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Mid-range Enthusiast's PC

Our Enthusiast's PC incorporates a flavorful blend of both the Budget Box and Luxury System, making this the most harmonious of builds. The targeted total for our mid-range system was around $1,600 or less, thus remaining within the grasp of the average Joe. Essentially, it is a fully-loaded PC minus some of the trinkets and bobbles, offering the majority of those reading this confidence that it will plow down nearly anything shoved in its path.
Motherboard:
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3P - $155
Gigabyte delivers a great implementation of Intel's P35 chipset, which has grown to be the default choice for system builders looking to get the best bang for their buck. Its ability to support overclocked FSB speeds of 1600MHz and DDR2 speeds of 1200MHz sets the GA-EP35-DS3P apart from others in its price range. This board houses a whopping 8 SATA II host adapters, 1 PATA host adapter, 2 PCI-E x16 slots, 3 PCI-E x1 slots, 2 PCI slots, 8 USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, onboard audio and more.
CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 - $200
If you happen to be in the market for a new CPU, the E8400 is a brilliant choice and has without a doubt become one of the most popular Core 2 Duo models today among enthusiasts. Hosting the latest 45nm and SSE4 technology, a 3GHz core clock frequency, 1333MHz FSB and 6MB of L2 cache, it promises high quality performance, decreased thermal loads and improved power efficiency. Best of all, the E8400 can be had for $200 or less, making this our pick for the Enthusiast's PC.
RAM:
OCZ Reaper HPC 2 x 1GB 1150MHz - $70
These Reaper HPC modules are covered by OCZ's unique “Extended Voltage Protection”, allowing you to push them up to 2.35V and still be covered by their lifetime warranty. Taking that into consideration, with a default frequency of 1150MHz it is more than feasible to get these up around the 1200MHz mark, thus filling out the DDR2 1200MHz capabilities supported by the GA-EP35-DS3P.
Video Card:
Radeon HD 4850 - $200
When it comes to buying a video card, you really need to take a look around and see what deals are on the market. Prices fluctuate between cards on such a frequent basis that any card we suggest today may not provide the best cost to performance ratio tomorrow. So, if you're interested in getting the best bang-for-your-buck, do yourself a favor and compare a few cards before laying down some cash. At this point in time, comparatively, the Radeon HD 4850 offers the best deal.

Armed with a 55nm process, this new kid on the block has 800 stream processors and an astonishing 956 million transistors. With DX10 support, 512MB of DDR3 memory, 256-bit memory bus, a speedy 625MHz core clock and 1968MHz memory clock, this video card should swallow just about anything you jam in its mouth.

To read our recent review of the Radeon HD 4850, click here.

Sound Card:
Creative SB X-Fi XtremeGamer - $90
Creative has earned itself quite the name within the computing industry, from the perspective of many however, the name probably won't have a positive aura. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for sound card manufacturers within our Enthusiast's PC budget that allow us to stray away from Creative's products. That said, if you're looking to enhance your sound beyond what integrated audio offers, take a look at the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer.

Using the PCI interface, the XtremeGamer supports 7.1 channels and has a sample rate of 96KHz, SNR of 109dB and 24-bit digital audio. Also, Creative's dodgy driver support may have potentially skipped a generation with this card, as there appear to be fewer complaints around about it.

Hard Disk Drive:
Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB - $100
Western Digital's hard drives have been a favorite amongst the enthusiast community since the 1980's and they've grown to be the second largest manufacturer in the world. The 640GB Western Digital Caviar SE16 is one of the top performing drives in its class as shown by TechReport.com. Shipping with a 3 year warranty and with an average seek time of 8.9ms, rotational latency of 4.2ms, an impressive 121.5MB/s sustained internal transfer rate and 3Gb/s external host transfer rate, this HDD won't let you down no matter what your intended use is.
Optical Drive:
Samsung SHS203N - $30
The SHS203N is the same high quality optical drive selected for all of the builds in this guide.

This SATA Samsung drive supports all DVD formats and features a 130ms DVD-ROM access time and 110ms CD-ROM access time. It's loaded with various innovative features that enhance performance including Speed Adjustment Technology, Double OPC Technology, Tilt Actuator Compensation Technology, Magic Speed and LightScribe. The SH-S203N represents quality at an affordable price.

Power Supply Unit:
Corsair TX650W 650W - $100
While you likely won't need 650W of power with this build, at $100 it's hard to recommend anything else. The CMPSU-650TX packs a mouth watering 52A on a single 12V rail, Active PFC, 8 Molex connectors, 8 SATA connectors and 2 6+2-pin PCI-E connectors. It is also 80%+ efficient and includes a 120mm dual bearing, variable speed fan which provides excellent airflow whilst remaining virtually unheard. For $90-$100 your focus should be locked on this unit.
Case:
Solid case with adequate cooling - $100
A simple search on Newegg shows 396 cases between the prices of $50 and $100. With the market so flooded with cases of all shapes, sizes and colors, we've decided to simply allot $100 toward the purchase of a case with the confidence that you'll find one you like within that cap. Some of the most popular cases within that price range are the Cooler Master Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW, Apevia X-Dreamer II ATXB4KLW-BK, Apevia X-Cruiser-BK and the Sunbeam Transformer IC-TR-BA.
Monitor:
Samsung 2253BW 22" Widescreen LCD - $300
If you're reading this guide and you plan to follow the ~$1,500 budget for a new PC, odds are you will be gaming or doing something media related. In order to meet your needs we've selected the Samsung 2253BW for the mid-range monitor. With a swift 2ms GTG response time, you’ll experience ghost-free images while gaming and watching movies. This spectacular monitor has a native resolution of 1680x1050, viewing angle of 170°(H)/160°(V) and a DC 8000:1 contrast ratio. It is certified for use with Windows Vista and comes backed with a 3 year warranty.

If you have a extra few bucks and an interest in something a little larger, the Acer P243WAid ($390) or the Asus MK241H ($540) both offer 24” displays and are well worth looking at as well.

Speakers:
Logitech Z-2300 2.1 200W - $90
If you love to game, watch movies or listen to music, this THX certified 2.1 speaker system is just for you. Packing a rock solid punch with its combined 200W RMS of power (400W peak), an SNR of >100dB @ 1KHz, 35Hz - 20kHz frequency response and a full-featured “SoundTouch” wired remote control, the Logitech Z-2300 speaker system is the cream of the crop in the $100 price range.
Input Devices:
Logitech LX710 Keyboard & Mouse - $60
Taking a step up from the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 700, we have the Logitech LX710. The LX710 wireless keyboard has a handy 18 function keys including programmable hot-keys, integrated palm rest and 3-way adjustable tilt legs while the wireless mouse offers an ambidextrous design, tilt wheel and additional buttons to improve web-browsing.

The LX710 is by no means unique in its features, but for $60 it is one of the better combos around.

Component
Product
Cost
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3P
$155
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
$200
RAM OCZ HPC Reaper 2x1GB DDR2 1150MHz
$70
Video Card Radeon HD 4850
$200
Sound Card Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
$90
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB
$100
Optical Drive Samsung SHS203N
$30
Power Supply Corsair TX650W 650W
$100
Case User Specified
$100
Monitor Samsung SyncMaster 2253BW 22" LCD
$300
Speaker System Logitech Z-2300 2.1
$90
Keyboard/Mouse Logitech LX710 Wireless Combo
$60
Total
$1,495

Also check out our budget and high-end system configurations.