System Builder Marathon: Day Two

Motherboard: MSI P965 Platinum

MSI P965 Platinum

Winning the P965 shootout of last fall, the MSI P965 Platinum has long been an easy mid-priced choice. Proving performance leadership over high-end nVidia and AMD Core 2 platforms simply reaffirmed this $135 motherboard's superior value.

The two PCI Express x16 slots bearing x16 and x4 pathways may appear to be technically inferior for advanced graphics configurations such as SLI or Crossfire, but mid-priced system buyers can find better value in a single card anyway. Also note that nVidia drivers still don't support SLI on Intel chipsets - even after a competing merger made these friendlier - but SLI doesn't offer much value at this market level anyway.

Other points favoring the P965 Platinum include the use of Intel's ICH8R RAID/AHCI capable Southbridge and an IEEE-1394 FireWire controller, two features missing from several competitively-priced products.

Memory: 2x 1 GB PDP Patriot Extreme Performance PC2-6400 Low Latency

2 x 1 GB PDP Patriot Extreme Performance PC2-6400 Low Latency

Patriot's part number PDC22G6400LLK was another easy selection based on previous shootout wins, taking our PC2-6400 value overclocking shootout by storm with a high achievable clock speed and a relatively low price. Comprised of two 1 GB PC2-6400 CAS4 modules, it represents an even greater value today, with prices starting at $160.

Several readers may question the selection of only 2 GB at a time when RAM is cheap and Windows Vista craves plenty of it, but Microsoft's flagship operating system still must mature before it can be considered an optimal performance solution. That leaves Windows XP Professional as the default OS choice, with its memory addressing limits putting 2 GB configurations in the spotlight.

A $50 mail-in rebate will further entice patient Patriot Extreme memory buyers, but this article's total hardware cost is instead based on the rebate-free amount of cash needed to build this system all at once.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.