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Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide

August 2002 High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman August 9, 2002


The hardware selection improves as the months go by, and we're ready to take another kick at the High End Gaming PC can. The components we'll be watching closely this week include processors, as we're looking to get the best deal we can, and at the highest speed possible. The Pentium 4-2.53 GHz might be a bit out of our league, but an Athlon XP 2200+ is a virtual lock. Everything else is open game this month, and we'll be paying very close attention to the Pentium 4 motherboard selection, as a few new chipsets have appeared that may fill that spot quite nicely. 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.

With a $2500 budget, we need to find that perfect balance between price and performance, while weighing the potential gains of saving money in certain areas. These are the kinds of questions that we have to ask when compiling our High End Gaming PC Buyers 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, SCSI RAID setups, 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.

Case: Aluminum Case w/ Antec True Power PSU

Current Cost: $250
Months on list: 2
Price Change: -$10

Other than the clothes on your back, we can't think of a more personal and subjective choice than that of a PC case. A system case 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 we are listing a few generic options, so that 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 an Antec True Power 400-430W power supply.

We've priced out a few popular configurations, including some from Lian Li, Cooler Master and Enermax, and basically allocated a budget of $175-$190 for the case and a $60-$70 for the power supply. These custom cases 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 is the best bet. Other than that, the higher the wattage, the less cash you have left for the case, and vice versa. Finding balance between the two components is key, though with $260 in your pocket, this shouldn't be difficult.

To whet your appetite for aluminum, here are a few pics of some popular cases that we found listed at many of the major online vendors:

(clockwise from the top-left: Sky Hawk ALP4350, Super Flower 201-S, Thermaltake Xaser II A5000, Cooler Master ATC-710)

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.

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