Probably the single most evolved and important aspect of your system is your graphics adapter. It’s ability to crank out 2D and 3D information affects everything from watching movies and using your operating system to playing video games and encoding video.
As with the processor market the video card market is dominated by two main manufacturers, AMD and Nvidia with many lesser known and not as powerful options available. Intel, Via, and Matrox all provide additional solutions but none are as competitive or compelling offerings in the marketplace as the first two.
If you are debating on investing your money into a better CPU or a better video card we would suggest the video card as most of your systems today are not CPU bound but video bound. This holds especially true for gamers for whom the video card is all important.
In the High Performance Video Cards Category:
|Diamond Viper ATI Radeon HD 5870 – graphics adapter – Radeon HD 5870 – 1 GB
|ASUS ENGTX285/HTDI/1GD3 – graphics adapter – GF GTX 285 – 1 GB
The Mid Range Graphics Category:
|ASUS EAH4850/HTDI – graphics adapter – Radeon HD 4850 – 512 MB
|MSI N260GTX Lightning Black Edition – graphics adapter – GF GTX 260 – 1.75 GB
The Budget Graphics Category:
|ASUS EAH4670/DI – graphics adapter – Radeon HD 4670 – 512 MB
|MSI N220GT-MD512 – graphics adapter – GF GT 220 – 512 MB
Second to the video card your motherboard is probably the next most important component in your system. It can assist or deny you future expansion and sets the pace for all of the other components. Think of it as the heart and soul of your computer and a little planning ahead here can save you a lot of time and money later.
There are many manufacturers currently in the motherboard market and tying down a single motherboard for each category was very difficult. There are many factors to consider not the least of which are cost, form factor, and CPU support. Even among the same platform there are varying degrees of performance and quality so remember that this is but a sampling of what is available to you now. Your local stores may have a different selection.
For AMD Based Processors:
High Performance Category:
|Asus Crosshair III Formula Motherboard – AMD 790FX, Socket AM3, ATX, HDMI, USB 2.0, PCIe
CPU Type: Phenom II / Athlon II / Sempron 100 Series FSB: 2600MHz Hyper Transport (5200 MT/s) South Bridge: AMD SB750 Number of Memory Slots: 4Ã—240pin Memory Standard: DDR3 1600(O.C.) / 1333 / 1066 Maximum Memory Supported: 16GB Channel Supported: Dual Channel PCI Express 2.0 x16: 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (@ dual x16)
Mid Range Category:
|Asus M4A785TD-V EVO AMD 7850G Socket AM3 Motherboard – ATX, PCIe, HDMI, TurboV, SATA
AMD 785G / SB710 AMD 785G / SB710 Chipset is designed to support up to 5200MT/s HyperTransport 3.0 (HT3.0) interface speed and PCI Express 2.0 x 16 graphics. It is optimized with AMD s latest AM3 and multi-core CPUs to provide excellent system performance and overclocking capabilities. Dual-Channel DDR3 1800(O.C.) The motherboard supports DDR3 memory that features data transfer rates of 1800 (O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066 MHz to meet the higher bandwidth requirements of the latest operation system, 3D graphics, multimedia, and Internet applications. PCIe 2.0 support
Budget Performance Category:
|ASUS M4A77TD PRO Motherboard – AMD 770, Socket AM3, ATX, Audio, CrossFireX, PCI Express 2.0, Gigabit LAN, USB 2.0, SATA, RAID
CPU Type: Phenom II / Athlon II / Sempron 100 Series FSB: 2600MHz Hyper Transport (5200 MT/s) South Bridge: AMD SB710 Number of Memory Slots: 4Ã—240pin Memory Standard: DDR3 1800(O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066 Maximum Memory Supported: 16GB Channel Supported: Dual Channel PCI Express 2.0 x16: 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (*blue@ x16 mode, black@ x4 mode)
For Intel Based Processors:
|ASUS P6X58D Premium – motherboard – ATX – iX58
CPU Type: Core i7 (LGA1366) FSB: QPI 6.4GT/S Supported CPU Technologies: Supports Intel Turbo Boost Technology South Bridge: Intel ICH10R Number of Memory Slots: 6Ã—240pin Memory Standard: DDR3 2000(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Maximum Memory Supported: 24GB Channel Supported: Triple Channel
Mid Range Category:
|Asus P7P55D Pro Motherboard – Intel P55, Socket LGA1156, Core i5
CPU Type: Core i7 (LGA1156)/i5 (LGA1156) Supported CPU Technologies: Supports Intel Turbo Boost Technology Number of Memory Slots: 4Ã—240pin Memory Standard: DDR3 2200(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Maximum Memory Supported: 16GB Channel Supported: Dual Channel PCI Express 2.0 x16: 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode) 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (at x4 mode, 2.5GT/s) PCI Express x1: 2
Budget Performance Category:
|Asus P7P55D LE Motherboard – Intel P55, Socket LGA1156, CrossFire, 2133MHz, DDR3
CPU Type: Core i7 (LGA1156)/i5 (LGA1156) Supported CPU Technologies: Supports Intel Turbo Boost Technology Number of Memory Slots: 4Ã—240pin Memory Standard: DDR3 2200(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Maximum Memory Supported: 16GB Channel Supported: Dual Channel PCI Express 2.0 x16: 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16) 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (@x4 mode, 2.5GT/s) PCI Express x1: 2
There is little doubt that Intel currently holds the performance crown in the CPU market, nor that the right Intel CPU/Motherboard combo performs better than a comparable high end AMD setup. That being said there is also no doubt that a high end AMD setup will cost you much less than a high end Intel setup, significantly less in fact. There are also other factors to consider such as upgrade path and the performance delta between two such setups. AMD has long been known to have a much clearer upgrade path for its consumers as well as less confusing product names and performance measurements. Likewise the performance delta may not be as much as you think and indeed AMD takes the performance crown depending upon the application used. For the most part Intel is a clearer winner in most benchmarks but they continue to dilute their own product line with rapid releases of new products and different sockets. The optimist would note that this indicates a stronger more progressive company which continually pushes out a better performing product and that is true. This also has the effect of making your cutting edge costly setup quickly become old news.
We only include this commentary so that you have a clear understanding that any setup you purchase won’t remain cutting edge for long. This is true of both AMD and Intel but happens much more quickly with to Intel based setups.