Basic High-End AMD System

Basic High-End AMD System
Hardware Component Price Rebates
Processor AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ $179 -
Motherboard DFI LANPARTY UT NF590 SLI-M2R/G $160 -
Memory 2GB Kit DDR2 PC2-6400 OCZ Platinum $125 -
Video Card 2x EVGA NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 640MB $700 $60
Hard Drive Samsung SpinPoint HD501LJ 500GB $112 -
Optical Drive Pioneer DVR-212BK $42 -
Operating System Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2B (OEM) $110 -
System Total $1428 $1368
Complete Package $1964-$3623 $1904-$3563

In terms of gaming, there are relatively few titles which will currently take advantage of multiple cores at all, and an even smaller subset of those titles will attempt to use more than two cores in a meaningful way. A high-end system with a price ceiling of $2,000 will therefore be better served by an investment in other system components, rather than in an upgrade to the AMD FX processors. The 5600+ gets the nod over the more expensive 6000+ as the added 200 MHz of the 6000+ generally doesn't improve performance enough to warrant the extra money - investing the money in other areas will generally help more. Still, if you're inclined to spend the $50 more for the 6000+ there's nothing inherently wrong with doing so.

The DFI motherboard provides a strong platform for a high-end system. Coming in at a relatively inexpensive $160, this component provides the full 16 lanes for each graphics card in SLI mode and has all the bells and whistles (FireWire, dual gigabit network adapters, etc.) that are expected on a board in this class. The memory chosen for the system, the OCZ PC2-6400 OCZ2P800LP2GK, is turned specifically for this motherboard. As a result, the memory is capable impressive 4-4-4-1T timings, which noticeably improves the performance of the system.

The EVGA 8800 GTS cards in this system are very close to the fastest gaming configuration available today, trailing only its 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra siblings. Despite the additional $100 in cost, we feel it makes sense to go for the 640MB versions of the card rather than the 320MB. The reason is that 512MB cards have been available for some time now, and games are beginning to require more RAM to run at the highest detail settings. These cards leverage DX10 and ensure that this system can handle anything which the gaming market can throw at it. For users looking to avoid the headaches which occasionally result from running an SLI system, a single MSI NX8800GTX-T2D768E-HD OC as chosen for our Ultra SLI systems will provide performance approaching the GTS SLI option, while reducing the overall system cost. Should you choose that route, you could look at alternative motherboards but we still feel a dual x16 configuration is worth keeping for the future.

AMD's latest offering, the HD 2900 XT, provides performance that is reasonably close to the 8800 GTS 640MB cards, but it comes at a price premium of roughly $100 per card. Our experience with AMD's 2900 XT drivers (particularly in CrossFire mode) has also been less than impressive so far. Performance is great when it works properly, but that doesn't occur as much as we would like. Unless you're interested in joining the beta testing of drivers, an investment in AMD's CrossFire technology makes no sense at this time.

A retail also-ran in years past, Samsung has recently turned in a string of strong drives. The most recent of these, the Samsung SpinPoint T Series, gets the nod for our entry high-end system on the strength of its quiet operation and performance parity with the drives found at the higher end of the spectrum (like the Western Digital RE series). Keep in mind, however, that the current price-performance "sweet spot" can be found in the 250GB-320GB range; the 500GB drive was chosen only because it could fit within the pricing limits set for this guide.

As downward price pressure continues on DVD writers, the choice is now largely one of brand preference. Pioneer writers have a reputation for writing to anything even coming close to a circular shape, and - most importantly of all - don't have the poor reliability record that is associated with some of the other low-price drives. At this price point, however, you can choose virtually any brand of DVD writer you wish. There's really no reason to go for an IDE writer, though - spend the extra $6 and keep the system all-SATA if possible.

Windows XP MCE is chosen for this system due to the lower system overhead compared with Vista. If your memory requirements go above 2GB, or you are looking at running a 64-bit OS, then consider Vista as an alternative. Many of us are still hesitant to upgrade to Vista, but that's slowly changing and by the end of the year we expect Vista to become the predominant enthusiast platform. In the meantime, dual booting is another possibility.

Index Ultra High-end AMD System
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  • Dantzig - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    All in all, I liked your guide. Welcome aboard to Anandtech :)

    Even for a "base" high-end configuration, your case and peripheral recommendations are simply not acceptable.

    The Apevia Aspire X-Cruiser is a riced-out, poorly ventilated, cheaply made and simply obnoxious case. Why not recommend a much more sensible option with better ventilation and construction? You can get many quality cases sans power supply for $60. The Antec recommended in the mainstream configuration is much better suited to a high-end build (although I would still like to see something more sensible and less noisy).

    Similarly, the Creative Labs 7.1 speaker system you recommended (actually the Inspire P7800, not I-Trigue 3300) is just junk. There is absolutely no reason to waste $80 on a crap 7.1 speaker system. A system with that many speakers should be done right or not at all. Also, THX and manufacturer's power ratings are just marketing mean nothing to anyone who knows jack about audio. Just recommend a decent 2.1 system that at least has tweeters. The market for real stereo systems with actual receivers starts around $250 these days. Even a low end HTIB (I like Onkyo) will outperform any computer speakers on the market.
  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    So here are a couple of additional comments.

