $230, which undercuts the Phenom II 955, I'd think that in this particular instance the Core i7 becomes the better value and buy.....esp. if buying either the Phenom II or Core i7 would require buying new mb and memory. I'd honestly rather invest the $$ in my wallet in an architecture that has a distinct performance advantage and a longer longevity outlook with the Socket 1366.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Best price I can find on a Core i7 920 is">$266 at eWiz, which is quite a bit more than $230. Not sure how MicroCenter is supposed to be so great... their online site doesn't even list Core i7 CPUs that I can see. Perhaps the pricing is for employees only? Reply
  • tshen83 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Hey, I can guarantee you that intel doesn't pay me to spread fud. Their CPUs deserve to be praised for technical leadership. I know my comments are usually negative, but ask yourself this question: did you guys deserve it? Anandtech isn't the same when anandtech got started , everyone knows it. Pumping inferior technology makes you look stupid that is all. Anyone recommending AMD platform right now over the nehalems has to really look deep into their heart and see if their intentions are honorable. Europeans are overly AMD biased because of Dresden fab.

    Right now AMD's business practice is dishonorable at best. Look at the way they flush their broken CPUs down consumers' throats. No, the phenom 2 955 is not that impressive: their uncore imc clockspeed is still castrated compared to their opteron line, and Istanbul will only exacerbate the problem.

    Why don't you do some real reviews, like how much ass the xeon e5504 e5520 and l5520 kicks over anything amd has on a performance per watt per dollar metric? Even in the consumer space, phenom 955 just barely caught up with 95w q8200 and it is only 100 dollars at microcenter.
  • Proteusza - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    So I go to this page">

    And I look at the graph. 3.2 Ghz Core i7 = 87 FPS. 3.2GHz Phenom II = 86.4

    So, tell me why I would spend a few hundred dollars more to get 0.6FPS increase? Oh, I know why, its because you are paid by Intel to recommend them, to cause trouble. But one problem though - since you post in such an offensive and obviously trolling manner, your posts generally do the opposite of what you intend. People look at them and think, "Man whatever that guy is recommending, I'm having NONE of it, look how angry he is"

    Besides, if Anandtech really were shills, who has more money - AMD or Intel? Who could afford to pay Anandtech to shill more?

    Yeah, if you gave me another $500 I'd consider a Core i7. Until you do that, I'll put my money where it makes sense - right now thats AMD, but if Intel drops prices on their C2Q's they would get my vote. I really dont care about brand names, I care about performance and price. That you get so offended at the idea of a Phenom 2 recommendation is laughable - Phenom 1 I agree was a piece of crap but Phenom 2 is leaps and bounds better.

    So crawl back under the bridge little troll.
  • tshen83 - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    Quoting a GPU bound FPS benchmark to try to fudge CPU equivalence shows how stupid you really are. Of course the FPS would be close since you are using the same video card. This was my original complaint for the "phenom is a great gaming platform" bs.

    Please for your own benefit, stop calling me a troll, it makes you look stupid. But then again people already know that.

    Right now the enterprise line cpus from both intel and amd are better than their consumer counterparts. For the same price, you get a far better cpu. So get a Xeon or Opteron instead of Phenom junk. I am not joking. Xeon w3520 is d0 stepping and easily does 4.0ghz on air.
  • Proteusza - Tuesday, April 28, 2009 - link

    Ha ha, since even the writer of the article questioned your integrity, I think its fair to say you are the greater troll than I.

    So wait... you are saying the benchmark doesnt count because its GPU bound, but you also say Phenom II is not a great gaming platform? Seems to me, that since the benchmark in question is of a GAME, that it kinda matters for determining how good it would be for gaming. And, as I said, you would be paying a few hundred dollars extra for 0.6FPS more. Now why would you do that? Nehalem may well overclock slightly better, but you said so yourself, its GPU bound, if the Phenom II gets to 3.8GHz and the Nehalem gets to 4.0GHz, its not gonna matter much.

    Xeon and Opteron are enterprise CPUs you dolt, they require registered memory and special motherboards which are a lot more expensive. And the CPUs themselves are more expensive. Not a good gaming platform.

    But really, what all of this shows is how pathetic you are, since even if AMD did release a CPU which beat Intel in every single way (and it has in the past, remember Athlon 64 vs Pentium D), you wouldnt buy it because you LOVE Intel. So I'm sure reading guides like this make you froth at the mouth, the idea that peope are buying AMD CPUs and not regretting it, but you know, thats your own fault.
  • tshen83 - Tuesday, April 28, 2009 - link

    "Ha ha, since even the writer of the article questioned your integrity, I think its fair to say you are the greater troll than I."

