Cutting Edge System


Recommendation: AMD Athlon 64 3400+ 1MB L2 cache (2.2GHz) Hammer core
Price: $414 shipped (retail with heatsink and fan)

For the third week in a row, we recommend yet another AMD Athlon processor. This time, it's AMD's Hammer series of processor, dubbed the Athlon 64. 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. However, 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.

Runner-up: Intel Pentium 4 3.4C (512K L2 cache) Northwood
Price: $421 shipped (retail with heatsink and fan)

The highest-end version of Intel's Northwood core (the 3.4C) chosen here today came in a close second behind AMD's Athlon 64 3400+. Both offer virtually the same performance in today's applications depending on exactly which applications you use. If you're strictly a desktop user and do a lot of encoding, then you will want to stick to the 3.4C over the 3400+ for now. If you're a gamer, then you should stick to the 3400+ instead of the 3.4C. We suggest that you research for yourself and see which processor fits you best by first reading AnandTech's latest CPU article on this matter. One other advantage of going with a Pentium 4 is Hyper Threading. Hyper Threading can increase performance quite drastically in multi-tasking situations, but is less and less noticeable as clock speed increases. In today's applications, HT offers very little benefit, though future iterations of HT that we haven't tested yet are supposed to be promising.

One thing we'd like to make clear before you move on is the labeling system Intel uses with their high-end processors. An Intel Pentium 4 labeled with a "C" after its core clock speed (3.4C in this case) is based on the Northwood core, has 512K of L2 cache, and is built on (mostly) 0.13-micron technology. A Pentium 4 labeled with an "E" after its core clock speed (3.4E for example) is based on the Prescott core, has 1MB of L2 cache, and is built on (mostly) 0.09-micron technology. Finally, a Pentium 4 labeled with an "EE" after its core clock speed (3.4EE for example) is based on the Northwood core, has 512K of L2 cache plus 2MB of L3 cache, and is built on (mostly) 0.13-micron technology. The C, E, and EE Pentium 4 processors all run at 800MHz FSB and are dual channel DDR capable. We explained in great detail why you want to stay away from Prescott E processors here. If you can spare the money, the Pentium 4 EE (Extreme Edition) processors are considered to be the absolute fastest available desktop processors, slightly inching out rival AMD's Athlon 64 FX51. However, prices for these processors are extremely prohibitive, especially the Pentium 4 EE processors, and why we can't recommend either the Pentium 4 EE or Athlon 64 FX processors here today.

Index Motherboard picks...
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • NordicNINE - Saturday, May 1, 2004 - link

    Don't aperture grill monitors have lower quality text? I'm looking at a 21"/22" monitor also right now and almost everything I read states that aperture grill monitors may have better graphics and brighter colors, they have lower text quality.
    Since the 1100DF is a high end shadowmask monitor, wouldn't it have better text?
    How is the color brightness compared to the Phillips and the 1200NF?
  • pieman7 - Monday, March 15, 2004 - link

    Thanks a bunch for your ealier response. Still regarding the Philips 202P45: You mentioned it's 2048 x 1536 max resolution. Online vendors I've seen selling this CRT also list this as its max. However, at the Philip's web site ( it lists the max resolution as 1920 x 1440. Who's right? Have you or anyone else been able to actually get it to display at this resolution?
  • demonbug - Monday, March 8, 2004 - link

    Speakers/Sound card:

    First of all, why not go with an Audigy2 Platinum, since this is a cutting-edge system? It costs more, but gives you so many cool input options that it seems like it would be a great idea - you seem to have put together a great cutting-edge gaming system, but it might be nice to give it a little more versatility.

    As for speakers, as several others have done, I would suggest Klipsch Promedias. I've only got the 2.1 system (I've had it for years), and it kicks the ass of every other speaker system I've heard (though I must admit I haven't heard either of the two you recommend outside of a store). Additionally, according to published specs by both companies, the Klipsch speakers have significantly better frequency response than the Logitech speakers, and much better THD than the Creative Labs speakers (10%???? Thats the worst number I have ever seen).
    If price is the reason you recommended the ones you did, fine, just say so. From personal listening experience, the Klipsch speakers offer incredible sound quality (for computer/multimedia speakers - still don't compare to a stereo), and while I haven't heard the systems you recommend, the specs suggest that the Klipsch speakers are quite a bit better.
  • Evan Lieb - Saturday, March 6, 2004 - link


