As we detailed in our last few Guides, the guides for High End System and Overclocking System are by Wesley Fink, AnandTech's Motherboard, Memory and Chipset Editor. Wes will have a new guide for each area about once a month once the new guide schedule is in full swing. Evan Lieb will continue the Entry and Mid-Level Buyer's Guides. Evan will also add some new guides, with the goal of a new Buyer's Guide from him every week. If you have recommendations on a Buyer's Guide for Evan, then email your ideas to Evan.

Overclocking recommendations are really quite different from High-End recommendations. We would not recommend a 2.8GHz P4 CPU for a High-End system, but it might be a natural choice for an OC guide if that 2.8 routinely reached 3.8GHz on air cooling. There are really two points to overclocking, and they are sometimes in conflict. The first is to squeeze the absolute best performance possible out of a given setup, and this can involve some expensive components. The second is to reach the highest performance possible with a given processor with the cheapest part possible, which represents the best value. Sometimes you can't achieve both these things at the same time, so you may see some recommendations with what at first appear to be strange alternatives. We also can't be all things to all overclockers, so we will spell out some ground rules on the next page.

As in past Guides, we offer a recommendation for every component that goes into a computer. Our recommendation is our First Choice and we will try to explain why we chose that component. For some components, we will also offer an alternative on that type of hardware. We've added alternative hardware picks to our guides because it allows AnandTech to recommend a wider variety of hardware. This is especially true for those willing to spend a little more or to recommend a cheaper component that is of outstanding value. Alternative picks provide you other choices, which in some cases will be better suited for your needs, and in other cases, will not be.

Most of the prices listed for the hardware that we recommend can be found in our very own RealTime pricing engine. Any prices not found in our engine can be found on pricewatch. Relevant parts of our RealTime pricing engine are listed at the bottom of every page of our Buyer's Guides so that you can choose the lowest prices from a large variety of vendors.

Overclocking Ground Rules


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  • whitelight - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    For ram, look into PQI's 2-2-2-5 (2x512mb) solution. It overclocks really well with relatively tight timings and has samsung's tccd chips. It's also cheaper than other solutions ($250) Reply
  • axel - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Hi, very interesting article indeed.

    The only thing I do not really understand, and rather see as an error is the following:

    You say that almost every top overclockers i.e. in the futuremark 3dmarks ORB database are on AMD platforms. Though, except if I'm not looking at the right place, if I'm taking into account the 5 best scores, I see that 4 of them are running Pentium4 platforms, and only one is an AMD (which is actually on the 4th position of the top-5).
  • AlphaFox - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Id like to see how the XP stacks up against the 64 when overclocked.. I have a XP mobile 2600 and am running it at 2.46Ghz and everything I throw at it runs as smooth as silk.. I dont see a need to upgrade unless there was something I couldnt run, or run smooth. Reply
  • eetnoyer - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Any chance you've tested the limits of the ballistix RAM on the DFI. If so, how high did it reach? Reply
  • Nickel020 - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Nice article, but there is a mistake on page 5 (CPU and Motherboard: VALUE OC Recommendations):
    The heatsinks listed (XP-90 & 120) are made by Thermalright, not Thermaltake.
  • Shinei - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Nice article, though I'm curious to see how the 3200-M64 performs compared to the Clawhammer and Newcastle desktop cores. I know the Newcastle revisions have an upgraded memory controller, or something like that; does the 3200-M64 have the same upgrades, or is it based on the older Clawhammer revision?
    And why the choice of OCZ's PowerStream? Antec puts out a 550w that's just as reliable as the 480w you suggested as an alternative... Unless I missed a review that pointed out the OCZ to be more robust than the Antec supply.
  • qquizz - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    This is my type of review. I can't have too many of them. I do agree with slashbinslashbash about some guidance on value oriented RAM. The price differences between 2-2-2-5 memory and say 2.5-x-x-x value memory is rather drastic. But if none of it will o/c then so be it. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    #2: Under the Value OC Alternative system Wesley writes "Buy an ATI 9800 PRO for $200 less and overclock the heck out of it." So it looks like you were right on the money ;) Personally I'm looking at a 9600XT All-In-Wonder as it's about the same price at Newegg; less performance in games (still reasonable framerates in Doom3) but with the ever-so-cool All-In-Wonder functionality added. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Great guide. The only thing that I'd ask you to do differently (or rather, to add next time) is to make a "value" recommendation for the RAM. Nowadays I won't use any less than a gig of RAM, but I think it's silly to pay substantially more for RAM than for the CPU. Even just one stick of 512MB in the Value Alternative system costs more than the CPU.

    I'd like to know some "value" RAM alternatives that might not have such aggressive latency timings but will still keep up with the mobo and CPU, if it's possible. I know you guys can't test every cheapo stick of RAM out there, but... any sort of guidance would be appreciated. All the big brands offer "Value" RAM. Will none of it overclock? Is the performance from the recommended $280 (for 1GB) RAM actually worth the $120 premium it commands over, say, two $80 sticks of Corsair Value Select (on front page of ZipZoomFly)? Would that $120 be better spent on the CPU? It's more than the difference between the Sempron 3100+ and the "Value Recommended" system's A64 3200+.. and it nearly covers the upgrade to both the CPU and motherboard.

    Also, two errors: 1) the eVGA 6800GT is listed as $389 under the Value Alternative system but at $383 under the Value Recommended system; 2) the Value Recommended system sums to $1440, not $1460.

    Again, great guide, it's probably what I'll be looking at when I decide on my next system.
  • decptt - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    For AGP VGA, do you have a value altervative for limited budget not playing doom3?

    For me, 6800 is too powerful to run multimedia and encoding DivX.

    Do you think 9800Pro can be runner up?
    Anyone knows about when ATI X series for AGP (X300, X600) will be coming? or ONLY PCI Express :'(

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