PC Buyer’s Guide – High End

PC Buyerâs Guide â High End
The budget for this gaming PC is $2000 US. This is a guide to putting together a complete computer, which means speakers, keyboard, mouse and monitor are included.  

This is a guide to putting together a complete computer, which means speakers, keyboard, mouse and monitor are included. For this guide I have tried to put together the computer that will give you the most reliable PC and the best overall gaming experience, AS IS. That means I am assuming that you will not be overclocking the system (since most people do not!). So please, no flames concerning âthis [name of part here] is a better overclocker than [name of part I recommended]!â 



Processor â AMD Athlon 64 3200+

Capable of running both 32 bit and 64 bit software, possessing an on-chip memory controller and 1 MB of L2 cache gives the Athlon 64 a huge boost in performance over the previous generation of AMD CPU's.


Now why do I choose this over the similarly priced 3.2 GHz Pentium 4? Not only does the Athlon 64 hold its ground against the Pentium 4 in most benchmarks, it wins most of the gaming benchmarks, important when youâre trying to put together a gaming PC. Also thereâs something to say to future proofing your PC. Rest assured that as software developers begin to develop 64 bit software or modify their existing software to take advantage of the Athlon 64âs capabilities, you will see a nice boost to your PCâs performance. 


FYI the Athlon 64 3400+ should be making its debut shortly, so if youâre patient you can pick up the faster model, or pick up the 3200+ when it drops in price.


For those of you who don't want to take a risk on the brand new processor from AMD, then the Pentium 4 3.2 GHz 800 MHz FSB will be your choice, it is currently the fastest CPU speed offering from Intel and can be found for the same price as the AMD Athlon 64 3200+.




Heatsink and Fan â Thermaltake Venus 7+

Thanks to the integrated heat spreader and lower core voltage of the new Athlon 64, these CPUs do not need quite as elaborate a heatsink that the Athlon XP needed to stay cool. Still a solid copper cooler like this guarantees the Athlon 64 will stay exceptionally cool. If you chose the Pentium 4 processor then the stock heatsink/fan included in the retail CPU bundle will easily suffice. 


Motherboard â VIA K8T800 Based

The two main chipsets for the Athlon 64 motherboards right now are the nForce3 150 and VIA K8T800, however the VIA chipset seems to have the performance edge right now. Keep an eye out though, there will be more chipsets on the way from Ali, SiS and NVIDIA (the nForce3 250). My recommendation is either the Asus K8V Deluxe or the MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R. Both offer all the goodies you would expect with from a high end motherboard such as Serial ATA RAID and Gigabit onboard LAN.


If you choose the Pentium 4 as your CPU of choice then you will want to choose an i875 "Canterwood" based motherboard.


Hard Drive â 36.7 GB Western Digital Raptor

This drive is fast, thanks to the 8 MB cache, the Serial ATA interface and the 10000 RPM speed! Made to compete with SCSI hard drives, it will do much towards cutting down your load times in games. It also comes with a 5 year warranty! For those of you craving a little more storage space, buy a couple of these drives and set them up in RAID 0. Or if you have a bit extra money there is a new 74 GB Raptor model now on sale which Western Digital boasts that it will be 30% faster than the previous model.


Memory â 1 GB Corsair XMS TWINX1024-3200C2PT DDR

Corsair has a reputation for producing high quality, overclockable memory modules. Their XMS series boasts lower memory timings to allow for increased memory bandwidth. The TWINX series is designed to take advantage of motherboards with dual channel memory controllers, so if you chose a Pentium 4 and i875 motherboard, this will be a plus. This RAM also sports some stylish aluminum heatspreaders. If you plan to overclock consider purchasing the faster PC3500, PC3700, or PC4000 modules. If you plan to overclock consider purchasing the faster PC3500, PC3700, or PC4000 modules. Just be sure to make sure it still uses the tighter memory timings (Cas 2-3-3-6 T1) and doesn't require higher default voltages (some high-speed DDR modules have required default voltages of up to 2.9v, well above the normal 2.5 and which cannot be supported by some motherboards).   


Video Card â ATI Radeon 9800 XT or NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 

The current flagship cards from ATI and NVIDIA run neck and neck in the benchmarks. The Radeon 9800 XT comes with a coupon good for Half-Life 2, but the GeForce FX is slightly less expensive. Either way you choose, the ATI Radeon 9800 XT or the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra will offer you top-notch performance in games today. So if you're an ATI fan, go with the Radeon, while you NVIDIA fans go with the GeForce. And have fun!


If you want to save some money then look no further than the Radeon 9800 Pro. Thanks to the release of the Radeon 9800 XT, the prices on the previous ATI flagship card is dipping. The 9800 Pro is nearly as fast as the 9800 XT; offering you the superior 3D performance and image quality youâve come to expect in a high end card, while costing significantly less (about $150 US).

