What to Buy

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2004-07-19 Print this article Print

The scenarios are pretty simple: either youre buying a new system, or youre not. If you have an existing system based on DDR1, upgrading your memory means buying DDR1 modules. However, if you have an older system youre planning to upgrade with a new processor, it may be worth holding off and seeing what your memory needs will be when you perform that systems upgrade. If youre in the market for a new system, then the choice is a fork in the road: AMD or Intel? If youre going the Intel route, its really worth getting a socket T board that supports the new 900 series chipsets and DDR2 memory. As we noted in our 925X preview, the 900 series offers other useful new features, like four serial ATA ports supporting native command queuing. If you do go that route, spend the extra few dollars and get DDR2/533. Some companies are even starting to offer DDR2/667 already, though thats currently just for the overclocking set. Its unclear whether modules with the DDR2/667 label today will actually work in DDR2/667 systems when they arrive on the scene. The price premium is pretty serious, too, so for now, DDR2/533 is the performance sweet spot.
If you want to upgrade to an Athlon 64 today, youre choice is simple: DDR400. Given the natural efficiency of the Athlon 64s integrated memory controller, going with good quality, low-latency DDR400 does boost performance a bit. But weigh your decision carefully. If you can wait until autumn, you may be rewarded with support for new core logic and even DDR2 support for the Athlon 64.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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