Intel Platform

We mentioned before that gaming enthusiasts might prefer maximum single core performance for the short-term. Given that AMD single core processors are significantly faster at gaming than Intel processors, we would only consider single core processors from AMD. Intel also offers much cheaper dual core processors, making it even more difficult to recommend anything else. Overclocking and other factors can still play a role, and as long as you're not interested in 64-bit support, the AOpen i975Xa-YDG and Core Duo T2300/2400 remain an interesting possibility. If I were about to go out and spend $400-$500 on a new motherboard and processor, and I wanted an Intel platform, that AOpen board would get my current pick. However, Intel's Presler processors are also pretty potent, and motherboards are significantly cheaper - plus you get 64-bit support, though that still isn't in widespread use. All of the comments about selecting an appropriate motherboard still apply, but we chose a motherboard that we've had good experiences with.

Click to enlarge

Intel Motherboard: ASUS 945P P5LD2 Deluxe
Price: $151 shipped (Retail)
Intel CPU: Pentium D 930 2x2MB 3.0GHz (775) - Retail
Price: $212 shipped (Retail)
Total: $363

Even with a reasonably expensive motherboard, our Intel platform is significantly cheaper than the AMD platform. The ASUS motherboard comes with a well designed layout, two X16 slots (the one of them is limited to X4 bandwidth), FireWire, good overclocking support, and a wide open CPU socket area that will allow the use of just about any heatsink on the market. The Presler 930 processor comes clocked at 3.0 GHz by default, and at that speed the X2 3800+ is certainly faster. Once you overclock the Presler to 4.0 GHz though, things become more interesting. We would still give the Athlon X2 system the edge in overall performance - at stock clock speeds or overclocked - but there are a few applications that are very optimized for Intel's NetBurst architecture, and some people simply prefer Intel systems. Note also that the Pentium 930 will definitely run hotter and require more power than the X2 3800+, but you should all be aware of that fact by now.

Alternatives on the Intel side of things are almost more confusing than the AMD side. In most situations, we would recommend using an Intel chip set for an Intel processor. However, if you want to run SLI, you'll need to switch to an NVIDIA chipset. Motherboards using the NVIDIA nForce4 chipsets are almost all cheaper than boards using Intel chipsets, but my personal experience is that they require a lot more user knowledge in order to get them configured optimally. You also have to be careful about proper support for Presler and Smithfield 820 CPUs, as the early nForce4 SLI chipsets can still be found floating around on some of the cheaper motherboards. If you want guaranteed SLI support as well is support for the Presler processors - not to mention good overclocking features - spend the money on the ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe. If you want all of the extras but you want CrossFire support, go for the ASUS P5WD2-E Premium. The P5WD2 also reportedly supports Conroe, giving you a good upgrade path for six months from now.

If you're looking for different CPU options, we would mostly recommend looking at the cheaper CPUs. The Pentium D 805 and 820 are both pretty cheap, especially for a dual core processor. If you want to overclock, we recommend getting an aftermarket heatsink, as that will often get you another 200 or 300 MHz as well as lower temperatures. The Thermaltake Big Typhoon, Scythe Ninja, and Zalman 9500 are a few of the top air cooling solutions currently available. All three of them are also huge, so don't plan on using them in a small case, and make sure the motherboard you select will work with them. (All three ASUS motherboards mentioned above work fine.) Again, here's an abbreviated list of potential alternatives.

Intel 775 Alternatives
Hardware Component Price
Processor Pentium 805 Retail 126
Processor Pentium 820 OEM 158
Motherboard ASUS 975X P5WD2-E Premium 219
Motherboard ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe 198
Motherboard Biostar TForce4U-775 (nForce4 Ultra) 96
Intel 479 Alternatives
Motherboard Aopen 975X i975Xa-YDG (479) 287
Processor Intel Core Duo T2300 1.66 GHz Retail 254

AMD Platform Memory Recommendations
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • jonp - Friday, August 11, 2006 - link

    Just to note, Asus P5LD2, PCB version 2.01G, BIOS version 1207 supports the Core 2 Duo (Conroe) processors!">
  • jiulemoigt - Saturday, May 13, 2006 - link

    I really have wonder somedays if reviewers even understand their target audience anymore. My favorite statement in the entire article "CRTs pretty much target the budget market exclusively these days", this has to have been in ignorence, I can understand they weigh too much and take up too much space, but if your suggesting that displays which have higher resolutions and refresh rates being cheaper makes them budget market, I'd love to be the guy that sells you hardware. Most LCD are inferior exspecailly at the prices you talking about, at four hundred dollars you can get a professional crt which will display at 2048x1536 at 75Hz or 1920x1200 at 85Hz.
    So instead of recomending a cheap LCD with questionible quality you might want to point out those CRT displays you personaly dislike as an option for people on a budget to get the best options possible as not everyone can afford the nice LCDs likeone that cost more than the whole system price.

