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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide September 29, 2008

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    September High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  September 22, 2007

    AMD CPU: Athlon 64 X2 6400+ (3.2 GHz) AM2

    Current Cost: $240
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    AMD continues to offer price drops on their Athlon 64 X2 processors, and the company has even introduced a new top-end model to the line. The combination of events has allowed us to upgrade to the 3.2 GHz Athlon 64 X2 6400+, and at only a small price increase compared to the Athlon 64 X2 6000+ from our last guide. This represents a consistent move up the AMD list, as over the last three consecutive guides, we have upgraded from the Athlon 64 X2 5200+ to the 6000+ and finally the 6400+. In terms of price-performance, the Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is a no-brainer, and not only do we have bragging rights in owning the highest-clocked AMD processor, but this also lets our AMD system close the performance gap slightly with its Core 2 Duo counterpart.

    The Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is the best choice for our high-end AMD gaming system, and at only $240, it still has one of the best price-performance ratios of any high-end AMD processor. The 3.0 GHz Athlon 64 X2 6000+ might be a slightly better value, but we had the available budget, and the 3.2 GHz clock speed and 2x1MB architecture will certainly come in handy. There are many potential sweet spots in the AMD lineup, but for a $2500 high-end gaming system, the Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is a perfect fit. The only issue is the processor's "Black Edition" designation, which translates into a bare CPU with no bundled heatsink-fan.

    Intel CPU: Core 2 Duo E6850 (3.0GHz) LGA775 Retail

    Current Cost: $284
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    AMD may have helped out our high-end guide by releasing the Athlon 64 X2 6400+, but Intel blew off the barn doors with their latest 1333 MHz Core 2 processors. These came out of left field, priced significantly lower than their 1066 MHz predecessors, and led to what might best be called an "Intel buying frenzy". Last time out, the 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 could barely fit into the budget, while we gazed longing at the 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, but we're now able to slide the 3.0 GHz Core 2 Duo E6850 in with no problem at all. We had weighed going with the 2.4 GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600, but the allure of quad core processing wasn't enough to overshadow its lower clock and bus speeds.

    To say that the Core 2 Duo E6850 is a speed demon would be a serious understatement, and it ranks right at the top of the list in pure gaming speed. It is a 4MB Conroe model, running at a clock speed of 3.0 GHz, and matches the quad core Core 2 Extreme QX6850 as the highest clocked Core 2 model. The processor uses the LGA775/Socket T platform, and while its $284 retail price is a bit higher than the Athlon 64 X2 6400+, Intel does bundle a free heatsink-fan, and we're going to make use of it. The Core 2 Duo E6850 features a 65nm core, 4MB of shared L2 Advanced Smart Cache, a 1333MHz FSB, SSE4, full 64-bit support (EM64T), Intel Virtualization Technology, and Execute Disable Bit. The Core 2 Duo also includes high-end power savings features, such as Intel SpeedStep and Intelligent Power Capability, making it one of the most power efficient high-end processors on the market.

    AMD Heatsink-Fan: 3rd-party HSF

    Current Cost: $50
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Since the Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is a "Black Edition", it ships as a bare CPU, and we will need to select a 3rd-party heatsink-fan. There are several high-end options at this price level, including the Scythe Infinity (left), Zalman CNPS9700 (middle) and Scythe Kama Cross (right), among many others. Feel free to select a cooling solution that fits your own requirements, but we feel these three models are affordable, mid-range cooling options that won't break the bank, and are widely available at most top online stores.

    Intel Heatsink-Fan: Bundled Core 2 Duo E6850 HSF

    Current Cost: $0
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    We're also sticking with the Intel retail cooler this month, as the addition of the Core 2 Duo E6850 has put some pressure on the budget. The retail heatsink-fans are virtually free, and can easily handle the cool-running Core 2 Duo processors. Of course, there is always the option of spending the extra money for a 3rd-party heatsink-fan of your choice, especially for the hardcore overclockers.

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

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