Hardware 2.0 "Best Kit List" for Dec 07/Jan 08

Hardware 2.0 "Best Kit List" for Dec 07/Jan 08

Summary: OK, here it is folks - The Hardware 2.0 "Best Kit List" for Dec 07/Jan 08. Here I've tried to compile a list of the best high-end and mid-range components currently available.

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Overall, I get more email asking me for kit and component recommendations that pretty much anything else, and that volume increases dramatically as the Holiday season comes into full swing.  Also, over the Christmas period many people will have received new peripherals, tech toys and games and this will force an upgrade - there are been many a time when I've looked at getting a new game as a bill for a few hundred bucks worth of new hardware!

OK, here it is folks - The Hardware 2.0 "Best Kit List" for Dec 07/Jan 08.  Here I've tried to compile a list of the best high-end and mid-range components currently available.  These components are on this list because I believe them to be the best - although I'm ready to admit that, as always, that there's room for debate and some choices "go with the gut" more than others.

Each time I come out with a list of kit I always end up fielding a few emails and comments from people wondering if companies have "bought" space on the list.  Let me tell you now that the only way for a product to get on this list is to be the best - period.  Manufacturers, vendors and PR companies have zero influence over this or any other recommendation that I make.

My plan is to publish a new list every couple of months.  I'm pretty sure that this will mean that not only the list will grow but that it's kept fresh as new products are released.

With the introduction out of the way, let's get started!

CPUs -->

CPU

The processor market is currently dominated by Intel, so I'm afraid that if you're hoping for AMD offerings, look away now ...

QX9650High-end - Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650

If you've got a stack of cash that you're desperate to get rid of then the CPU to do just that is the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650.  Four cores, each running at 3.0GHz and an FSB of 1,333MHz makes this CPU a monster. 

Price - around $1,200

However, at some point early next year Intel will release the QX9770.  This one will have four cores each running at 3.2GHz and have a faster 1.600MHz FSB. 

E6750Mid-range - Intel Core 2 Duo E6750

At the mid range, Intel still rules.  It's hard to pick a specific CPU for the mid-range but the range to be looking at is the Core 2 Duo.  The sweet spot in that range is the 2.66GHz E6750.  It offers good performance at a reasonable price, plus you can tinker with it in the overclocking department if you want to.

Price - around $200

<-- Intro | Motherboards -->

Motherboard

In the interests of brevity, I'm going to pick what I believe are the best boards LGA775 and AM2 motherboards.  Both of these are made by ASUS

ASUS Maximus FormulaLGA775 - ASUS Maximus Formula

Without a doubt, the best LGA775 to come from ASUS is the Maximus Formula.  The Intel X38 chipset supports both DDR2 and DDR3, which means that you can stick with the cheaper DDR2 RAM for now. 

You also get support for 8GB of RAM, Crossfire, 8-channel audio - the works!  Plus, it's an overclocker's dream.

Price - about $270

ASUS M3A32-MVP DeluxeAM2 - ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe

About the only difference between the Maximus Formula and the M3A32-MVP Deluxe (apart from the socket), is the Chipset - the AM2 board comes with an AMD 790FX chipset - and it doesn't have DDR3 support.  Apart from that, the M3A32-MVP Deluxe is a very capable board indeed.

Price - about $250

<-- CPUs | Graphics cards -->

Graphics card

Competition for the best graphics card is, as expected, very stiff.  If you want to go high-end, expect to pay a bundle, especially if you plan on going SLI/Crossfire!

BFG GeForce 8800 Ultra OC 768MB GDDR3High-end - BFG GeForce 8800 Ultra OC 768MB GDDR3

This thing is a monster.   It's pre-overclocked so there's no messing about.  The core clock runs at 630MHz, the memory clock at 2220MHz and the shader clock at 1566MHz.  It has 128 stream processors, a memory bandwidth of 106.6GB/sec and is capable of a fill rate (the number of pixels that can be rendered and written to the video memory) per second of over 40 billion.

If money is no object (and if it isn't, steer clear of this card) then this is the card that delivers the goods.

Price - about $740

Radeon HD 3850Mid-range - Radeon HD 3850

If you're looking for a solid mid-range graphics card then look no further than the Radeon HD 3850.  The core clock runs at 668MHz, the memory clock at 1656MHz, the shader clock at 1566MHz and 320 stream processors.  You also get dual-DVI and HDMI support.

Price - about $180 

<-- Motherboards | Hard drives -->

Hard drives

Hard drives aren't usually considered to be a sexy upgrade, but spend your money wisely and you should see a significant performance boost!

