Buyer's Guide: High End System - May 2004by Wesley Fink on May 26, 2004 11:00 AM EST
- Posted in
CPU and Motherboard RecommendationsCPU: AMD Athlon 64 FX53 1MB L2 cache (2.4GHz)
Motherboard: Asus SK8V (VIA K8T800)
Price: CPU - $731 shipped (retail heatsink and fan). Motherboard - $171 shipped
This was a difficult choice when the high-end selections were Athlon 64 3400+ (2.2Ghz), Athlon 64 FX51 (2.2GHz), Pentium 4 3.4C, and Pentium 4 3.4EE. However, the introduction of the FX53 brings us the only current Athlon 64 at 2.4GHz, which makes the FX53 the fastest CPU you can buy. Selecting the FX53 was only a concern because the introduction of Socket 939 is just around the corner. Yes, Socket 939 will be here next month, but the FX53 will still be the fastest Athlon 64 that you can buy; there will just be an additional FX53 for Socket 939. As you had read in our AMD roadmaps, there will also be a 3800+ for Socket 939 with 512KB cache instead of the 1MB available on the FX53 chips, so you know that the FX53 is blazing fast and faster than a 3800+ will be. In addition to the fast 32-bit performance that we found in our review of the FX53, the FX53 also supports 64-bit computing for the future. Prices have also dropped a bit so that the FX53 is about $300 more than a slower 2.2GHz 3400+. While that's a big price difference for a CPU, it is really fairly small in building a high-end system. The FX53 is also now 30% cheaper than Intel's top 3.4EE, which costs over $1000. Furthermore, all current Pentium 4 processors can only run 32-bit code, so AMD's Athlon 64 is unique because it can run 32-bit code as well or better than the top competition in addition to 64-bit code for the future. All-in-all, the FX53 represents a good choice if you are building a high end system today. If not, wait a few weeks and consider this same FX53 in Socket 939 clothes.
For the Socket 940 FX53, there is no better choice than the Asus SK8V. In our roundup of Socket 940 motherboards, the SK8V out-paced the competition in almost every benchmark and earned our Gold Editor's Choice as the best Socket 940 motherboard.
The Asus SK8V earned Editor's Choice because it is simply the fastest AMD motherboard that we have ever tested. Wherever the SK8V is benchmarked, it has earned an Editor's Choice for the kind of legendary performance that makes it the ideal heart for a High End system. Don't confuse the Asus SK8V with the SK8N, which is built on the nVidia nForce3-150 chipset. The VIA K8T800 performs much better than the nF3-150 on the more demanding Socket 940 Dual-Channel platform.
The Asus SK8V is fully decked-out as you would expect from the Asus flagship board for Athlon 64. Features include dual RAID capabilities with both VIA SATA RAID supported by the VIA 8237 and Promise 20378 IDE/SATA RAID. You will also find on-board 6-channel SoundMax audio from ADI AD1985 that includes SPDIF connections, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 Firewire 1394a ports, and an Asus WiFi slot for wireless capabilities. An added bonus is that the Athlon 64 FX processors are completely unlocked and the SK8V supports this well with CPU ratios from 800 to 4000 in 100MHz increments. Whatever your FX-53 can do on overclocking is supported on the SK8V. Asus has lavished every top-end feature in their huge arsenal on the SK8V and it definitely wears the features very well. As a personal testimony, the SK8V is a favorite motherboard with Anand and Derek in our Raleigh, NC labs and with me in our New York labs. The best recommendation we could possibly make is that the Asus SK8V is the heart of two of these personal systems.
For those not comfortable with the ECC Registered memory requirements of the Socket 940 for Athlon 64 FX and Opteron, the recommendation is the MSI K8N Neo Platinum or one of several other excellent boards based on the new nVidia nForce3-250 chipset. While VIA may own the performance crown for Socket 940, nF3-250 owns the crown for enthusiast features on the Single-Channel Socket 754. All of the nF3-250 boards that we have tested have working PCI/AGP locks to get the most from any CPU and memory that you choose to use. More information on the MSI can be found in the K8N Neo review. For the Socket 754 Alternate, the Athlon 64 3400+ gets our nod.
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.