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

  • agent2099 - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    You need to recommend a "OS" drive, as well as a storage drive. I don't think having just a 36GB drive is practical these days. You could have said 36/74GB Raptor for the OS, and perhaps a WD or Seagate 120-200GB drive for storage.

    Also, no LCD recommendation?
  • buleyb - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    why no high end LCDs? boooo
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    I lost my post due to some network issues earlier, but I was going to mention that the final price table, while correct, might be better if you pulled the $55 power supply out of the case listing, or at the very least showed the price of the case and power supply as $125 and not $70. Adding up the right column comes up $55 short of the total, and the "$55 for power supply" in the case text isn't that clear. Also, no alternative recommendations for the case or power supply? What gives? I guess Antec is the best PS manufacturer.... [Dons flame-retardant suit.]
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    #17, I'm pretty sure that's what they plan for the "Overclocker's System". Buy moderate priced parts and overclock for extra performance.

    Anyway, if you're really looking at that price range, here's what I would change from this high-end system:

    1) Drop the CPU to an Athlon 3000+/3200+ to save $150 to almost $200.

    2) Drop the graphics card to the Radeon 9800 Pro to save $200.

    3) Do you need the monitor? If so, go with a 19" instead of 21" to save another $200.

    4) I would really recommend going with one large 160GB hard drive instead of two Raptors. Performance won't be as good, but I personally have about 60GB of files in just my GAMES folder! With movies, MP3s, etc. plus applications and Windows itself, I have about 140GB of data on my hard drives. Two Raptors just isn't going to cut it, especially with their cost.
  • joey2264 - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    First of all, I want to say that I object to anandtech saying that my hotmail account is not a real account just because many others have abused that particular name. If they want to block it, that is fine, but to tell someone to get a real account when thousands of people use hotmail is just absurd.

    I just wanted to mention in this forum, that I really liked the three guides that have been produced so far, but I would really like if Anandtech made a fourth one in between the "mid-range" and the "high-end" guides. maybe in the range of $1500-1600 (this is how much that I want to spend on my system) I'm sure that there are a lot of people who are weary of spending $2200+, but who are also not looking to have a bargain basement system. Thanks
  • Cygni - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    I dont really understand the point of anything above DDR400 on A64 based system, personally...
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Why did you pick the Abit IC7-G for your P4 mobo option. In the AT memory articles, AT(Wesley) uses the Asus P4C800-E deluxe which is also the only m'board suitable for DDR550 from Corsair and OCZ ( In other benchmarking articles, AT uses an ordinary Intel mobo also regarded as stable.
    I dont mind I've got an IC7-G and have found it quite stable under stressful conditions. However, both AT and others have said in the past that IC7s have memory stability issues, so I'm intrigued to know why you selected the ABIT over the ASUS for a system where stability has high priority?
  • yc6489 - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Why not the universally acclaimed Z-680 for the speakers? Also I would go with the NEC/Mitsubishi FP2141SB-BK for the monitor.
  • Abraxas - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    i have sennheiser hd500s that i got from amazon for 65 bucks 2 years ago. great headphones, shitty cable... had to replace the cable once about 18 months ago for 12 bucks shipped, and its going out again as well. bad habit of chewing the cable as i play cs :)
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Headphones: Sennheiser HD600s :) Better than anything you could buy - albeit you wont exactly be able to share what youre lisetning too.

    Grados are good too though - i have a few pairs.


Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now