In each edition of our monthly High-end Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we take $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 each component fits 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 goal of our high-end guide is to give you a general idea of what kind of gaming PCs are possible with a budget of $2500. While the individual components are top notch, we definitely take a look at the larger picture, and then decide which pieces meld together to form the highest performing, feature-rich gaming configurations possible, all while keeping our $2500 limit in mind. We also recommend system configurations for both the Intel and AMD sides of the spectrum, and are not here to promote one platform over the other.
With a deluge of must-have games slated for release the holiday season, this time of year can be one of the most tempting to upgrade your computer. There are also quite a few deals on of high-end components, as retailers attempt to clear out their stock to boost their end of year numbers. This month we take considerable advantage of this trend, and outfit our AMD and Intel high-end gaming computers with some of the best new components that our budget will allow. New processors and motherboards are just a few of the components we add this month, to ensure that our high-end gaming systems pack more than enough punch to play the latest and greatest games this holiday season.
Current Cost: $212
Months on list: New
Price Change: N/A
The base for ay good high-end gaming system starts with a high quality case and power supply. Across all three of our buyer's guides, we cover our case and power supply choice first, due to the relative importance of both items and the fact that these provide the foundation for the other components. While a case's aesthetics are important, we also feel that one needs to take into account the usability as well. In addition to choosing a case that is appealing to the eye, we also prefer cases that have a spacious interior and superior craftsmanship. It is more than likely that your case will outlast just about any other component in your system so it makes sense to pay it special attention.
A few quality case manufacturers continue to make our short list each and every month, and Cooler Master, Antec, and Lian Li are just a few of the high-end case manufacturers that produce eye-catching, cutting-edge, high-end enclosures. For the past few months, we have been very impressed by the Cooler Master WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C, and nothing has caught our attention enough to move away from that choice again this month.
The WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C is definitely one of the best cases we have used, and our willingness to stick with it over the past six editions of this guide is a testament to its excellence. This case features a slick removable motherboard tray, a spacious interior, convenient front ports, a solid drive door, and sleek, brushed aluminum housing. The WaveMaster TAC-T01-E1C also provides a nice combination of a mid-size exterior and a spacious interior, with 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 $125, this model does not come cheap, but as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for."
These days most high-end cases do not ship with a power supply so it makes sense that we make our own recommendation in this guide. Today's high-end computers can have massive power and signal requirements, so giving the enthusiast consumer the option to choose a PSU is in everyone's best interest. Dual core processors, faster clock speeds, and PCI Express video cards all require massive amounts of power, so this type of flexibility is extremely important. This month we are upgrading from our previous 480W Antec NeoPower, and adding a bit more juice by moving to the Antec 550W TruePower 2.0 TP2-550EPS12V power supply.
The Antec 550W TruePower 2.0 TP2-550EPS12V forgoes the fancy modular power connectors of the 480W NeoPower, in favor of a higher and more consistent power output. The Antec 550W offers extremely reliable power output, and features native support for PCI Express, SLI video cards, Serial ATA, as well as both 20 and 24-pin motherboard power connectors. The EPS12V format also means dual 4-pin/8-pin ATX 12V connectors for both standard motherboards and newer dual-core Intel boards. The Antec 550W TruePower 2.0 TP2-550EPS12V is available online for about $87, making it relatively affordable as high-end power supplies go.