    I've only used the 1200NF and PF2141SB, not the P225FB. The 202P45 isn't quite as good as those, but that's more of a personal preference. Gaming is just as good and 2D text clarity MAY be worse with the Phillips. Overall, very little difference and certainly not worth $100. At least, that's IMO. Every monitor, even monitors that are of the exact same brand and model, can be significantly different in performance.
  • pieman7 - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    I seem to be one of many who is in the market for a higher end monitor and your high praises for the Philips 202P45 got my attention. This is the first time I've seen any reviews for this CRT. It meets my price range, but am wondering how it compares to other 22in CRTs I've looked at:
    Samsung 1200NF
    Viewsonic P225FB
    NEC FP2141SB
    These CRTs are at about $100 or so more expensive, but in your opinion does the 202P45 still hold its own as far as picture quality, text clarity, and minimal geometric distortion? If so, then the 202P45 would seem to be a no-brainer choice.

    Your thoughts very much appreciated.
  • Brickster - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    Posted by Fink:
    "I would agree that it would likely be best to wait for 939 and an FX chip in Dual-Channel unbuffered configuration if you want the best and you're willing to wait 2 or 3 months for the hardware to appear. For now, FX51 is still the top performer. "

    I agree. I have two top end games coming out this month that I have been waiting a long time for. However, upgradeability with the upcoming 939 is going to be the way to go for me, so looks like I am going to have to wait longer for my upgrade -- It's definitely worth the wait.
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    While I do agree with Evan that the 3400+ is the best upeer value in any system you can buy (the 3200+ is the best value cpu - period), I believe Cutting Edge means the best you can buy. Since you can build the best performing machine I have ever tested for only $486 more, then Wes' Pick for CUTTING EDGE SYSTEM:

    Athlon 64 FX51 $745 (vs. $418 for 3400+) +$331
    Asus SK8V $209 (vs. $139) +$70
    1GB OCZ PC3500 ECC Registered (2X512MB)$300 (vs. $215 for 1GB unbuffered) +86

    The FX51 with Dual-Channel ECC memory is STILL the fastest system you can buy, and the Asus SK8V is the best-performing motherboard I have ever tested. This FX51, Dual-Channel ECC system is not a lot faster than the 3400+, but for only $486 more (Total $2701) you can have the ABSOLUTE BEST instead of almost there. It is also Dual-Channel, and all of AMD's A64 performance systems will soon be DC with the move to Socket 939.

    Since Socket 754 will be gone soon, I would also weigh the fact that Socket 940 has more longevity than the 3400+ system and will likely be around a while longer and STILL be a top performer with either FX or Opteron.

    I would agree that it would likely be best to wait for 939 and an FX chip in Dual-Channel unbuffered configuration if you want the best and you're willing to wait 2 or 3 months for the hardware to appear. For now, FX51 is still the top performer.
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    While I understand Evan's selections, I disagree with some of them, based on my reviews published at AnandTech, and testing that has not yet appeared in reviews.

    1 - My pick for top Athlon 64 motherboard would be the MSI K8T Neo, with the AOpen AK86-L as an extremely close runner-up at a lower price. Both are exceptionally stable and overclock well, with the AOpen a better overclocker. The Asus K8V is a decent A64 motherboard, but it is not a good overclocker and is not particularly stable in my experience.

    2 - The Asus P4C800-E is the ONLY motherboard recommended by both Corsair and OCZ for DDR550. It is the best performing, highest overclocking, and most stable P4 motherboard I have tested and would be my recommendation. The runner-up would be the DFI 875B LANParty, which is the second best overclocking board I have tested and is also exceptionally stable and performs very well in Revision 2 clothes. I would also give high marks to the SiS-chipset Asus P4S800D-E. All three of these selections also have PROVEN complete compatibility with Northwood, Prescott, and Extreme Edition.

  • VIAN - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    Sorry for posting a question already answered with the HDD issue.
  • VIAN - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    The Western Digital Raptor 36.7GB 10,000RPM SATA? Isn't that supposed to be the loser with a false promise. The great performance that it hyped up was only shown up with the 74GB version. I think that the 74GB version would be a way better buy.

    No second Optical Storage? What if you want to burn CD to CD or DVD to DVD?

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now