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 intended total cost for our mid-range is usually well below the $2,000 mark, thus remaining within the grasp of the average computer enthusiast. Essentially, this is a fully-loaded PC minus some of the trinkets and bobbles, offering the confidence that it will plow down nearly anything shoved in its path.

Motherboard:
Asus P5Q Pro - $120
Built around Intel's P45 chipset, the P5Q Pro hosts dual PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots (with one capped at x8), three PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI slots, one PATA host adapter, eight SATA host adapters, six USB 2.0 ports, one IEEE 1394a port and S/PDIF out (coaxial). Just as a wide variety of the latest motherboard models have been, the P5Q Pro supports a maximum FSB frequency of 1600MHz and RAM frequency of 1200MHz, leaving you plenty of headroom to overclock your heart away.
CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 - $190
Taking a baby step forward from the Intel E8400, we have a processor that is also absolutely begging to be overclocked - if that's your bag. The Core 2 Duo E8500 has a stock clock frequency of 3.16GHz, 1333MHz FSB, 6MB L2 cache, and with the ability to be pushed near 4.0GHz and beyond using stock voltages, this barbarian is a gamer enthusiast's dream.

On the flip side, should you be mostly interested in multitasking and general application use or just get goosebumps at the thought of four processing cores, take a look at the Core 2 Quad Q9400 ($270).

Also, within 2-4 weeks Intel's Nehalem CPUs should be hitting the market, however, motherboard and RAM costs will probably keep that strictly available to those with the wallet to back their taste. Either way, it's certainly something to keep in mind if you're building a new system because you may want to hold off for a few weeks to see how things look so as to avoid buyer's remorse.

RAM:
OCZ Reaper HPC 4 x 1GB DDR2 1150MHz - $100
These Reaper HPC modules are covered by OCZ's “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, and thus filling out the overclocked DDR2 1200MHz capabilities supported by the Asus P5Q Pro.
Graphics Card:
Radeon HD 4870 1GB - $300
The Radeon HD 4870 1GB seems to top out the performance charts when compared against the competing GTX 260 (as well as the latest 216 variant), showing its true value in high resolution games. Models that come with an aftermarket cooler and/or a slight overclock can be had for roughly the same price as a stock model, so make sure you do a bit of comparing before settling on a specific card. For all new generation Radeons (HD 4800 series) an aftermarket cooler is highly recommended if you want to keep temperatures down.
Sound Card:
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium - $100
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 their products. That said if you're looking to enhance your sound beyond what integrated audio offers, take a look at the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium.

Using the PCI-E interface, the X-Fi Titanium supports 7.1 channels and has a sample rate of 96KHz, SNR of 109dB and 24-bit digital audio. Also, as with some other Creative cards we've previously included in the buying guide, Creative's dodgy driver support may have potentially improved with this card as there appear to be much fewer complaints about it.

Hard Disk Drive:
Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB - $80
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 HDD 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:
LG Electronics GH22LP20 - $25
The LG GH22LP20 is the same high quality drive used in all of our builds. The LG drive supports all DVD formats, features a 140ms DVD-ROM access time and 120ms CD-ROM access time, 22x DVD±R write speed, 2MB cache and LightScribe technology.

CDFreaks.com summed up their review by saying this about the LG GH22LP20: “...a solid performer and an excellent choice for reliable CD and DVD burning at record speeds. It effortlessly produces quality burns faster than most other drives to date.”

Power Supply Unit:
Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W - $90
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 mouthwatering 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 - $260
If you're reading this guide and you plan to follow the 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 want to cut costs further without sacrificing much, take a look at the Acer AL2216Wbd ($220), while for a few bucks extra you can get the Acer P243WAid ($390) which is a bit larger at 24 inches and increases resolution to 1920x1200.

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.

Our Mid-range Enthusiast's PC, in a nutshell...
Component
Product
Cost
Motherboard Asus P5Q Pro
$120
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
$190
RAM OCZ Reaper HPC 4 x 1GB DDR2 1150MHz
$100
Video Card Radeon HD4870 1GB
$300
Sound Card Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
$100
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB
$80
Optical Drive LG Electronics GH22LP20
$25
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W
$90
Case User Specified
$100
Monitor Samsung 2253BW Black 22" Widescreen LCD
$260
Speaker System Logitech Z-2300 2.1
$90
Keyboard/Mouse Logitech LX710 Wireless Combo
$60
Total
$1,515

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