In each edition of our monthly 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 in high-end game 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 also represents the median between our Value Buyer's Guide with only a $1000 limit, and our Extreme Buyer's Guide with its 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.
As hardware prices have fallen considerably since the last edition of this guide, we have had the chance to upgrade a number of components accordingly. On the AMD side of the fence we've moved to a Socket 939 motherboard and processor, which not only provides more breathing room for future upgrades, but offers higher performance as well. In addition, the video and storage components received considerable upgrades this month thanks to better component availability and price cuts. Overall, we are very pleased with the performance and features of our high-end gaming systems this month compared to the previous edition, but look forward to tweaking it more in the months to come.
Current Cost: $218
Months on list: New
Price Change: N/A
Across all three of our monthly buyer's guides the case and power supply is always the first order of business. The case can be just as important as the components you put inside, even more so considering a good enclosure is likely to stay with you through multiple PC upgrades. This makes choosing the right case and power supply extremely important. It is essential to choose a case not only for its aesthetic value, but it should also be easy to work with, functional, and have enough real estate to make installation and upgrades a snap.
While there are literally hundreds of computer case manufacturers, only a select few are on our short list for quality, including Lian Li, Cooler Master, and Antec to name just a couple. As each of these manufacturers produces excellent designs, a case from any one of them would be a wise choice. For the purposes of this guide we can only pick one, and as our top choice for the past few months has been Lian Li, it should come as no surprise that we are going that route yet again this month. The Lian Li PC-65 USB not only combines great looks and an attractive price, but is one of the most functionally sound cases we have used thus far.
We have been using the Lian Li PC-65 USB case for several months in this guide, and with good reason. The PC-65 USB is a great looking aluminum case that has the high end features and expandability we're looking for. The case features 4 x 5.25", 3 x 3.5" (External), and 5 x 3.5" (Internal) expansion slots, four ball-bearing cooling fans, a fan speed controller, two front-mounted USB ports, a removable motherboard tray, and even a side-panel window. Most impressive of all, is the case can be found for just $105 from various online retailers.
To limit costs, and provide better value to customers, many high-end cases ship without a power supply. Enthusiast-level computers have significant power and signal requirements, so leaving the power supply choice to the customer is in everyone's best interest. This month we are moving to a new power supply, not due to increasing power requirements, but in an effort to find one that is a better match for current and upcoming technologies. The Antec 480W NeoPower Power Supply offers 480W of reliable power, in addition to having modular power cables, native support for PCI Express, Serial ATA, and both 20 and 24-pin motherboard power connectors.
At $113, the Antec NeoPower is slightly more expensive than other 480W models, but it is worth every penny. No matter what you buy, it is 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.