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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide September 24, 2008

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    January High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  January 14, 2008

    AMD Motherboard: ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe

    Current Cost: $225
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    Now that we have officially moved to the Phenom as our AMD processor selection, we also need to upgrade our motherboard to Socket AM2+. The Phenom may be backward compatible with AM2, but when putting together a new system, it just makes sense to get the newest and most powerful hardware. Going the AM2+ route gets us enhanced power saving, PCI Express 2.0, HyperTransport 3.0, and a longer upgrade path - more than enough reasons to spend a few extra dollars.

    When it came down to the actual motherboard, we had hoped to snag an ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe, since we had run through full Phenom testing and benchmarking on it with no problems at all. Although the price was a bit steep, the low cost of the Phenom made up for it, and we were able to fit it into the budget. This board features the AMD 790FX chipset, and includes four PCI Express graphics slots (PCIe 2.0/1.0) and four memory sockets with support for up to 8GB of DDR2-1066. Other features include support for SATA 3.0 Gb/s, Gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio, IEEE 1394, and SATA RAID, along with CrossFireX multi-GPU technology.

    The ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe includes an advanced thermal and power design, including an 8+2 Phase Power Design, which provides independent power to vital components and protects them from potential damage. It features the now-standard ASUS fanless, heat pipe thermal cooling, with chipset heatsinks attached to several heat pipes and heat fins/sinks for maximum thermal protection, without the noise of a cooling fan. ASUS also bundles a Cool Mempipe device, which attaches to the main heatpipe, and then to the memory modules. This optional component can be installed by the end user, and ASUS states that memory temperatures can run up to 10 degrees C lower.

    Intel Motherboard: ASUS P5E X38

    Current Cost: $220
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    The motherboard situation in the Intel market is something of a mess, as the introduction of the 45nm Yorkfield quad core has thrown nForce 680i owners for a real loop. Apparently, the power design of the 680i does not support the Yorkfield, but may support the Wolfdale dual core. Due to this, we're changing our motherboard selection away from the nForce 680i, as even if it does end up compatible with our 45nm Core 2 processor, we don't like ruling out potential Yorkfield quad core upgrades this early in the game.

    This does bring up some potential challenges, and the brand new, Yorkfield-compatible nForce780i SLI boards are extremely difficult to find and can be very expensive. Due to this, we're making the move to the Intel X38 chipset, as this high-performance platform ensures seamless 45nm Core 2 support. Of course, it provides support for CrossFire multi-GPU rather than NVIDIA SLI, but this consideration is not in the same league as processor compatibility. Our selection is the ASUS P5E, a very capable motherboard based on the Intel X38 chipset

    ASUS motherboards continue to be a real favorite of the high-end gaming crowd, and this is mostly due to the company's design philosophy of combining high performance with exceptional quality. The ASUS P5E uses the powerful Intel X38 processor, which offers full support for all Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme processors, 45nm and 65nm alike, and offers FSB support up to 1333 and 1600 MHz. ASUS has also upgrade memory support to DDR2-1200, along with standard DDR2-667/800/1066 speeds. The motherboard offers dual PCIe x16 slots (both x16 in CrossFireX mode) 3 x PCI Express x1, and 2 x PCI expansion slots. Storage options include 1 x PATA and 6 x Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s, and the ASUS P5E features Gigabit LAN, SupremeFX II Audio through the ADI 1988B 8-channel, 12 x USB 2.0, and 2 x IEEE 1394a Firewire.

    For Intel buyers looking at NVIDIA SLI, the options are extremely limited, and you can either go with a nForce 680i board like the ASUS P5N32-E SLI (and forgo quad core Yorkfield support) or pony up the extra cash for one of the very few nForce 780i SLI motherboards on the market. Either option comes with potential negatives, but we're hoping that over the next few months, 780i motherboard supplies will increase and prices will come down considerably.

    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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