21 November 2008

PC Spending Guide - Intel's Core i7

With the arrival of Intel's new CPU and motherboard chipset, the Core i7 and X58, I felt the need to put together a few machines to put perspective on the costs of a new platform.  Here are three NewEgg Wishlists that highlight the most bang for your buck at three price ranges.  Please note that all machines are complete towers; they do not come with any operating systems, input devices, monitors, etc.

Price: $860
Pros: Plays every PC game currently on the market at 30+ frames per second, cheap processor easily overclocks to 3.0GHz, it's what I use
Cons: Older LGA775 chipset, not upgradeable
Longevity: At least 2 years, pending no technological miracles
Comparable Alienware machine: $1,469 (DIY savings of $609)

Price: $1,715
Pros: Will play any PC game at max settings, new Core i7 CPU, futureproof
Cons: Pricey intro to a new platform, would rather pay $1200-$1400 for a mid-range PC, CPU multiplier is locked = no overclocking
Longevity: 3-4 years, longer with appropriate upgrades in 2 years
Comparable Alienware machine: $2,628 (DIY savings of $913)

Price: $4,178
Pros: Cures cancer and finds extraterrestrials on boot
Cons: If you have this much money, please let me build you this PC
Longevity: Until time-travelling quantum computers are the norm
Comparable Alienware machine: $6,597 (DIY savings of $2,419)

Should you get a system with the new Intel goods?  NO!  As a general rule of thumb, never buy first-generation hardware of anything.  Prices will come down as more of these CPUs come out, more motherboard manufacturers launch additional products, and hopefully when (if?) AMD puts out a processor to challenge.  I advise waiting until Windows 7 launches and then re-evaluating the X58 platform.  If your gaming benchmarks are truly in need of polishing, you are likely better off with a RAM or video card upgrade to tide you until then.


  1. They had better unlock that multiplier - I thought we had gotten beyond silliness like that.

    I love the Q6600. It's a great processor: terribly powerful, popular, inexpensive, and easy to overclock! I run mine at 2.88 and still rarely exceed 60*C with all four cores running full tilt. Video compression is a delight :D

    As advice for other folks: some important things to consider to improve one's day-to-day performance: RAM capacity, FSB (RAM) speed, hard drive spin rate, video card benchmarks. Those are the sorts of things that budget pre-built machines skimp on, but that typically don't show up in the large-font spec list.

  2. >>I thought we had gotten beyond silliness like that.

    I know, right? That the high end i7 IS unlocked tells me it's just a sales device to push buyers toward their flagship CPU. I predict we'll see a future Core i7 that fills the role of the Q6600.

  3. any suggestions for an affordable widescreen monitor to go with these?

  4. I've not been keeping tabs on LCD developments... mostly because I haven't heard of any. Usually when I recommend LCDs to people, I go to the screen size desired on Newegg and sort by Most Reviews, Top Sellers, and Highest Rating to see what the most popular LCDs are.

  5. When considering LCDs, pay close attention to the panel type: TN, PVA, MVA, IPS, S-IPS, improving from left to right. S-IPS is the best panel type, appearing usually in Apple Cinema displays. TN, on the other hand, is the most common among commodity LCD displays, such as the 22" 16/10 displays usually sold for gamers. The main downside is that TN displays have much weaker color accuracy as a tradeoff for reduced lag. S-IPS has the best color and contrast, but costs more.

    The most annoying part is that very few manufacturers will admit what type panel their displays use, and many even give you pot-luck, where you might get a PVA, or you might get a TN. It's very frustrating - do lots of research if you care about the difference.