Each month brings new products, faster speeds and inherently lower prices for computer hardware. Intel has been putting the pedal to the metal in terms of processor clock speeds, and their Pentium 4 is now up to 2.53 GHz. The question here is exactly how much Pentium 4 power we can squeeze into our High End rig, as even with recent price decreases, the price of the upper echelon remain out of reach for many buyers. The Athlon XP side is a bit different, as AMD has yet to announce their Thoroughbred core, but the Athlon XP 2100+ remains a major contender at the high-end. With the exception of the i850E and the pricey PC1066 RDRAM, along with the i845E and i845G, there haven't really been that many other major releases this past month. As such, we'll have a bit of the old and new in this High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, along with some much-needed changes in a few categories.
One area that caught our eye this time out is our previous speaker selection. While a Klipsh system is pretty nifty to own, the cash outlay was becoming a bit of a drain and there are some very powerful speakers systems available at significantly lower prices. We have also revamped the system case, NIC, CPU cooling and hard drive sections, all in an attempt to parcel out the available budget in the best possible manner. Finding a good balance is key, such as determining if adding in the cost of a Pentium 4-2.53 GHz is worth the trade-off in terms of lower-end components. The other angle is important as well, since lowering your specs even slightly can allow additional power in other areas.
With a $2500 budget, these are the kinds of questions that we have to ask when compiling our High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. Given the tempting list of performance hardware, it would be quite easy just to write a blank check and then go on a spending spree. Unfortunately, this isn't how most gamers allocate their budgets, and even our High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide has a limit of $2500 in cold, hard cash. With these resources we try and assemble the fastest, most fully featured gaming PC we can possibly concoct. This is no easy task, as the allure of Pentium 4-2.53 GHz processors, 21" monitors and Klipsch Promedia 5.1 speakers can exert an incredible pull on any gamer.
Our high-end picks will provide all of the gaming power you have come to expect from Sharky Extreme, while still carefully weighing the price-performance of the various components. Those looking for recommendations that are not quite so limited by a strict budget should refer to our Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, which has a $4000 limit, while those seeking a more affordable system should check out the Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, which still packs a lot of punch into a $1000 budget.
Another point worth addressing is the scope and purpose of the SE High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. This guide is not intended as a strict mandate as to which specific PC to buy, but more to which combination of PC components offer the best bang for the buck in each of the popular high-end gaming platforms. This translates into recommended configurations for both the Intel and AMD gaming platforms. We're not here to promote one over the other, as only you know your own specific requirements and can determine which platform is the best fit.
Current Cost: $260
Months on list: New
Price Change: N/A
Other than the clothes on your back, we can't think of a more personal and subjective choice than that of a PC case. After all, this is something that you'll be looking at for some time to come, and apart from pure aesthetics, it will need the cooling and expansion options required for long-term use and upgrades. Once we enter the high-end area of gaming systems, the choices open up enormously and although we are listing a few options, each gamer should evaluate their own individual requirements and pick the case that matches up best. At a base minimum, we are recommending an aluminum case with a name brand 350W-450W power supply.
We've priced out a few popular configurations, including some of the Lian Li PC70 and PC-71 USB cases, as well as the newer Aluminum models from Cooler Master and Enermax, and found most of them within our price range. These units do not ship with a power supply, and as well as ensuring both Pentium 4 and Athlon XP compatibility, sticking with a known PSU brand like Antec or Enermax is also a good bet. Other than that, the higher the wattage, the less cash you have left for the case, and vice versa. Find balance, young Jedi.
To properly whet your appetite, here are a few pics of some popular cases that we found listed at many of the major online vendors:
A case should reflect your individual computer requirements and if you expect to have a system loaded for bear, then the internal real estate, expansion options and cooling are of the utmost importance and a full tower might be warranted. But if your gaming leans more towards LAN parties, or space is extremely limited, then a smaller mid-tower will be the best bet.