Case, Input Devices, System wrap-up

Case

Cooler Master Centurion 5 - $ 50

Antec SmartPower2.0 500W - $ 70

Cooler Master has a wide range of cases which are all superbly crafted and solidly made. This model features a 120mm rear fan and an additional 80mm front fan for superior airflow. There is also a side air duct above the CPU for even more cooling. Its tool-less design allows for easy installation and maintenance.

Working along with that we have chosen the Antec SmartPower2.0 power supply, rated at 500W. This should be more than sufficient for our system, not to mention it is SLI-ready in case you decide to upgrade to two videocards down the road. While cheaper PSUs are available, a good power supply is worth much more than you pay for it.

Input Devices

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combo - $ 40

Take note that this part can be extremely overpriced. You can easily find it for under $40 if you look in the right place, but can also end up paying as much as $120 for it. With that out of the way, input devices are a very hard area to make recommendations. A lot of it has to do with the user’s choice of feel, hand-size, and other factors. But, at under $40, Microsoft’s wireless mouse and keyboard kit is an excellent buy. The mouse is ambidextrous with 3 buttons and uses optical tracking. Gamers, in the other hand, will probably want a more exotic choice of peripherals, at least in the mousing department, if you don’t want to spend the big bucks but want a high-end choice of mouse we suggest the good old MX-518, or the newer and equally attractive G5 from Logitech.

Future Considerations

With the Core 2 Duo being a dominant player since its release, and the Core 2 Quad not changing this picture dramatically as far as enthusiast performance goes, all of the recent talk has been focused on new chipsets and new graphics card releases.

Nvidia’s anticipated release of the GeForce 8800 series did not disappoint with these monstrous DX10 cards setting a completely new standard of single-card performance. It’s only a matter of time until DX9 cards (many of which are very speedy still) drop in price to new lows. Nvidia has also launched the new nForce 650i and 680i chipsets for Intel platforms; however at the time of writing this article, affordable boards based on them were nowhere to be found.

Not to be outdone by all of this, AMD has pushed its own 4x4 quad-core release up to this winter. It will also be releasing several new chips, including the 3GHz FX-74. Last but not least, Windows Vista went gold recently and is expected to show on store shelves before Christmas but only on its business edition, moving the final release to end users even closer (Jan 07).

Putting it together

Here is the break-down of the two systems and their components.

All things considered, these are both excellent computers for well under $2000. Although the price gap between our basic and fully loaded configurations seems to be large, the changes are primarily upgrades to CPU and videocard, an extra gigabyte of memory, and the addition of the more expensive Dell 20” monitor.

We believe this will give you good pointers in case you have some extra cash to burn beyond the entry-level configuration.

Entry-Level

Item Name Total
Case Cooler Master Centurion 5 50
PSU Antec SmartPower2.0 500W 65
Mobo ASUS P5B 140
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 185
RAM 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS2 150
GPU Nvidia GeForce 7600GT 130
Sound On-board 0
HDD Western Digital 3200KS 110
DVD Samsung 18X DVD Burner 40
Input Microsoft  N90-00076 40
Monitor BenQ FP91G+ 215
Speakers Logitech X-530 5.1 70W 50

Total

$1175

Fully Loaded

Item Name Total
Case Cooler Master Centurion 5 50
PSU Antec SmartPower2.0 500W 65
Mobo ASUS P5B Deluxe 185
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 230
RAM 2 x 1GB Corsair XMS2 280
GPU Nvidia GeForce 7950GT 280
Sound Creative SB Audigy 4 50
HDD Western Digital 3200KS 110
DVD Samsung 18X DVD Burner 40
Input Microsoft  N90-00076 40
Monitor Dell UltraSharp 2007FP+ 400
Speakers Logitech X-530 5.1 70W 50

Total

$1780