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

    Yup. Sorry - missed doubling that one.
  • Dave Robinet - Thursday, May 31, 2007 - link

    Actually, no - rebate terms are "one per household":">Rebate Details
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    I been fighting the urge to just purchase this monitor since price is pretty high. But I hear nothing but good things about it and this seals the deal..

    1080p rez? Yes please! :D
  • Crittias - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    How close are we to a high-def drive being affordable on the PC? I could see myself watching high-def movies on a 24inch monitor if the drives we in the $100 range.
  • rgsaunders - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Please don't mix RMS power ratings and Peak Power ratings in the same review. Use RMS only, its the proper standard for high end audio, peak power ratings are inflated and normally inaccurate, and should only be used on the cheap plastic speakers sold at Walmart as technical specifications are meaningless for them. The figure you quoted is not accurate for this system, you quoted what might be thought to be peak to peak power but actually is not. RMS=.707 peak, peak to peak= 2x peak. Anandtech has normally maintained a relatively high technical standard, please don't change that by pandering to those to whom big numbers are more important than quality.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    We don't normally spend a lot of effort on speaker reviews. The Logitech speakers are all very good for their price range. If you want home theater quality, we don't tend to venture into that market. I'm quite sure there are any number of people out there that know far more about speakers and ratings and such than I do (and probably Dave as well).
  • Le Québécois - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Any idea of the noise level for the Antec Nine Hundred? How does it compare to other case like the quiet Thermaltake Aguila?

    Now I know you don't recommend the HD 2900XT right now but I was wondering what PSU you would chose for a power aungry card like that using PCIe 2.0 connectors? The Enermax Infinity 720W looks good but do you have any other PCIe 2.0 PSU you would recommend?
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    I don't know if it's any good (probably), but you might try the Antec TPQ-850 is a 2x8-pin and 2x6-pin PCIe 2.0 PSU. That's the most reasonably priced model I've seen. If you plan on quad core and overclocking along with 2900 CrossFire, you had better get as much PSU as you can find. I think you could probably break 850W power draw with such a configuration.
  • CK804 - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link">One last thing to add.

    I would recommend a Corsair 620HX for your configuration. It was the quietest PSU tested by SPCR. I have the 520 watt model and have nothing but good things to say about it.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Sort of like we mentioned on the base configuration of page 6, you mean? Except there is no way I would even think of running quad core with 2900 XT CrossFire with that PSU. A single 8800 GTX or 2900 XT? Sure, but not two.

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