Hot Hardware for the Holidays: A Buyers Guide
For of our next system, our goal was to try to provide similar performance of our flagship system at a significantly lower total system cost. The performance gap at stock speeds would ideally be erased by overclocking the core components to some impressive new levels.
Seeing a GeForce 7800 GT at less than $300 is an offer too good to pass up, even for our mid-range, budget oriented system. Without a doubt, the quality and speed of graphics will impress anyone building a similar system to this configuration and price range. Although the GeForce 6800 GS is a very tempting and cheaper option, the additional features and performance of the GeForce 7800 GT make it worth spending the extra money. The particular XFX card we chose comes overclocked from the factory and can likely be pushed even further into GeForce 7800 GTX territory. For under $300, this card can be considered a bargain especially if it can match - or come close - to the $499 GeForce 7800 GTX's performance when overclocked. Those looking for more information on this card can reference our initial look at the XFX GeForce 7800 GT.
Ask any enthusiast what motherboard is the best overclocker and you're almost guaranteed to hear the DFI nForce4 SLI boards mentioned. The DFI LANPARTY UT nForce4 SLI-DR is easily one of the most feature-rich boards on the market and is equipped with an unparalleled amount of BIOS options and features that cater to the overclocker. Those looking for more information on this board can reference our own review of the board here, where a very similar board (a few more features) dominated the field of SLI motherboards and won our Editor's Choice award.
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.
Despite the few changes from our flagship system to shave cost here and there, it seems impossible to do without the gorgeous 24" LCD from Dell we selected for that system. 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.