Summer is almost over, the huge back-to-school buying season is ready to jump into full gear. We've also seen the debut of DOOM 3, and Half-Life 2 is right around the corner, making this a doubly good time to investigate new system configurations. Naturally, our Value Guide doesn't mean laying out thousands of dollars, and we're pinching every penny in search of a high-performance system for gamers on a budget. In a nutshell, our 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 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 Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date or low-end hardware, and instead stick to a name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.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 revamped the Value Guide quite a bit, with both the AMD and Intel systems getting serious performance upgrades. This has been accomplished due to AMD CPU price cuts, overall lower hardware prices, and some creative work on the component list. There are still some concessions we needed to make, and mainstream 3D video is one area that has not seen much in the way of price cuts, and in some cases, prices have increased slightly. We've definitely came out with a higher-performance, more fully-featured PC compared to last month, but there are still a few areas we'd like to fine-tune in the future.
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: $54
Months on list: 7
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 an entry-level 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 includes a wide range of features, has a ton of expandability, offers a superb design for the class, and is one very nice looking case at this price level. This may be an entry-level case in terms of cost, but the X-Dreamer II is definitely not a "budget case".
The Aspire X-Dreamer II certainly looks more expensive that it is, and the unit's slick metallic housing is sure to turn some heads. But Aspire is offering far more than just another pretty face, and the X-Dreamer II's features and internal real estate are excellent for this price range. The case includes 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays, which offers enhanced upgrade opportunities, especially for an entry-level mid-tower case. The X-Dreamer II's outer housing is does look great, but it is also quite functional and features some very useful onboard options. These include USB and audio jacks, automatic drop-down side doors, a see-through window panel, blue LED case fans, 6 LED indicator lights, and for the hardcore cooling crowd, a temperature display LCD.
The X-Dreamer II certainly gives us a lot of bang for the buck, and even with a $2 jump, the $54 price tag makes us an offer we can't refuse. 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 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.