Once again, the value machine has the same goals as the high-end, but this time we're focused on gaming performance. Lots of RAM is again an important factor, but 3D acceleration and CPU performance are now also critical.
– AMD Athlon 700 - $200
Although it’s a bit slower in games, the Athlon holds a significant advantage in price at similar clock speeds, and for that reason, we’ve chosen an Athlon 700 - a boost of 50 MHz over last month at no additional cost. Throw in a Golden Fingers device and the 700 can easily overclock to somewhere between 750 and 850MHz.
For more information on all Athlon processors, read our Athlon 1GHz Review.
Motherboard – ASUS K7V
If you’re going with an Athlon CPU, the VIA KX133 chipset is clearly the best platform to run it on today. Last month there was a huge dearth of good KX133 motherboards that were actually available, but times have changed. The ASUS K7V is now available and is our pick as the best overall KX133 motherboard. It's a bit pricey at $160, but well worth the added cost.
For more information, read our ASUS K7V Review.
Memory – 128MB Mushkin
or Corsair PC133 SDRAM - $125
Never underestimate the value of RAM – it needs to be high quality, high speed, and most importantly, you need lots of it. Not too long ago, 64MB seemed like the maximum amount that you would need, but with prices so low today, 128MB is the real minimum you should accept.
As for the exact brand of memory, we recommend Corsair or Mushkin modules. We use them in our test systems and have had absolutely no problems with them.
card – Leadtek GeForce 256 DDR Rev. B. - $270
Even for our value system, we have to go with a GeForce DDR – it’s only about $70 more than an SDR card and the difference in performance at higher resolutions is just too much to pass up.
While the performance of all GeForce DDR cards is within a few percentage points of each other, the Leadtek GeForce 256 DDR Revision B was able to out distance the other cards in our recent roundup in other areas, namely its excellent cooling without a significant increase in price. Thanks to that cooling, we were able to push our evaluation sample up to 160 MHz core clock – the fastest of any GeForce we’ve tested to date.
If you’re not overclocking, just go with the best deal on a GeForce DDR that you can find – they’re all clocked the same and thus perform within a few percent of each other.
Once again, look for all this to change next month when the GeForce2 GTS and Voodoo 5 become available. If you can wait, hold off for one of those cards or for the price drops that will accompany their release. For more information, read our GeForce DDR Roundup and our Leadtek GeForce 256 DDR Rev. B Review.
– CTX VL950SL - $350
Monitors are one of the few computer components that you can usually hang onto for years to come. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go with anything smaller than a 19” on our value gaming system – besides, once you’ve gamed on a monitor this big, there’s no going back.
The best deal we could find on a 19” monitor was the CTX VL950SL, which will run you about $350. It’s a shortneck model that uses the same 0.26 mm dot pitch tube that many of the bigger brands use.