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 £85 / €125 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 favouring 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 1GB 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 £100 / €150.
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.