FiringSquadís High-End Buying Guide
There are a thousand resources for advice when it comes time to upgrade an old computer or build a new one from scratch. You read the reviews, you talk to friends about their experiences, and you make an educated decision based on your findings and, more than likely, a price ceiling. Many of those evaluations are rightfully holistic in that they look at hardware from the general userís point of view. And thatís a good place to be because we all run lots of different applications
However, our goal with the FiringSquad High-End Buyers Guide is to provide you with recommendations to what we feel is the best gaming hardware money can buy. Weíre gamers, after all, so when it comes to outfitting our personal rigs, we want the hardware that enables high resolutions, anti-aliased graphics, and immersive sound.
Processor Ė AMD Athlon 64 FX-51
After months of playing second fiddle to Intelís Pentium 4, AMD reclaimed the gaming title with its Athlon 64 FX-51. Priced in excess of $700, the flagship offering is unquestionably steep, but when push comes to shove, it really is the fastest processor on the market for gaming. Its nearest competitor is Intelís Pentium 4 3.2GHz Extreme Edition, which costs even more. Unfortunately, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition isnít quite as fast, though it does enjoy the benefit of complying with existing 875P and 865 platforms.
AMD Athlon 64 FX
The Athlon 64 FX-51 runs at an even 2.2GHz. Itís complimented by a 1MB L2 cache, 128KB of L1, and most importantly, an integrated memory controller. It also offers full support for Intelís SSE2 instruction set, which really helps the chipís multimedia performance. The new processor centers on an evolved architecture (formerly known as K8), and as a result, requires that you buy a brand new motherboard with a Socket 940 interface. Further, youíll need a pair of registered
DDR400 memory modules in order to extract the highest level of performance from the platform.
If youíd love to buy an Athlon 64 FX-51, but simply canít justify the exorbitant price of a processor, motherboard, and memory upgrade, consider AMDís Athlon 64 3200+. Itís nearly the same monster, with a megabyte of cache and an integrated memory controller. However, it comes in a Socket 754 package and support non-registered DDR memory, making it a more palatable upgrade. The Athlon 64 3200+ sports a 64-bit memory path, so it doesnít require modules to be installed in pairs. As a result, it isnít as fast as the Athlon 64 FX, but you might not even notice the difference.
For more information on the Athlon 64 FX-51, take a look at our Athlon 64 FX-51 Performance Preview