Western Digital Raptor/RaptorXHigh-end - Western Digital Raptor/RaptorX

When it comes to the Raptor/RaptorX (the difference being that the X means a clear cover), I've made a complete U-turn.  Initially I viewed them with suspicion, thinking that they were little more than a gimmick, but now I have at least one fitted into each of our main systems here.  These drives aren't cheap and don't come offer much capacity, but they are fast!

Price - about $180 for the 150GB RaptorX

Samsung Spinpoint T166 500GBMid-range - Samsung Spinpoint T166 500GB

If you're looking for a fast drive that offers high capacity, then take a look at the Samsung Spinpoint T166 500GB drives.  Because the T166 has three platters, the data density is high, which in turn means great performance.  They're also quiet.

Price - about $110

<-- Graphics cards | RAM -->

RAM

Buying cheap RAM is just asking from trouble, especially if you push your system hard. 

OCZ FlexXLC Edition Dual Channel 2048MB PC9600 DDR2 1200MHzHigh-end - OCZ FlexXLC Edition Dual Channel 2048MB PC9600 DDR2 1200MHz

Insanely fast, insanely expensive.  Not only do you get the fastest DDR2 going, but you also get a cooling system that'll work as both air and water-cooled.

This stuff has a CAS latency of 5-5-5-18.

Price - about $350

Crucial Ballistix Dual Channel 1024MB PC6400Mid-range - Crucial Ballistix Dual Channel 1024MB PC6400

Fast RAM, tight timings (4-4-4-12), support for EPP (SLI memory) and a lifetime warranty.  What more could you ask for?  Well, what about being highly overclockable?  These modules deliver it all, for a mid-range price.

Price - about $80

<-- Hard drives | Coolers -->

Cooling

Stock coolers are OK if you like mediocre cooling and a noisy fan.  Me, I prefer  to upgrade the coolers on my systems.

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 ProLGA775 cooler - Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro

What can I say about this cooler other than it's quieter than the Intel stock cooler and a heck of a lot more efficient.  It's also easy to fit and remove and tends to fit well into cramped motherboards. 

It's also pretty cheap.

Price - about $20

Scythe InfinityAM2 cooler - Scythe Infinity

The Scythe Infinity will fit a whole host of sockets (including the LGA775, but I like the Infinity on the AM2 because it's so easy to fit. 

Also, this is a pretty good cooler - you can dispense with the fan altogether if what you're cooling is an Athlon 64 - even if it is overclocked.

Price - about $35 

<-- RAM | PSUs -->

PSUs

Given the spec of a modern PC, especially a mid to high-end system, getting a good quality PSU that can deliver consistent power is essential if you want to avoid problems.

Enermax Galaxy EGX1000EWLHigh-end - Enermax Galaxy EGX1000EWL

A high-end system is going to need a high-end PSU, and they don't come much better than the Enermax Galaxy EGX1000EWL.  This is capable of delivering 1KW of power in a stable way but without the noise associated with other PSUs.  It has a whopping five 24A 12V power rails, which allow you to build a stable system.  Oh, and the modular cabling system means less cable mess.

Oh, and it's also 80% efficient, so it doesn't harm the sky either.

Price - about $300

Antec TruePower Trio TP3-650Mid-range - Antec TruePower Trio TP3-650

A good, all-round PSU that can deliver enough power for dual 8800GTS or X1950XTX cards plus a whole raft of other drives and peripherals.  It's also nice and stable, thanks to the excellent build quality and three 19A 12V rails.

Price - about $110 

<-- Coolers | Home -->

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Processors

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46 comments
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  • VERY disappointed in your cooling fan selections

    I have found that you can completely avoid all fans, and the attendant noise by simply putting your computer in a refrigerator and drilling a few holes for the necessary wires.

    I sent my idea to Frigidaire and noted that the fridge did interfere with wireless networking. They told me that they are working on a wifi enabled fridge, as well as a wifi dhest type freezer to hold all the household computers. This will be groundbreaking and should put the fan makers out of business.
    j.m.galvin
    • Sounds like a workable idea ...

      ... could keep my water in the fridge too ... handy!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • agreed

      Lets see... the best motherboards are around $300, and the best cooling fan is... $20? It may be a good price/performance model, but you are listing the best. You sure didn't list any budget mb's.
      mjstod@...
    • Choking on the Green House Gasses

      Yes, it makes so much sense to replace a 130 watt, .16 amp cooling fan with a 200 watt, 12 amp appliance.
      mgrubb@...
      • Worse, choke on this!

        http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2007/gore_life/20.jpg

        Wow. Three 23" monitors and a big TV in the background. Talk about multitasking...
        HypnoToad72
  • Get ur kit on

    I'm surprised that most of those components, even in the mid-range, are way above even my newer machines. I only have one dual core in the mix and that's a dual CPU PIII that's currently serving as network file storage.