Check out Guru3D related reviews:

ATI Radeon 9800 XT

GeForce FX 5950

HIS Excalibur IceQ9800 Pro

Gigabyte Radeon 9800 Pro

Hercules 3D Prophet Radeon 9800 Pro

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 

Sound Card â Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS

For the discerning audiophile, there is only one sound card. And that is the Audigy 2. This newer version features support for the new EAX 4.0 Advanced HD and Dolby Digital 7.1 sound.


If you want a non-Creative Labs alternative, consider the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 or AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1. Both use the VIA Envy24HT audio processor, offering Dolby Digital 7.1 sound, 24-bit/192kHz audio playback and 24-bit/96kHz recording; the same capabilities as the Audigy 2 ZS.

Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Ex

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum

AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1

M-Audio Revolution 7.1 

DVD-RW Drive â Enlight DVD -/+ RW EN-5601529 

There are a number of reasons why I recommend this DVD burner. It comes with an increased 8 MB cache (a normal drive only has a 2 MB cache) for improved DVD burning performance. This drive can also burn in a wide variety of formats: 4x DVD +/- R; 2.4x DVD+R and 2x DVD-RW writing. It burns normal CD-Rs at 24x and CD-RWs at 10x. It also happens to be one of the cheaper DVD burners on the market. 


CD-RW/DVD Drive - Samsung 52x24x52x16x SM-352BRNS 

That DVD burner is a little slow on burning normal CD's so do yourself a favor and get this nice combo drive. I chose the Samsung model not only because it supports the fastest burning speeds, but it is one of the few combo drives that comes with an increased 8 MB buffer (a normal drive only has 2 MB) that allows for improved burning performance. And you can still watch your DVDs with this drive. 


Network â Onboard Gigabit NIC

No need to buy a separate network card, either of the motherboards I recommended come with the fastest NIC available onboard. For those of you wondering where the modem is, let me say this: gamers donât use modems! Get broadband.


Case and Power Supply

Okay Iâm going leave this one open to your decision. Find a case you think suites you. The most important thing is to make sure it has a reliable power supply though, or purchase a case without a power supply and purchase a power supply seperately. For a high end machine I recommend getting at least a 400 Watt power supply and I recommend the following brands: Antec, Enermax or Thermaltake.


My personal recommendation: the Antec Sonata. A stylish black case, it comes with a pair of 120mm case fans (for excellent airflow while maintaining a quiet PC) and it comes with a rock solid power supply: the Antec TruePower 380 Watt power supply. All this for under $100 US. 


Monitor â 19â CRT or 21" CRT 

While an LCD monitor may be nice and definitely save on desktop space, it is rather pricey. If you like you can try to find an inexpensive 17" LCD or 18" LCD screen, just be sure to check out the response time (you'll want it to be lower than 30ms to avoid "ghosting in games). However, I recommend a CRT, you could buy 2 19" CRTs can for the price of a 17" LCD. For CRT you should be looking for a flat screen, a low dot pitch (0.20 is considered quite good) and support for higher resolutions and refresh rates. 


My personal recommendation: the Samsung SyncMaster 955DF-T/T. A sleek black and silver monitor featuring an extremely good .20 dot pitch, a flat screen and supports resolutions up to 1600x1200 @ 68 Hz. All this makes this low-cost monitor an excellent choice for this gaming PC. 



Speakers â Logitech Z-5300 THX 5.1

Regardless of what choice you made for your sound, you will want a good set of speakers. The quality of sound can really add to the gaming experience so donât sell yourself short on the speakers. You want to hear when someone is sneaking up from behind you in multiplayer, enjoy the theater experience watching DVDâs and enjoy the best quality sound when listening to your CDs and MP3s. Also there is no point of buying an expensive sound card if you donât have the speakers to take advantage of it. For a good and comparitively inexpensive THX certified speaker setup, look no further than the Logitech Z-5300 THX certified 5.1 speakers.


Got some extra money to burn? Want a REALLY nice pair of speakers?! Then consider investing in the Logitech Z680 or Klipsch Promedia Ultra 5.1 speakers. Both offer an earth-shaking 500 Watts of THX goodness, although between the two I would stick with the Logitech speakers as they will run you about $100 US less.


Keyboard and Mouse - Logitech Cordless MX Duo

This combo features the Logitech Cordless Elite Keyboard and the Logitech MX700 Mouse. Cordless is the way to go if you want to eliminate the clutter on your desktop. The MX700 is the finest cordless mouse on the market, featuring rechargeable batteries (charged via a docking station) and higher precision than any other mouse.


Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Logitech Cordless MX Duo


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