    Only idiots let other people's opinions wash over your own thinking. Just because Jarred called me a troll doesn't mean he is right.

    "So wait... you are saying the benchmark doesnt count because its GPU bound, but you also say Phenom II is not a great gaming platform? Seems to me, that since the benchmark in question is of a GAME, that it kinda matters for determining how good it would be for gaming. And, as I said, you would be paying a few hundred dollars extra for 0.6FPS more. Now why would you do that? Nehalem may well overclock slightly better, but you said so yourself, its GPU bound, if the Phenom II gets to 3.8GHz and the Nehalem gets to 4.0GHz, its not gonna matter much. "

    Games are always GPU bound, and not well threaded enough. It would take a 7Ghz Phenom II to be comparable to i7 @4.0Ghz. Just because you can't tell a difference between two CPUs in some stupid games doesn't mean the two cpus are the same.

    "Xeon and Opteron are enterprise CPUs you dolt, they require registered memory and special motherboards which are a lot more expensive. And the CPUs themselves are more expensive. Not a good gaming platform. "

    Smart consumers are getting the enterprise features(IOAT, less power consumption, higher Tcase tolerance, more intel test validations) for free or cheaper even. There is not a single consumer CPU worth buying right now IMHO.

    1. Nehalems don't need registered memory, only 2S Opterons do.(So get your facts straight before you badmouth me) 1S Opterons can use unbuffered DDR2 ECC ram also.

    2.CPUs are often cheaper if you know which ones to buy: hint W3520 and E5504 and possibly E5520s. Those "server" CPUs are the best gaming platform money can buy right now. Only idiots would buy Phenoms because they think the naming must imply that the CPU is "Phenomenal" right? Did you know that all the good AMD CPUs ended up being Shanghai Opterons with synchronized integrated memory controller that scales linearly with CPU clock speed while consuming far less power? Phenoms are cheap because they are junk. Enterprise people won't buy Phenoms to power their workstations and servers, so the Dubai suckers ended up paying Anandtech to shove the Phenoms down idiots' throats, you know, people like you.

    3. Dual Socket Nehalem boards can be found for about 230 now. Compared to $170 PhenomII class motherboards, it is not even close.

    "But really, what all of this shows is how pathetic you are, since even if AMD did release a CPU which beat Intel in every single way (and it has in the past, remember Athlon 64 vs Pentium D), you wouldnt buy it because you LOVE Intel. So I'm sure reading guides like this make you froth at the mouth, the idea that peope are buying AMD CPUs and not regretting it, but you know, thats your own fault. "

    Today's Intel isn't the Intel from PentiumD days. I had over 7 Athlon XP CPUs in my room during the PentiumD days, so please don't assume anything. I don't give a crap about Intel, and often critisize Intel's overpriced SSDs. Nehalems are hands down the best CPU since the Pentium Pros.

    Last point: during an argument, don't start your offense or defense with the word "if", especially if the "if" is about "AMD release a CPU which beat Intel in every single way" It makes your whole statement false. Discreet Math 101.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Not everyone needs even quad-core, let along quad-core plus Hyper-Threading. Spending $150+ to move from our performance (top-end) AMD Phenom II to a faster Core i7 920 is fine if you plan to do 3D rendering or video encoding, but most people won't notice the difference. We mentioned several times that i7 is the fastest current platform, but it's also the most expensive current platform.

    What is "inferior" about AMD Phenom II? Have you even used the platform, or are you looking at a few benchmarks and concluding it's "superior"? Or maybe that IN WIN PSU is "inferior"... tell me, who manufactures the IN WIN PSU? Most likely Enhance or Seasonic, given the look, and both are very good companies. IN WIN has been around a while, and that PSU launched at a price of over $200, so it's almost certainly a decent build, and an efficiency rating of over 80% gives you everything you need.

    Your "dishonest" business claims are... well, I won't even bother responding to that. Basically, I'm with Wes: there's a lot of FUD being spread, with little to back it up. Who cares about Xeon processors when we're reviewing a consumer CPU? And on the server side, we've pretty clearly shown that AMD is hurting.
  • C'DaleRider - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    [quote]...tell me, who manufactures the IN WIN PSU? Most likely Enhance or Seasonic, given the look, and both are very good companies.[/quote]

    The proper answer is it a CWT PUC design, as attested to by JonnyGuru's test of the InWin Commander back in Jan. of this year.

