Well the year 2004 is now only a memory, there were a lot of great products that were released and many that were not that great. We decided to write a small article as a group to decide which products we felt were the best of 2004. Now you may agree or disagree with what we chose for each section but these are what we felt were the best as a group. If you disagree or would like to add any of your thoughts on this article please head over to our forums and voice your opinions.
|AMD Processor – Athlon FX-55
If there was ever any doubt that AMD could produce the hardest hitting processor on the market, that doubt should have died out in 2004. The FX55 hammered the competition at stock speeds and thanks to unlocked multipliers and solid overclocking ability it pounded the competition to pulp (and that is not fiction). If you wanted the best performing processor in 2004, it was the FX55.
|AMD Motherboard – MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
With nForce4 just hitting store shelves now we found it obvious to tout the performance of the MSI nForce3 enthusiast breadwinner. MSI took advantage of all the nForce3 250GB chipset has to offer with features such as gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio solution, dual channel memory and SATA Raid 0,1,0+1 and JBOD . MSI has implemented a smooth addition to the nForce3 lineup with a socket-939 board that enthusiasts abroad have enjoyed as a socket-939 overclocking board of choice. Enthusiasts have stepped up to the plate and offered websites with modified BIOS’ and a host of tweaks to get the most out of this hardware. When coupled with the right ram FSB overclocks on the MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum are high and stable. This motherboard has shown it can run at the head of the pack and power a mean machine.
|Intel Processor – Intel Pentium 4 3.80 GHz with EM64T
Intel released its Prescott Pentium 4 in 2004, and the best Intel processor is based on this new core. Despite being slower than similarly clocked Northwood processors, the higher clock speeds give the Prescott an advantage, as well as inclusion of execution disable protection and EM64T, Intel’s 64 bit x86 technology that is compatible with AMD64. While Intel also introduced model numbers for their Pentium 4 processors, this one does not bear a model number. It is the SL72P part, Prescott E0 stepping with 1 MB of L2 cache and clocked at 3.8 GHz with EM64T. Actually targeted at servers and workstations, it is a 64 bit capable version of the more available Pentium 4 570J. Because of this, it receives award as the best Intel processor of 2004.
|Intel Motherboard – Abit AA8-3rd Eye
There were a lot of changes in the motherboard world and with the release of Intel’s new socket 775 processors new motherboards were needed. These new motherboards brought new features to the table including PCI-Express, DDR2, high definition onboard audio, and many other features. With the success of the Abit AA8-DuraMax they released a successor to that board that they labeled the AA-3rd Eye. The only difference between these two boards was that the AA8-3rd Eye included a µGuru clock which is an external LCD that allows you to monitor and make changes to your system. Regardless of this cool feature included the motherboard itself did exceptionally well in every area. The BIOS, layout, features, overclockability, and price made it easy to pick as the best Intel motherboard of 2004.
|Video Card – Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra
There was a lot of debate when it came to choosing the best video card of 2004. Both Nvidia and ATi came out with some with some powerful cards that were packed with new technology and features. However at the end of the debate we ended up choosing the GeForce 6800 for a few reasons. Looking at all of the benchmarks and comparing Nvidia’s best and ATi’s best the 6800 Ultra came out of the barrage of testing with better results overall. Also one of the biggest problems that both companies faced was getting the cards to the end user however ATi had more of a problem with this when it came to their higher end cards. We wanted to make it a point with this category to say that both companies made great products, so either way you go you should be happy.
|Memory – Corsair XMS2 PC5400
Although AMD did not have any DDR2 motherboards released this year and will probably be quite some time before we see any DDR2 is already here. Intel was able to start utilizing this new standard of memory that many people had been looking for. When the time came Corsair was there to answer the call to those users who wanted the best memory on the market as well as overclockability. We had a change to review 1GB of this memory and were extremely impressed with the performance. When it came to overclocking it was easily able to be pushed to 270FSB and probably could have done more but was limited by other hardware. To top it all off this memory features activity LEDs built into the heatspreaders and a lifetime warranty.
|Air Cooling – Thermalright XP-120
With their newest XP lineup, Thermalright has raised the performance bar on the air cooling community; delivering great build quality, huge surface area heat sinks, efficiency of multiple heat pipes (for fast heat transport from your hot CPU), and an easy to install bracket and clip mounting. The XP120 takes the lead with the ability to mount a monstrous 120mm fan. This allows for lower speed and lower fan noise operation while still performing in the highest end of air coolers. Although this monster of a heat sink has some compatibility issues due to its size, if you can fit one, you’re lucky. If you can’t, there’s still the XP90 which is no slouch either.
|Extreme Cooling – Asetek Vapochill Lightspeed [AC]
In the world of extreme cooling, performance is paramount. With Asetek’s latest addition to the expanding CPU cooling lineup, they seem to be hitting it big. Coming to the market shortly after the sadly gone nVentiv MachII, Asetek switched gears from the smaller DC compressor powered R134a refrigerant Vapochill units to a beefier 115v Danfoss powered R507 unit with a much higher heat capacity. Revamping every part of their previous Vapochill’s, the new Vapochill Lightspeed is housed separate from the case, has a brand new Windows accessible controller, flashy programmable blue VFD display, new modular mounting/condensation control, and a hefty 200Watt heat capacity at -33 degrees Celcius. All this, while being offered at a very competitive price point giving bang for the buck and the ability to squeeze every ounce of available performance from a screamingly overclocked CPU.
|Case – Lian Li V1000 & V2000
Lian Li won over a good deal of the overclocking crowd with their PC-70 full tower case which hit the US market in force in 2001. The reasons that case was quickly embraced were obvious – it was a very well-engineered, very large tower case with lots of drive bays, great cooling, little weight and it looked great. In 2004, Lian Li followed the same line of thought that made the PC70 great but they added a very innovative compartmentalized internal design in the PC-V2000. While breaking up the interior may have seemed it bit unusual at first glace, upon closer inspection, the cooling benefits of the PC-V2000’s design could not be denied as the compartments helped keep everything down to and including the power supply running cooler. While the PC-70 had a bit of a boxy look, the PC-V2000 is sleek with smooth flowing lines that are very eye-pleasing. Due to its combination of performance, style and innovative design, the PC-V2000 is our best of the best case of ’04.
|Power Supply – PC Power and Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 Deluxe
Less widely known than some of the larger hardware companies, PC Power and Cooling has always made up for it with incredibly bulletproof products. Their flagship power supply is no exception. This supply rated at 650 peak watts and 510 Watts at a steamy 50 degrees Celsius where many other high end power supplies would fall short. Add in features like sleeved cables, adjustable voltage rails, and ripple/regulation performance that treads on military grade territory, power is not an issue. Top it all off with a 5 year warranty and you have a company who stands by their product. Hands down the best of the best.
|Video Game – Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 was undoubtedly the best and most anticipated game of 2004 which was finally was delivered in November. There were many other games that were released; however none of them had the hype that Half-Life 2 did. Many people were so anxious to play the game they stayed up untill midnight to play it as soon as Steam unlocked the files. The game play, graphics, and story for this game far surpassed the original Half-Life and all other games that were released in 2004. There have also been no real bad reviews of this game from anyone in the review industry including online and in print.