Memory Recommendations

While we wait for AMD socket AM2 to launch, we still need to have separate memory recommendations for AMD and Intel systems. Just as I'm done recommending single core processors for midrange computers, I'm upgrading both systems to 2GB of RAM. If you're running a dual core processor and doing a lot of multitasking, the extra memory will definitely come in handy. Prices have also dropped to the point where even good quality 2GB kits don't cost that much. It was about 18 months ago that we stopped recommending 512MB configurations for midrange computers, which means it's about the right time to bump up to the next level of memory. Hopefully, in another 18 months we will be able to recommend 4GB of RAM for less than $200.

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DDR Memory: Patriot PC-3200 2x1024MB EPLL (2-3-2-5-1T)
Price: $190 shipped (Retail) - $55 Mail-In Rebate until 5/15/2006

Choosing a 2GB kit of DDR memory was actually relatively easy. There are kits out there that will overclock higher (without using lower memory ratios), but the majority of them cost quite a bit more. There are also a lot of mail-in rebates currently available for DDR memory, most likely due to the pending launch of AM2. This Patriot memory comes with the lowest timings you can find on any DDR 1GB DIMM, and it also happens to be one of the cheapest 1GB DIMMs available. My experience is that you can push the memory up to around DDR-450 with relaxed timings, so combined with the memory ratios on AMD motherboards you can still achieve good overclocks. If you're willing to spend a bit more money, Corsair, OCZ, G.Skill, Kingston, and Crucial are all reasonable alternatives - and potentially cheaper, depending on whether or not you take advantage of the mail-in rebate.

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DDR2 Memory: G.Skill PC-5300 2x1024MB Extreme LA (4-4-4-12)
Price: $148 shipped (Retail)

Moving to the DDR2 recommendation, there are thankfully no mail-in rebates to worry about. Balancing maximum bandwidth against latency and price, DDR2-667 looks to be the sweet spot. The G.Skill memory offers reasonable timings of 4-4-4 at that setting, and the price is only about $15 more than DDR2-533. A quick glance at the DDR price shows that without mail-in rebates, DDR2 definitely has the advantage, and a higher potential bandwidth doesn't hurt either. If you're thinking about DDR2 memory for the new socket AM2 platform, you might want to upgrade to DDR2-800 memory. That will bump the price up to $220 or more, but for Intel platforms we don't feel it's truly necessary (except for the extreme performance people that are buying $1000 P4XE processors). Should you spend the extra money right now to upgrade to DDR2-800, so that you can take it over to your AM2 platform in the future? Personally, I would say no - you can just sell off your current system and buy new memory if you upgrade motherboards and processors in the future. Six months from now, there will almost certainly be better DDR2 memory available anyway.

Intel Platform Video Recommendations
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  • 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.

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