Take the war between ATI and Nvidia, for example. Each company has been scrambling to gain an upper hand in every price bracket. Currently there are loads of options in the sub $100 range, $150, $200, $250, $300, and all the way through to $600+. The same can be said about CPUs, which have not only reached phenomenal levels of performance, but are also more affordable than ever.
This time we will take the Intel Core 2 Duo processor as example. The slowest of the bunch a.k.a. the E6300, is still an incredibly powerful processor, yet it retails for just $180. Because of Intel’s recent rise to power, AMD has been forced to take drastic action, which had them slashing prices extensively. Shortly before the arrival of the Core 2 Duo, AMD was asking quite a price premium for their Athlon64 X2 processors, but as of now prices have been cut as much as 50% for certain models. The result is that other less powerful processors, such as the AMD Athlon 64 3800+, still make for quite a good option for gamers. This single core processor, which is available in either 939-pin or AM2 form, currently retails for just $115 making it an exceptionally good value. Possibly more important is that the variety and price of supporting motherboards is just great
In fact, recently Abit presented us with a smart little motherboard of theirs known as the NF-M2 nView, which is based on the microATX format and features the Nvidia GeForce 6150 chipset. This motherboard boosts support for the latest AM2 processors and DDR2 memory. Add to that the welcoming price of $95, and this fully-featured Abit product makes for a very tempting proposition.
Fitting this motherboard with Corsair ValueSelect DDR2-667 memory is not overly expensive either, as it cost us just $105 for 1GB. Despite the title that suggests this might be el cheapo memory, Corsair ValueSelect is in actual fact great quality memory that we just recently were able to push from 667MHz to 833MHz, not bad at all huh?
Because bigger is always better, we went with a single Western Digital Caviar SE16 320GB hard drive, setting us back just $95 to fit right into the intended budget of $600 for the guts of the system. Currently, a 320GB hard drive seems to offer the best value per gigabyte, at around 3.3GB per dollar for the Caviar SE16 320GB. Compare that to the much larger 500GB model which only offers 2.6GB per dollar. Then there are the cheaper smaller drives, such as the 80GB version, which offers 1.7GB per dollar. It was a magical time when hard drives started retailing at $1 per gigabyte, and now we are three times beyond this.
Keeping in mind the fact that we have gone with a rather large 320GB SATAII hard drive, a fully-featured AM2 motherboard, 1GB of Corsair memory, an AMD Athlon64 3800+ processor and an ASUS GeForce 7900GS 256MB graphics card, you may be surprised to learn that all this was purchased for under $600! And so, the question arises, how well does this $600 gaming system perform, and how does it compare to a top of the line Core 2 Duo E6700 gaming rig costing in excess of $1500? Well let’s find out, shall we...