Upgraded AMD High-End Platform

Upgraded High-End AMD Athlon X2 AM2 System
Hardware Component Price
Processor AMD Athlon 64 (AM2) FX-62 - 2.8GHz 2x1MB Windsor $695
Motherboard DFI LANParty UT SLI-M2R/G - nForce 590 SLI AM2 $182
Memory GeIL Ultra 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2-1000 4-4-4-12 $315
Video Card 2 x EVGA GeForce 7900GTX 512MB RoHS HDCP $810
Hard Drive 2 x Western Digital 250GB 16MB Caviar SE16 $154
Optical Drive 2 x NEC ND-3550A 16X DVD+/-RW $68
Operating System Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2B (OEM) $115
System Total $2339
Complete Package $2926 - $4902

Our upgraded AMD configuration adds additional performance in many areas over the baseline AMD system. However, the performance improvement gained relative to the price increase is definitely a case of diminishing returns. This is especially true in light of the fact that a similarly priced Intel Core 2 Duo system is going to offer better overall performance, so unless you absolutely refuse to buy Intel it is difficult for us to recommend this particular configuration. We end up targeting the middle of the high-end price range with our upgraded AMD platform: faster in several areas than the baseline Intel configuration we will get to in a moment, but definitely not as fast as the upgraded Intel platform.

For the motherboard, we have gone ahead and upgraded to an nForce 590 SLI chipset. The base performance offered may not be much better, but the overall better quality of the board is indisputable. DFI's recently launched DFI LANParty UT SLI-M2R/G motherboard includes all of the enthusiast options you could want, along with rock solid performance and superb overclocking. There are competing motherboards for the AM2 platform that come very close to the DFI in overall performance and features, but once we add in price the DFI is currently the best high-end AM2 motherboard available. It features solid electrolyte capacitors that seem to improve overclocking stability, and we have been able to reach higher memory clock speeds with this motherboard than any other motherboard currently available - for any platform. Maximum memory performance isn't necessarily the be-all end-all, but DFI has created a product that should definitely appeal to the AMD enthusiasts.

About the only other alternative for motherboards on AM2 platforms that we haven't mentioned would be something that provides CrossFire support. There are only three RD580 AM2 motherboards currently available, one of which definitely isn't worth considering. The remaining two boards are provided by MSI and ASUS, with the MSI board costing slightly less. If you want to build an AMD CrossFire system rather than going with SLI, either motherboard will do the job admirably.

Our CPU selection uses the fastest currently shipping AMD processor, the FX-62. This comes with a clock speed of 2.8 GHz and it includes 2x1024K of cache rather than the 2x512K used on most of the other shipping Athlon X2 processors. It's also nice to see that the price has come down from $1000+ to "only" $700; unfortunately that's more money than any Intel chip other than the X6800, with performance roughly equivalent (and slightly lower on average) to the much cheaper E6600. Not to beat a dead horse, but there are definitely better options than an ultra high-end AM2 system these days.

We upgraded the memory slightly from our baseline recommendation to some DDR2-1000 memory. All of the DDR2-1000 memory that we have tested performs very similarly, and all of it is also able to run at 3-3-3 timings at DDR2-800 with added voltage (typically 2.1V-2.2V). The absolute best DDR2 memory currently available costs quite a bit more than the GeIL Ultra memory we have chosen, so unless you really want speeds over DDR2-1100 this memory probably represents the best compromise between price and maximum clock speeds.

Our GPU recommendation has been upgraded to the 7900 GTX, which adds quite a bit to the cost without gaining much performance at all if you're willing to try overclocking the GTO cards we mentioned earlier. We could always talk about upgrading to quad SLI, but honestly overall performance, compatibility, and stability is much better with SLI. If you want to purchase a 30" LCD so you can run games at 2560x1600, perhaps quad SLI is worth consideration, but don't be surprised if you run into many compatibility/stability issues if you choose to go that route. We definitely do not recommend quad SLI, and we feel you would be much better off waiting for the next-generation GPUs to become available rather than investing in expensive, flaky, bleeding-edge hardware configurations.

