Introduction

It’s been a while since we really tackled anything at the high end of the computing spectrum. Since our November Gaming Guide, there have been some major changes in most areas. About the only areas that haven’t changed much are the mass storage and optical storage areas and even those have a few new additions. We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll just get right into it and skip all the preliminary niceties.

The biggest decision up front is, as usual, the choice of platform: AMD or Intel. For the mid-range to high end markets, we can narrow our focus quite a bit. There’s little need to look at the budget Sempron and Celeron chips, and socket 754 and 478 don’t hold much interest. Upgraders might be interested in offerings for these platforms, but we'll defer to our recent article covering CPU cores rather than deal with that here. While PCIe cards are definitely the future, we'll also have some advice for those of you who may already have a capable system and are looking to last until the next platform transition – that's about a year or so off, in case you were wondering.

Looking toward the future, there has been quite a bit of coverage recently about the latest processors coming from AMD and Intel, particularly the dual core solutions. At present, none of the dual core chips are really available (other than in OEM systems), but if heavy multitasking describes your typical workload, waiting for the dual core solutions to appear in quantity might be worthwhile. What we’ll focus on in this Guide is the current single core setups, which for most people are still more than sufficient to accomplish any given task. For the High-End buyers – particularly those who want to buy a top-end computer once every three years and then use it with few upgrades – you'll definitely want to take a closer look at our Dual Core Performance Preview before laying down several thousand dollars on a current system.

A word about prices: We're using our RealTime Pricing Engine for the majority of the prices listed, although we also shop around at various online resellers for many of the products. If you can find components for less money from a dealer who you trust, all the better. We don't include mail-in rebates in our price quotes either, which can further reduce the cost. These prices are also just a snapshot in time – May 13 th, 2005 for this Guide – so they are bound to change.

AMD Recommendations
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  • PotterVilla - Wednesday, December 28, 2005 - link

    Hello,

    I've not been able to find a XFX, MSI, or eVGA 6800GT graphics card at new egg (I'm not really looking to buy, just being wishful) and I also saw that the 6800XT is only $170. The 7800GT is more in your ballpark of $345 a card. Would ether of these cards be an upgrade, and has their price gone down that much ($175) in only about seven months?

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • jonp - Friday, August 26, 2005 - link

    i wonder about the hp 1905fp recommend for the mid-range non-gaming display. there are considerable comments here and elsewhere about the poor analog (d-sub 15 pin) performance ie image quality. the Genesis gm-5321 controller chip is no longer shown on their web site and the datasheets are no longer available as well. (one wonders how much longer the 1905fp will even be available?) the dvi interface might be great, but there are some of us who connect their display through a kvm that only handles analog signals--so dvi performance is of little interest. i think we need a new monitor review and new pick for the non-gaming monitor recommendation. we depend on Anandtech for solid testing and non-subjective analysis to guide us in our quest for the best value. it is clear that we need new help in this area. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 16, 2005 - link

    56 - not usually on NVIDIA nF3/4 or Intel chipsets. That's only an issue with secondary SATA controllers (VIA, SiS, Silicon Image, etc.) But still, never hurts to have that $8 part around just in case! Reply
  • mhallang - Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - link

    Another reason to get a floppy drive is to install Win XP on a SATA drive. Maybe SP2 is different, and I would bet there's another way around it; but my experience was that I needed a floppy with the SATA drivers during the install process for XP. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 13, 2005 - link

    54 - Oh, I'd stay far away from XP64 for SLI. Raw doesn't begin to describe it, IMO. Longhorn is when I'll actually consider switching to a 64-bit OS. Reply
  • GreedyBumps - Thursday, June 09, 2005 - link

    I built this system with all major components that are in this guide and cannot get SLI to work. Both cards work great individually but when I try to but them both in in SLI mode screen goes black after the black windows loading screen. I have tried all the driver / bios updates for everything I could find and still no dice.

    One issue could be that I installed Windows x64 professional - maybe some drivers are still too raw.

    Also - the SLI jumpers on this DFI Lanparty board are a complete pain. They are tough to pull out and there are 6 of them. When you are trying to get SLI to work it is absolute nightmare to keep switching between SLI and Normal jumper cable settings.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - link

    52 - I got the information from Wesley. Basically, there is a higher number of RMA for motherboards and RAM when voltages above 3.3V are used. (Not too surprising, really, as higher V = higher heat.) 3.3V and below are fine, but there is a jumper to allow up to 4.0V. If you use that jumper, it causes problems. That's my understanding. In other words, don't plan on running OCZ VX at 3.7V with no active cooling. :) Reply
  • hgkfahgsa - Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - link

    Jarred, could you elaborate on the problems with high voltages with the DFI cards? Is there any chance of the problems being resolved, does 3.3 volts work? etc... Thanks. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 27, 2005 - link

    50 - I know there are some Turtle Beach cards with S/PDIF in and out connections. M-Audio also has some, i.e. the Delta and Audiophile. Which one you want depends on the use. Most only have optical *OR* coaxial (RCA). I think many of the models with external boxes have both. If you were interested in an expensive, "everything" solution, there's the Audigy 4 Pro, but that's $280 or so, and I can't vouch for the actual quality as a whole.

    Honestly, I'm not a demanding audio person. If you want more advice on audio, I'm sure there are people in our forums that can provide better advice for "pro level" cards. You may as well ask me for advice on cars while you're at it! (Get something cheap and reliable!) ;-)
    Reply
  • devslash - Friday, May 27, 2005 - link

    how important is capability of S/PDIF input. i dont see many motherboards that have this on-board.

    isn't it important/good to have it, so DVD's audio
    can be directly fed into the on-board sound system?

    can you recommend a good board w/ S/PDIF input?
    Reply

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