Introduction

Another year has come and gone, but over the course of the year there are some products that have stood out from the crowd. To make things a bit more interesting we are also including some interesting categories and some new unseen pictures that have not been published on Legit Reviews or the web thus far.

Best Price versus Performance CPU:

Legit Reviews is neither an AMD or Intel fan boy site and to be quite honest I use both CPU's on my personal systems. Although we have unlocked ES sample processors on the test bench we retail purchased processors bought just like you from online retailers. Since we are coughing up our hard earned cash we want the best price versus performance ratio and the choices are clear for both processor companies.


Our Retail Boxed AMD 2500+

AMD: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton

Not too long after the Barton's were released by AMD the enthusiast community quickly found out that with a little extra voltage that these CPU's could easily reach AMD Athlon XP 3200+ speeds while also running 400MHz FSB. I've had about a dozen of these CPU's from various weeks and have found that all the ones I purchased would run in excess of 2.2GHz! The Athlon XP 2500+ Barton has become "internally" locked by AMD around week 43 of this years production, but enthusiasts already had there "stash" of unlocked processors! This processor can be found today for ~$80 on the American market making it almost a steal.


Our Retail Boxed Intel 2.4C Processor

Intel: Intel Pentium 4 2.4C w/ Hyper Threading

When Intel launched the Pentium 4 "C" processors in early 2003 overclockers quickly became fond of the low multiplier (x12) found on the locked processors. It easily allowed the enthusiast community to hit 250FSB and sometimes the rare 300FSB for the enthusiast that has all the right stuff to pull off this huge increase in speed. It also happens to be the least expensive of all the Pentium 4 "C" processors, which added to the desire to have one of these processors!

Best Performance Motherboards: ABIT & ASUS

Just because you have one of the newest processors on the market doesn't mean you have a killer system. Of the dozens of motherboards that have used in 2003 there are some clear stand outs for enthusiasts. This is a very subjective category, but you must look at all the factors that go into overclocking: voltage options, ram compatibility, ability to run memory dividers, minimal FSB limitations and other such areas. With all of this in mind, we would have to say that the ABIT NF7 and the Asus P4C800E fit the bill.

AMD: ABIT NF7-S Version 2.0

The ABIT NF7-S went through a million revisions, but when the dust settled it turned out to be one killer motherboard for Athlon XP users. The initial NF7-S came without mounting holes around the CPU socket and was almost instantly overlooked by enthusiasts because many common heat sinks would not work. ABIT cranked out a series of revisions changing the tracings on the board while also adding mounting holes, the nForce 2 Ultra 400 chipset and some more BIOS updates to create what we consider the AMD board of the year.


AMD: ABIT NF7-S (nForce2-Ultra)


ASUS P4C800-E

Intel: Asus P4C800-E

Though the vdimm is not as extravagant on the Asus P4C800E as some other boards, the ability to apply a modification to raise the vdimm helped put this board over the top in our books. It has just about (if not) the best memory compatibility out there when it comes to Intel chipset boards. The Asus P4C800E has not been hindered by FSB limitations in the BIOS nor have we seen any other flukes that some other boards have shown in overclocking. It has been proven to be solid over 275MHz FSB by many diehard overclockers. The Asus P4C800E has proven itself to be as solid as they come.

Best Performance Memory: Corsair Memory, Inc.

Early in the year there were a number of brands that were neck to neck in the memory industry with little, if anything, showing a clear "best" brand for performance memory. As the year progressed the memory industry in America got a little ugly as the marketing battles began in the middle of the year , but Kingston and Corsair came away from the mess with their no nonsense marketing approach and were noth among the first to release DDR500 modules to the public.

It was at this point that Kingston used Samsung IC's on their DDR500 modules, while Corsair chose to go with Hynix IC's. Since Hynix IC's proved to be better performers it quickly became the clear winner in the overclockers system. It was also about this time period that Corsair came out with the PRO series that brought the only innovative memory product to the market. By adding some real-time memory activated LED's Corsair was able to spice up systems while still providing the same performance as the standard XMS module. Are time going good for Corsair? You better believe it as Corsair was able to double in size during 2003 for the second straight year! To secure their lead in the memory industry Corsair released PC-4400 (550MHz) memory at the end of December! Corsair is truly the memory leader of 2003!

