TechSpot's PC Buying Guide - A Major Revamp

By Julio Franco
Dec 21, 2009
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  1. From now on we will add and update new hardware to the mix as it's released. The guides will be entirely up-to-date on major product launches, and we'll make a biweekly pass over the components and their prices to catch anything in-between. We wholly welcome your support and input to keep this guide as fresh as possible...

    TechSpot's PC Buying Guide

    The Budget Box ($500)
    • Decent performance • Good for everyday computing • Gaming with add-on GPU

    The Entry-Level Rig ($800)
    • Good performance • Fast for everyday computing • Casual gaming

    The Enthusiast's PC ($1,500)
    • Excellent performance • Good Multitasker • Perfect for gaming

    The Luxury System
    • Workstation-like performance • Great for heavy multitasking • Extreme gaming
  2. compdata

    compdata TechSpot Paladin Posts: 604

    Great work. It is very difficult to keep tabs on this so the incremental approach of evaluating as new products come out is probably the best possible approach for minimizing amount of work, but also keeping up to date. Thanks guys.
  3. Renrew

    Renrew TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 235   +17

    I like it!
    Thank You
  4. You guys just keep doing what you do best. We appreciate you more than words can describe...especially a newbie, as it relates to what to buy and the best deals out there.

    Keep it up guys... seasoned pros tend to forget how much of a help these posts are.

    Thank you.
  5. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,867   +74

    I also appreciate these quarterly buying guides. :) I do have a suggestion and its that you may want to look at the use of crossfire to turn a moderate gaming rig into a high performance gamer. a dual PCIE MB can be had for an additional 23-30$ and CF'ing a couple of $99 cards will add a lot of horsepower. also driver support for crossfire has reached a point of maturity and works very well these days. Just my 2 cents worth.
  6. BMfan

    BMfan TechSpot Guru Posts: 470   +47

    That's why when i upgraded my board i went Xfire and bought 2 $110 cards.

    Thanx for the guide,nice to see that my chassis is always in the top spot.
  7. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,319   +370

    Excellent work - very nice recap. Now I just need to win the lottery. ;)

    I have the Antec 900 case (Enthusiast rig), and it's a terrific case - highly recommended. Keep an eye out on sales by TigerDirect and NewEgg - I've seen it for as low as $70 from time-to-time.
  8. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,319   +370

  9. don't forget $130 for Windows 7.
  10. klepto12

    klepto12 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,364   +9

    i dont like the PSU recommendations on the $500 and $800 systems also i think the 4870 would be better than the 5750 especially right now when there around the same price.
  11. TorturedChaos

    TorturedChaos TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 843   +11

    I love your guides. Makes building PC's so much easier. I built mine more or less of your Entry Level box about a year ago. I tweaked it a bit, but I think my total hit about $500 just for the tower and guts (already had monitor, keyboard, speakers and all that), and I have to say I have no problems tackling most games. Run just about everything at max graphic settings with no problems.
    Also, guide helps so much when a friend asked me to suggested a $500 build to him/her :p. caught my self more than once copy+pasting from your PC guying guide :D. Having it up dated more often is just incredible.
     
  12. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,043   +84 Staff Member

    What don't you like about the power supply recommendations? As for the GPU, your preference is certainly fine, but we believe that it's better to take a slight performance hit to gain access to DX11 -- unless you intend to upgrade your GPU again in the near future anyway.
  13. Timonius

    Timonius TechSpot Booster Posts: 573   +31

    Wow, I've been waiting for an update to the guide. Thanks a bunch!
  14. BlindObject

    BlindObject Newcomer, in training Posts: 446

    So, no Nvidia Cards? Meh.
  15. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,043   +84 Staff Member

    @BlindObject: It's no secret that AMD currently has an edge on the market. :) When, and if that changes, the guide will be adjusted accordingly.
  16. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Staff Posts: 1,280   +395 Staff Member

    There is nothing wrong with those power supply choices and the 5750 is a better option at the same price as the 4870!
  17. Relic

    Relic TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,392   +16

    Great guide! I'm going to personally be in the market coming early next year (BFBC2!) so it'll be nice to use this as another reference once I start.
  18. Puiu

    Puiu TechSpot Addict Posts: 1,022   +87

    Going for a dx11 card for the entry level rig was the right thing to do.
     