    Decent designed power supply, but has the usual CWT flaws...3.3V rail falls apart under high load, ripple/noise that increases to almost ATX spec limits under rated load, etc.

    Not a bad supply but certainly not up to the standards of a good current designed Seasonic or Antec/Delta or Enermax build.
  • Summer - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    I would say that I'm an average consumer who uses the computer for web surfing, word processing, gaming, photoshopping and family video editing/encoding. From my experience, my 720x4 is already overkill compared to my dual core. I can't imagine the average user needing more than 4 cores for anything basic around the house. Even if the computer is for gaming, wouldn't the extra money be better used for a videocard? Reply
  • marraco - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I would like to see the gaming performance of the Phenom II 955BE + DDR2 + Radeon 4890 against the SAME price spent in i7.
    surely you need to downgrade video to stay on budget, so:

    What is better: Phenom2 + 4890, or I7 + same budget video?

    I bet on AMD!
  • MadMan007 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Obviously since in the real world game settings the video card determines the performance except in a very few games. Better video card = better gaming hasn't changed. Reply
  • DanStp1 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I had an AM2 MB a couple of years ago, and I could not use all 4 memory slots with a big CPU cooler, like the ones in this article.

    Have the newer AM2 MB's been redesigned so that tall coolers clear all 4 memory slots?

    If you have 4 slots but can not use them it limits the platform.

  • icingdeath88 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    This one is high enough off the motherboard that it clears the ram. By quite a bit too. It's more to do with the cooler design than the motherboard design, though. I would imagine that it might still have problems with ram with those big heatsinks or heatpipes on them. Reply
  • DanStp1 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I have seen on other sites, that the southbridges on AMD chip sets, including the SB750, have poor SATA performance.

    Has AMD done anything to address this?
    In particular I have read about ACHI issues, and NCQ problems.

  • Gary Key - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    I have not noticed poor SATA performance on the SB750. It is typically a few percent lower than the ICH10R in actual applications, but nothing that you ever notice on a day to day basis. As far as ACHI/NCQ problems, I have not experienced them with the SB710/750 yet.

    This includes Linux and Windows installations. I know people have complained about it, but I just have not seen it yet in probably 300+ installs of either operating system. The one problem I have right now is SSD performance is not up to par to the ICH10. AMD is working on a new driver to improve performance as the hardware is fine.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    Early AMD southbridges did suffer from the issues you describe. The design and performance has steadily improved with each new generation of southbridge, and AMD has come a long way from the SB400/450 days. I have forwarded your question to our motherboard Editor for more info on the state of the SB750 southbrudge. Reply
  • lefenzy - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Would Anandtech please stop recommending 1080P monitors? LCD manufacturers are tricking consumers by selling screens with less area with this marketing gimmick. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I don't see how it's a "trick", since the resolution is clearly stated. If you want to complain about it being "less monitor", I'd be far more upset about all the TN panels now being pushed into budget displays. I've used/tested several, and they're "fine" for most users, but they will never be the quality of an S-PVA, S-MVA, or S-IPS LCD.

    Honestly, if you want a good IPS display at a reasonable cost, what I'd really recommend these days is to grab a 32" HDTV - check it out in person though to make sure it's not a TN panel, because those are showing up as well. Just look at the vertical viewing angles and it should be clear whether it's TN or not.
  • MadMan007 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Can't fit a 32" TV on my desk nor sit ~3 feet away from it comfortably :p I wrote about the monitors as well. I will say that 1920x1080 is a win over 1680x1050 IF they are similar prices or a bit more and same panel types, at least you're getting more for the money. ex: a 1920x1080 TN for $50 more than a 1680x1050 TN. It's a ripoff when they substitute less vertical space in the same supposed screen size (the diagonal measurement allows them to cheat there) for the same price.

    Where this article fails is in not even mentioning panel types nor aspect ratios, and using a freaking TN in a $1600 system.

    These guides are starting to read more like advertising copy when they push fudged specs rather than informing readers.
  • lopri - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Thank you for this wonderful guide. It's been a while since I planned to build a Phenom system, and it looks like I can finally finish it thanks to this guide. I do have a couple of questions.

