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Sharky Extreme : Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide February 22, 2012
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Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide

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November Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman :  November 14, 2008

Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB

Current Cost: $155
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

The CPU and graphics card components are the two most important factors in overall game performance, and since we've already upgraded the former, it's time to see what kind of video card improvement we can achieve. At this $140-$160 price range, the obvious winner is the ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB, as this card rules the mid-mainstream sector, and provide class-leading performance. We also like the ATI brand since it is perfect for our AMD and Intel CrossFireX platforms.

The Radeon HD 4850 is built on a 55nm RV770-based GPU core, and features 800 Stream processors, 40 texture units and 16 ROPs. This is a very powerful GPU architecture, and is combined with a 625 MHz clock speed for 25 GT/s of available filtrate. It also has a full 256-bit link to 512MB (or 1GB) of onboard GDDR3 memory, running at just under 2.0 GHz, and with over 63 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

While we don't choose a specific model, mostly due to fluctuating prices, supplies and availability, we can easily recommend the Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 512MB card (pictured above) at this price range.

NVIDIA offers a few options at this level, and the best is probably the GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB. Although the lack of platform SLI support is a potential issue, for those intent on a single-card NVIDIA solution, the GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB (like the PNY card pictured below) is the best straight-up challenger to the Radeon HD 4850 512MB, although it is a bit more expensive.

Display: 22" LCD with 5ms or lower Response Time

Current Cost: $170
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A

If we're putting all this time and effort into the video card, then it makes sense to put as much research into the LCD display. Our main goal since upgrading to an LCD has been to snag a 22" widescreen model, but prices haven't agreed with our budget. Finally, it looks as if the time is right, and there is a nice selection of 22" LCD options in the $165-$175 price range. This translates into a beautiful 1680 x 1050 widescreen resolution, with more than enough real estate for both gaming and desktop use.

At this price, expect a TN panel with a 2-5 ms average response time, a 160-170 degree viewing angle, 300 cd/m2 brightness, and a 1000:1 contrast ratio. These also feature DVI inputs, but for HDMI connectivity, expect to spend more. There are several brand names at this price level, and although we're not going to be picking from the very top of the LCD tree, brands such as Acer, KDS, Sceptre, and Hanns-G are readily available. If you want to spend a few bucks more, the door opens wider into Viewsonic, ASUS and even Samsung territory.

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

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