CPU Guide

Editor's Choice Gaming Rig 2009

Editor's Choice Gaming Rig 2009


Time to Reflect

After the flurry of announcements and tech launches in June (thanks to Computex and CommunicAsia), there has been quite the lull among tech firms. Of course, there are still many new gadgets being introduced but the major developments, the game changers, are still on the horizon.

One good example would be Intel's upcoming mainstream Lynnfield processors, which will obviously be supported by the usual ecology of Taiwanese motherboards. In fact, we have seen some of these boards based on Intel's P55 Express chipset up close, including this preview of the ASUS P7P55D Evo but the earliest availability for these processors and motherboard is in September. While it's the next evolutionary step for the mainstream Intel platform to shed the aging Core 2 processor family and bring in newer technology to the masses, the Intel Core i7 processors and the X58 platform won't be displaced from its performance throne anytime soon.

A similar situation exists for graphics, with ATI and NVIDIA preparing their next-generation, 40nm products. ATI in particular has already demonstrated DirectX 11 compatible hardware but again, it's all still under wraps. Besides, with Windows 7 expected only in October, there's no need for such graphics hardware yet, not to mention the usual development lag time for game developers to embrace DirectX 11. Hence, vendors are left with hawking custom or overclocked editions of current graphics chipsets, with prices at an all-time low.

With this lull in major releases, we feel that now is just the right time to evaluate the past 'season' of tech developments, before we get overwhelmed by the next wave of tech advances. Let's take the moment to single out for praise, some of the more notable candidates that have passed through our hands. Although our traditional, year-end 'Top 100' product roundup will inevitably include some of the components we'll be recommending here, that's a different angle entirely.

The Focus

Here, we'll be looking at high-end PC components that are most responsible for a system's performance. As such, we'll be focusing mainly on the processor, motherboard, memory, graphics and storage subsystems. The objective is to target enthusiasts who are looking to build powerful systems for more demanding tasks like gaming and media creation. To highlight the best of recent tech developments, we have also obviously restricted the selection of products to those available in this year and which we have tested for ourselves personally.

Next, since there are two major CPU microarchitectures for the x86 platform, we have included the latest from both AMD and Intel to give you a better perspective of how they fare in the gaming department. So there are two separate systems: one based on the AMD Phenom II and the other being the Intel Core i7, along with their corresponding motherboards and memory kits. However, both will be using the same graphics card and hard drive since they are not platform dependant. We'll also be running these systems through some gaming benchmarks to see how they compare.

Enough talk, let's move on to the selected components for our gaming rigs on the next page.