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Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide

January High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Ryan "Speedy" Wissman January 27, 2004


In each month's edition of our High End Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we are given $2500 in cash to spend, and go to the limit in search of the ultimate high-end gaming machines. These systems certainly pump out the gaming FPS, but we do not spend this money frivolously, and our tech savvy and eye for a deal play a large role in the choices we make. All of the hardware picks in this guide are done after carefully weighing the price to performance ratio of each component, then seeing how they fit into our $2500 budget. This guide is your median between our Value Buyer's Guide with only a $1000 limit, and our Extreme Buyer's Guide with a massive $4000 budget.

The purpose behind this guide is to give you a general idea of what kind of high-end gaming PC is possible with a budget of $2500. While the individual components are top notch, we take a look at the larger picture, and decide which pieces meld together the best to form the highest-performing, feature-rich gaming PC possible. We recommend configurations for both the Intel and AMD sides of the spectrum, and are not here to promote one platform over the other.

Aside from the usual month-to-month price drops, both Intel and AMD released speed increased versions of their processors, which are both primed for a high-end system. AMD updated their Athlon 64 line to include the 3400+ (2.2GHz), and Intel quickly countered with the 3.4GHz version of their Northwood Pentium 4. Luckily, both of these new processors made it into this month's guide, in addition to a few other improvements and adjustments here and there.

Case: Lian Li PC-65 w/ Antec TruePower 480W PSU

Current Cost: $198
Months on list: 3
Price Change: +$3

As with all of our PC Buyer's guides, the case and power supply are listed before all other components. We do this because we feel that these should be among the first things you decide upon when buildings a new PC. The case may remain with you longer than any other piece of internal hardware, and can also dictate future upgrade possibilities. When choosing a high-end case it is important that you purchase one that will fit your current and future size requirements, and is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

There are few case manufacturers that scream quality like Lian Li, Cooler Master and Antec. While you can't go wrong with a case from any of them, we can only pick a single model to be included in this guide each month. For the past few editions we have been using Lian Li cases, and this will not change this month. The Lian Li PC-65 is becoming a staple of the high-end guide, and it scores high marks for its great looks, ergonomics, and ease of use. The Lian Li PC-65 can be found at various online retailers for about $115, as slight price increase from last month.

Most high end cases do not come standard with a quality power supply, if any at all. The power requirements of a high-end PC and its components are something that drives the need for a high-quality PSU. The Antec TruePower 480W power supply is exactly what the doctor ordered, and at around $83, it fits into the budget quite nicely. It is also very important to choose a power supply from a reputable brand (Antec, ThermalTake, Enermax, Vantec), as bargain units often have ridiculously high output claims that the hardware simply can't match.

  • Page 1 January High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards
    Page 4 Memory, Hard Drive and CDRW/DVD-ROM
    Page 5 Video Card, Monitor and Audio
    Page 6 Mouse and Keyboard
    Page 7 Communications, Operating System, etc.
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Conclusion

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