Ultra High-End AMD System

Ultra High-End AMD System
Hardware Component Price Rebates
Processor 2 x AMD Athlon FX-74 $916 -
Motherboard ASUS L1N64-SLI WS $313 -
Memory 2 x Corsair XMS2 2GB PC2-6400 Kit (4x1GB total) $294 $80
Video Card 2x MSI NX8800GTX-T2D768E-HD OC GeForce 8800GTX $1140 $40
Hard Drive WD Raptor WD1500ADFD plus WD 5000YS $361 -
Optical Drive Pioneer DVR-212BK $42 -
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (OEM) $125 -
System Total $3191 $3071
Complete Package $3732-$5391 $3607-$5266

The AMD Ultra High-End system gets two additional cores added due to the low cost of their FX-74 offering. While single-threaded applications (including, as already mentioned, most games) will not be able to take advantage of the four cores in this system, the processors will be leveraged wonderfully by most productivity applications (including, notably, media encoding). AMD is in the unenviable position of not having any quad CPU offerings that can compete directly with Intel's fastest quad core processors (the QX6800 and QX6700), but the dual sockets do offer improved bandwidth and scaling which can help in certain applications. Also note that the socket 1207 platform will have you ready to upgrade to AMD's Barcelona CPUs (now called Phenom) with the ability to run an octal core configuration later this year. If you really want eight cores, though, you might want to hold off a few months until the new CPUs become available.

Moving up the motherboard chain, the Ultra High-End system is treated to the ASUS L1N64-SLI WS motherboard. While that certainly carries a hefty price tag, this 680a SLI-based motherboard is currently the only solution for AMD enthusiasts that want to run a Quad FX platform. The good news is that ASUS definitely doesn't skimp on the features. You get a whopping four x16 PCI-E slots (two x16 bandwidth and two x8 bandwidth) and 12 SATA ports, along with more typical stuff like FireWire. At present, it's important to note that this motherboard requires both processor sockets to be populated in order to function properly, and for optimal performance you will also need to populate all four DIMM slots (giving dual channel bandwidth to both processor sockets).

Also keep in mind that while the latest Opterons and the Quad FX processors use socket 1207, the two processor families are not interchangeable - or at least they're not supposed to be. Quad FX processors use regular unbuffered memory and Opterons use registered ECC memory. Regardless, AMD has pretty much guaranteed that they will be releasing quad core Barcelona (Phenom FX) CPUs that will run on this motherboard later this year, most likely before quad core socket AM2 processors are released. To be honest, we're far more interested in this motherboard and platform as something for the future than for what it offers right now, and that being the case we're inclined to wait for actual performance numbers from AMD's next-generation architecture before laying out this much money on a new system.

Populating all four DIMM slots was a priority, so we chose four 1GB Corsair XMS2 memory sticks. An alternative option (especially if you plan on upgrading the AMD Ultra system to eight cores) is to go with some 2GB DIMMs like Corsair 2GB XMS2 memory sticks, though this adds an additional $180 to the system price.

As is typically the case with gaming rigs, the graphics solution is the most expensive part of this system. Yes, the Ultra series cards are the fastest gaming cards on the planet right now, but until the cards come down from their stratospheric price point, they won't fit into the budget of even our Ultra High-End system. The MSI NX8800GTX-T2D768E-HD OC come clocked at 610MHz, which is higher than most other GTX cards based on NVIDIA specifications and also more or less matches the default 612MHz base clock of the 8800 Ultra (though the Ultra admittedly has faster RAM clocks and can usually overclock the cores even further). The dual 8800 GTX cards come in at a whopping $1100 for the pair (after rebates), which is a pretty astounding amount of money to spend on a graphics solution. For an extra $600, you can make the leap to the 8800 Ultra series solution.

It has long been known that RAID 0 is of little to no benefit to most users... so why do other Buyers' Guides insist on pairing two drives in a RAID 0 configuration? The WD Raptor 1500ADFD is currently the fastest SATA drive on the market today, though its 150GB capacity lags behind current storage trends. The WD RE2 500 makes up for this capacity as a second drive, ensuring that the system enjoys the benefits of both unparalleled single user performance in OS and application load times, as well as ensuring the system has ample capacity for storage intensive applications. Both drives come with 5 year warranties. If you want even more storage capacity, consider the Seagate 750GB and Hitachi 1TB drives as an alternative. The Hitachi 1TB drive is one of the fastest drives we've tested, at times even besting the Raptor drives.

While RAID will not markedly improve performance for the average user, it can improve either reliability (RAID 5, RAID 1), or single volume data capacity (RAID 0). Another viable option for a system in with these requirements is to look at three hard drives and a dedicated RAID controller, like the 3Ware 9590SE. Users that require such configurations on their desktop systems are few and far between, though, so make sure that you are buying components you truly need.

Given the components used in this system, it's no surprise that we decided to go with a 64-bit operating system, and as we suggested on the previous page we recommend Windows Vista over Windows XP when it comes to 64-bit Microsoft operating systems. If you only want to run 2GB of memory, you can certainly get by with a 32-bit OS for the time being (either Vista or XP), but if that's the case you probably don't want to bother with AMD's Quad FX platform. We also selected the OEM version of Windows Vista in order to save some money, but purchasing the full retail version might serve many of you better. The OEM versions can only be activated a single time on a specific set of hardware; once you've activated the copy, it's tied to your motherboard and you cannot use it on a different motherboard in the future. If you're the type of user to frequently upgrade motherboards, you should definitely pick up a retail copy of Windows Vista instead. The retail product also gives you the option of choosing to install either the 32-bit or the 64-bit version.

