Table of Contents
- Video card
- Sound card
- CPU and Memory
- Interface and Appearance
- ATI Radeon
- nVidia GeForce
Although the performance of ATI cards has had them beat for the most of last year, if only slightly at times, nVidia has always had the advantage of a more compatible and more stable card. This is mostly due to their drivers – ATI is notorious for buggy drivers. I tend to lean toward nVidia myself, because performance is worth nothing if your machine keeps crashing! For the last 10 months, the GeForce4 line has been a great line, providing innovation and great performance improvements to the industry. If you’re looking to get a great card for a modest price, then the GeForce4 Ti 4200 or 4800 would be a great pick. In the last months, the new GeForceFX line has been their new flagship series. This is the new line that also boasts DirectX 9 support. Unfortunately, while I have always been a supporter of nVidia, even I have to say that the initial GeForceFX line was disappointing. The first cards to come out where huge and loud. The fans were so big that they took up two slots, and they were ridiculously loud with their oversized cooling setup. Thankfully, the manufacturers have given attention to the noise issue, and it has been significantly improved, but these cards still take up two slots, which makes them impossible to use in mini PCs. On top of these issues, we just didn’t see impressive performance from them. Even the fastest GeForceFX 5800 could not beat out ATI’s Radeon 9800. Then on top of that, ATI released the Radeon 9800 with 256mb memory, and further strengthened their standing. Much of this performance problem was based on a memory bottleneck, which nVidia was wise to give immediate attention. With the GeForceFX 5900, the memory bus is widened, giving the card the performance edge it needed to be competitive with ATI. So, now it is neck and neck again (as always), but the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra is the clear leader.
ATI’s Radeon line has been offering great gaming video cards for years. If you’re looking for performance at all costs, the Radeon 9800 with 256mb memory is the leader of the line, but be warned: it isn’t cheap! If you’d like to save a little money, you could grab a Radeon 9500 at less than half the price, and get the same features at a reduced performance rate. For many months, these ATI cards were able to boast their position as the only cards with full DirectX 9 support. While this doesn’t mean much today, it will mean much more as more games use DirectX 9 features. In the end, DirectX 9 support means better performance with the same hardware, as game designers build visual effects onto DirectX 9 functions that are hard coded right on your video card. In short, if you are a serious gamer, if you don’t have DirectX 9 support, then you should plan on needing to buy another video card in about a year! While ATI used to be the only manufacturer who could claim DirectX 9 support, we now see this same support from their main competitor – nVidia.
In the benchmarks to the right, you’ll see the performance of each card in Unreal Tournament, in 1600×1200 resolution at 32bit color, with 2x FSAA. The benchmarked performance of each card highly depends on the test system specifications, and these display settings, but in the end, our choice for the Ultimate Gaming PC is clear – the New!%20MSI%20GeForceFX%205900%20Ultra%20256mb”>GeForceFX 5900 with 256mb memory. It just doesn’t get any faster!
CPU and Memory
But what about the Pentium4 route? As much as us AMD buffs don’t like to admit it, Intel holds onto their long standing performance lead that they reclaimed way back with their 2.53GHz processor. Even the AMD 3200+ isn’t able to beat out the Pentium4 2.8GHz processor. Most recently released is the line of Pentium4 processors that run on a 800MHz FSB. Also new to the technology scene is the dual-DDR based Intel chipset. Our pick for the Ultimate Gaming PC? The New!%20Asus%20P4C800%20P4%20DUAL-DDR”>Asus P4C800-Deluxe motherboard, with a New!%20Intel%20Pentium4%203.2%20GHz%20800%20FSB”>Pentium4 3.2GHz 800FSB processor, and 1.0GB of DDR400 memory.
While the appearance of a gaming system is often the first thing an avid gamer thinks about, it clearly has nothing to do with the performance of the system. Luckily, it is quite cheap to get a great looking machine! Clear side windows, neon lights, round cables…you can often make all of those modifications to your system for under $50. If you wanted to go all out, you could use liquid cooling! However, one very important note to make here is that with all the cooling needed for the new video cards, it is nearly impossible to achieve the same level of cooling with liquid cooling. You can cool your CPU, hard drive and motherboard incredibly well, but the heat creation on the video cards is so widespread that it is impossible to cover with a standard waterblock. For this reason, we recommend staying with your standard air cooling for the video card, even if you have a liquid cooled computer. With our Ultimate Gaming PC, we use a Lian-Li PC6083 case, with a clear side window, blue neon light, and round cables. The end result is a clean look – it looks great but it isn’t over the top.
New!%20Asus%20P4C800%20P4%20DUAL-DDR”>Asus P4C800-Deluxe Motherboard
1.0GB PC3200 DDR-SDRAM
New!%20Intel%20Pentium4%203.2%20GHz%20800%20FSB”>Intel Pentium4 3.2GHz CPU
New!%20MSI%20GeForceFX%205900%20Ultra%20256mb”>MSI GeForceFX 5900 Ultra 256mb
Put these components in a snazzy case, and you have yourself the best gaming PC money can buy! But who has that much to spend? If you’re looking for ways to save, then buying the “next best” hardware is the best way to save. Look out for our next article, which will cover how to build a great gaming PC on a tight budget!