Hot Hardware Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006
Flagship System Configuration
Throughout the last year, the industry has warmed up to the idea of multiple-core systems with the widespread availability of dual-core processors. With the advent of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700, however, Intel has pushed the bar once again with the industry's first x86 quad-core consumer processor. Utilizing the same Intel Core architecture as the wildly popular Core 2 Duo processors, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 is easily the fastest processor on the planet in today's multithreaded applications and is well poised to retain that title with the multitude of multithreaded applications on the horizon. Although expensive, there is no other processor on the planet which can match this product's speed. If you have the cash, accept no substitutes.
Motherboard - ASUS Striker Extreme
Built around NVIDIA's latest nForce 680i SLI chipset, the new ASUS Striker Extreme motherboard is one of the most robust and feature-rich boards on the planet. Being one of the few motherboards to stray from NVIDIA's reference design, the new flagship Striker Extreme uses an impressive collection of copper heatpipes for cooling duties and has a few additional tricks up its sleeve such as an 8-phase EL-capless power design. On top of a custom diagnostic LCD and slick EL I/O, the board features one of the most option-rich BIOS's we've seen. If you can afford the steep cost of entry, there is currently no other board on the market which can provide the same levels of tweakability and performance.
Memory - 2GB Corsair Dominator DDR2-1142
Acting as one of the keystones for a fast and stable system, choosing the right memory modules is a critical area where no expense should be spared. With exceptional reliability and a stellar reputation for being one of the top memory vendors in the industry, we opted for Corsair memory for the flagship system. The new "Dominator" series represents Corsair's top of the line memory modules which feature all of the latest technology the company has to offer including the new Dominator heatspreaders and Enhanced Performance Profile (EPP) settings.
Graphics - 2 x EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX
Without question, the fastest graphics card on the planet in any game would be NVIDIA's new GeForce 8800GTX. Boasting Dx10 support along with a new unified shader architecture and a whopping 768MB of memory, NVIDIA's new flagship GPU is able to offer unprecedented levels of performance. Given our SLI-capable motherboard, it seems fitting to use two of these behemoths in SLI to guarantee that we're seeing the highest framerates possible today. In this case, we opted for the EVGA version as nearly all vendors are using the same reference design and only differ from one another by the included bundles. This is going to change somewhat in the coming weeks as vendors such as BFG will be offering GeForce 8800 GTX cards which are equipped with custom waterblocks for watercooled systems.