Final thoughtsThe results acquired from these custom built systems show some interesting figures and while they are certainly not an apples to apples comparison of specific components, they are valid nonetheless.
The question arises then on what parts present themselves as the best value solutions? At the time of writing the article “Building an affordable AM2 Gaming System” on November, the GeForce 7900GS was the best videocard option in the sub $200 price bracket. Now the Radeon X1950 Pro takes the spot, even though it does cost a little extra, we have found it to be more than worth the small premium. The Athlon64 3800+ is amazing value at $135, but if you can afford to spend $180 on the Core 2 Duo E6300 we feel this is an even better value option.
Where we went wrong was with the motherboard, having originally selected the ASUS P5VD2-MX sporting the VIA P4M890 chipset. Having quickly replaced this motherboard with the Gigabyte 965P-DS3, we were much happier with the performance, feature set and overclocking abilities of our system. Although we are recommending that you do not purchase the P5VD2-MX for a gaming machine and suggest that you go with a motherboard such as the 965P-DS3, we left the P5VD2-MX results to show you the kind of gains dual channel can offer Core 2 Duo users.
Looking back at the Prey performance, you cannot deny the performance of the Athlon64 3800+ processor. This is such an old processor and at $135 it is incredibly cheap, yet it was able to hang with the new E6300 for the majority of the real-world testing. The AMD Athlon range has always been a gamers' best friend and it wasn't until recent times that Intel was able to stole some of AMD's thunder. While we do recommend the Core 2 Duo E6300 over an AMD Athlon64 processor, we still recognize the power and performance of these affordable AMD processors.
On a final note, while we tested these systems at 1600x1200 with a monitor other than the recommended Acer AL1917ABMD 19" 8ms LCD, running at native 1280x1024, the Radeon X1950 Pro paired with the Core 2 Duo E6300 delivered well over 100fps in Quake 4, UT2004 and Prey, along with an impressive 77fps in X3: Reunion. This means that at 1280x1024 users can expect to enjoy crisp image quality with heavy use of FSAA and Aniso settings without affecting performance. Overall, for roughly $1000 this Core 2 Duo system should keep any gamer grinning for some time to come.