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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide October 7, 2008

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    October Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Thomas Soderstrom :  October 26, 2007

    Intel Motherboard: ASUS Striker Extreme

    Current Cost: $300
    Consecutive Guides: 3
    Price Change: $0

    It's a shame that Intel's much-hyped X38 Express chipset does not officially support SLI mode, but NVIDIA has to reserve at least some market share for itself. There isn't yet any new high-end LGA775 SLI chipsets, but the nForce 680i SLI chipset still has a lot going for it on its one-year birthday.

    The ASUS Striker Extreme motherboard comes loaded with all the nForce 680i SLI benefits such as two PCI-Express x16 slots at their full x16 bandwidth and a third at x8 bandwidth, dual gigabit network support, and RAID support for up to six SATA and two PATA drives.

    But ASUS doesn't stop there, giving the board its full "Republic of Gamers" treatment with an eight-phase capacitor-free VRM, a noise-reducing removable audio riser card, two additional eSATA ports, several lighted function buttons, and a rear panel LCD to display system status in English rather than code numbers.

    AMD Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair

    Current Cost: $240
    Consecutive Guides: 3
    Price Change: $0

    Another "Republic of Gamers" board from ASUS, the Crosshair comes with an elaborate chipset cooler, dual eSATA ports in addition to the six chipset-supported ports, an English-language rear panel system status display, eight-phase capacitor-free VRM, reduced-noise removable audio riser card, back panel system status display, and lighted power/reset buttons.

    The nForce 590 SLI chipset features 46 PCI-Express lanes capable of supporting two graphics cards at full x16 bus width, more than enough for a pair of today's fastest graphics cards and even next-generation products. The only reservation we have in recommending an upscale AMD board is that compatible processors have moved far down market.

    Those who prefer DFI or otherwise simply don't want to pay for the added features of a "Republic of Gamers" motherboard may prefer the DFI LANPARTY UT NF590 SLI-M2R/G. Similar features include the removable audio module, dual graphics/SLI via two x16 pathways from the nForce 590SLI chipset, and an x4 PCI-Express expansion card slot. DFI adds a PCI-Express x8 slot for server-sized cards and uses a Port 80 diagnostics code LED display topside, rather than the rear-panel verbose LCD found on the ASUS board.

    System Memory: Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066)

    Current Cost: $130
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$30

    High-end DDR2 memory prices continue to drop, as mid-priced parts have gotten better. In fact, we could have just as easily gone with cheaper Ballistix PC2-6400 modules and still gotten Micron's top chips, but buying the better-rated parts insures our modules are pre-tested at a 1066MHz data rate.

    All of the latest Crucial Ballistix modules feature EPP (Enhanced Performance Profiles), which supplements regular SPD entries with information about overclocked voltage, speed, and timings. EPP is recognized by current NVIDIA chipset motherboards, and can be enabled in BIOS by turning on "SLI Memory" mode and selecting the appropriate profile. This can be a huge asset to neophytes, though experienced users should find even better optimizations through individual timing and voltage adjustments.

    Page 1 Introduction and Case
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
  • Page 3 Motherboards and Memory
    Page 4 Hard Drives and DVD-R/RW
    Page 5 Video Card, LCD Display and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse, Keyboard & Controller
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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