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Sharky Extreme : Monthly High-end Gaming System Buyer's Guide May 9, 2008

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    May High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    By Ryan "Speedy" Wissman :  May 5, 2005


    In each edition of our monthly High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we are given $2500 in spending money, and then go to the limit in search of the ultimate high-end gaming machines. These systems certainly pump out the gaming framerates, 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 basic 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 system configurations for both the Intel and AMD sides of the spectrum, and are not here to promote one platform over the other.

    While hardware releases and price drops remained relatively mild over the past month, we were still able to snatch a few important upgrades. This month we were able to pick up faster processors for both our AMD and Intel systems, as well as a few upgrades in the memory and motherboard departments. While we refrained from offering a complete overhaul of the systems, we were still able to make a few improvements so as to offer a more rounded configuration than previously.

    Case: Cooler Master WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C w/Antec 480W NeoPower Power Supply

    Current Cost: $231
    Months on list: 3
    Price Change: -$6

    The foundation of any good high-end system is a quality case and power supply. We feel that the enclosure itself can be as important as the components in it and considerable thought should be put into the choice of a case. It is extremely vital to choose a high-end unit not only for aesthetic value, but for the spacious interior and excellent craftsmanship that quality models offer. After all, your case is likely to stick around even after you have upgraded many components of your system.

    While there certainly is no shortage of quality case manufacturers, only a few make our short list each and every month. Lian Li, Cooler Master, and Antec are just a couple of the "top tier" case manufacturers producing cutting-edge, high-end enclosures. However, each month we must decide on only one case manufacturer, and this time out we're sticking with Cooler Master. The Cooler Master WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C is our favorite ATX case at this point in time, and even makes an appearance in our Extreme Buyer's guide.

    The WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C is without a doubt one of the best cases we have ever used. It features a removable motherboard tray, spacious interior, convenient front ports, a solid drive door, and sleek, brushed aluminum housing. The case also has 4 x 5.25", 1 x 3.5" (External), and 4 x 3.5" (Internal) expansion slots, front mounted USB ports, and room for 7 expansion slots. This system chassis also comes in a variety of colors, including Silver, Black, Blue and Yellow. Priced at about $122, this model doesn't come cheap, but as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for."

    Most high-end cases ship sans power supply to save costs and give the end-user additional choice and flexibility. High-end computers, such as the one in this guide, have significant power and signal requirements so leaving the power supply choice to the customer is in everyone's best interest. We have been using the Antec 480W NeoPower PSU in our High-End Guide for the past couple of revisions, and there is certainly no reason to switch now.

    The NeoPower offers 480W of reliable power in addition to modular power cables, native support for PCI Express, Serial ATA, and both 20 and 24-pin motherboard power connectors. The PSU can be found online for about $109 making it a bit pricier than other 480W models, but the peace of mind and high-end features that this power supply provides is worth the additional cost.

  • Page 1 Introduction and Case
    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 Closing Remarks

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