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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide December 20, 2008

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

    Memory: 2x1GB Corsair XMS2-8500C5 (TWIN2X2048-8500C5)

    Current Cost: $115
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    For a high-end 32-bit gaming system, 2x1-GB of DDR2-800 is the minimum target, but with both of our platforms supporting at least DDR2-1066, this is our new goal. Thankfully, with continued price drops that have put many 2GB kits at near the $100 mark, it becomes a reality this month. We were also able to maintain our name-brand focus in this area, and snag 2x1GB of Corsair XMS2-8500 without impacting any of our other components.

    Corsair XMS2-8500C5 TwinX memory offers standard 5-5-5-15 timings are 1066 MHz, along with the possibility of moving a bit lower at 667 or 800 MHz speeds. Like other DDR2-1066 modules, these do require a bit more voltage to run at 1066 MHz, and it is set at 2.1V. To help aid first-time installs, the Corsair XMS2-8500C5 modules are set to initialize at JEDEC standard 5-5-5-18 values at 800MHz. After that, the end user can adjust voltages and clock speeds higher.

    The Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 dual channel kit features two 1-GB sticks of high-speed, low latency PC2-8500/DDR2-1066 memory, and can be purchased for approximately $115 through online vendors. A matched pair/dual channel kit is the de facto format for both our AMD and Intel platforms, and a kit like this is a guaranteed match in dual channel mode, and provides a noticeable performance boost compared to a single DDR2 module. The best value still resides in the 2x1-GB range, especially as no 32-bit operating system will make full use of a 4GB configuration.

    Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB SATA 3.0 Gb/sec.

    Current Cost: $187
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$13

    Hard drive prices continue to drop, but we have been unable to fit one of the newer 1TB drives from Hitachi, Seagate or Western Digital into our high-end guide. Prices are just too high, but if you aim a bit lower, there are some great deals. The 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive is a perfect example. It not only offers high-end performance and 3/4 of a TB capacity, but also has now dropped well below the $200 mark. This is one of the best single-drive performance options in the high-end market, and at only $187, is a super value as well.

    The Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB drive includes a 16MB data cache and 7200-RPM motor, while supporting both SATA 3.0 Gb/sec. and NCQ, and has an 8.5 ms average seek time. This model also supports Perpendicular Recording Technology, which increases the storage density of each platter. The Barracuda line is renowned for speed and quality, and Seagate is the top choice for the quietest and longest lasting hard drives money can buy. Seagate is also confident enough to back their products with an excellent 5-year warranty, and our own luck with their products has been exceptional.

    DVD-/+RW: Samsung SH-S203B 20X SATA DVD Writer

    Cost: $30
    Consecutive Guides: 2
    Price Change: -$1

    The initial wave of HD-DVD and Blu-ray format drives continue their slow advance, but prices remain extremely high, so we're sticking with a DVD+/-R/RW drive. Retail prices on these units are also at historical lows, so it's a great time to take advantage of these super values. The Samsung SH-S203B is an SATA-based drive, and is a very popular model for new systems. When all the storage drives are SATA, it just simplifies everything from the basic install to system cooling.

    This is a low-cost DVD writer that combines the Samsung brand name with ultra-high write speeds for CD and DVD media. The Samsung SH-S203B offers writing speeds of 20X DVD+/-R, 12X DVD+/-R Dual-Layer media, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, and 32X CD-RW. The Samsung drive also has support for DVD-RAM technology, and can read and write it at 12X speeds.

    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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