The mentioned power consumption is true only for the quadcores, but the single or dualcore are a completely different story. And yes if you want to see Intel 'suck' in terms of power consumption then compare e.g. the dualcores of both brands.
Furthermore I don't see the need for a big nVidia card as emphasized above, you can play games like Quake4 (via Linuxulator in FreeBSD) with a 7300GT quiet well (1280x1024 without stuttering) - advantage: less power consumption than the 8800 monsters and they are really _inexpensive_.
>My typical goal will be to run a desktop, although, the further I come in studying the books I bought, the more tempting it might become to try to set up some servers as well.
*BSD != Vista or Mac OS X, so you don't need lots of horse power. I'm using OpenBSD at my Asus EEE900A (Intel Atom), FreeBSD stable on four machines: 2 Intel, 2 AMD - all of them are dualcores. The 'slowest' is the laptop with a C2D 1.66GHz and guess what? Compiling world with ccache _is_ fast =)
At the institute we're using FreeBSD (and some Linux) too, _because_ of the small footprint of the system. So we don't need lot of memory, quadcores etc. The typical use is as servers and workstations (lot of TB for pictures of forensic quality etc. pp.). Apart from that we're using two big Apple machines for modeling and rendering (Maya).
So if you don't want to game with you machine, remember FreeBSD and/or Linux aren't the best candidates for the hardcore gamer. Even the casual gamer sticks with Windows or buys some Playstation, Nintendo etc. pp.
In the end the best question would be: which hardware should one avoid? The golden rule: the newer, the messier is true especially in *BSD. So don't let cloud your mind with fanboyism, benchmark mumbo jumbo and so on. A dualcore _is_ fast in Linux or *BSD, even a single core. 1G of memory is enough even for KDE4 and OO3, 2G of memory a great for compiling world (FreeBSD) with several jobs - I guess you got the picture?
Most of the time the brand is important only in terms of compatibility (e.g. Wifi, ...), but quality wise there is just one rule: there is hardware which sucks less. After more than 20 years of using hardware this is my conclusion. Remember it's consumer hardware after all. So 'low quality' and high (compared to the quality) prices justified with big hype is the reality =)
use UNIX or die :-)
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