    As to the DVI standard the standard is not the problem the hardware is dell's 30 LCD could probably handle the bandwidth, most CRTs can handle more but most LCD
    can not even hit 1920x1200 at 60Hz and those that do rarely hit the 75Hz DVI standard.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, May 14, 2006 - link

    As one example, let's check out Newegg.">Here are the 20 inch or larger CRTs

    Both models (yes, there are exactly 2 models currently carried by Newegg) have a maximum resolution of 1600x1200, and the maximum refresh rate at that resolution of 75 Hz. Both are invar shadow mask tubes, which means they are targeting a budget rather than quality. Aperture grille monitors were always better, in my opinion, and they certainly cost more to make.">What about 19 inch CRTs?

    The seven options there aren't any better than what was listed above. One of those displays might actually have an aperture grille tube, but I doubt it. In the past, I used to recommend the NEC FE991SB, which does indeed have an aperture grille tube. I bought one about 18 months ago for $250. That model is no longer available (unless you can get a refurbished display or you find one that has been sitting on the shelf for a couple years), and the newer FE992SB is once again an invar shadow mask tube.

    I have stated this on several occasions in the past, but CRTs are pretty much at a dead and now. If anyone is trying to make newer, better models, I don't know who they are. When I say CRTs are a budget option, what I mean is that you can't get new CRTs that are as good as the top models from three or four years ago. They represent one of the few components in computers that has actually gotten worse in the past two years. It's not that they can't manufacture better displays, but they feel that the market has moved to LCDs, and so any CRTs that they make are looking to cut costs more than anything else.

    I'm sure you can go out and find refurbished displays that are still very good, provided you want to deal with the large size. However, our buyer's guides make a point of recommending hardware that you can easily purchase, and we have never listed used/refurbished products. That's not to say he used to/refurbished is bad, but availability is very sketchy. I hope that explains my statement that CRTs are budget options these days.

    Jarred Walton
    Hardware Editor
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - link


    ... and a partridge in a pear tree.

    and I thought I was the only one who tossed that in at the end of a list; I even work it into casual converstation, how about you?
  • Powered by AMD - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    "Plenty of people are still running old socket 478, 462, and 754 systems, and they're perfectly happy with the level of performance and they have. The latest and greatest computer games almost certainly wouldn't run on those older systems without drastically reducing the graphics quality, but if you don't play games you probably won't care about or notice the "missing" performance"

    I disagree. With my X800 XT and my Athlon XP 2300Mhz (real frequency), I can play everything at 1024x768, Im missing better resolutions and maybe AA in some titles, but no more than that. I dont "drastically" reduce visual quality, and I play smooth. When I start to see a Mayor change about smoothness, I ll buy a new PC. Meanwhile, Im done.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I'm thinking specifically about F.E.A.R. and Oblivion. Running at anything less than 1280x1024 qualifies as a pretty major cut in graphical quality, at least in my opinion. Note that I'm not talking about all games here, just the "latest and greatest" -- meaning the most graphically intense. (And no, I don't think graphics makes a game much better. I think I will put that portion" to make that clear.)
  • Belldandy - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Good ideas presented. A HTPC guide with respects to HDCP, or at least something about DRM ie DVI-HDCP or some workaround where HD content can be displayed at native resolution at 1080p would be good. Also Home theater reciever audio hookup (with quality recommendations) would be helpful. Also case selection, noise, heat are potential problems that break a HT setup.
  • chinna - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    We really need one good guide for HTPC soon. There are lot of people interested in building quite HTPCs now-a-days. Hooked to 32/37 LCD these are wonderful. But hardly find any good articles about it. There were few on tomshardware, but those were really a joke.

    I would like to see a good article on how to put together a nice HTPC system with reasonable budget, preferably with HD TV Tuner( not a gamers PC) and proper remote.
  • toyota - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    whats the point in having a monitor that the 7600gt is going to struggle with? good luck playing any modern games at the native resolution. i think if your are interested in gaming on this level of computer you should stick with a 19 inch lcd. of course you could always spend a little more and get the 7900gt or x1800xt.
  • MNOB07 - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I like the guide a lot, but I agree. I would not recommend the 7600GT for a system costing ~$1500, instead I would go for the 7900GT. On the other hand the 7600GT won't be a bad choice if your going to be an early adopter of the best DX10 card when it comes out anyway and are trying to save money.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now