The only other change we've made is to the storage subsystem, where we've doubled the number of hard drives and DVD drives. You certainly don't need to have two hard drives for a top-end computer, but it does give you the ability to run RAID 0 or RAID 1. Even without RAID, performance can be somewhat snappier in Windows by having your swap file and some of your applications on the second hard drive, and of course you do get more storage with two drives instead of one. The dual DVD burners are an extra feature that a lot of people probably will never utilize, but if you do a lot of DVD burning it could prove useful. You could also try purchasing drives from two different manufacturers in order to maximize your media compatibility. While some might be interested in seeing a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD included instead of a standard DVD-RW, the technology is too new for us to recommend right now - that whole bleeding-edge problem again.

Baseline AMD High-End Platform Baseline Intel High-End Platform
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  • limiter - Thursday, October 19, 2006 - link

    I purchased one of the MSI 975x Platinum Powerup boards and the Giel ram suggested in this article and I am having issues with boot up and reboots. I have the ram at DDR2-800, 2.4v (which is what my set says to set the voltage at). I tried setting memory timings to automatic and manually at 4-4-4-12 (again what the memory claims it's timings are). Sometimes the system hangs before post on reboot, sometimes from cold start it starts then resets over and over, sometimes it says "Overclocking failed" with no changes to the CPU settings (just memory). Sometimes it boots up just fine... when it does it works great. I have 7.1 of the bios (official release right now), and I have read that a lot of other people are having the same issues. Also you need a PS2 keyboard to make any bios changes which is annoying. Any suggestions from the Anandtech people?
  • thart - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    From: Terry Hart [mailto:tmhartsr@comcast.net]
    Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 11:41 PM
    To: Baliff, Michael; Werder, Nick; Shade, Tom; Santos, Jim; Rice, Robbie; Pope, Jeff; Hart, Scott; Rose, Sam; Johnson, Ken
    Subject: Stuff

    Ken, etc.

    Following links are to recent Anand Tech Recommendations for Mid Range and High End builds. I strongly disagree with their choices, especially for Mid Range.

    1. The DDR-2 Memory has gone up in price and now costs considerably more than standard DDR. DDR-2 adds absolutely zero in performance to any AMD system. Therefore the best value by a considerable margin remains Socket 939 and standard DDR.

    2. This Mad Rush to Dual Core is insane. There is practically zero difference in everyday performance. Almost no applications yet exist to really take advantage of it. A 1.8 GHz Athlon-64 3000 Single Core costs $55 for the retail box. The least expensive 2.0 GHz Athlon-64 3800 Dual Core costs $164.00 for the retail box. The actual difference in performance of these two is very small and certainly not worth 3 times as much!

    3. The nVidia 6150 chipset based Micro Boards are the best I have ever seen. They include Gig Net, Firewire, SATA II 3.0, Raid, S Video Out, Dual Monitor support, splendid 7.1 Audio, and the best on-board Video anyone has ever seen. How one can possibly justify twice as much for the full size MOBO - plus another $100, or more, for a decent Video Card, is hard for me to understand.

    4. These Rosewill Towers and Power Supplies cost a fraction of what Anand recommends. The Rosewill PS'es are just fine and the towers are the easiest to work in and have more bays than any of the ones they recommend, or that I have ever used before.

    5. The NEC DVD Writers are great if you run only Doze. But they DO NOT work on any Linux system. Recently purchased a Retail Box NEC and received no cable(s) whatsoever, no DVD Software Decoder - just NERO 7 OEM. The Retail Box Lite-On DVD Writers with Lite-Scribe are better choices, I think.

    6. Few folks need the Media Center OS. Only advantage I see is if you do install and use a Radio/TV Tuner/Capture card - which almost no one does. Not a thing wrong with plain old $89 Doze XP Home OEM for 99% of users. Nothing in the PRO Version that I need here either?



    Sure wish someone would explain to me why I should spend well over 3 times as much for a Dual Core Socket AM2 than the more than adequate Socket 939 Single Core choices?

  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    1 -- High-end DDR2-800 like the GEIL Ultra costs $280 for 2GB. High-end DDR-500 costs $250 minimum and comes with generally lower performance. AM2 is 5% faster on average compared to a similar 939 setup. DDR is a dead end, with the last batches being manufactured between now and January 2007. Does that mean you need to go out and upgrade from a DDR system to DDR2 system? Certainly not, but I definitely wouldn't save $30 to stick with an outdated platform if you're buying a new computer, which is the point of the buyer's guides.

