Buyer's Guide: Mid-Range to High-End, May 2005by Jarred Walton on May 23, 2005 5:30 PM EST
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IntroductionIt’s been a while since we really tackled anything at the high end of the computing spectrum. Since our November Gaming Guide, there have been some major changes in most areas. About the only areas that haven’t changed much are the mass storage and optical storage areas and even those have a few new additions. We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll just get right into it and skip all the preliminary niceties.
The biggest decision up front is, as usual, the choice of platform: AMD or Intel. For the mid-range to high end markets, we can narrow our focus quite a bit. There’s little need to look at the budget Sempron and Celeron chips, and socket 754 and 478 don’t hold much interest. Upgraders might be interested in offerings for these platforms, but we'll defer to our recent article covering CPU cores rather than deal with that here. While PCIe cards are definitely the future, we'll also have some advice for those of you who may already have a capable system and are looking to last until the next platform transition – that's about a year or so off, in case you were wondering.
Looking toward the future, there has been quite a bit of coverage recently about the latest processors coming from AMD and Intel, particularly the dual core solutions. At present, none of the dual core chips are really available (other than in OEM systems), but if heavy multitasking describes your typical workload, waiting for the dual core solutions to appear in quantity might be worthwhile. What we’ll focus on in this Guide is the current single core setups, which for most people are still more than sufficient to accomplish any given task. For the High-End buyers – particularly those who want to buy a top-end computer once every three years and then use it with few upgrades – you'll definitely want to take a closer look at our Dual Core Performance Preview before laying down several thousand dollars on a current system.
A word about prices: We're using our RealTime Pricing Engine for the majority of the prices listed, although we also shop around at various online resellers for many of the products. If you can find components for less money from a dealer who you trust, all the better. We don't include mail-in rebates in our price quotes either, which can further reduce the cost. These prices are also just a snapshot in time – May 13 th, 2005 for this Guide – so they are bound to change.