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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  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Thanks for putting up an update to your buyer's guides. I always read these with interest to get other people's insights into what they think are the most useful criteria for selecting the best components to get the job done at a good price.

    For me, trying to sort through whose LCD monitors really offer the most in a given price range, such as the $290 to $300 range, continues to be one of the most frustrating areas of selecting components. The fact that manufacturers of LCDs seem to have no compunction about making up whatever technical specifications they think will best help them sell their products is maddening. Perhaps someone will eventually nail them with a class-action lawsuit similar to the one that got everyone to specify the difference between CRT tube sizes and viewable sizes.

    Anyway, with regard to your recommendations, I'm skeptical that any of these LCDs, except the 24 inch Acer, are actually true 16.7 million color LCDs. As you said, it's easy to get to hung up on one specification, but all these LCDs, with the exception of the Acer AL2416W, appear to be using TN based panels. This means that in addition to them most likely really only being 6-bit + 2-bit with dithering panels, they suffer from the narrowed viewing angles that is the TN panel's other main weakness. Fortunately, while most manufacturers seem to have little problem with declaring all their LCDs to be 16.7 million color monitors, many continue to still be a little more honest about the viewing angles (though even these are often fudged, as well). The viewing angles on the monitors you listed are what seem to give away the true nature of these displays. They are relatively narrow, and they show smaller angles for the vertical compared to their horizontal angles, which as far as I know is very charecteristic of TN panels.

    Anyway, my only point is that the more information you can dig up and provide us about what's what with LCD panels the better. This continues to be one area of computer hardware where facts and reviews are skant and hard to find.


  • KorruptioN - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    That BenQ FP202W 20" really is a TN panel. Some say it is a full 8-bit panel (16.7M) instead of a 6-bit panel (16.2M). I don't really know for sure. If it is indeed 8-bits, then I don't think I would hesitate to recommend it (for that price with rebate), even with the slightly restrictive viewing angles.

    That said, I would recommend people spend a little bit more and get the Viewsonic VX2025WM. It is a full 8-bit P-MVA panel from AU Optronics and offers the best of both worlds (response time, viewing angles, and colour depth). It can be had for just under $350. It has the height adjustment too.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    The BenQ web site always lists the correct number of colors a monitor supports. In this case the web site lists 16.7 million colors, so its an 8-bit display. Its also a TN panel, so viewing angle will not be as good as an MVA panel.

    Here's a review, though:">

    My experience with BenQ's is that it takes some fiddling to get the colors right, but they are very nice after that. They are not so good out-of-the-box.

  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - link

    Well, you might be right, but I remain skeptical about the BenQ FP202W being a 16.7 million color monitor. It seems like it would be big news if someone was successfully manufacturing TN panels with that many true colors. seems to think that this monitor is using a Chungwa panel (CPT CLAA201WA01) and that this panel is also found in the Acer AL2017. Acer lists their panel as supporting 16.2 million colors, typical for how 6-bit plus dithering panels are described.

    Again, this just seems to emphasize how hard it is to get factual information that you can rely on when it comes to LCD monitors.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - link

    I've got the 19" 2ms and the 20" 8ms both setup right now, and I couldn't tell you (with my eyes) whether they're 6-bit or 8-bit. I need better eyes, I guess (which is actually true). I've edited the display text slightly if you want to check it out.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - link

    Full reviews (with empirical data, rather than just using my eyeballs) will be coming soon.
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - link

    I look forward to those. With so much of the cost of a system potentially going into these monitors, not to mention their expected useful lifespan, more LCD monitor reviews will definitely be welcome.

    The trick will be how to go about getting those facts and then figuring out what they really mean. I know that ranslating numbers into users' experiences is easier said than done.

    I'm sure that one of the reasons that there aren't very many in depth reviews of LCDs available is because this is such a difficult piece of hardware to get a good, analytic handle on.

  • kmmatney - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I meant to put in a few more reviews:">">

    There is a review out there that compared the BenQ against a few other LCDs inlcuding the ViewSonic 20" widescreen, and the ViewSonic was deemed the better LCD.
  • punko - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the Guide, Jarred.

    I guess sometimes its worth whining!

  • Yawgm0th - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I can't quite understand the recommendation of a 400W Eneremax power supply. There are more powerful modular power supplies in the same price range, with some being cheaper, even the ones from reputable brand names. There are even better PSUs in the same price range without modular cabling. A modular PSU is hardly a necessity for a mid-range computer, but a good power supply is. Enermax makes some great PSUs, but I wouldn't want to try using a 400W in a system like this, especially when there are good 500W power supplies in the same price range.

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