Basic High-End AMD System Basic High-End Intel System
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  • dilbertcompguy - Thursday, March 13, 2008 - link

    Since when are these computer speakers $5000? Am I missing something here or is this paragraph from like 4 years ago?
  • Super Nade - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link

    While the Silencer is a good unit, there are several less expensive alternatives that are built equally good if not better than this one.

    Some that come to mind are:
    -Ultra X-Pro series (Andyson)
    -Silverstone Zeus ST56ZF (can run 8800GTX SLI with NO problems), 75ZF (Etasis)
    -Seasonic S12/M12 nad Corsair
    -Zippy GSM series (not less expensive but will out-regulate Seasonic built units)

    Maybe you could have offered at least two or three options. Good job though!

    S-N, OCForums

  • Dave Robinet - Thursday, May 31, 2007 - link

    Thanks a lot, Super Nade.

    I actually had the Silverstone in there as one of the original suggestions, but Gary Key (having had the benefit of testing a huge quantity of these in the past) said he'd send me a bunch of dead ones if I included it in the buyer's guide. Not wanting my wife to have a bunch of dead power supplies to yell at me over, I backed off. :) Personally, though, I've not had one go South on me yet.

    Your choices of supplies are really good - any of those could have been chosen for the guide. People will pick at the X-Pro's efficiency rating a bit, but honestly, the rest of it is brand preference.

  • Super Nade - Saturday, June 2, 2007 - link

    Thank you for taking the time to read through this. :)

    Silverstone employ several OEM's, Enhance, Etasis, Seventeam and a relatively new but interesting Impervio Electronics from Taiwan. Not all of them are built equal. The Etasis and the Seventeam builds are based off of server platforms and are less likely to cause problems. I have not heard of mass failure but there have been problems with coil while on the DA and OP series. IMO, it does not warrant having to completely exclude Silverstone from the mix. ;)

    Best wishes,

    Super Nade, OCForums.
  • overzealot - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link


    ... and as we suggested on the previous page we recommend Windows Vista over Windows XP when it comes to 64-bit Microsoft operating systems

    I saw no such thing on the previous page. You only said that you'd choose MCE for 32bit, or Vista because everyone will change to it.

    I know Vista is the future, but I live in the present - and when I spend this much on a computer I want it to work as well as it can RIGHT NOW.
    Can we have an honest pro/con shootout between XP64 and Vista64?

    I'm happy to start off with a few:

    Better disk caching

    8800 drivers still suck
    No EAX, no ALchemy for anything but X-Fi
    Some games/programs won't work, others don't work well
    Larger footprint
    Older hardware doesn't have drivers

    Drivers are as stable as XP
    Games run as well as XP

    Some obscure apps don't work (VoiceChanger is the only one I can think of off-hand)
    Older hardware doesn't have drivers
    No DX10

    Personally I'm willing to sacrifice DX10 and Aero for EAX and speed now. Are you?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link

    Most of the cons of Vista are applicable to both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Our point is that if you're going to get DX10 hardware and a high-end system, you might as well bite the bullet and move to Vista. If you're moving to Vista, you might as well make the jump to 64-bits as well. My understanding is that the XP-64 drivers are still not as robust or available as the XP-32 drivers, so if you're going to have some driver issues anyway... might as well go the whole hog and run Vista! :)

    FWIW, I'm only running Vista under dual-boot mode or on certain test systems. It's okay, but there are enough nitpicks against it that I'm not ready to make a complete switch just yet.
  • overzealot - Friday, June 1, 2007 - link

    Availability is a problem, but only as much as with Vista.
    They're robust, have been since about 2 months after release.
  • jzodda - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link

    We all know that what we consider to be "computer monitors" these days stops at 30" unless you are willing to shell out more then the price of a high end system just for the display alone.

    There is one larger display that I think bears serious consideration for a high end rig. Its the Westhinghouse LVM-37W3 37" 1080p display. The W3 version is the one that you typically will not find in stores, and makes an flat out amazing monitor.

    It has an 8 ms response and 8 bit Super MVA panel made by Chi-Mei, and plays games at 1920x1080 very easily if you have a good vid card. 37" of screen space makes the 30" look small and the 24" look puny by comparison.

    Its also priced around the same as the 30" screens mentioned, and usually comes in somewhat cheaper, especially when there are good deals on shipping. There is a huge thread on this display here. Amazing find, and Maximum PC recently did a little write up on this display and they loved it.

  • Kougar - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Surprised me to see this recommended, and I got to say great call. I have one of these that just arrived infront of me, and to my surprise it has been modified to offer 2 8-pin + 2 6-pin PCIe connectors for overclocked HD 2900 Crossfire setups. You might wish to update the guide with this info. ;)

    I guess it explains why this PSU was certified for R600 Crossfire use, while (The otherwise excellent) 850watt GameXstream PSUs couldn't take it. Only the $285 1010watt GameXStream model PSU made the certification for R600 Crossfire, and it costs $85 higher still than the Quad Silencer. The high price is for a product that offers as much oomph as products outside it's class, and it can now power any kind of SLI or Crossfire setup that can be thrown at it.
  • Rike - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Crucial Tracer Ballistix Rebate is a one per household rebate. If you get two, you'll need to work the system some how to get both rebates. It's a great deal, but you might want to warn folks up front.

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