    2 -- Obviously you have never run any serious multitasking applications. 3D rendering, video encoding, audio encoding, professional image editing, compression/decompression are all more than capable of utilizing more than a single processor core. If you never do anything more than surf the web, write e-mail, and use Microsoft office then you don't need dual cores right now.

    3 -- Obviously you have never used a really good motherboard if you think the 6150 chipset is the best motherboard ever. Or more specifically, you are assuming that your needs are the same as everyone else's needs/wants. I don't even want to think about trying to run games on a 6150 chipset. Of course, we've already run benchmarks http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2553&p...">comparing ATI and NVIDIA integrated graphics. Think those numbers look impressive? A dual GPU configuration like those used in this article packs about 20 times more graphical performance, which can be very useful for high-quality gaming. I don't even want to think about running Oblivion on any integrated graphics chipset.

    4 -- Rosewill is about is generic of a brand as you can get. While that might be okay for the cases, I would never recommend a $50 power supply for use in a system that costs well over $2000. I'm pretty sure you're convinced that every buyer's guide should be a budget buyers guide, but some people actually like to have the fastest computers available, and some of us actually make use of them.

    5 -- Every motherboard I have ever purchased comes with IDE cables that can be used with your optical drive. Perhaps if you purchased the cheapest motherboards on the market, along with IDE hard drives, you might only get a single cable and find yourself in a difficult situation where you have to go out and spend an extra $4 on another cable? As far as whether or not they work with Linux, I can't say I've tested it, but I'm confused as to why they wouldn't work. Finally, you can get DVD software decoders for free if you need them.

    6 -- Have you ever tried to share your various folders on the network using XP Home? Yes, you can share certain folders, but you can't simply share the whole hard drive, and you will never be able to access certain folders over the network. As I stated in the article, if you only run one computer in your house, he certainly won't notice the difference between XP Home and XP Professional. As for Media Center Edition, it has virtually all of the features of XP Pro plus a bunch of extras of its own, and it costs $30 less than XP Pro.

    Why should you spend more money for dual core socket AM2 system? Well, if you had read this guide carefully, you would notice that I actually don't recommend buying the AM2 systems at all. For people that actually want maximum performance, Core 2 Duo has anything available from AMD beat hands down. Anyway, you obviously shouldn't go out and buy a high-end computer, because clearly you aren't doing anything that needs it.

    I have actually been using a socket 754 system as my primary computer for the last two years, and only the last couple of months did I finally decide to migrate all of my work onto a faster system. Do I notice the difference in performance? You darn well better believe it! Not just in games either. I can do work in Photoshop much faster than before, especially when working with multiple images. But there are plenty of times when the system sits idle just waiting for me to give it something to do, and clearly at such times my new faster system is no better than my old system.

    You might want to read the conclusion one more time, as it contains statements targeted directly at people like yourself: "The best time to upgrade is when you are no longer happy with your computer... or perhaps just after winning the lottery. Many of us still have computers that are over two years old that we use on a regular basis, and while they may not be the fastest systems on the planet, for a lot of tasks they are perfectly adequate."

    I'm glad you're happy with your single core socket 939 system. Just because it's adequate doesn't mean that I should recommend it for anyone going out on purchasing a new computer today. Should someone with an old Celeron system upgrade to socket 939 right now? That would be a pretty pointless upgrade, considering that it doesn't cost much more money to change to something else that would be faster and more future proof. It would be like talking to someone who has an old 1970s car that they're finally going to get rid of, and recommending that they upgrade to a used car manufactured in 1995, because after all that's 25 years newer than their old piece of junk.... In fact, not only should they upgrade to a 1995 model, but they should pay $10,000, because that's a much better than paying $14,000 for a decent 2006 model car.

    Jarred Walton
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, October 14, 2006 - link

    There are also a few other things that you cant do in XP home, such as run as a server, or run IIS, ect.

    Also, I'm not sure whether dual core CPU will be taken advantage of in XP home, although early versions of XP home wouldnt reconize Hyper Threading CPUs (they would only show in the device manager as a single CPU, where in XP pro, they would show as dual CPUs), they have since 'fixed' this, but I havent played in XP home for a very long time, so I can not be sure. Reguardless, 'real' dual CPUs wont be taken advantage of in XP home.

