The holiday season is already upon us, and electronic devices are one of the most popular items to find under the tree. That makes it another perfect opportunity to update our Value Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, where we take $1,000 in cold, hard cash and attempt to find the best AMD and Intel PC values. Bargain hunters usually shop at this price range, and true to its name, the Value Guide takes both system performance and price into consideration, going in search of AMD and Intel computers for gamers on a budget.
It 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, while the goal remains the same: to assemble a pair of kick-ass systems that will play today's hottest games and still have enough 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 and pricing 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. We also offer recommendations for both Intel and AMD system configurations, as well as providing a secondary ATI or NVIDIA graphics option. After all, we're here to deliver value-packed gaming systems, not promote one platform over the other.
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 be eaten up pretty quick, and slapping down the cash for a 27" wide-screen LCD or Core 2 Extreme QX9650 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", and getting stuck with obsolete or low-end hardware. Rest assured we don't scour the bargain bins for out-of-date hardware, and instead stick to a current, name brand component mix that offers the best overall value.
In this edition of the value guide, we're looking to upgrade in a few very important areas, as not only have prices dropped considerably since our last update, but several new and very interesting products have been introduced. The processor and video card are the two most important performance areas, so these will naturally get a very close look, but virtually all the other components have been upgraded as well. These two gaming systems still offer excellent performance for the money, and will not only provide mainstream gaming speed, but also can handle standard home entertainment and office duties as well.
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 not all of the prices stated in the guide will 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: $45
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
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 this piece of hardware should be given equal weight whether you're spending $1,000 or $5,000. Although we do have more budgetary 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 this month is certainly no different, as we're looking to stretch our budget as far as possible.
After choosing the RAIDMAX Smilodon (including a 500W PSU) the last time out, we took another look at our options for November. Going with an all-in-one case does make it simpler, but it also runs the risk of getting a bum power supply, or one that doesn't fit your platform needs. So we decided to choose the case and power supply separately, which is the optimal solution, but it's also incredibly difficult to find a viable combination for under $100. Thankfully, the Cooler Master Centurion 5 makes the fist part a real breeze.
When you talk about budget mid-tower cases, the Centurion 5 should be one of the first ones mentioned. For approximately $45 street, you get a name brand, mid-tower case with all the features an entry-level user will need. This includes a hybrid aluminum bezel/steel chassis, a nice black metallic exterior, ATX and mATX compatibility, 5 x 5.25" bays, 5 x 3.5" bays, 80mm and 120mm cooling fans, a tool-less design, and external hookups for 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x IEEE 1394, 1 x Speaker, and 1 x Mic. The standard model comes with a side air duct, but there is also an optional side window available if you want a bit more bling with your Centurion 5.
Current Cost: $55
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
One major reason we decided to separate the case and PSU components is because of our recent hardware upgrades. This month our CPUs are higher-end, our motherboards need EPS12V compatibility, and we'd also like to have full SLI/CrossFire compatibility. Due to this, we're looking at a name brand 500-600W power supply, in the $50-$60 price range. Needless to say, that amounts a very small list.
Thankfully, BFG came to the rescue with their low-priced, high-features BFG GS-550 power supply. This 550W value includes a 24-pin motherboard power connector, offers EPS12V compatibility through a 4+4 CPU plug, and even has multi-GPU support using both 6-pin and 8-pin (6+2-pin) cables. We have been very impressed with the BFG power supply lineup so far, and with a 3-year warranty, 550W of power on dual 12V rails, and this level of support and features, how can you go wrong for $55?