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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide February 27, 2012
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Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide

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February High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman :  February 23, 2009

AMD Memory: 2x2GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8500 (TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF)

Current Cost: $117
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: -$19

Intel Memory: 3x1GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-12800 (TR3X3G1600C9)

Current Cost: $120
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

Due to the platform changes, we need to split the AMD and Intel memory recommendations. AMD gets a dual-channel 2x2GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8500 kit, running at a DDR2-1066 clock speed, while Intel makes use of a triple channel, 3x1GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) configuration. Moving to a high-end DDR3-1600 3x2GB kit would have been a bit too expensive for our Intel budget, as well as being overkill on the default 32-bit Vista operating system.

The 2x2GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8500 kit uses standard 5-5-5-15 timings at 1066 MHz, along with support for lower 667 and 800 MHz speeds. Like other DDR2-1066 modules, these do require a bit more voltage to run at 1066 MHz, and the default is 2.1V. But the Dominator PC2-8500 modules are set to initialize at JEDEC standard 5-5-5-18 values at 800MHz. The Dominator DDR2 modules feature a DHX (Dual-path Heat Xchange) system for increased cooling, and Corsair includes an optional Air Flow fan.

The 3x1GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-12800 triple-channel kit uses default 9-9-9-24 memory timings at its full 1600 MHz clock speed, while upping the voltage a bit to 1.65V. Corsair has tuned this memory specifically for use with Intel X58 motherboards, and it even supports Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) for overclocking. Like other Corsair memory, this kit will automatically boot at JEDEC standard 9-9-9-24 values at the default DDR3-1333 speed, and then the end user can tweak this further.

For those looking at a 64-bit operating system, spending a bit more and upgrading to 6GB for the Intel system is certainly an option. Our AMD guide already has the budget leeway for an upgrade to a full 8GB of system memory, but as this extra cash can be spent in a number of ways (like another 1TB hard drive), we prefer to leave that decision up to the buyer.

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA

Current Cost: $129
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

A couple of trends have started to emerge in the hard drive market, as vendors like Western Digital and Samsung are looking to differentiate from the rest of the market. These include the move towards hard drive models that are either eco-friendly or higher-performance, and for our high-end guide, we're concentrating on the latter trend. The most impressive of these is the Western Digital Caviar Black line, which supplies the highest performance in a standard 7200-RPM drive, while offering top-end capacities.

The Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB (WD1001FALS) drive includes a 32MB data cache and runs at 7200-RPM, while supporting the SATA 3.0 Gb/sec. interface. The key to the Caviar Black performance is its dual-processor architecture, providing theoretically twice the processing power of a standard SATA hard drive. This extreme performance is matched with features like StableTrac and NoTouch ramp load technology, and Western Digital covers these drives with a full 5-year warranty, all for only $129 a pop.

DVD-/+RW: Samsung SH-S223Q 22X SATA DVD Writer /w LS

Cost: $30
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

Although we'd like to go with a new Blu-ray/DVD-R+/- combo drive, it still doesn't fit with our budget, so we're sticking with a basic DVD+/-R/RW drive. For around $30, you can snag a name brand 22X drive, and for our money, the Samsung SH-S223Q is a great bet. This an SATA-based drive that supplies 22X write speeds for DVD-R, and is a very popular for new system builds.

The Samsung SH-S223Q is a low-cost DVD writer that combines the Samsung brand name with fast write speeds for CD and DVD media. The Samsung SH-S203B offers writing speeds of 22X DVD+/-R, 16X DVD+R DL, 12X DVD-R DL, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, and 32X CD-RW.


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