Doom 3 Buyer's Guide

by Wesley Fink on August 7, 2004 3:51 PM EST

Doom 3 has been quite a learning experience for all of us at AnandTech. Some of the things that we expected to find just never panned out when we ran Doom 3, such as the concerns that Doom 3 would not run on most systems. In fact, Doom 3 will run on most of the recent systems out there. Other things were a real surprise, like the fact that the ATI 9800 PRO is a medium resolution card to Doom 3 and it is GPU bound above anything but base performance levels. Doom 3 eats video cards for lunch, and while you will get a usable screen with most video cards, you really have to feed it top-end video for best results.

You have already seen the Doom 3 Week reviews, but in case you missed anything, you can find the answers in the earlier reviews this week:

Doom 3 Sound Guide
Doom 3: CPU Battlegrounds
Doom 3 Graphics Deathmatch

The purpose of this Doom 3 Buyer's Guide is take all that we've learned in these reviews and make some basic recommendations for a killer Doom 3 system. Since desires, designs, and pocketbooks are different, you will find three recommendations here - Performance, Mainstream, and Value. Because we've covered a lot of the components here in our ongoing Buyer's Guides, we will concentrate on the unique components for Doom 3 - mainly the CPU, motherboard, graphics card, and memory. The rest of the components have been pulled from our most recent Buyer's Guides, which you can find under the "Guides" tab at the top of the page.

Performance Doom 3 System

The Performance system for Doom 3 is the best of the best - the highest performing components in Doom 3 that were found in this week's testing. The goal here is to build the best Doom 3 system, with no concern for price. After selecting the core components, the rest of the components leaned heavily on recommendations from our most recent High-End Buyer's Guide and Overclocking Buyer's Guide.

Mainstream Doom 3

Consider the Mainstream Doom 3 System to be the "bang-for-the-buck" choice - the best value that will bring you performance close to the best. Most of you will likely be most interested in the choices for the Mainstream Doom 3 box. Since Doom 3 requires some high-end components to really shine, some of the recommendations are a little different from our other Buyer's Guides. We referred to the most recent Mid-Range Buyer's Guide, the Overclocking Buyer's Guide, and recent AnandTech reviews for other component recommendations.

Value Doom 3

The Value System for Doom 3 is the cheapest system that we could put together, which will bring a usable and satisfying level of performance to Doom 3. We've leaned heavily on the positioning charts in this week's review to bring a level of playing satisfaction to a budget Doom 3 system. The rest of the components are pulled from Mid-Range, Entry-Level and Overclocking Buyers' Guides.

Memory for Doom 3
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  • wjh - Monday, September 13, 2004 - link

    Hello, and thanks alot for such a great article! I am currently doing the research to build an FX-53 system with 2 Gb of memory.
    I'm having trouble locating the OCZ memory that you describe-- it could not be found on pricewatch, so I went to the vendor's site and found this:

    2GB Dual Channel Kit PN- OCZ4002048EBDCPE-K

    but it has these timings:

    CL 2.5-3-2-8
    (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS) Available in 512MB (2x256MB), 1GB (2x512MB) and 2GB (2x1GB) Dual Channel Optimized Kits

    and you specified default timings of 2.5-2-3.

    Did you really mean 2.5-3-2, or do I have the wrong part?

    I would appreciate your help in finding the right 2 Gb kit, hopefully at a decent price.

    Thanks alot!
  • MAME - Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - link

    You guys are being too critical of the article. $1,000 is a lot for a value system for general use, but this article is about getting a system that can play the highest demanding game DECENTLY.

    With that in mind, $1,000 is actually a good price for most of the hardware (minus the actual game).

    $280 for the 6800 is a lot but that's the price you gotta pay for top of the line performance these days. It's only $80 more than the 9800 pro, and has almost twice the performance.

    Wesley, you did a good job with the choices for the most part. Don't worry about these guys.
  • archcommus87 - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    I agree for the most part with what Anandtech has posted here. True, it seems ridiculous that the value system has a nearly $300 video card, however it doesn't say budget, it says value, and they really are just trying to list the best bang for the buck.

