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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide April 26, 2011
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Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide


August Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman :  August 31, 2007

Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB (PCI Express)

Current Cost: $160
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: -$25

The video card is one area that has undergone consistent upgrades, starting with the GeForce 7600 GT 256MB in mid-2006 and moving to the GeForce 7900 GS 256MB late in the year and then the GeForce 8600 GTS in mid-2007. We are not upgrading this month, and are quite satisfied with that the DirectX 10 mainstream powerhouse GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB brings to the table. In addition to leading-edge mainstream gaming performance, it also includes a unified shader architecture similar to the GeForce 8800-based cards, but with a scaled-down core design and memory architecture.

The 80nm G84 core features 32 stream processors clocked at 1.45 GHz and 16 pixel/texture pipes running at 675 MHz. The memory architecture offers a 128-bit link to 256MB of onboard GDDR3 memory running at a clock speed of 2.0 GHz. This results in a fillrate of 10.8 Gtexels/s and 32.0 GB/s of memory bandwidth. While certainly at the top-end of the mainstream scale, the GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB is not even half as powerful as a GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, but remains the fastest mainstream card in its class. It is also fully Shader Model 4.0 compliant and offers standard features like GigaThread Technology, PureVideo HD, the NVIDIA Lumenex Engine, and NVIDIA SLI.

While we don't choose a specific model, mostly due to fluctuating supplies and availability, we can recommend both the Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB (pictured above) and Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB (pictured below) cards at this price range. Both of these models offer an excellent mix of high performance and value, making the GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB a near-perfect match for our value system configurations.

This month we have two recommendations in the ATI range. For pure performance and value, the Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB (below left) really stands out, especially at a price tag similar to the GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB. The Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB (below right) may not be able to match the other two cards for pure speed, but it is a DirectX 10 card with full HD capabilities for around $120. We prefer the Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB for gaming, but it all depends on what you're looking to get with the graphics component.

Display: 19" LCD with 5-8ms Response Time

Current Cost: $165
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

One reason we've been so concerned about out $1,000 budget, is that we finally managed to sneak an upgrade to a 19" LCD in there. The budget is so tight that it was difficult fitting even a 17" LCD in, but now that prices have dropped a bit, 19" is finally a reality. This is a big move, as not only does the real estate jump, but the resolution also increases as well - to 1280x1024 for standard and 1440x900 for widescreen. This also brings into the question the aspect ratio, and while we prefer the widescreen format, we realize others will want to stick with a standard 4:3 display.

As there are so many different brands and styles at this price range, and since a monitor can be a very personal choice, we are currently recommending a generic selection of a 5ms-8ms 19" LCD. Many of these units have exceptional features, and with such a high response time, even high speed gaming will show minimal (if any) ghosting. One good feature of going the 19" route is that you can usually get a DVI input, something that was more difficult at the 17" range. The best overall LCD value has now moved to the 19" models, and displays from Acer, Westinghouse, KDS, LG, Sceptre, Fuji, Nikko and others are available in this price range.

Please keep in mind that when buying any type or brand of LCD, there is always the slight chance of receiving a defective unit or a flat-screen with dead pixels, so be certain to purchase only from a vendor that offers liberal return and replacement options. This is doubly important for LCDs, and be sure to check the vendor's Dead Pixel Replacement Policy and investigate any further protection you can buy.

Page 1

Introduction and Case

Page 2

Processors and Cooling

Page 3


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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