Hot Hardware for the Holidays: A Buyers Guide
For the flagship system, we looked at the industry as a whole and tried to determine what the best hardware combination would be if money was not a factor. In this case, there are various impressions as to what quantifies the "best" hardware. For our purposes, we'll be focusing on creating an FPS monstrosity whose sole purpose is high-resolution gaming.
A quick glimpse at the benchmarks within our review of the GeForce 7800GTX 512MB and one will quickly see that there is no question which graphics card should be in our flagship system. In nearly every benchmark, a single GeForce 7800GTX is able to dominate the competition. Pairing the card up with a second 512MB GeForce 7800GTX in an SLI configuration results in increased framerates and should allow us to play nearly any title with all the image quality enhancements enabled with ease. In addition, the card features two dual-DVI ports allowing users to make use of some gorgeous displays, such as Apple's 30" Cinema Display, that require dual-link DVI connectivity.
With two PCI-Express x16 graphics cards, it seems a bit crazy to opt for a motherboard which supports anything short of two full x16 PCI-Express slots. Based on the nForce4 SLI x16 chipset, the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe runs our flagship graphics cards with no bandwidth limitations or constraints. In addition, the board is equipped with just about every feature a person could ask for. Supporting up to 4GB of memory, the latest dual-core processors, nV RAID, nV Firewall, a soft SLI bridge, passive heatpipe cooling, and an almost dizzying amount of ports this motherboard has every base covered. Overclocking enthusiasts will love the motherboard's wealth of tuning options within the BIOS and its 8-phase power design. Without a doubt, this is a rock-solid board that will allow the user to push their hardware to the limits with no question of stability and reliability.
System memory is easily one of the most critical components in terms of stability, reliability, and performance. For the last several years, we've used Corsair XMS modules with fantastic results. The matched kit we've selected will allow ample headroom for overclocking and offer blistering performance with tight timings. With the latest crop of games such as Battlefield 2 and Quake 4 taking advantage of as much memory as you can throw at it, the choice of a 2GB kit was obvious.
Given this drive's plentiful supply of RAID-specific features and enhancements, it seems fitting to choose two of these drives to create a high-performance RAID array. Beyond the impressive 16MB cache and SATA support, the drive features RAID-specific time-limited error recovery (TLER) and Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF). These features prevent drive fallout and offer higher vibration resistance allowing for higher reliability and performance.
For our core storage needs, the only fitting choice for a flagship system would be two 74GB Western Digital Raptor drives in a RAID 0 configuration. Spinning at 10,000rpm these consumer drives offer some of the highest read-write performance numbers money can buy. With 800GB worth of secondary drives for storage, the lack of space on these 74GB drives is far outweighed by the impressive performance they provide.
Without question, selecting the ideal monitor for our flagship system was the easiest choice of all. With a 24" wide-screen panel, 4 USB 2.0 ports, integrated 9-in-1 flash reader, and a blistering fast 12ms response time the Dell Ultrasharp 2405FPW was the ideal LCD monitor. Gamers can rejoice with an LCD that will allow for ghost-free gaming with more real estate than you can possibly imagine. To top it off, Dell is currently offering an unbelievable deal on this monitor that will make this LCD even more tempting than it already is.