Last-gen bargains

You don’t have to spend huge sums on cutting edge kit to give your computer’s performance a boost when there is perfectly efficient, ‘last-generation’ kit available at a snip of the price. Windows explains...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  July 1, 2006

|~|last-gen-barg---main.jpg|~|For users with AGP-only motherboards, a new AGP graphics card can boost their rigs' gaming and video performance without meaning a total system overhaul.|~|Store more for less: EIDE HARD DISK Whilst Serial ATA (SATA) and more expensive SCSI (‘scuzzy’) hard disks might offer the whizziest data transfer rates and seek times, most users looking for simply more storage space will still be well served by an internal EIDE drive. Having been on the market for years now, these are available at rock bottom prices and - providing you back up your content regularly to an external source (as you always should) - are a truly viable upgrade for users with thousands of pictures, movies and video files but not enough PC space to store them. Our team ran a quick straw poll of regional computer stores. This is just one example of the bargains we found on offer right now: Straw poll bargain: 160Gbyte Maxtor DiamondMax 10: $71 Socket to ‘em: INTEL SOCKET 478 & AMD SOCKET 754 If building or upgrading your system the Intel way, socket 478 boards are a value solution that you should be able to find with a bit of calling around smaller, component-selling computer shops. Socket 478 boards can hold Intel’s value-end Celeron CPUs and Northwood-generation Pentium 4s; offering CPU clock speeds therefore of up to 3.4GHz. Be aware however that they are upgrade-limited, in that they cannot accept newer LGA775 Intel CPUs. Straw poll bargains: Gigabyte GA-8VM800M (Via chipset): US$52 Gigabyte GA-8I848P (Intel chipset): $66 Over on the AMD side of the fence, if you don’t have the cash for a spanking new socket 939 or AM2 mainboard, you can slot a Sempron processor or an early Athlon 64 model (offering clock speeds of up to 2.4GHz) into a socket 754 board without breaking the bank. MSI and Foxconn are two vendors whose 754 models you can currently find on the market. Straw poll bargains: MSI K8MM-V 754 SOCKT motherboard: $68 Gigabyte K8VM800M (Via chipset): $59 Still got the grunt: Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) The PCI-Express interface might be the buy of choice for wallet-full gamers and graphics freaks, but this route to better visuals requires you to have both a PCI-E-ready mainboard and then also spend on one or even two compatible PCI-E graphics cards (the latter dual option applies if building a dual-card nVidia SLI or ATi Crossfire set-up). For graphics upgraders with an AGP-only mainboard and limited funds however, there is no reason to worry, as the market is currently full of hot bargains just waiting to be grabbed. Providing you have an AGP motherboard in your aging system (which we're 99% sure you will), the mid- and high-range AGP cards still available can be used to extend your rig's lifespan and will let you to play newer, more demanding games and run more graphically intensive applications. Straw poll bargains: Leadtek 6600 AGP: $143 Gigabyte GV-R96P256D (ATi 9600 Pro): $90 Single-core Centrino: DOTHAN & SONOMA NOTEBOOK PLATFORMS The latest Centrino notebooks to hit stores stores across the Middle East feature Intel’s Core Duo CPUs and offer sterling performance coupled with decent battery life. That said, it doesn’t mean previous Centrino offerings are worthless. Far from it; these offer cracking performance for general users and are available at a fraction of the price of their pricier dual-CPU cousins. The last generation of Centrino, code-named Sonoma, was launched in early 2005 and this single CPU suite of technologies was the first mobile Intel notebook platform to support PCI-Express. The majority of non-Core Duo Intel Centrino laptops on the market are now ‘Sonoma’ versions. However, the least expensive models around - with clock speeds of roughly 1.6GHz or less and running AGP graphics rather than PCI-E - are pre-Sonoma ‘Dothan’ (or second generation Centrino, a.k.a. 2G) models. 1G ‘Banias’ laptops can even be found if you look hard enough, retailing for well under US $900-1000. To clarify, 2G Dothan (and 1G Banias) notebooks incorporate an AGP chipset rather than PCI-E and don’t include S-ATA (Serial ATA) support. On a Celeron CPU value level, the Celeron M 350 and 370 are both Dothan processors (the 340 meanwhile spans even further back and is a first-gen ‘Banias’ component). Newer Sonoma versions meanwhile do include S-ATA and PCI-Express graphics too. Straw poll bargains: Fujitsu Siemens Amilo L7310 ('Banias'): $762 HP Compaq nx6110 (Dothan): from $1049 (Note: AMD's Mobile Athlon 64- and Sempron-based notebooks might also be available in some Middle East markets at very low prices, but the Windows team hasn't managed to track any of these down to date.) ||**||

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