Weekly Buyer's Guide: High End System - April 2004by Evan Lieb on April 30, 2004 12:05 AM EST
- Posted in
CPU and Motherboard RecommendationsCPU: AMD Athlon 64 3400+ 1MB L2 cache (2.2GHz) Hammer core
Motherboard: MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R (VIA K8T800)
Price: CPU - $415 shipped (retail heatsink and fan). Motherboard - $123 shipped
This choice was probably one of the most difficult of all the choices here today, as both AMD and Intel offer blazingly fast processors for almost exactly the same price at this particular speed grade. What finally pushed us over the top was the Athlon 64 3400+'s 64-bit capability. Since all current Pentium 4 processors can only run 32-bit code, AMD's Athlon 64 is unique because it can run 32-bit code just as well the competition in addition to 64-bit code. This will be advantageous to users because later this year, 64-bit compatible applications (for example, video games such as Unreal Tournament) will be released to the public as well as Microsoft's Windows XP 64-bit Edition, which contains support for AMD's Athlon 64 processor. As you may have read right here on AnandTech, we conducted several tests with the preview version of Windows XP 64-bit Edition and were impressed by some of the performance gains that 64-bit computing is able to bring to the desktop. The poor results that we received in other areas with the beta version of Windows XP 64-bit Edition were almost solely due to the fact that we did not have complete drivers. However, by the end of the year, or possibly sooner, this will not be the case because complete drivers and 64-bit applications will be available, and we're likely to see even more performance gains from having a 64-bit processor.
Before we talk about today's recommended motherboard, we should mention that Socket 939 processors and motherboards (based on chipsets like the nForce3 250) will be released in the coming weeks. Depending on what programs you run the most and what features you need, you may or may not want nForce3 250/Gb motherboards and Socket 939 processors, but we suggest that you read up on them to get a good idea of what they offer before you make the decision to purchase a high end system. If you need to build your high end system immediately, then you have no need to worry about anything, but reviewing this article and doing any other research you need for parts today. We also suggest that you take a look at our review of MSI's nForce3 250Gb motherboard, dubbed the MSI K8N Neo.
MSI has built an excellent Socket 754 motherboard with their K8T Neo series. The one that we're recommending here today is their K8T Neo-FIS2R. The "FIS2R" signifies that this is MSI's top-of-the-line motherboard. "FIS2R" means that this motherboard comes with IEEE1394 FireWire, IDE/SATA (RAID), and GbE LAN (Realtek). Overall, the K8T Neo-FIS2R offers an excellent feature set and superb performance, overclocking and otherwise. We've personally tested this motherboard extensively at AnandTech and highly recommend it for any buyer considering a high end Socket 754 motherboard.
We'd also like to bring special attention to AOpen's AK86-L. While the AK86-L is by no means a feature-rich motherboard, what separates it from the pack is its excellent performance and BIOS features. We'd be remiss not to at least mention this motherboard for a high end system because of its performance and BIOS features; though at the same time, we can't recommend the AK86-L simply because of various standard onboard features it lacks compared to the majority of high end motherboards. We think so highly of this motherboard that we recently gave it our Editor's Choice Gold Award. We recommend that you at least peruse that review to get an idea of what the AOpen AK86-L can offer you.
Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:
If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.