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Holiday Hardware Buyers Guide
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by Techgage Staff on November 15, 2006 in Staff Editorials

The holiday season can be a rough time if you are not sure what you buy, or ask for. We have taken out the hassle and delivered a comprehensive guide of our top picks that covers every type of component inside your computer.

Update: We’ve added a gadgets page!

Processors & Cases


Ultimate – Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700

Without question, 2006 was one of the most interesting years in a long time in terms of the hardware industry. Just looking back would take an entire article on it’s own. One release that made enthusiasts cry with joy was Intels Conroe chip. Yes, this chip was blazing fast and put anything AMD offered to shame. The sad fact of the matter was, even Intels smallest Core CPU could be overclocked to overtake AMDs FX-62!

How do you take such a successful chip and make it better? Double it, of course. Though the need for 4 cores is yet to be seen, the fact is that game developers are working vigilantly to write their games to take advantage of more than one core. Alan Wake and Unreal Tournament 2007 are two prime examples of this. UT2007 is written in such a way that it could even use more than four cores. So the future proofing of this CPU is evident.

It’s hard to imagine a $1,000 CPU as a good value, but in a way, it certainly is. The 2.93GHz X6800 Dual Core chip runs for the same price, while the QX6700 lags a little behind at 2.66GHz. If you have been following Core 2 Duo overclocking at all, you know that the sky’s the limit. Buy a QX6700 chip and overclock it… and you will have one beastly machine.

Ultimate – AMD Athlon FX-62

If you are not ready to jump on the Intel bandwagon, then AMD offers many CPU’s for your consumption. If I were to build a new machine, I’d quickly recommend building a Core 2 Duo rig, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes AMD will still surpass Intel in a few ways. The most notable is the integrated memory controller. Thanks to this, the bandwidth seen is great increased which is key for overclockers trying to reach new heights.

The CPU is built on a 90nm process, so you likely already know what kind of overclocking ability to expect here. Unlike some of the smaller X2 chips, the FX-62 has 2 x 1MB cache, which will improve overall performance at the same clock speed. There’s no doubt, if you are an AMD guy and want to overclock your CPU or memory, the FX-62 is the chip for the job. Consider the fact that the FX-62 can hit 3.0GHz quite easily, which would give you DDR2-1200 speeds. Since that’s the way the memory industry is going, this chip is ready to deliver with whatever is thrown at it.

Great – Intel Core 2 E6700

The E6700 is a superb chip for those who don’t want to shell out more than double for the X6800 or QX6700. It rolls in at 2.66GHz speeds with a staggering 4MB total L2 cache. Thanks to it’s 1066MHz FSB, the performance seen is incredible, although the Core architecture is amazing to begin with. Like all of the Core chips, the E6700 has crazy overclocking potential. If you have the $500 to spend on one, you will not be kicking yourself after picking one up.

If the FX-62 is a wee bit out of your reach, then the next best chip for the job would be the X2 5200+. In effect, it’s similar to the FX-62 in every regard except that it runs at 2.6GHz as opposed to the 2.8GHz that the FX offers. The 2MB total L2 cache is still available here, so the performance will be primo. Not too bad for a chip that’s almost $300 less then the FX-62. Makes you wonder why anyone would really go for the FX instead!

Good – Intel Core 2 E6300

If you want a Core 2 machine but want to keep the CPU under $200, then the E6300 is your only choice. Don’t let the budget moniker play with your mind though. This is an amazing CPU like the rest of the Core line that you can expect insane overclocking ability from. Though the chips stock speed is 1.86GHz, it’s not foolish to ponder the thought of squeezing 3.0GHz out of it… it’s been done many times over. The only downside would be the maximum overclocking potential and the 2MB of cache. Compared to the next CPU though, you’d be almost foolish to build a completely new budget machine and not include the E6300.

Good – AMD X2 3800+

Even budget CPU’s can be dual core, and also a great price. The 3800+ X2 retails for around $150 and comes in at 2.0GHz speeds with 1MB total L2 cache. The chip is built on a 90nm process, so you may not get insane overclocking out of it, but 2.5GHz seems like a reasonable goal. But who’s that focused on overclocking a chip that retails for such an easy to stomach price? On the AMD side of things, this is a fantastic CPU worth your consideration.

Computer Cases

Ultimate – Silverstone TJ07

The Silverstone TH07 is arguably the ultimate case for cooling options. It puts the HDDs and PSU in a lower chamber like the Lian Li V series cases yet it doesn’t invert the mobo tray so those of us with heatpipes need not fear it fouling up chipset cooling. It also has enough room in the bottom chamber to allow for easy radiator mounting plus it’s meshed for exceptional airflow.

Great – NZXT Zero

Got an aircooled rig? Want great airflow with lots of CFM’s with low noise? The Zero has 8 included fans, 7 of which are low RPM 120mm units but combined move a ton of air. Add to that the killer front door with window for 5.25″ bay mounted devices and tons of drive mounting options for the storage nuts out here and you’ve got a great case that won’t break the bank.

You can read our Zero review here.

Good – Ultra Aluminus

The Ultra Aluminus is the case designed for the compulsive cable hider. While it’s not the most robust case on the market, it’s no shrinking violet either. While it might not be the ultimate lan bomb it is a very polished looking case with very good cooling (with optional fans) that is very easy on your back (at less than 10 pounds) and wallet at under $100.

You can read our Aluminus review here.

Good – COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW

On a tight budget? Look no further than the CoolerMaster Centurian 5 TAC. It’s got a stylish front bezel and a distinctive look that lets you know right away that it’s from the same folks that brought you the Wave Master among others. The drive options are as good or better than others in its price range and the cooling is above average with an 80mm in the front and a 120mm in the rear. With the CPU duct this will cause the rear fan to pull air in through the duct and funnel it to the CPU cooler. If you don’t use a cooler that’ll work with the duct simply put a low RPM fan where the duct mounts and blow cooler room air at the CPU cooler.


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