    1. There are many DDR3 sticks marketed as 'i7 edition'. Is it safe to use those sticks on AM3 platform? (both compatibility and overclocking-wise)

    2. What is the system requirement of AOD (AMD OverDrive)? Does it work only on a board with SB750 or..?

    I am very excited to get a 955BE. Tired of vTT, vFSB, vGTL, vWTFU1Di0t... on Intel quads.. I'd like to play with multipliers, dividers, and timings instead!
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Question 2 - From AMD:

    "This is release V3.0.1 of AMD OverDrive™ Utility.

    This version of AMD OverDrive™ Utility supports systems with the AMD RD890/RD790/RS780/RX780/RS780D/RS880 serials boards.

    AMD OverDrive™ Utility in general is designed to provide users the ability to maximize the capability, flexibility, and adjustability of the AMD chipset products; it allows user to tune parameters to help system stability, optimize performance, and control cooling/acoustic characteristics. AMD’s target is to provide an all-in-one utility which can deliver all-around stellar operation.

    ---System Requirements---

    Operating systems supported are:

    Microsoft® Windows Vista® 32-bit
    Microsoft® Windows Vista® 64-bit
    Microsoft Windows® XP
    Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
    Microsoft Windows 7"
  • lopri - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Thank you much, kind sir! Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Question 1 - The Core i7 memory controller is on the CPU, and it and the motherboard design is the controlling factor for triple-channel, dual-channel, and single-channel memory. The DDR3 memory itself is essentially the same whether used as single, dual, or triple-channel memory. Things are best when matched modules are used for memory.

    Since the Phenom II AM3 supports Dual-channel DDR3 and not triple-channel you are better off buying dual-channel DDR3 kits mainly because if you install 3 dimms your system will run in single channel mode, and if in dual channel you have an extra dimm. However, we have used triple channel dimm kits for Core i7 in AM3 dual-channel setups with no problems. One builder I know buys only triple-channel for the best value and then uses 2 or 3 or 4 or 6 DDR3 dimms - whatever is needed and works on the system - in his builds.

    The other way around is more an issue though, as the Core i7 memory controller can be very picky about the DDR3 you feed it. We know plenty of dual-channel dimms - mostly pre i7 - that work fine on other DDR3 boards, but that do not always play well with Core i7.

    Question 2 - We are trying to find an answer to this one.
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    You don't seem to mention anything about the network adapter in these systems. I know the motherboards all have built-in ethernet socket(s), but for gaming would you recommend a Killer Xeno Pro (or even the upcoming Killer Xeno Ultra)? Reply
  • MadMan007 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I'm going to harp on displays again like I do on most of these guides :p I understand the recommendation of 1920x1080 16:9 failratio TN displays at the lower end where 1680x1050 are similar price. I do wish you'd mention the reason why 16:9 is being pushed by display makers so hard though (cost savings for better margins) and also mention non-TN displays. At least the high-end rig has a 16:10 monitor but it's worse in a way because it's a travesty to get a TN display in a $1600+ system.

    Probably most people will carry over their monitor so perhaps it's not as important but at the same time a good monitor can last a lot longer than other components and it's something that impacts literally everything you do on a PC.
  • JanO - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    What I'm actually interested in, has so far gone uncovered in reviews... What is the performance advantage of crossfire setups for anti-aliasing at a given resolution?

    I don't care much about 127 fps when my LCD can only show 60 FPS. What I'd like to read about is to what extent can I push image quality (mostly AA & AF) while maintaining a 60 fps average.

    The thing I like most about PC gaming often goes unnoticed: There's a lot of fun (and value!)to be had by going back to older games and play them at crazy high quality settings & 24x anti-aliasing, never dropping below the magic 60fps!!!
  • cynic783 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    "However, Core i7 is at present a high-end CPU, with prices starting at $300 and extending to over $1000 just for the CPU."

    $279 on">

    Otherwise, nice article so far.
  • ratbert1 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I found the exact price and rebate you mention on the 2GB Reaper kit, not the 4GB kit.
    BTW, I have used OCZ's rebates several times, and have always received my money. Sometimes it takes months, as they start processing when the rebate period is over, not when they receive your mailing.
  • highlnder69 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I have used OCZ products for many years now. One major issue that I have with them is every time that I have sent in a rebate it has been rejected and I never received the money from them. This has happened now on three separate occasions. One of rejections was my fault because I had ordered some parts before I went to visit my Mother in Florida and the parts did not arrive before I left. I wasn't able to get it sent in the by the required time period. The other two times were sent in promptly but were rejected because they said the products were not correct. I even had the exact item highlighted on the rebate form that exactly matched my UPC that I sent to them. I love their products, but will NEVER purchase any of their products again just because of the mail in rebates which they do not seem to honor. Reply
  • Frallan - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Regardless of what sort of memory that is used there is still just not enough of it.

