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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide August 9, 2009

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    May Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Vince Freeman :  May 18, 2007


    AMD CPU: Athlon 64 X2 5600+ (2.8 GHz) Retail

    Current Cost: $176
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    After moving to the AM2 platform, we have continued to upgrade the AMD processor, and the trend stays consistent this time out. Both AMD and Intel have been dropping CPU prices lately, and this allows us to make a significant upgrade - moving from the 2.2 GHz Athlon 64 X2 4200+, all the way up to the powerful 2.8 GHz Athlon 64 X2 5600+ and maintaining the same basic cost. This is a serious upgrade, and it's truly amazing that the CPU one-step removed from the 3.0 GHz Athlon 64 X2 6000+ can sell for just over $175. There is no question this processor represents the top AMD value right now, and buyers will be very pleased with its performance.

    The Athlon 64 X2 5600+ processor has a clock speed of 2.8 GHz, features a 2x1MB L2 cache format, and utilizes the Socket AM2 package. It is also a wild value at current prices, and at this rate, it might not be long before we're ushering in the Athlon 64 X2 6000+. To help maximize our budget and ensure ease of installation, we have gone with the Retail model and its nearly free heatsink-fan. However, if you have a killer 3rd-party HSF unit in mind, then buying an OEM CPU is always an option.

    In terms of the future, we'd rather concentrate on the present and revel in the ability to slide a high-end 2.8 GHz dual core processor into a value gaming system. In the face of increased competition from Intel, AMD has dropped prices to unheard of levels, and it's amazing what kind of CPU performance you can get for under $200. Even so, we'll be keeping a close eye on prices, and crossing our fingers that AMD can hit 3.2 GHz and drive the price down on their 3.0 GHz Athlon 64 X2 6000+.

    Intel CPU: Core 2 Duo E6420 (2.13GHz) Retail

    Current Cost: $184
    Consecutive Guides: New
    Price Change: N/A

    It is the same basic deal on our Intel section, but we simply can't make the same kind of radical ascension as we did with the AMD processor. Overall Intel prices fell, but these benefited mostly the high-end crowd, with few processors dropping below the $200 mark. Thankfully, Intel released a few "tweener" Core 2 Duo models, and allowed us to not only upgrade the clock speed, but also the processor architecture as well. The Core 2 Duo 2MB processors would be the natural choice at our budget, but the Core 2 Duo E6420 allows us to move up to a 4MB L2 architecture, while remaining at an affordable price point.

    The Core 2 Duo E6420 is one of the newer Intel dual core processors, and it utilizes the higher-end 4MB Conroe core, rather than the stripped-down Allendale. This is a 65nm processor with a clock speed of 2.13 GHz, and remains competitive with higher-speed Athlon 64 X2 processors. It also overclocks like a demon, and although we don't base our purchasing decision on this factor alone, it is still viewed as a nice extra. As with the AMD selection, the Retail vs. OEM argument also comes down to price. The Intel Retail package makes the most sense, as not only do you get a nearly-free heatsink-fan and full 3-year Intel warranty, but also a sealed, totally unused and untested CPU.

    AMD Heatsink-Fan: Bundled Athlon 64 X2 5600+ HSF

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

    The Athlon 64 X2 5600+ retail box includes a bundled heatsink-fan, and for both budgetary and ease-of-use considerations, we chose to go this route. The retail model is slightly more expensive than the OEM processor (if you can even find one), but also includes a nearly-free HSF and an extended product warranty to boot. Of course, this is simply a recommendation, and those with a particular 3rd-party HSF unit in mind should certainly go the OEM route, even though it may go a bit over our $1K budget.

    Intel Heatsink-Fan: Bundled Core 2 Duo E6420 HSF

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

    The Core 2 Duo Retail models are priced extremely close to the OEM processors, and availability of the boxed model is higher. Sometimes, due to low availability, the OEM prices are even higher, so why waste money when Intel is giving away free heatsink-fans. The retail HSF provides more than adequate cooling for the Core 2 Duo E6420, and the installation is simple enough.

    The retail Core 2 Duo coolers have passed our tests even using 2.4-2.93 GHz models, and we have no problem at all recommending these for our value gaming system. These Intel retail coolers may not qualify as hardcore, but still provide solid stability at base clock speeds, and have a bit extra left over for moderate overclocking.

    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 and LCD Display
    Page 6 Soundcard, Speakers and LAN
    Page 7 Input Devices and Operating System
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Closing Remarks

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