TechSpot



 

  TechSpot's High-end PC Buying Guide

--

 

Memory

2 GB (2 x 1GB recommended) - $180

Even the fastest of computers will hobble along sluggishly without ample memory. Keep your PC from getting amnesia by supplying at least 1GB of RAM. I recommend 2GB here because you can never have enough of the stuff. Keep in mind to take advantage of dual channel technology; you’ll need to install your modules in pairs. Pairs of the same, high quality memory are strongly recommended to avoid funky incompatibility problems. If you plan on overclocking, it becomes even more imperative to install the highest quality, fastest rated memory modules available to you such as Micron’s “Ballistix” or other premium memories.

 

Audio

Creative X-Fi - $125 and up

Creative Gigaworks S750 7.1 speaker system - $355

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speaker system - $150

When it comes to gaming Soundcards Creative really are in a class of their own; excellent 3D Audio positioning and low CPU utilization. Some of my personal favourite improvements over the previous Audigy series are:

  • Improved Resampling - It’s taken some years but Creative have finally addressed resampling issues of the previous generations, providing a high quality resampler - you can even avail of true 44.1kHz sampling in Audio Creation Mode.

  • Gaming support - On the gaming front CMSS-3D provides some neat features; Elevation filter & Macro FX. EAX has been updated to version 5 & the number of 3D Voices supported increased to 128 (64 with Audigy 2, 32 with Audigy). X-RAM allows the X-Fi to cache Game audio, which provides improved performance (the Game must specifically support this however), while OpenAL is still the only hardware accelerated Audio Driver for gaming.

  • Improved Effects/Filters - Having purchased Aureal and Sensaura we’d often wondered how long it would take to see some of their technology integrated in Creative soundcards. X-Fi finally uses some of these technologies e.g. MacroFX and HRTFs.

You’ll have to wait for our full review for more details of course, though suffice it to say I’m sufficiently impressed to recommend one.

Speakers
I had the pleasure of listening to the S750s just recently and I was very impressed. If you aren’t on much of a budget and you are searching diligently for an incredible set of 7.1 PC speakers to compliment your Audigy, then look no further. It’s difficult to accurately describe audio using text, but “tight bass” is really where these speakers outperform a lot of other similar setups I have listened to. The mids and highs are very clear and punchy - The sound is perfect - And if you are an audiophile, you won’t be disappointed in the clarity & rumble this 7.1 set has to offer.

If you still want premium sound but do not need positional sound (not to mention the ton of wires - a solution is coming soon), don’t look further than the THX-certified 2.1 ProMedia audio system from Klipsch, currently selling for $150.

If you aren’t looking to invest a small fortune in your audio setup but you need it nice and loud, you can’t go wrong with a set of Logitech X230s for less than $30. But Logitech isn’t the only brand (although certainly one of the better price-point brands), and there’s plenty of selection out there. You might want to pick these up at your local store, where you may be able to demo different speakers and make a choice with your own ears.

 

Display

Dell UltraSharp 24” Widescreen LCD 2405FPW - $900

LG 19” Flatron LCD 1980Q - $540

For the ultimate media experience, you need a screen with abundant real estate. Sporting a very impressive 24 inches of visual acreage, you won’t ever find yourself squinting again. Of course, your friends will cringe in jealousy (and rightfully so)! Ringing up at just about a grand, possibly one of the greatest features of this LCD is its affordability. While budget doesn’t play much a role in this article, the price for this monster monitor helps to keep it realistic, and what you get for the money is simply outstanding. The Dell UltraSharp 24” showcases low response times (12ms) suitable for gaming and well, one hell of a picture in UWXGA (1920x1200). What’s more is today’s LCD technology is virtually ghost free, finally putting the nail in the coffin of your venerable CRT. The high native-resolution of this widescreen is complimented by our GeForce 7800 GTX setup, capable of silky smooth, high-resolution gaming. It doesn’t stop there though; we have an integrated 9-in-1 flash card reader, plus a 4 x USB hub to toy with. Combine these features with the price, size and 1000:1 contrast, and 500 c/d² brightness and the choice is easy.

[Techspot LG Flatron 19” Review] The LG 19” is a nice alternative for those looking for a top-quality LCD, but also looking for something more modest in size and price. This ultra-slim LCD boasts a 8ms response time, brilliant picture and a very cool set of features such as auto-tilt & mirror, and touch controls with a very sleek exterior. The 19” screen size is a pleasant dimension to work with and the resolution is just right at 1280x1024. This will make a great LCD for any system, but is certainly well suited to be on the top of your shopping list for this high-end system.

 

Hard drives

74GB Western Digital Raptor - $170

400GB-500GB storage drive - $240

DVD±RW - $50

DVD/CD-RW Combo - $25

Hard Drives: There’s lots of different ways to slice this pie. To satiate your appetite for performance, two WD raptors in RAID 0 would be ideal. They offer the fastest seek and transfer rates currently available with SATA drives and RAID will give you another modest bump in speed. The downside is Western Digital only provides Raptors with a maximum capacity of 74GB. For the ultimate in performance but on the edge of impractical, you can toss four (or more) of these bad boys in RAID 0 configuration. This gives you quite a bit of storage as well as greatly increased disk throughput.

Maybe capacity is your bag. If you are looking for tons of storage for your music, video collection and your 3,000,000 page thesis for college (okay, maybe it is more like 20… 000), then you will definitely be eyeing the 400-500GB drives available. Unfortunately, the caveats are slow(er) performance and a substantial increase for potential data loss. “Data loss?” you ask. Throwing the contents of your OS and valuables on a single drive can be risky business with all those nasty viruses, exploits and various OS problems which exist for the sole purpose of ruining your e-life. To a lesser degree, relying on a single drive can be unpleasantly taxing, stressing out the physical media and promoting advanced wear and tear. Our forums are a living testament to these very real problems. The benefit of course, is lots and lots of storage space. Also, modern drives are fast enough handle your average activities without much delay, so performance won’t be detrimental (although noticeable).

So with the above stated, what about both capacity and performance? An elegant solution is to combine the two - a fast RAID setup and a large capacity spare for storage. For this system, I am going to recommend 2 x 74GB WD Raptors and a large capacity drive of your choice (400-500GB maybe). This will pony up the edge in performance we are looking for, but also give most pack rats space to waste and offer enough gigabytes to backup your primary drives as well. Not bad.

 



Go to next page

Get weekly updates on new
articles, news and contests
in your mail!




-

  TechSpot  The PC Enthusiast Resource    |    News    |    Reviews    |    Features    |    Product Finder    |    Downloads    |    Drivers    |    Forums    |    Archive   


  Copyright © 1998-2014 TechSpot.com. TechSpot is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved.

Advertising | About TechSpot