Fall is upon us, and while the back-to-school buying has cooled down, this is still a great time to shop for a new gaming PC. DOOM 3 may be old news, but Half-Life 2 is coming up fast, and should be released within a month. As usual, our Value Guide takes both performance and price into consideration, and we're pinching every penny in search of a high-performance system for gamers on a budget. In a nutshell, the Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide delivers the system and gaming performance you want, but at a price that won't break the bank. The overall scenario is bit different than some of the other buyer's guides on Sharky Extreme, as we limit the budget to $1,000 in cold, hard cash while the goal remains the same: to assemble a kick-ass gaming system that will play today's hottest games and still have some power in reserve for tomorrow.
To do this, we pay special attention to the price-performance of each component, making sure to match them according to their value from an overall system performance standpoint. While not as fast or flashy as the Extreme or High-End Gaming Systems, our Value configuration may actually be the best deal of them all. If you're the type of gamer who counts your pennies before buying any new system, then get ready for a buyer's guide right up your alley.
Finding the best system components for a value gaming system is more difficult than simply picking the very best hardware money can buy, and it entails a great deal of concession on the part of the buyer. The $1,000 budget gets eaten up pretty quick, and slapping down the cash for a 21" LCD or 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition would take care of it in very short order. When compiling our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we try and find that happy medium between spending a fortune on a new PC, and being "penny wise/pound stupid", and getting stuck with obsolete hardware. Our value gaming PCs will still allow high-end gameplay, contains the CPU and 3D video power necessary to really push the framerates, and keeps a close eye on quality and features to boot. Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date or low-end hardware, and instead stick to a name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.
This month we've upgraded the Value Guide in a few areas, while switching components in some others, and both the AMD and Intel configurations are looking like serious performance systems. Some of this is due to price cuts with certain hardware, but we've also made use of small price differences to switch the components to slightly higher-end models. There are still some concessions needed, and although the CPU, video card, and monitor selections have shifted, we've been forced to stay the course with most of the components. Of course, we have emerged with higher-performance, more fully-featured PCs compared to last month, but just not at the same level as the upgrades of our previous edition.
As with all of our buyer's guides, we have made every attempt to confirm that the selected hardware is available at one or more of the largest and most popular (with Sharky readers) online retailers. Although the price stated in the guide may not be exactly match that of a specific online dealer, you can bet on finding a significant percentage of our component list in their catalogues and at similar price levels. The availability factor did not limit our choices, but we do sleep easier with the knowledge that interested buyers can find the same hardware selection at most of the large online vendors.
Current Cost: $52
Months on list: 8
Price Change: -$2
The case is the first part in any new system design, and is an essential component in the overall configuration. Its importance is also independent of the budget, and although we do get a bit more freedom with for our High-end and Extreme Buyer's Guides, even a value gaming system should start with a quality case. For an entry-level system enclosure, the key is to balance cost with aesthetics, expansion space and features, and this month's selection offers a great combination of these requirements.
The Aspire X-Dreamer II is a case that looks a whole lot more expensive than it is. It includes a wide range of features, has a ton of expandability, offers a superb design for the class, and is an extremely nice looking case at this price level. The X-Dreamer II may be an entry-level case in terms of cost, but it is definitely not a "budget case". We've also been sticking with the X-Dreamer II for awhile now, but with our stringent value system performance and budgetary requirements, there is no reason to rock the boat.
The Aspire X-Dreamer II gives a lot of aesthetics for the money, and the unit's slick metallic housing is sure to please. This case may look great, but it's far more than just another pretty face, and the features and internal real estate of the X-Dreamer II are excellent for this price range. This case includes 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays, which is a ton of upgrade space, especially for an entry-level mid-tower case. The X-Dreamer II's outer housing may turn some heads, but it is quite functional and includes some very useful onboard options. The unit has USB and audio jacks, automatic drop-down side doors, a see-through window panel, blue LED case fans, 6 LED indicator lights, and even a temperature display LCD for the hardcore enthusiast.
The X-Dreamer II also gives us a lot of bang for the buck, and now that it's dropped by $2, the $52 price tag is just too good to resist. The X-Dreamer II also includes an Intel Pentium 4/AMD compatible 350W ATX power supply, which is on par with competitive entry-level units and is a great value for our system. This model is also available in a wide range of colors, so you have more options than just the standard silver or black.