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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Last I checked, they weren't readily available yet. Considering we explicitly mention this in the text on the first and last pages (as well as in-between), I'm pretty sure we've covered the situation. The official launch is next week, at which time all the websites respecting the launch date (Newegg and ZipZoomFly are usually the benchmark here) will start selling them. I'm not sure most of the sites listing the boards have them in stock and ready to ship today as it stands; if they can't be trusted to follow Intel's launch date, can their inventory claims be trusted?
  • Latyshev - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Ah, sorry, i didnt read the article in detail, just looked over the major points. Thank you for clarification.
  • Tuffrabbit - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Quote " Audigy users may get support in the future, but at present they are left out in the cold. "

    Man what a drag that Vista has been out now four months and still there are issues with sound cards, guess I'll wait some more before upgrading the operating system...

  • AnnihilatorX - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    I don't see why the SLI GeForce GTS is not a good investment. The performance seen in many benchmarks definitely have 40% edge over a single Ultra. GTS 320MB SLI is also very affordable and have the aforementioned performance on resolutions less than 1900 while bearing more performance/$ than ultra/GTX
  • Tilmitt - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    There's no point in including the operating system cost, most of us pirate it. And rightly so!
  • punko - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Pirate? I don't think so.

    Dual boot machine: Linux/legit windows for work/play

    If you're spending the money for a "high end" machine, there is no reason not to go fully legit.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Besides, if you're so cool that you can pirate the software, I'm sure you can handle doing a little bit of math to subtract the cost from the total. I have to say that anyone looking to stiff The Man by stealing $120-$200 of software on a $5000 system needs some counseling about what's important in life.
  • Martimus - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Speak for yourself. I stopped pirating software once I got a real job. When I can't afford to buy the software, I just don't buy it now.
  • yacoub - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    On the concluding page is a list of soundcards (though very little is said about them).

    The Auzentech card has a name though: It's the X-Meridian 7.1 which you can see by going to their website. Not sure why you list it as "AZT-XM71" since I've never seen it listed that way except as the part number part of the heading at NewEgg.">">

    I'm sure it's an awesome card, btw, as I have their X-Plosion DTS 7.1 card and love it. It's been flawless for me in gaming and offers excellence in sound reproduction for games, movies, mp3s, etc.
  • yacoub - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    If you are buying two GTS 640MB, shouldn't the $30 rebate also be counted twice? (I'm looking at the first system.)

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