  19. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 954   +30

    I have quite a few comments, but don't have time for a comprehensive post, so just a comment about one thing which really baffled me: the monitors of the entry vs. enthusiast rigs.

    The entry rig has 21.5" 1920x1080 (or 22.5" 1680x1050). The enthusiast rig has a 23" 1920x1080 screen. Price difference: $5. Which is what I don't get. Do entry level buyers prefer physically smaller screens compared to enthusiasts? Why not recommend the same screen if the price difference is so small?
  20. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,043   +84 Staff Member

    ET3D, the smaller displays we selected have integrated speakers, which compensate for external speakers in the $800 build. The 23" display does not have integrated speakers, and if selected in our $800 build, the system would not have sound :(. Of course, if someone has their own speakers or headset this is not a concern.
  21. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 954   +30

    Right, Matthew. Sorry, didn't notice that. Anyway, here are some more comments:

    First of all, I'd like to see peripherals (monitor, speakers, input devices) separated from the systems. While first time buyers will but them together, I find that I always but them out of step with the PC when I upgrade. Also, they don't go in step with the system budget, and vary based on your needs (also true for PC's, see below). I'd buy high resolution relatively expensive monitors, but I'm not an audiophile at all, and go for $10-$20 headphones and speakers. Listing peripherals separately will allow mixing and matching to people's needs.

    The second major point is the purposing of the systems. This is particularly important at the low end. A budget system for basic browsing / word processing or multimedia will be different than a budget gaming system. For non-gaming, you could easily move down to 2GB and a Celeron, and still have something that's good enough. For multimedia, a discrete graphics card or integrated AMD graphics may be a better solution, and a blu-ray drive may be a worthwhile addition. (And of course a 1080p monitor, as I said separating this would help.) Budget gaming might indeed want the 4GB and add a sub-$100 card.

    Same goes for the entry level rig. If you're more into video conversion than gaming, then a faster CPU and lesser graphics card might be the way to go (though GPGPU is changing that).

    Some nit picking:

    Why Caviar Black for the budget system? Caviar Blue should be good enough and save a little bit of money.

    Case with PSU combo is probably the best for the budget. Doesn't need to be a good PSU (i.e., one whose wattage is representative of real world use).

    For the entry level, I think that lower cost RAM (1333) would be enough.

    Lastly, you always go over budget. Either change the budget target or change the spec to fit it.
  22. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,043   +84 Staff Member

    It is impossible to meet every potential demand (there are just too many component combinations). That said, we intend to increase the number of alternative "picks" in the very near future.

    The few extra dollars nets an additional two years of warranty coverage. That alone is worth it, excluding the performance differences.

    As noted in the article, we strongly disagree. Cheap power supplies are bad news.

    Pulled straight from the article: "Many outlets currently offer OCZ's Gold 2x2GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM kit with a $30 mail-in rebate, which effectively reduces the price to $79... With the rebate, the Gold kit is a bit cheaper than most pairs of DDR3 1333MHz RAM, which start at about $90."

    We aim for a ballpark target price on each build, and I think we've done well. It's worth noting that many of our component prices are *not* the lowest available, but a more "realistic" average of several vendors. The Budget build is $10 over, while the Entry-Level and Enthusiast configurations are over due to very specific and unusual market conditions.

    For starters, RAM is much more expensive now than it was a few months ago. We also squeezed in the Radeon HD 5000 series cards, as well as an SSD/Blu-ray drive for the Enthusiast build (and it was noted that these could be removed to meet the budget).

    I believe the prices on our builds should settle a bit over the coming months. If not, we will surely make adjustments to ensure the long-term accuracy of the guide.
  23. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,783   +639

    On the Lux system why the P6T v2 over the P6TD ? Dump the useless IDE and (from all accounts) a little better in the OC dept.
    I have a TX750 PSU - good unit but those loooooooong fixed cables are a trial on the cable management.
    Prefer the LG W3000H-Bn over the Dell. I personally like the colour better and the height adjustment (if not the swivel) would put into bonus territory. A little cheaper as well, at least here.
  24. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 954   +30

  25. compdata

    compdata TechSpot Paladin Posts: 604

    The links don't seem to be working right now from this page to the detailed system recommendations.


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