Buyer's Guide: Value Professional 3D - July 2002by Matthew Witheiler on July 25, 2002 11:59 PM EST
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Value Professional 3D
Processor - AMD Athlon XP 1800+ (1.53GHz) - $79
The AMD Athlon processors have always done well in the professional 3D segment. In our last CPU review, the Athlon XP 2200+ review, we found that the Athlon XP 1800+ performed quite well in our professional 3D tests. The chip was able to out perform the Pentium 4 2.0GHz A in many cases and carries along with it a price tag almost $100 less. Add to this the lower motherboard costs associated with Athlon capable motherboards and you have a winner.
Truthfully it only made sense to choose an Athlon XP over an AMD Duron processor. The extra cache the Athlon XP has on die will most certainly help speed up your 3D rendering. We also decided to spring for the 1800+ over the 1700+ we recommended in the value gaming system. This was done because the extra speed offered by the 1800+ in intense professional 3D applications will certainly justify the $11 price increase. The next jump to the Athlon XP 1900+ will set you back an additional $25. At this point the marginal benefit from the increased clock speed is decreasing rapidly. Right now the 1800+ is in the sweet spot for professional 3D systems.
For more information on the AMD Athlon XP processor, check out our most recent AMD Athlon XP review.
Motherboard - MSI MS-6380E KT3 Ultra - $65
The price of our recommended KT333 motherboard solution has fallen by about $10 this week, making the deal even better. The MSI MS-6380E KT3 Ultra is the same KT333 based motherboard we recommended for our value gaming setup. We knew that the performance increase associated with using a KT333 chipset over a KT266A chipset would be worth it for the small price difference. Here is what we had to say about the MSI MS-6380E KT3 last week:
Next we were left trying to decide what KT333 motherboard we should use. In our recent KT333 roundup we found that many of the KT333 solutions out there were similar. In fact, we were not able to select a motherboard in the group worthy of the AnandTech Editor's Choice gold award. What we decided to do was go through the list of KT333 motherboards that we had and choose one based on features and price.
We went out searching for a KT333 motherboard in the $60-$80 price range that included both integrated 6 channel audio and integrated LAN. Unfortunately we could not find a suitable motherboard in this price range that offered both 6 channel integrated audio and integrated LAN. We were therefore forced to chose which feature we would rather have on the motherboard.
While a fast and reliable LAN card typically only costs about $20, a good 6 channel audio solution starts at $50 and up. With this in mind, we decided to go with a motherboard that offers integrated 6 channel audio as opposed to integrated LAN since it would save us money in the overall system price. We chose to go with the MSI MS-6380E KT3 Ultra not only because of its price but also because because it picked up the AnandTech Editors Choice Silver award in our KT333 roundup.
Memory - 512MB Mushkin PC2700 DDR SDRAM - $169
Memory prices have risen fairly noticeably this week, putting the price of our memory $45 dollars more than it would have cost us last week. We choose Mushkin memory again this week because of both its quality and its price. The 512MB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM from Mushkin cost us $30 less than it would have from other reputable memory manufacturers. If you can find better deals on memory out there from name brand manufacturers, by all means go with it.
We chose to outfit our value professional 3D system with 512MB of memory because the applications that such a system will be running are memory hungry. There is no longer a price advantage with getting the memory split over two sticks instead of one. In fact, two 256MB modules of the same memory will actually cost you about $10 more than going with one stick.
Video card - NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB - $140
Since we can afford to be a bit more lenient with price in our value professional 3D system we chose to outfit it with a GeForce3 Ti 4200. We knew that putting a DirectX 8 card in our value professional 3D system was a must as it is only with a DirectX 8 ready card that we can take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders. The professional 3D NVIDIA cards that include this functionality, the Quadro4 XGL cards, are priced far to high to find their way into a value system of any sorts. Don't fret: the hardware antialiased lines, hardware overlay planes, and two-sided lighting that the Quadro cards offer wont be missed much but the $400 or so that you save by going with the Ti 4200 would be.
We would suggest you stay away from previous generation Quadro based cards. Although prices of Quadro2 cards have fallen quite a bit from their prices a year ago, the cards miss out on the advanced GeForce4 features such as DX 8 compatibility and an enhanced T&L engine. When deciding what GeForce4 Ti 4200 to go with, just stick with the least expensive one you can find. We saw in our GeForce4 Ti 4200 roundup that all 4200 cards are created equal.
The other card you may consider going with is the card we placed in our value gaming system, the ATI Radeon 8500 LE. The 8500 LE will not be as fast as the GeForce4 Ti 4200 but it will cost you almost $50 less.
Be sure to check out our GeForce4 Ti 4200 roundup for more information about the NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200.
Monitor - Cornerstone C1035 - $499
Just like 19" monitor prices, 21" monitor prices have been falling the recent months. We decided that the extra money that a 21" monitor will cost you is worth it on a professional 3D system such as this one. We chose to recommend the Cornerstone C1035 due to our personal experience with it. During our testing we were very pleased with the monitor and found that it was able to provide quite the bang for the buck.
You are fairly safe going with a 21" monitor from any major monitor manufacturer. Just make sure that it can display a resolution of at least 1600x1200 at a refresh rate of 70Hz or above.
For more information on the Cornerstone C1035, check out the review we did on the monitor.