The holiday season has now passed, and for those who weren't lucky enough to find a new system in your stockings, the time has never been better to assemble a new gaming system. 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 Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date or low-end hardware, and instead stick to a name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.
This update to our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide is not going to be a simple rehash of our previous system configurations, but will mark the first step towards the next-generation of low-cost gaming systems. This will represent not only an upgrade in terms of performance and features, but also a drastic overhaul with a ton of new and updated hardware goodies. We've got faster CPUs, new motherboards and a serious upgrade to our video card, just to name a few additions, so strap yourself in for a wild ride. If you've been saving your pennies in anticipation of a new value guide, then get ready to break open the piggy bank.
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: $55
Months on list: 10
Price Change: +3
The case is the core of any new system configuration, and should be one of the primary components in the overall design. No matter how large or small the budget, the system case should be given equal weight, 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, we need to balance retail price against features, aesthetics and potential upgrade space, and our current choice performs that juggling act with ease.
Aspire has really packed a lot into the X-Dreamer II case, and it really looks and feels a lot more expensive than it actually is. The case includes a wide range of features, has a ton of expandability, features a great design, and has great 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" by any means. The X-Dreamer II has also been on the list for some time now, but with our $1K budget coming under tight scrutiny, and our performance requirements increasing by the month, we're not rocking the boat.
The Aspire X-Dreamer II is a great-looking case no matter the price, and its slick metallic housing and side window really give it some outward appeal. Of course, it is far more than just another pretty face, and the X-Dreamer II's features and internal real estate are excellent for this price range. It features 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays, which is excellent 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 $55 for the whole deal, is a great fit for our budget. This model is also available in a wide range of colors, so you have more options than just the standard silver or black.