Summer is upon us, and it just happens to be a hot time for buying a new PC. This is especially true of the entry-level market and makes it an opportune time for another edition of our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. In this guide, we're looking for the best value gaming PC, and trying to find the optimum configuration for the budget-minded gamer. The 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 have some power in reserve for tomorrow's.
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 an article 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" flat screen monitor or 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 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 available hardware, and instead keep to name brand components that offer the best price-performance ratio.
As in previous months, we sat down to determine the exact mix of components that delivers the best bang for the buck. This month brought up some interesting combinations, especially as there have been some quantum shifts in the value-oriented market. We're still keeping much of the tried-and-true hardware, but in the areas of CPU, 3D video and motherboards, there may be an opportunity to maximize our $1,000 investment. Some are very noticeable upgrades, while others recognize the changing trends and available supply of hardware. On the whole, the performance of both the AMD and Intel systems has been upgraded, and once again, our current value gaming system recommendations may leave a few hardcore users green with envy.
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 the same as in 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 many of the large online vendors.
Current Cost: $63
Months on list: 5
Price Change: -$2
No matter if you're assembling a high-end monster PC or an entry-level computer, the choice of system case remains an important one. For our value gaming system, we're sticking with the Antec SX630II, which offers a lot of bang for the buck, and remains one of the most popular entry-level cases. Antec is a well-recognized name with both PSUs and system cases, and the SX630II is a quality piece of hardware at a very attractive price. This case also packages an Antec SmartPower 300W power supply, which is certified for both AMD Athlon XP and Intel Pentium 4 operation.
The internals of the Antec SX630II case are quite good, with an excellent layout and enough real estate and expansion bays to accommodate future upgrades. The SX630II features 8 drive bays (3 x 3.25" and 5 x 3.5") and space for 3 cooling fans (1 built-in, 2 optional), including one that blows over the removable hard drive bays. This case is well designed, has pleasing aesthetics, and as a whole, the Antec SX630II represents an exceptional value.