Thanks to our hefty $4,000 budget, and some new hardware releases, we were able to make a number of sizeable upgrades this month. NVIDIA's new GeForce 7800 GTX has been the talk of the town as far as video cards are concerned, and it makes its first appearance this month. We have also got the other areas covered, as we also add dual 300 GB hard drives and a widescreen LCD monitor to the mix, as well as tweaking other minor system upgrades this month. While this won't be a complete overhaul of our previous system configurations, there are enough upgrades this time around to push this guide well ahead of what was seen the last time around.
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 balanced effectively, 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; each component is put to the litmus test, as $4000 is simply too much cash to slap down without working through the overall configuration with a fine-toothed comb.
Current Cost of Case and PSU: $225
Months on List: 5
Price Change: -$14
The case and power supply components aren't as vulnerable to technological change as some of the other performance-centric hardware, and from month to month these selections usually remain very consistent. One reason is that we spare no expense when it comes to choosing a high end case and power supply, and we prefer to choose one that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is also has feature rich construction and offers a spacious interior. While many case manufacturers vie for the top spot, there are a few that remain on our A-list. Currently, our favorites consist of models from Cooler Master, Lian Li, and Antec, just to name a few vendors that should be on your short list when it comes to a new enthusiast-level system enclosure.
This month we are sticking with the Cooler Master TAC-T01-E1C as our top choice, and this model is as close to perfection as a high-end case can come. With a brushed aluminum alloy housing, removable motherboard tray, spacious interior, and ultra convenient front ports, you'd be hard pressed to find a better enthusiast case. The WaveMaster features 4 x 5.25", 1 x 3.5" (External), and 4 x 3.5" (Internal) expansion slots, room for 7 expansion slots making this one of the most spacious mid-tower cases we have ever worked with. The Cooler Master TAC-T01-E1C WaveMaster is available at various online retailers for just under $130.
The latest technologies such as SATA, PCI Express as well as the new Intel and AMD motherboards (24-pin) all require unique power connectors, so it was only natural that we chose to go with a power supply that can handle everything. The NeoPower 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 can dream of. However, the coolest feature this power supply has to offer is the detachable modular cables. Antec includes every connector imaginable, PCI Express, SATA, and 20/24-pin motherboard cables to name a few. Thanks to the modular cabling system on the Antec 480W NeoPower, you can use only the power cables you need, and saving precious space while allowing for better airflow.
Even considering the amount of juice our Extreme Gaming Systems require, a name brand 480W PSU is more than enough to drive everything, with power to spare. The NeoPower 480W is rather pricey at a cool $95, but considering its high-end features and limited impact to our budget, this is our PSU of choice.
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.