Choosing The Hardware: Intel Platforms And Other Components
GeForce 9300 Motherboard: Asus P5N7A-VM
Asus' P5N7A-VM represents the GeForce 9300/9400 motherboards in our roundup. Since the only difference between the GeForce 9300 and 9400 is a slight clock speed increase, we have overclocked the GeForce 9300 to GeForce 9400 specifications in order to see if it is the best possible representation of the series.
Unlike the 785G, the P5N7A-VM motherboard for LGA 775 supports DDR2 memory. But with the lower latencies afforded by DDR2, we don't think there will be much, if any, of a speed handicap in video playback.
This board includes one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, one PCIe x1 slot, and two PCI slots, which is typical of a microATX offering. The back panel features eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel (and an additional six mid-board), an optical audio output, and an eSATA port. Not only does the Asus P5N7A-VM have HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, it also carries the forward-looking DisplayPort connector. The P5N7A-VM can be found online for $110.
Intel G45 Motherboard: Asus P5Q-EM
The Asus P5Q-EM is the only motherboard with an Intel chipset and the second LGA 775 board in our roundup. It also utilizes DDR2 for system RAM and can handle 1,066 MHz overclocked memory speeds. On the back panel you'll find eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel, an optical audio output, a FireWire port, and an eSATA port.
Like the other LGA 775 motherboard in our roundup, the P5N7A-VM, this board features HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, in addition to a DisplayPort connector. Compared to the rest of the competitors, the expansion slots are divvied up uniquely, with one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, two PCIe 1x slots, and one PCI slot. The Asus P5Q-EM can be found for $125 online.
Blu-ray Drive: Lite-On iHES 208 8x Blu-ray Disk Reader and CD/DVD Writer combo
The iHES 208 is a nice drive that sports very fast 8x Blu-ray read speeds. In addition, it also offers the flexibility of Blu-ray reading with dual-layer CD/DVD writing, while the Lightscribe direct-disc labeling feature is a nice bonus.
Operating System: Vista Home Premium 64-bit
As for the operating system, we chose Vista Home Premium 64-bit. We chose the 64-bit flavor of Vista because it as become our standard for benchmarking. For anyone who wants to see a benefit from more than 3 GB of RAM, a 64-bit operating system is a must.