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
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  • toyota - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    it make more sense just to get the 7900gt now or get a 19inch lcd. no point in waiting a year for Vista to utilise a DX10 card. thats a long time suffer.
  • gersson - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Makes perfect sense to me.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Not everyone plays a lot of games, and I basically mention that the 7600/X1600 are what I consider the minimum for a current system. They should be able to run Windows Vista without any trouble, and even play some games. For $50 more, getting the GT with the much higher clock speeds was a reasonable upgrade. If you're serious about gaming, of course you can get a better GPU. I tried to make that clear by stating it at least two or three times. For non-gaming purposes, I like to have as big of a monitor as I can possibly get. Using stuff like Photoshop in widescreen mode is really nice, since all of the tool windows can fit on the sides while I edit regular aspect ratio images in the middle.
  • Iscabis - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    It is not actually a couple hundred more.

    It is only 769.95 shipped at the moment. Plus it has height adjustment (not sure how many care about that). I will be getting one this summer, unless the 2407 is the same price. Hopefully the 2407 makes the 2405 go even lower on price.
  • Iscabis - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Sorry my mistake. That site deceived and advertised free shipping. It is still 782 shipped from a different site though.
  • neutralizer - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I'd have to say that the LanParty is probably a better choice since I have a NF4 SLI Infinity and the support that DFI provides for it isn't very good considering its been so long since its release they still cannot fix the temperature sensor to display properly in Windows.
  • cozappz - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I am a little confused why AnandTech keeps saying AM2 will not bring a significant increase in performance over S939. AMD _clearly_ stated the change to AM2 is due to DDR2 adoption and unification of high, middle and low-end processors on the same socket, and it is expected to run on NF4 until NF5xx is released. But, if you want to buy an AM2 mobo, wait a couple of monts after release! Childhood ilnesses are inevitable both for AM2 and NF5xx.
  • One43637 - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    while i agree that the WD250KS is a great value for performance, there is something that i think buyers should know about that drive. it runs hot.

    i don't know why, but that drive runs on average 18C higher then my WD 74GB Raptor that's 2 slots away from it. i have a good case in the P180, and i have good airflow. 3xPanaflow 120x38, and 1 Nexus 120x25 in the fan slot behind the HD in the bottom enclosures. it's just odd that Speedfan constantly shows that drive between 48-55C depending on use while my Raptor is around 32-38C.
  • SonicIce - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    True, mine runs hot as well. When my computer is idle, its hotter than both my CPU and videocard. It's usually in the mid 40's while my 80gb WD was in the mid 30's. I thought there was something wrong with it at first, but if you're having the same temps then maybe its meant to be like that.
  • BigLan - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    "It also sports two X16 slots (with X8 bandwidth in SLI mode)" - The board runs both slots at 8x bandwidth all the time, not just when in sli mode. AFAIK it doesn't have any performance impact, but I spent a long time looking for the setting to change my board to x16/x1

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