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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide February 25, 2012
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Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide


November Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman :  November 14, 2008


AMD CPU: Phenom X4 9750 (2.4 GHz) Retail

Current Cost: $164
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

Given that AMD has lowered Phenom X4 price levels significantly since our previous guide, it's a foregone conclusion that we're moving to a quad core CPU. The 2.4-2.6 GHz Phenom X4 models also outpace the fastest Athlon 64 X2 in terms of single-thread gaming speed, and with multi-threading becoming more prevalent everyday, there is no reason not to make the jump.

The Phenom X4 9750 features a true quad core design with 512K of L2 cache per core (2MB per CPU) and 2MB of shared L3 cache. This is a 65nm processor, featuring an onboard 128-bit dual-channel DDR2 memory controller, with support up to DDR2-1066. It runs at a 2.4 GHz clock speed at a TDP of 125W, and with a $164 price tag, this makes it a perfect fit for our budget.

Intel CPU: Core 2 Duo E8400 (3.0 GHz) Retail

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

We had already upgraded to a 45nm Wolfdale processor in the previous guide, so our goal this time was to move up the clock speed ladder. The 3.16 GHz Core 2 Duo E8500 is a super value, but its price tag put our budget out of whack, so we dropped down a level to the 3.0 GHz Core 2 Duo E8400. This brought us to the $165 level, which like the Phenom X4 9750, fit like a glove in our $1K budget.

The Core 2 Duo E8400 features the 45nm Wolfdale architecture with 6MB of L2 SmartCache (compared to 4MB on the Conroe core) and runs on the 1333 MHz bus. It has a clock speed of 3.0 GHz, a 65W TDP and a VID voltage range of only 0.85V-1.3625V. It is also a superior overclocker, with users hitting results of 4 GHz or higher with regularity. As not everyone chooses to overclock a processor, we don't base our purchasing decision on this factor alone, but it is still viewed as a nice extra. We also went with the retail version, as you get a nearly-free heatsink-fan and full 3-year Intel warranty.

AMD Heatsink-Fan: Bundled Phenom X4 9750 HSF

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

The Phenom X4 9750 retail box includes a bundled heatsink-fan, and for both budgetary and ease-of-use considerations, we chose to go this route. Of course, this is simply a recommendation, and those with a particular 3rd-party HSF unit in mind should certainly go the BE route, even though it may go a bit over our $1K budget.

Intel Heatsink-Fan: Bundled Core 2 Duo E8400 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 is more than adequate for the 45nm Core 2 Duo E8400, and the installation is simple enough.

The retail Core 2 Duo coolers have passed our tests using higher-clocked 45nm models, as well as overclock testing to well over 4.0 GHz, 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


    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