Monitor, Storage, Audio

Monitor

BenQ FP91G+ 19" LCD - $ 215

Or upgrade to: Dell UltraSharp 2007FP - $ 400

BenQ’s FP91G+ is quite a steal of a 19” LCD. There are a lot of monitors at this size and price range, but the really good ones are a little rarer. The monitor features a 550:1 contrast ratio, 250cd/m2 brightness, 16.2 million colors, a .294mm pixel pitch, and a maximum resolution of 1280x1024. The maximum resolution isn’t spectacular, but at this monitor’s size it’s considered to be the sweet spot for most. The monitor comes with DVI and VGA inputs, an adjustable stand and wall-mount.

If you wish to spend yet a little more, we must confess our love for the range of Dell monitors. The UltraSharp 2007FP is a bit larger at 20” offering a 1600x1200 resolution and absolutely gorgeous visual quality.

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD3200KS) - $ 110

This 3.5” hard drive from Western Digital is quite a whopper! With 320GB of storage capacity you will be hard-pressed to use it all up. The drive uses a SATA interface with a 16MB cache to deliver 8.9ms seek times, 10.9ms write times, and an average latency of 4.2ms.

Optical Drive

Samsung 18x DVD-R+/-RW (SH-S182M/BEBN) - $ 40

Samsung’s 18x DVD burner is quite a steal at a price that can go as low as $33. Not only that, but it’s fast too! With 18x write speeds for DVD+/-R, it is one of the fastest drives on the market. A 2MB cache and 16x-DVD and 48x-CD read speeds round off this excellent bargain.

Soundcard

Onboard Audio - $ 0

Or upgrade to: Creative Labs Audigy 4 OEM - $ 50

The on-board audio in the ASUS P5B should be sufficient if you mostly listen to music on stereo speakers and don’t wish to spend more. However, those who appreciate high-quality sound - both in games and music - or like to do sound editing or recording, more will be preferred. The Audigy 4 Pro features 24-bit/192KHz audio with a 106dB range. It has full 7.1 surround sound support, features EAX4.0, and supports Dolby Digital and DTS-ES for watching movies. If you are wondering why we chose the Audigy 4 instead of the 2 ZS, we simply were able to find it cheaper, so why not. A well deserved mention also goes to our budget PC soundcard pick, the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 (non DDL) which sells for less than $30.

Speakers

Logitech X-530 5.1 Speakers - $ 50

Since this guide is considered the middle-of-the-road as far as computers go, we feel it is important to include a solid set of 5.1 speakers. The sound immersion of surround sound is far superior in music, movies, and games. This 70W system includes four 7.4W speakers (front and rear), a 15.5W center, and a 25W subwoofer. The speakers also feature Logitech’s Frequency Directed Dual Drivers which even out the sound, eliminating hotspots and uneven response. At prices as low as $45, these are simply too good to pass up, plus we have had a great experience with Logitech speakers in the past.