    I will be satisfied when OS +all system processes +the game im currently playing is all in RAM. Until then Ill go as far as i can afford and 6-8 GB is the minimum.

    So why no configs with more memory?
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    The availability of 4GB dimms remains very limited and the price is very high compared to 2GB dims, which are the sweet spot in today's memory market. If you want 8GB of memory then use two 4GB kits. That makes it very easy to figure the cost of an 8GB memory configuration. Reply
  • JanO - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Because most games are still 32 bit applications (and those that are 64bits get little benefit out of it, at least for now...). In such case, no matter if you use windows 32 or 64 bits, your 32 bit game will only get to use 2Gigs of RAM period, that's an application/OS limitation. There will then be plenty of space for the other processes in the remaining 2 Gigs...

    More than 4 Gigs is usually a waste for most people in most usage scenarios, unless you're into workstation class applications or want to run processor intensive tasks while you game (Why would anyone do that?); but most people should rather disable as much aplications/processes as possible when they game in order to get the smoothest performance, with no "hiccups". If your on an AMD platform, try their Fusion for gaming software, it did pretty well for me!
  • Wiremaster - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Very true, I'm running xp and I've never seen it use more than 1.7Gb, even when running Firefox 3 with like ten tabs, Media Monkey, and L4D.
    My dad runs Vista on 4Gb of RAM and rarely gets above 2.5Gb in use. So yes, 4Gb is enough unless you're doing rendering, multi-track audio recording, video editing, really intense photoshop, etc. Then the cost can be justified.
  • AlexWade - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I've been looking for that $40 rebate on the OCZ memory and cannot find it. Can anyone help? Reply
  • atlmann10 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Tiger direct has a sale on OCZ memory">

    4 gigs of DDDR3 1600 for about 50 dollars Total.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    The OCZ memories you link to Tiger Direct are also available at Newegg for about the same price. has also been aggressive lately in memory deals. Reply
  • atlmann10 - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I actually like this memory better than the 50 dollar OCZ though">

    mind you it is 80 dollars but some of the tightest as well as fastest timings I've seen on DDR3 and for 80 bucks I would choose it over the 50 dollar deal!
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    That deal is now gone. We will update the OCZ DDR3-1800 choice with another choice shortly. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    We have updated the DDR3 memory choices and prices, using an OCZ Reaper DDR3-1333 4GB 6-6-6 kit at $59.99. The Reaper DDR3-1600 and Reaper DDR3-1800 memory are available in specially priced combos with the Phenom II 955BE at Newegg right nowright now if you prefer a faster memory speed. Reply
  • whatthehey - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    I swear you did the exact same thing in the last guide, but anyway....

    Your own listing links to:">;tag=d...

    That has the right price, the right rebate, and the wrong amount of memory. Someone must have been tired when picking the RAM, but you chose OCZ3RPR18002GK when what you really wanted was OCZ3RPR18004GK. Not surprisingly, that's substantially more money:">

    Who in their right mind would want a 2x1GB kit these days? People looking for top benchmark performance might, but again, who in their *right* mind? No wonder the kit has a $40 rebate. Personally, I'm waiting for 2x4GB kits to start showing up at reasonable prices!
  • whatthehey - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Correction: Amazon *had* the right price and rebate, but it is indeed gone. Newegg has the big rebate though:">

    Again, that's for the wrong product... or rather, the guide lists the wrong product/price as this is a 2x1GB kit and not a 2x2GB kit.
  • poohbear - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    thanks anandtech for a fantastic article w/ tons of choices to ponder! i can't believe how cheap these parts are in the US, wish i lived there, hopefully we'll see such prices in other parts of the world cause i sure as hell can't get 4gb ddr3 reapers for $35!! :0 thanks again though and looking forward to upgrading next month, i'll be building a system around the "phenom"enal x3-720.:) Reply
  • Wiremaster - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Newegg has the all-black Coolermaster 534 for $50 as well.">
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 24, 2009 - link

    Thanks for letting us know about the price break on the all-black as well. Reply

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