We're now firmly into the holiday buying season, so it's the perfect time for another edition of our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide. Our Value Guide takes both system performance and price into consideration, and pinches every penny in search of a high-performance computer for gamers on a budget. In a nutshell, the Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide delivers the desktop and gaming performance you want, but at a price that certainly won't break the bank. The overall scenario is bit different from 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 pair of kick-ass systems 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 ratio of each component, making sure to match the hardware 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 top hardware money can buy, and it entails some concession on the part of the buyer. The $1,000 budget can get eaten up pretty quick, and slapping down the cash for a 21" LCD, Pentium 840 Extreme Edition, or Athlon 64 X2 4800+ would take care of it in one shot. When compiling our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, we try to find that happy medium between spending a fortune on a new PC, and being "penny wise/pound stupid", thus getting stuck with obsolete or low-end hardware. Our value gaming PCs will still allow high-end gameplay, and have the CPU and 3D video power necessary to really push the framerates, while keeping a close eye on overall quality and features. Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date hardware, and instead stick to a current, name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.
As we near the end of 2005, we can reflect on a year that was very good for low-cost gaming systems, as a number of new hardware releases combined with lower prices to provide some truly landmark value system configurations. At the beginning of 2005, the gaming rigs we put together for under $1K were quite amazing, but as the year progressed, there was naturally some slowdown, as the $1K budget was squeezed as tight as possible. As 2005 has brought with it an almost total overhaul of the performance components, it has become difficult to make significant improvements to the performance hardware. This trend continues in this latest update, although there have been some small upgrades and improvements this month, not to mention one very important change to the monitor selection.
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: $50
Months on list: 15
Price Change: -$5
The system case provides the foundation of any new configuration, and it is one of the most important components in the overall design. This is true no matter the budget, and the case should be given equal weight whether you're spending $1,000 or $5,000. Although we do get a bit more freedom with our High-end and Extreme Buyer's Guides, even an entry-level gaming computer deserves a quality case with a nice mix of features and real estate. When it comes to value system enclosures, there is still a need to balance retail price against case options, aesthetics and potential upgrade space, and especially this month, as we're looking to save every single dollar possible. We really needed to keep the case budget at $50 or under, while maintaining quality and features, and the X-Dreamer II managed to remain the best deal at this price range.
The X-Dreamer II has the kind of design and features you'd expect to find on a higher-priced model, as well as the real estate and specifications of a mid-range enclosure, all for about $55. The X-Dreamer II has also been on the list for quite some time now, but as we add or upgrade our performance components and our budgets tightens up, it has been incredibly tough finding an adequate replacement at this price range. This is especially true now some online retailers are selling the latest revision X-Dreamer II with an upgraded 420W power supply, which just makes a great deal even better.
The X-Dreamer II may a low-cost, entry-level unit, but this is not a "budget case" by any means. Aspire offers a great-looking case at a super price, and its slick metallic housing and side window really give it some definite appeal. This case is far more than just another pretty face, and the X-Dreamer II's has a ton of expandability, including 4x5.25", 2x3.5" (external), and 4x3.5"(internal) expansion bays. The X-Dreamer II's outer housing certainly looks good, but it is also quite functional and includes 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, a removable motherboard tray, and even a temperature display LCD for the hardcore enthusiast.
Some of these features may seem daunting at first, but Aspire also provides a helpful online PDF install guide (complete with detailed pictures) that covers off the important areas of the setup process.
The X-Dreamer II also includes an Intel Pentium 4/AMD compatible 350W or upgraded 420W (our choice) ATX power supply, which is easily on par with competitive entry-level units, and at only $50 for the whole package, it's a perfect match for our budget. This model is also available in a wide range of colors, including blue, yellow and green, so you have far more options than just the standard beige or black.
The Rosewill TU-155 is also quite a value in this range, and after we got to use one for a recent low-cost system build, our opinions quickly changed in regards to this "value system enclosure". The case itself is made from 0.8mm SECC steel, and at 24 lbs, it is certainly not light, but its features, internal real estate, bundled 400W ATX12V power supply, and low price make it a very nice alternative value at this range.