As the holiday season approaches, there seems to be a torrent of high profile games being thrown at us over a very short time span. Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft, and Everquest II are just a few of the hot PC titles available this Holiday season. To play these games in their full glory virtually requires an ultra high-end PC, and thankfully we're back this month with our system recommendations. With $4000 in cold hard cash we set out to assemble the absolute best PC our budget can achieve. However, we still need to follow the same format as our other price guides; we keep an eye out for relative value, and weigh price-to-performance ratios heavily before making a decision on which components to include.
Even with a $4000 budget, there are still some very real limitations that we need to keep in mind. You won't find any ridiculously expensive plasma or LCD TV/monitors, nor will we be able to include an extravagant home theater-level sound system. Rather, the computer hardware is still relatively balanced, so that we can feature top-end components for virtually every category of the system. Overall, we are very confident in our choices from month-to-month, and each component is put to the litmus test, as $4000 is simply too much cash to slap down, without giving the overall configuration some very serious thought.
Current Cost of Case and PSU: $235
Months on List: 2
Price Change: -$15
While many of the components in this guide get changed out for improved ones each month, the system case is not likely to be something you will need to upgrade frequently. As a result, it is very important to choose a case that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also has enough room for future upgrades. Across all three of our guides we consistently recommend cases from a few highly regarded manufacturers, and CoolerMaster, Lian Li, and Antec are just a few of our favorite name brand cases. We find that these enclosures are among the easiest to work with, and their top-end aesthetics are bound to turn a few heads.
Currently, the Cooler Master TAC-T01 is our choice for the Extreme guide. There are literally no faults to be found with this model, and its combination of brushed aluminum alloy housing, removable motherboard tray, spacious interior, and ultra convenient front ports make this a case to be reckoned with. Upon careful inspection it is easy to see the careful attention to detail when crafting this case, which is why we don't hesitate to recommend it for another month. The Cooler Master TAC-T01 can be found for about $125 online, making it a pretty good deal, even at the high-end of the scale.
With newer technologies such as PCI Express and SATA requiring unique power connectors, we decided it was best if we found a PSU that supported all types of external plugs right out of the box. The NeoPower 480W has full compliance for the ATX 2.0 standard, dual +12V rails, extremely quiet operation, dedicated fan-only wiring, as well as all the special connectors you could dream of. Despite all of the technical advancements, the most enticing feature of the NeoPower 480W is its detachable modular cabling system. This allows you to use only the connectors you require, this preserving precious space, and providing for better airflow. It also allows easy upgrades in the future, through add-in connectors should new hardware specifications emerge.
As the components in our Extreme Gaming System require some serious juice, a 480W PSU will be more than enough to drive all of our high end components, and with power to spare. Priced at a cool $110 the NeoPower 480W may seem more expensive than other 480W units, but keep in mind that there is a premium attached to the high-end components and modular cabling system.
If you choose to go an alternative route when selecting the power supply, please make sure to stick with name brand units (Antec, Enermax, ThermalTake, etc.) and avoid any bargain bin units with lofty output claims.