    For the record though, I'm running an Athlon XP 2100+ overclocked to 2800+ speeds, 1 GB of cheapo memory and a 9800 Pro at stock speeds, and I'm running the game at usually 20-25 FPS or higher at 10x7 res, high settings, 6x AA and 16x AF.
  • link130 - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    Wesley Fink, think carefully before your response

    Actually even if we use YOUR definition of the term "value" of performance/price. a modest overclock of an 2400+ xp-M is about 2.4ghz while a modest overclock of a 2800+ A64 is 2.0ghz.
    the A64 costs 2x the AXP while by extrapolating the AXP cpu graphs from this site, you can expect them to perfrom within 5fps in doom 3. still a good value for this game?

    I actually get an average of around 40 fps at 800x600 medium quality with all the effects on except aa and vsync. in real gameplay on my 2.4ghz AXP-Bobile with a $50 ti4200 64mb @ 300/600 and cheap 512 ddr400 ram. after tweaking the cache settings in the cfg file, the game runs very smooth (almost no jerking effect even opening doors). now THAT is real value.
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    I'm actually playing D3 reasonably well on an Athlon XP 2.3 GHz (2500+ XP-M OC) with 1 GB RAM and a 9800 Pro. Still, 1024x768 HQ can be a bit choppy.

    Honestly, though, timedemo is NOT the way to determine gaming performance. Especially since the timedemo in Doom 3 disables audio. Yes, it's repeatable, but that doesn't make it accurate. And if the AI is actually running during a timedemo, I would be surprised. If you want to give a real recommendation for system performance, you probably need to use a utility like FRAPS and play through an entire level of the game, then report low, average, and high FPS. But then that would take a lot longer.

    I also have to wonder how the lack of sound comes into play with the RAM use, as sound effects can chew up a decent amount of RAM. The benchmarking method (run timedemo 3 times and report the highest or average of the last two, I think?) would also negate the advantage of having more RAM. I know the first time I run the timedemo, even with 1 GB RAM, there is a lot of hard drive use and the average FPS is usually 25% or so less than on subsequent runs. In real gameplay, you don't continually rerun the exact same sequence, so you don't always get the benefit of cached data.

    But all that's a bit off topic. The main thing is, the recommendations are pretty good, if expensive. I would think that a current Athlon XP system with a high end video card would go a long way to reaching good performance, if that's what you want. If you're building a new machine, the 9800 Pro isn't the best choice, but if you already have one (I do), I'm not sure it's worth $300 or $400 to upgrade to the 6800/GT.

    And for you ATI people, I have to wonder how this will affect things:
  • MercenaryForHire - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    Doom 3 is playable on ANYTHING.

    Now quit bitching and play. :P

    - M4H
  • Jbog - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    #45 Runamile, what do you mean by "very playable" and "just fine?" Maybe you could put that into terms that we can all understand, such as FPS and Image Quality? Otherwise your remarks have no objective quality.
  • Runamile - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    I too also agree that $1000 for a value system is a little steep. It probally should of been around $700 IMHO.

    But thats cool. Ive already beaten D3 on an AMD 2200+, 512MB 2100, and ATI 8500 128MB. With it all @ 1024x768 w/o bump mapping, the system was very playable and looked just fine. And that rig will run about $350 these days.
  • Momental - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    I'd also like a little clarification as to why the 3400+ was recommended over the 3500+. True, the former is cheaper than the latter and actually seems to offer a wee bit better performance, in some cases. However, having a 939-based system allows one to merely upgrade a processor, should they become less expensive rather than replacing the board and the processor. Yes? No? I'm new to all this, so bear with me. ;)

    Fantastic article, by the way!!
  • Kung Lau - Monday, August 9, 2004 - link

    "The purpose of this Doom 3 Buyer's Guide is take all that we've learned in these reviews and make some basic recommendations for a killer Doom 3 system. Since desires, designs, and pocketbooks are different, you will find three recommendations here - Performance, Mainstream, and Value."

    It's almost like Wesley saw all these comments coming...

    Value= 2004 Honda Civic for $12,000k
    Budget= 1967 Volkswagon Beetle for $200.00

    They will both get you from point A to point B, but I would hardly consider them synonymous, except for both being vehicles.

    I can put together a system for under $800 using Newegg too, but I won't know what works well together for Doom 3 (specifically) until I've assembled the system after delivery. If something doesn't mesh or isn't quite up to par, I would have to send it back for another part.

    I think the recommended lists provides for a basic groundwork to build from. Many will have different variations on the builds.

    People take stuff too seriously around here.

    And btw, I, along with many others here on Anandtech, bought a Dell 4600 system with 9800pro for GAMING for under $500 without monitor (had already) from the Hot Deals forum a while back when the deals were outrageous.

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