Best Air Cooling Heat Sink: Thermalright, Inc.

Since most high performance users are not ready to jump into water cooling or beyond you can't go wrong with a heat sink from Thermalright, Inc. They started off the year by releasing the SLK-900U which is a universal heat sink for both AMD and Intel platforms that was larger with thinner cooling fins. This provided much improvement over the SLK-800 that it replaced.


Our REALLY used SLK-900U on the left and the new SP-94 on the right.

Since these heat sinks cool so well many users have been able to put "silent" fans on these and still be able to overclock where they want to. For those going for every last ounce of performance they accept just about every fan size out there! In late 2003 Thermalright came out with the SP-94 for Intel users and added some heat pipes for even better heat dissipation. Not only does it look wicked it actually helps get the heat away from the processor quicker! They may not be the cheapest heat sink on the market, but if you want it done right the first time start your search at Thermalright, Inc.!

Part 2

Best Computer Case: Aerocool w/ LUBIC series

This is not really a case or an enclosure, but it houses a PC and therefore is a computer case to me! Aerocool started showing the LUBIC series around the time of Quakecon 2003 and is aimed at the enthusiast for sure. The image above shows there plane kit and it looks pretty darn cool. Name another computer case that you can toss out the window that has a chance of safely landing? Exactly!! The LUBIC is a modular concept, so you can really build anything you can think up. If you are looking for something other than just a dull metal casing the Aerocool LUBIC series is the way to go.

Best Innovation: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) w/ Athlon 64

Back on September 23, 2003 AMD released the Athlon 64 series Processor, which quickly raised the level of what home computers can do. With the release of the new A64 line, AMD has once again put themselves in a position to compete with Intel. There were many concerns that AMD would not survive, but after the launch and success of the Athlon 64 series it was clear that AMD still had some fight left in them and that they are here to stay. With Intel's Prescott just around the corner, and rumors of an 64 bit Intel processor from them, this could be a very interesting year in the arena of CPU’s.

Best Silent Launch: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) w/ A64 3000+


An Early Athlon 64 3000+

Without even a heads up from AMD we got an e-mail from an "inside" source at an online retailer telling us they had some "new" AMD processors in stock ! The majority of the press was not "in-the-know" on this one and it turned out to be one of the most exciting processor launches of the year! With the release of the A64 3000+, AMD brought their new line of 64-bit processors into an affordable price range for enthusiasts and just in time for Christmas! Thanks for the early X-Mas AMD! At the time of writing, the A64 is the best bang for the buck in 64-bit processing and rumored to be beating the Athlon XP 3200+ in terms of performance! (We are still benchmarking). Although in the benchmarks we have seen, it is out-performing the AMD XP 3200+ and the Intel Pentium 4 3.2 processors. Though this release was a silent one, it has sent shockwaves throughout the computing world and earned this title hands down!

Best LAN Party: Quakecon 2003 (Dallas, TX)

Quakecon is the real deal for LAN gamers. Out of all the LAN parties that I have hosted, played at, or just covered, Quakecon is by far the most enjoyable of them all. The fact that thousands of gamers were on hand to enjoy great LAN action, cash prizes, the [H] Workshop, the first playable demo of Doom III, and tons of night life was amazing.


Thousands of gamers!


Free Prizes at the [H] Workshop!

For us the [H]ardware Workshop was one of the main highlights of the weekend and everyone who went said the same after it was finished. Everyone won something and walked away with the truth on where the industry is going and one or more prizes. Not too shabby at all and it would not be possible if Kyle Bennett from [H]ard|OCP didn't step up and make it happen. Nightlife for those who are over 21 and have connections should be in store for a great night. No matter what in Dallas, TX there is something for everyone!


Thirsty?


No hand washing at this party!

Quakecon is a place to meet the important people! Key industry leaders from many major hardware and game companies were on hand to meet the gamers as well as the industry leading reviewers. If you want the inside scoop on the industry and to bump elbows with the "community" this is the LAN party to attend!

Conclusion:

I hope you enjoyed or look back at some of our favorite events, products, and thoughts of the past year. It honestly was a blast working in the computer industry and I am looking forward to what is in store in 2004! Time to start packing because CES is only a few days away in Las Vegas!