In each month's edition of our High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we are given $2500 cash to spend, and go to the limit in search of the ultimate high-end gaming machine. However, we do not spend this money frivolously, and our tech savvy and eye for a bargain play a large role in the choices we make. All of the hardware in this guide is only selected after carefully weighing the price-to-performance ratio of each component, then determining if it meets our budget limit of $2500. This guide strikes the medium ground between our Value Buyer's Guide with only a $1000 limit, and the massive $4000 budget of our Extreme Buyer's Guide.
The purpose behind this guide is to give you a general idea of what kind of gaming PC is possible with a budget of $2500. While the individual components we choose are excellent, we always keep in mind the larger picture of which components meld together the best to form the highest performing, feature-rich gaming PC possible. We also recommend configurations for both the Intel and AMD sides of the spectrum, and are not here to promote one platform over the other.
This month we see the introduction of a few new products. Most notably are the new Pentium 4 "C" processors, which take advantage of Intel's new 800MHz FSB and support HyperThreading technology. AMD hasn't gone quietly into the night, but rather released the new Athlon XP 3200+ Barton CPU, and is the first AMD desktop processor to support a 400MHz FSB. Motherboards based on Intel's 875P chipset are finally hitting the retail channels, and the 865P (Springdale) chipset is also ramping up. Finally, ATI's Radeon 9800 series cards have finally reached mass market penetration, and are ready for use in this guide. Although some of these are not featured in this Guide, their impact on surrounding products ensures there are performance improvements all around this month.
Current Cost: $211
Months on list: 4
Price Change: -$12
It's extremely important to choose the right case. This piece of hardware is critical as it can influence one's upgrade path substantially. It's crucial to choose a case based not only on its internal characteristics, but also on aesthetic appeal. A good case can stay with you long after you have swapped internal parts out multiple times, and as enthusiasts, we grow to love, or hate our case based on these characteristics.
There are a few case manufacturers that are almost always among our top picks, with Lian Li, Cooler Master, and Antec being the most consistent. This month, like the three before, we chose to go with the Lian Li PC-65 aluminum case. This case is constructed out of aluminum, making it very lightweight, and its design is very pleasing to the eye. This month we were able to find the case at a very reasonable $128, and the PSU for just a hair less expensive, at $83.
Since some high-end cases do not ship with a viable power supply it's essential that you pick a high quality unit, and reject the bargain units with outrageous output claims. Our favorite manufacturers remain Antec and Enermax, and are the cream of the crop as far as desktop power supplies go. This month we stuck with the Antec 430X TruePower, but you can't go wrong with a 400W or higher model from either manufacturer.