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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  • CP5670 - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    You can still get Mitsubishi 2070s (I got a new one for $600 about three weeks ago), although they are out of production and are somewhat hard to find.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    44 - Venice and Winchester seem to be the same chip, only with SSE3 enabled on Venice. I don't think it matters much for games right now, but with the difference only being $4 now, go for it. (At the time I wrote this Guide, Winchester retail chips were $20 less than Venice retail chips, which is harder to justify.)

    47 - I've emailed a few people about this, but basically there just aren't any improvements to CRTs coming out these days. You can still find some Dell, HP, etc. monitors that use the same tube as the NEC FE2111SB, and it's a good tube overall. The Mitsubishi 2070 still boasts the best specs I'm aware of (140 kHz horizontal scan rate and 2048x1536 resolution).

    If you want a CRT, by all means get one. The Samsung 997DF is still a decent 19" model for around $210, though it's not perfectly flat. NEC FE991SB are also good, though they cost more than the Samsung. If you can find a discount on a Dell, HP, etc. CRT and it sports an aperture grille, it's probably going to be similar enough to the NEC/Mitsubishi models that you wouldn't notice other than the exterior.

    Personally, I'm just tired of large CRTs, and I've recommended them in so many Guides (without any change) that it's time to move on. I'll continue to mention them, but I don't recommend them anymore for a lot of people.
  • CrimsonChaos - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    Great guide!

    I was recently considering buying a system inbetween a mid-range and high-end computer. This would have been a tremendous help to me as I started the researching process.

    Just a quick question -- why no PC Power & Cooling power supply for a high-end system? That too expensive even for the biggest enthusiast (aka money-waster)??

    Also, going to add any normal CRT recommendations to the "Display" part?
  • Olaf van der Spek - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    Re: 16

    > and I feel about the same for audio.

    That's not a very strong argument.

    But because audio is always integrated while video isn't, it's indeed simpler to add one later.
  • ceefka - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    #43 Reapsy00,

    About every new CPU, mobo/chipset, graphicscard, RAM, LCD/CRT mentioned here has been benched, just not in this same article.

    Also, recommendations here were winners in past benchmarkings before this article.

    You'll even find links to benchmarks in the buyers guide. In my opinion AT has got it nailed pretty good.
  • dmaduram - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    Kudos to Jarred for such an excellent guide -- it's quite informative!

    Just two quick questions -- first of all, with regard to gaming, is there an advantage in selecting a AMD-Venice core instead of a AMD-Wichester core? I was unsure on what specific applications recieved a boost from Venice's "SSE3" support.

    Secondly, d'you know if there are any disadvantages in purchasing a Venice core instead of the recommended Wichester core? There's only a 4-dollar difference in price on NewEgg, so I was wondering which one I should buy for my gaming box :)
  • Reapsy00 - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    You see lots of these buyer's guides on different sites, AT should take it further and build the system's and benchmark 'em.
  • Calin - Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - link

    No problem, Tujan
    I wouldn't choose a VIA miniITX platform - the 1GHz processors are quite faster than the older 700-800MHz ones. However, their very size forces them to be niche systems.
    If I would like a computer in my car, a MiniITX would be the best choice. But for a stand alone, I very much prefer upgradable PC technology
  • R3MF - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    ah well, my new shuttle SN25P with a 3200 Venice, 6600GT (£98.00), and 250GB 7200.8 doesn't look too shabby.

    it even has onboard via-envy sound, and will be even better with a 7800GT and dual-core X2 early next year.

    i am happy.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - link

    35 - Thanks. I wasn't aware of that. (I hate it when manufacturers do that!) Anyway, I added a comment about this in the article. Basically, I'm saying that RAM with TCCD blanks is still a great choice for overclockers looking for maximum clock speeds.

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