    "The Corsair CMPSU-620HX is a solid offering from a company long known for providing excellent power supplies" - I wasn't aware that Corsair had power supplies at all before a couple of years ago. Also, Why the PC Power and Cooling product over something like a high end Seasonic?

    Now, for the worst part... Thanks to the assistance of the Anandtech forums, I finally found a case that I could put into a business environment that wasn't filled with useless lights, very tasteless appointments on the exterior, or cartoon characters on the side. Antec's cases have been de-improving in terms of accessibility (witness the Sonata II and it's funky air flow system that is a pain in the rear and doesn't seem to improve temps). So I was referred to the I-Star S-8 Storm series. An excellent case, with excellent accessories (Hot swap bays, removable caddys, redundant power supplies) that retails for around $50-$60. No spiderman face, no crazy lights, and the fastest assembly I have ever done. There is one downside, in that they don't like to give you enough screws of any one type, and hopefully they will improve that. Luckily, I have tons of screws left over from other systems built for customers over the years.

    I believe that part of the problem stems from reviewers praising really toy-like cases that have all of these useless features. Yes, the 14 year old gamer might think they're cool. Heck, even some 25 year old gamers may think they're cool. But I think the great majority of people would consider them to be tacky. So, how about a compromise: offer up alternatives for each. One with all the glitter, and the other with a more clean look. We should encourage manufacturers to worry more about ease of assembly and functionality, and something that can be sold to a business customer.
  • anandtech02148 - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    hahah this is so true most pc case are so tacky, this is why Apple can steal your money with it's well thought out designs.
    I still wonder why these plastics take so much space in retail stores.
    The attraction is a well thought out pc case with high prices that you can at least get away with like a Lian Li.
    Producing cheap plastic case to cut some cost is not a bad idea, but at least hire some designers.
  • Martimus - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Most people have considered PC Power and Cooling the best PSU maker for years. They have just been so expensive, not many people usually buy them. They are kind of like the BMW of power supplies, because they don't cut any corners in the design, but you pay for that in the bottom line price. Since the other companies are now charging similar prices to PC P&C, it is much easier to consider them now. Ofcourse PC Power and Cooling was just purchased by OCZ this month (MAY 2007), so hopefully their quality won't go down to the level of OCZ power supplies.
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    It's always nice to see Anandtech updating it's price guides, and if the new editor/writer follows Jarred's example then I'm sure he will do fine.

    A few things to maybe keep in mind: I echo the feelings of some others that a $5000 machine needs to have a soundcard. In fact, I would think it makes MUCH more sense to recommend a soundcard rather than a set of speakers for such a system. Next, why keep mentioning overclocking in the article and never advice a aftermarket HSF? I would think every PC in the $2000+ range would be well served, even if only to run it in a low-noise configuration and keep low temps. I assume a midrange guide will appear next, probably after P35 arrives. I hope to see another Overclocking subconfiguration in that atricle, since many of us to OC and the component choices can be rather different.

    Finally, @ Jarred - nice fancy new title and post sig. Hopefully thought you won't be only working on notebooks and displays in the future however, even if you are passing on the Guide articles. I know many of the more unconventional articles you and Gary write are some of the best stuff to appear on the site, and I'd hate to loose you to only reviewing the new Asus notebook or Dell LCD.
  • Dave Robinet - Thursday, May 31, 2007 - link

    Thanks for the welcome. :)

    You're absolutely right, both about the soundcard and the HSF. In the $5k system, though, we did include the water cooling solution - but point taken about the cooling in general terms. I'd venture that few people at the $2k range are using stock HSF solutions.

    For the next guide, I'm thinking that there may be some tweaks - you're right about the overclocking part.

    Thanks again!

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link


    I'm still managing editor (i.e. posting most other articles, doing final proof-reads, etc.) so no worries. Displays and laptops are simply my primary area of focus these days, just like Derek's focus is GPUs and Gary's primary focus is... well, everything. :) I'll still contribute opinions and such to the Buyers' Guides as well (and Gary deserves plenty of credit for the recommendations in this and other Guides if you didn't know that).
  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Page 3 states that "While RAID will not markedly improve performance for the average user, it can improve either reliability (RAID 5, RAID 1), or data capacity (RAID 0)"

    I don't see how RAID 0 improves data capacity. Sure, it will make multiple drives appear as one volume, but the capacity is not improved. Not only that, but the reliability is decreased, as a failure of one drive leads to loss of data from both.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    That's what was meant by improving "data capacity" although it probably could have been worded better. It does improve performance in certain applications to the point that a few people might find it useful (people that worry about the latest ORB results for example....)
  • Latyshev - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    In the main review you are clearly goiung for SLI. But in the "alternative" list you never mention any new P35 boards, which are amasing peformers.

    How come?

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