Originally Published: Tuesday, 19 September 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Frag-O-Matic 9000

What would Brian do if he found Bill Gates' money clip on the sidewalk? Buy his dream gaming computer, of course. Come drool over his shopping list.

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Sigmund Freud wrote several volumes on how the true nature of a person could be revealed by examining their dreams.

Some dream of peaceful garden meadows when they sleep, others act out their worst fears. Me, I dream of men with guns and walking eyeballs my crosshairs. What does this say about me? I need to build my dream game machine.

Live The Dream

My dream game machine is just that ... a dream. If I had the money to put this together, I'd pay off the car loan instead. But one must dream, and I will share the dream with you.

Don't faint when you see the price tag on this computer, and don't think you have to have this system to play today's games. Once I have my dream laid out for you, I will give you the layout for a system most computer users can afford.

Motherboard & CPU

While Intel makes a great processor, the upgrade path for the Pentium III looks to be short lived. AMD's latest Athlon is a solid CPU, and the Socket A design should go to 1.5 GHz before the end of the year. On top of that fact, AMD's Athlon is cheaper then Intel's P-III at the same clock speed (hey, just because it's a dream doesn't mean I have to loose my mind).

The MSI 6330 motherboard is still my pick for Socket A processors. It uses the VIA KT-133 chipset, providing UDMA/66 and AGP 4X. Combine this motherboard ($127) with a 1 GHz Athlon ($480) for the base of my system. Since any CPU over 600 MHz requires a respectable amount of cooling, I'm not going to skimp on the fan. The ThermalTake Golden Orb ($16) is not only the coolest looking fan I've ever seen, it keeps the CPU uber-cool.


While 128MB is fine for the average system, I'll go overboard with 256MB of CAS2 PC-133 SDRAM from Micron ($326). It's fast, reliable, and compatible with damn near any motherboard. Half of this memory will be used by the AGP aperture as a space for storing texture bitmaps, which increases gaming performance.


The king, the mack-daddy ... Brian needs the biggest 3D rendering monster the can find. That need is answered by the Hercules 3D Prophet II GTS 64MB ($387). This AGP 4X card utilizes NVIDIA's GeForce2 GTS chipset and 4.4ns DDR video memory (in English: faster than a greased pig sliding down a stainless steel ramp). Not only is it fast, but the driver support for LINUX is excellent.

A good video card requires a good display. Compaq makes the TFT8020 ($3382), an attractive 18.1" flat-panel LCD that supports an array of resolutions and mounting options (wall mount, swivel-bracket or table-top). It also comes in black ... but since it's over $3000, they call it "opal" (much classier).

Case & Power Supply

If the system is going to kick butt, it might as well look cool. The neatest mini-tower I've seen in a while is the "Hydraulic" Mid-Tower ATX Computer Case. Push a button, and the front cover slides down to reveal the CD-ROM/floppy drive bay. I'd get this case in black with a 300 Watt power supply and the optional 8"X8" case fan ($97).


Since I'm dreaming, I had considered a Ultra160 SCSI RAID controller with a few 10,000 RPM hard drives ... but let's not get carried away. One good hard drive will do: the 75GB IBM Deskstar 75GXP ($520). This 7,200 RPM drive is fast, reliable, and made by one of the top hard drive companies. If I'm getting a black case, I need a black CD-ROM. DVD for Linux isn't quote ready yet, so I'll go for an old-fashioned CD-ROM drive. One black Toshiba 48X CD-ROM please, no cream or sugar. Shaft would be proud.


Sound is a good thing when fragging. Computer games now have sound quality that rivals that of the movie theaters. To take advantage of these sonic marvels, a sound card with front and rear channel support is necessary. The best supported rear channel sound card on the market is the Sound Blaster Live!, using the EAX sound system. While the OEM version will suit most, I'm going for the version with the digital sound outputs ($58).

To help reproduce the experience of converting opponents into slimy puddles, I have selected the Cambridge SoundWorks FPS2000 Digital Speaker System ($149 ... in black, of course). This set includes subwoofer, front tabletop speakers, and rear speakers on stands. This speaker system accepts the digital output of the SoundBlaster Live! for clear digital sound. Don't get these if your house has structural issues.


No modem for me, thank you. Optimum fragging is Cable, DSL or local network. So why bother with that squawking modem? Personal experience tells me to stick with a brand-name network interface. My choice is the Intel PRO/100 ($35). Intel makes a good network card, and this one is well supported under LINUX. Most any 10/100 card by Linksys or 3Com will do the job. This is a personal bias ... I've just had very good experience with this adapter.

Did I Forget Anything?

It's always the details that get you. Don't forget the keyboard and mouse. Since I'm going with the Shaft motif, I'll need the black keyboard ($9) and mouse ($10). These aren't stocked at every computer store, so be ready to search the Web. Most gamers should opt for a good surge protector. I'm going over the top with an Back-UPS Pro 650 ($300). This UPS offers surge protection, 2+ hours of backup power and network surge protection (just in case your DSL box gets baked).

Time To Checkout

$127 - Motherboard: MSI 6330 $480 - CPU: AMD Athlon 1GHz $16 - Golden Orb CPU Cooling Fan $326 - Memory: 256MB Micron PC133 CAS2 SDRAM $387 - Hercules Prophet II GTS 64MB $3382 - Display: Compaq 18.1" FlatPanel $97 - Case: Black ATX, 300W Supply & Cooling Fan $520 - Hard Drive: IBM Deskstar 75GXP $64 - CD-ROM: Black Toshiba 48X EIDE $58 - Sound Card: Sound Blaster Live! with digital outputs $149 - Speakers: Creative Labs FPS2000 $35 - Network: Intel PRO/100 $9 - Keyboard: Black PS/2 $10 - Mouse: Black PS/2, two-button with scroll-wheel $300 - Surge/Backup: APC BackUPS Pro 650 $5,960 - Total

Brian's virtual shopping spree cost a few dollars more than he has, but that's why it's a dream machine. I could have spent more, but even my dreams have limits. Since these prices don't include shipping or tax, the actual cost of this system is well over $6,000. Subtract the high cost of the display, and ... well, it's still an expensive machine. But fear not, Brian will soon cater to the needs of the budget impaired with his affordable system configuration.

Brian Richardson awakens from the dream, and enters the harsh reality where he doesn't have $6,000 to spend on a PC. Come to think of it, Brian spent less than that on his last car. Brian is now depressed and heading to a bar.

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