    As Jarred pointed out, more than 'simple file sharing' is not supported in XP home, which may be fine for the casual user, but I think we all can agree the majority of the people reading these comments are not the average user. File permissions also are not as flexable as in XP pro (if availible at all), which in certain situations, can be a big deal.

    There are probably a few things I've missed, but whatever, you get the point.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    Hey Jarred, I'd like to add, that I'm currently using a Asrock AM2NF4-SATA2 board, and as a test, I installed XP, etc, and PLAYED Oblivion on the onboard 6100 graphics . . .

    Needless to say, I ordered a 7600GT from newegg . . . as even @ 800x600 low settings, the system wouldnt play the game faster than 12 FPS, and gameplay was terrible. Hell, my old 3200+ XP system with a 6600GT spanked the crap out of it. Now, Im getting ATLEAST a steady 30 FPS, and the game plays much, much smoother.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 13, 2006 - link

    No one said you HAD to spend ANYTHING. This article wasnt written for YOU specificly. I basicly took it as a 'guidelines' article myself.

    1. My AMD 3800+ AM2 system gets 3 times as much menmory bandwidth comparred to my AMD 3200+ XP system

    2. Rush, or not, no one SAID yo uhad to.

    3. The nVidia micro 6150 boards are fine IF you dont care about the latest features used in current chipsets, and are ALL budget boards that dont always run 100% stable, even when set 100% stock (I know because I've built a few, and am replying from one right now)

    4. Rosewill PSUs . . . hah. thats about all thier good for, is a laugh.

    5. I think its fiarly safe to say that 95% of people who use cutting edge systems, dont use Linux, period, atleast, not for desktop system.

    6. Here, we're talking ENTHUSIAST, do you think an enthusiast is going to be using XP home ? I know I wouldnt.

    Single core wont multitask any hwere near as well as a dual core system, but hey, feel free to live in the dark ages, if you so feel the need, hell I have a friend who thinks its evil to install SP2 on XP, and refuses to upgrade past his P3 pentium, but, whatever floats your boat, no need to TRY and make someone feel bad about thier article because YOU dont agree with it. See ya *wave*
  • AaronAxvig - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    If I really wanted a high end, no holds barred machine, I could spend way more than you did ($10,000+). For sure I'd go with 15k SCSI drives, RAIDed however to eke the most performance out. And then, I probably WOULD go off the deep end and get the dual-socket motherboard, because guess what: games are going to start using 4 cores (Alan Wake gets thrown around a lot here).
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    The thing is, the Alan Wake demo ran on an overclocked QX6700 and then they even stated that it would run just as fast at stock speeds. Translation: it didn't need faster quad cores. The next big question then becomes: how much does it really need quad cores over dual cores? I will wager it ends up being heavily GPU limited on dual-core systems, and quad core will only make a difference with 2 x G80/R600 or at lower resolutions. No one buying a $4000+ system is going to run at anything less than 1600x1200/1680x1050 if they can avoid it.

    Obviously, you can go higher than the $5600 system. We don't generally recommend even $5000 systems for the majority of people, and the number of people that should get a $10K PC is very small. I'd never put 2x15000 RPM drives in a home computer... high pitched whine, need for extra fans to keep the case cool, etc. means it's solely for bragging rights and not much else. Funny thing is, in most consumer oriented benchmarks a RAID 0 SATA setup is going to pretty much match RAID 0 SCSI. Most tasks simply aren't HDD I/O bound... and if they are, add more RAM!
  • Justin Case - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Why are clock speeds given for the AMD CPUs, but only model numbers for the Intel CPUs...?

    I don't remember Anandtech having any problem publishing AMD's clock speeds back when they were lower than Intel's (even though the CPUs were actually faster). So now that the situation is reversed (Intel has better IPC, but their CPUs' frequency is about the same), why the sudden omission of Intel's clock speeds (and just a reference to "you might get 3 GHz with overclocking")?

    Could it be because Chipzilla's marketing department sent its minions^H^H^H I mean "favourite journalists" a memo telling them to join in on the model number campaign or kiss their free preview samples goodbye? Nah, that couldn't possibly be it....

  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - link

    Absolutely not! It's merely a matter of me forgetting to put the clock speeds in on the Intel chips. Trust me, when you're trying to hammer out the last bits and pieces of of the 7000 word article, put together the tables, and get everything posted before 8 a.m. Eastern time thing slip through the cracks. :-) I will go in update the tables now....

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