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8/22/2005
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Tutorial: Build A Dual-Core System

Create low-cost, high-end PCs capable of running today's entertainment applications.

Ingredients

To start this project, you'll first need to select the components that make the most sense. With a builder’s typical needs as a guideline, it’s apparent that a careful balance of cost and performance is required.

While both AMD and Intel offer dual-core offerings, product availability and established motherboard support drove me toward selecting an Intel-designed dual-core processor and Intel motherboard. That’s not to say Intel’s technology is superior to AMD’s, but as a simple fact of availability, it was easier for me to get my hands on Intel’s products.

Next, with an eye on economy, I selected the Intel Pentium D processor 820, Intel’s entry level dual-core processor. The D820 is a 2.80-GHz design, with an 800 MHz front-side bus and 2 MB of L2 cache. With a street price under $250, the D820 brings dual-core to the masses. Here's a look at this processor:


On the other end of the spectrum, system builders could select Intel’s top dog, the Pentium Extreme Edition 840, which runs at 3.2 GHz and offers hyper-threading. But you'll pay a lot more: The street price is around $1,000.

For a system board, I selected an Intel D945GNT motherboard, which is moderately priced at around $150 (street). It offers a host of features, including 1066/800 MHz FSB, DDR2 667/533, Intel 950 graphics, PCI Express X16, 4 PCI, 2 PCI Express X1, SATA (3.0Gb/s) RAID, IEEE-1394a, gigabit LAN, and high-definition audio. Here's a look:


For a case, I selected the Antec Sonata II, a mid-sized tower design that is geared toward quiet computing. This case offers front and rear panel ports, large low-speed fans, and a host of technologies to reduce noise. The case is also a “tool-less” design, using thumb screws for panel removal. The Sonata II is available in an attractive piano-black color for around $130, and it's worth every penny for those building media-style PCs. Here's a look at this case:


To finish out the components, I recommend the following three components...

...a BenQ optical drive:


...Kingston DDR-2 Ram (1 GB):


...and a Maxtor SATA drive:


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