Mouse: Logitech MX310
Current Cost: $24
Consecutive Guides: 9
Price Change: +$1
Along with the hard drive and video card, the mouse is another area we were actively looking to upgrade. It's not that the Logitech MX310 isn't a quality unit, but it is getting a bit old, and moving to a more recent model is enticing. Unfortunately, there is very little in the sub-$25 price range that stacks up, especially when it comes to the extra buttons that gamers find very useful. Therefore, we're keeping the Logitech MX310 in our guide, especially as it represents a top-end mouse from a previous generation - usually a good sign for bargain hunters. The MX310 is a value-priced corded model with both USB and PS/2 support, and it features the very capable Logitech MX Optical Engine.
The Logitech MX310 was once the flagship of the Logitech gaming mouse line, and it continues to stack up very well at this price range. The MX310 design offers a silver-black outer shell, utilizing the standard 3-button + scroll wheel design, with extra Back/Forward buttons on either side of the mouse. This model also features an application switch button on the top of the mouse, which emulates the Alt-Tab function. This translates into six programmable buttons, all in a format that is perfect for either right or left-handed gamers. The specifications are also nice, with image processing of 4.7 megapixels/sec. and a scanning resolution of 800 dpi, which is almost on par with a Logitech MX510 mouse.
* The type of mousing surface is the only real point to keep in mind, as some surfaces (such as clear glass) may cause the mouse's optical eye to "jump" if moved quickly.
Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard
Current Cost: $15
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: +$1
A keyboard is a very personal item, especially for gaming use, and we can only offer a very basic recommendation to get you started. It is best to test a few models out at a local store, and then decide which model is the right fit for you. Our default choice is the Microsoft Digital Media Pro Keyboard, which offers an exceptional value for approximately $15, and is one of the better entry-level keyboards out there. It has all the basics, along with some extras like multimedia keys, launch buttons, and even a zoom slider for desktop work. But at this price, just be glad it's a name brand keyboard that looks good.
Operating system: Windows XP Home or Windows Vista Home Basic
Current Cost: $80
Consecutive Guides: 3
Price Change: +$4
At this point in time, we remain stuck in an eternal struggle between Windows XP and Vista. Vista might be newer, but a growing number of gamers refuse to upgrade and are sticking with Windows XP. We fully understand, as upgrading our test systems to Vista felt like one of the Trials of Hercules - right up there with slaying the Hydra. Then again, many prefer the updated user interface, and we all know the latest DirectX 10 games will be tuned for Vista.
Choosing the right operating system is a very difficult (and personal) decision, so it's probably one best left to the end user. We're offering up both Windows XP Home SP2 and Windows Vista Home Basic as potential solutions, and while lacking some of the bells and whistles of their big brothers, these are the only OS versions that fit our budget.
The approximate $80 street price represents the cost of a licensed OEM Windows CD or DVD, and not the boxed retail version. This means that in order to get the lower-priced OEM deal, you'll have to buy the Windows CD with your new system or get it bundled together with one of the individual hardware purchases. If you forget, remember that the retail version will cost significantly more, so don't blame us when you have to pay your local Best Buy quite a bit more than the OEM CD price.
Name Brand Floppy
Current Cost: $0
We've taken our reader's advice and scrapped the floppy from our main guide. This not only embraces the future of PC design, but also saves us a few bucks into the bargain.
Of course, this is a guideline only, and for those who will feel more comfortable with a floppy drive, just slap down $8 and buy a basic name brand (Panasonic, Sony, TEAC, etc.) and be done with it.