Winter is coming up fast, as is the holiday season, making it another opportune time to update our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. We've had a few hot game releases to contend with, and with Half-Life 2 knocking on the door, you'll need every bit of CPU and GPU power to keep those framerates smooth. 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 Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date or low-end hardware, and instead stick to a name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.
Over the last few months we've upgraded the Value Guide quite significantly, until it no longer resembles ones from the middle of the year. Virtually all components are at least mainstream and the processors, platforms, memory, and video card hardware is sure to please, regardless of the budget. Unfortunately, this has limited us in terms of upgrades this month, but we have managed to sneak a couple in under the radar. There are still some concessions we needed to make, and although we've shifted some of the components, we've been forced to stay the course with the majority of the hardware.
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: 9
Price Change: $0
The case should be the very first part in a new system design, and will be an essential component in the overall configuration. No matter the budget this is still an important choice, and although we do get a bit more freedom with for our High-end and Extreme Buyer's Guides, even an entry-level gaming computer deserves a quality case. When it comes to value system enclosures, you need to balance retail price with features, aesthetics and potential upgrade space, and our current pick does this juggling act with no problems whatsoever.
Aspire has really packed a lot into their X-Dreamer II case, and it looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is. The case includes a wide range of features, has a lot of expandability, and has a great design and specifications for its price and class. The X-Dreamer II may be an entry-level case in terms of overall cost, but this is not a "budget case". We've also been sticking with the X-Dreamer II for awhile now, but with the increasingly-stringent performance and budgetary requirements of our value system guide, we're not rocking the boat.
The Aspire X-Dreamer II is simply a great looking case no matter the price, and its slick metallic housing is a nice extra. This is far more than just another pretty face, and the features and internal real estate of the X-Dreamer II are excellent for this range. It includes 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays, which offers a ton of upgrade potential for a mid-tower case. The X-Dreamer II's outer housing may turn some heads, but it is also 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 includes an Intel Pentium 4/AMD compatible 350W ATX power supply, which is on par with competitive entry-level units and at only $52, 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.