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Monthly Value Gaming System Buyer's Guide

January Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide

By Vince Freeman January 2, 2004


The New Year is upon us, and after partaking in the festivities of the holiday season, it's high time we performed another update our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. There have not been a lot of new hardware releases over the past 30 days, so we're looking for lower prices and new configurations to do the job, and trying to find the optimum system components 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.

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 Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date or low-end hardware, and instead stick to name brand components that offer the best price-performance ratio.

The first step is to determine the exact mix of components that delivers the best bang for the buck, and this time out, we've managed to upgrade a few core components. Our main goal is to emulate a real-world system buy, and make the hard calls between both AMD and Intel configurations. At times, this means we diverge between base components and allocate the budget according to individual AMD and Intel system requirements. In this edition, we've managed to upgrade the AMD processor, along changing up our video card and giving the Intel side some of the gravy that AMD buyers have been enjoying, all the while maintaining our goal of hitting that perfect mix of components on both the AMD and Intel systems.

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.

Value Gaming PC Budget: $1000

Case: Aspire X-Dreamer II (with 350W PSU)

Current Cost: $59
Months on list: 2
Price Change: $0

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. Last month we moved from the exceptional, though quite sedate Antec SX630II model, and upgraded to a new model for a more current look and feel. The Aspire X-Dreamer II definitely has the aesthetics, extra features and overall style in its favor, but this case is by no means just another pretty face.

The Aspire X-Dreamer II jacks up the aesthetics through the use of a metallic housing, but delivers a grand slam on the features side as well. This is a well-designed case unit in a standard mid-tower format, and with a 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays, which translates into a ton of room for future upgrades. The outer housing of the X-Dreamer II looks like it costs a great deal more, and includes USB and audio jacks, automatic drop-down doors, a see-through window, blue LED case fans, 6 LED indicator lights, and as the icing on top, a temperature display LCD.

Obviously, Aspire offers a lot of case for the money, and most surprising of all, you also get an Intel P4/AMD compatible 350W power supply. The Aspire X-Dreamer II hits on all cylinders, and it's truly amazing that such a killer package can be had for such a low price. And if that wasn't enough, Aspire produces the X-Dreamer II in a multitude of colors, so you're not stuck with just silver or black.

  • Page 1 January Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide
    Page 2 Processors and Cooling
    Page 3 Motherboards
    Page 4 Memory, Hard Drive and CDRW/DVD-ROM
    Page 5 Video Card and Monitor
    Page 6 Soundcard, Speakers and LAN
    Page 7 Input Devices and Operating System
    Page 8 Price Roundup and Conclusion

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