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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  • Griswold - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Shouldnt always go for the bigger number at a similar price. There are more important numbers with PSUs than the absolute wattage.
  • KorruptioN - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Even though it's only rated at 400W overall (yes, wattage is not the best indicator of overall output), it can do 30A on the +12V output alone (360W divided by 12V), which is a good amount for a non-SLI configuration. Even two 7600GTs wouldn't be enough to push this power supply past it's limits. I think it is a good all-around choice.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    I've got a system very similar to this, only with a 7800 GTX, an overclocked X2 3800+, and two 250GB hard drives... all running off a Thermaltake 410W PSU. Maximum power draw hits about 315W - and that's not even counting for PSU efficiency (i.e. that's measuring at the outlet).

    I mentioned several alternative PSUs that people can consider. Why do I like modular units? Sleeved cables, reduced cable clutter, and for an extra $15 I'm willing to go that route. Opinions vary, naturally - this guide is basically my opinion, after all.
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link


    We fully expect Core Duo 2 to outperform anything else Intel currently offers, potentially by as much as 35% for the same price CPU.

    Sure about that. Only 35%?? I think 35% will be the absolute minimum over Netburst in Netburst optimized apps.
  • peternelson - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Difficult to make comparisons of "same price" netburst cpu, because Intel roadmap will make FURTHER REDUCTIONS in price of 930,940,950 after Core Duo 2 launches through November.

    950 probably isn't going to compete with the new chips on total performance, but may not be that bad in bang for buck in comparison.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Rough estimate, and it could be more or less depending on benchmarks. Core Duo T2300 costs a bit more than Pentium D 930. Looking at *stock* performance, AutoGK encoding for example should be around 55 FPS for the 930, while the T2400 get 44 FPS. Even with a 25% boost in performance, the Core Duo 2 $210 CPU is probably going to about equal PD 930.

    The flipped side is that some benches (games especially) will be more than 35%. PD 920 at 2.8 GHz maxes out at 63 FPS in BF2, roughly. (Doesn't matter about resolution - 800x600 still gets ~63 FPS.) Gary got 83 FPS with T2400 at stock, and 112 at 2.8 GHz. If CD2 gives another 25%... we're looking at maybe 104 FPS for a 1.83 GHz Core Duo 2. Assuming such a chip costs $210, it's got a 65% performance advantage. :)

    Anyway, I'll tweak the text slightly.

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