    I do video editing, animated 3D rendering and plenty of things that really load the CPU. Mine don't seem that slow. They have newer dual cores at customer sites and they don't seem that much faster, especially if they're running Windows.

    So is it gamers running up hardware specs? That's all I can figure. Unless you're rendering uncompressed HD frames with color correction, transitions and flying titles. Just seems like a lot of surplus capacity that gets used very little...unless you're gaming.
    Chad_z
    • it's not faster - ??????

      yr right the clock speed isn't any faster - but when u hit the enter key yr not waiting for the last job to finsh - you can run a virus check while yr doing a word DOC - try that one with an old CPU
      waynearcelectcom
      • What I Want for Christmas

        a computer that let's me scan for viruses 24/7. I really don't use my PC for anything else.
        Cornhead
  • RE: Hardware 2.0

    I disagree with the top video card choice. You should have pointed out the new G92 cards available from nVidia that cost half the price and perform about the same. (ie 8800GT and 8800 GTS 512MB). That's a better high end buy.
    rlescaille
  • No mid-range boards?

    I like my board, a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R.

    8-channel audio (coax digital and optical audio, 6 other back-panel ports, autosensing front-panel header), 6-way SATA 3Gb RAID-5 (RAID is WinXP+ only), an extra 2-way SATA 3Gb controller (8 SATA 3Gb total), eSATA (incl. 2-port bracket), LOTS of USB ports and headers (up to 12 ports in all), quad-core support, 8GB DDR2 1066 support, water-cooling capable, very configurable, and durable construction. Settings autodetect, or you can tweak everything (auto-resets if it won't POST). Clearance to handle big CPU coolers. And Gb Ethernet, but that's common now. Oh, and 64bit Vista drivers for everything.

    Trade-offs on this board are a single PCI-Express 16x slot (3 each 1x and PCI) and no FireWire, but there's a variant that has those.

    And it's only $129.99 at NewEgg.
    MWPollard
    • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R

      I too have that MB. I am plesed with it. Wish it had built in 1394 but it can be added. I have the Q6600 Quad-Core with 4GB OCZ Ram
      C4Ever
      • Most P35 boards have IEEE 1394 built in

        Most P35 boards have IEEE 1394 built in especially if you get the model with the ICH9R RAID controller.
        georgeou
      • I've the GA-P35-DS3L.

        I miss firewire too, but it is a very capable board.
        Q6600 and 4GB of G.Skil DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12) RAM too.
        HypnoToad72
  • What's happening to Asus MB quality?

    I have always been a dedicated Asus fan but lately I have heard numerous quality complaints. Most are related to 680i based product and sometimes it's hard to seperate operator error from product defects but I think it's undeniable that quality and customer service ae taking a big hit.
    alexh1@...
    • In all the years...

      In all the years I've been building systems, and using Asus boards as exclusively as possible - tens of thousands of systems now - I've had precisely one Asus board that was bad out of the box.

      In fact, the only complaint I've had about their boards, ever, has been their choice of fans on chipset coolers. There were a couple of series of boards that I refitted before even putting them in a case. A moot point now that they've moved to the heat pipe design.

      If I had to take issue with anything on his list, it would be the inclusion of the Antec TruePower PSU. I have yet to have a decent experience with anything in the TP line.
      Dr. John
      • Forgot about those lousy fans...

        Forgot about those lousy fans...

        I had a lot of those fans fail on me back when I used Asus boards on the job - most businesses use pre-built systems, but one did everything custom and in-house - that was fun. Prebuilt means you have to go with what somebody in Austin thinks you need.

        Usually the fan just got so noisy you couldn't hear yourself think, but sometimes they'd quit completely and let the board overheat and shutdown without any warnings. The fan connection was simple enough, but the trouble was that you'd have to pull the motherboard out to get to the clips from the backside to get them out.
        MWPollard
    • asus is going down hill

      for dam sure - and the tech admit it too !!!!!!!!!!!
      waynearcelectcom
      • I had to deal with an Asus tech recently...

        Told the problem in reasonable, coherent detail, saying "I tried this, what else can I do, but given I've also done this and that and everything else, chances are there's a bug in your BIOS because this video card is too new...".

        They told me what I had already stated IN my support request form!!!

        D-U-M-B.
        HypnoToad72
    • I've yet to have a bad ASUS mobo.

      I use AMD compatible nearly all the time so can't speak for their Intel compatible boards.
      bjbrock
    • separare

      ?
      ýlysdexia