TechSpot's PC Buying Guide: Always up to date!

By on February 5, 2010, 5:57 AM
Over the years we've received numerous praises for our PC Buying Guide, nevertheless there was always the issue with recency. With prices changing every week and components coming and going, the guide's worth simply degraded until we eventually got to rewrite it a few months later.

Last December we announced we'd be undertaking the guide for a major revamp, with updates happening every other week and on every relevant product launch. Under this new approach the buying guide has silently received two major revisions and a few minor edits since it was launched six weeks ago. In other words, next time you are planning to build a system and want to know what are the best components you can buy at that precise moment you know you can count on us.

We wholly welcome your support and input to keep the guide as fresh as possible. As usual, here are our intended price points:

The Budget Box ($500)
Decent performance Good for everyday computing Gaming with add-on GPU
Granted, if you just need to create a few documents and check your email, you can get by on much less than a $500 desktop. If you follow our Budget build to the T, you'll have a system acceptable for any role apart from running graphically intense applications -- which could also be attainable by investing in a dedicated video card.
The Entry-Level Rig ($800)
Good performance Fast for everyday computing Casual gaming
Our Entry-Level Rig should prove to be an excellent companion for running general applications and a sufficient solution for even the newest games on the market, albeit with a bit of the eye-candy tuned down.
The Enthusiast's PC ($1,500)
Excellent performance Good Multitasker Perfect for gaming
Our Enthusiast's PC incorporates the perfect blend of both the Entry-Level Rig and Luxury System, making this the most harmonious of builds. Our intent is to keep this system within the grasp of the average computer enthusiast, essentially offering a fully-loaded PC minus some of the unnecessary bells and whistles that could set you back an additional grand or two.
The Luxury System
Workstation-like performance Great for heavy multitasking Extreme gaming
The Luxury System is a screaming-edge machine lacking any virtual price cap. Every component in the Luxury System guide is thoughtfully scrutinized, offering the most horsepower for your greenback. If a component's premium price isn't justified, it simply doesn't make the cut.




User Comments: 22

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compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Thanks again for keeping this up-to-date. It is definitely helpful, especially for pointing friends and family at.

BMfan BMfan said:

Pity no AMD,atleast the GPU division is doing great

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I just upgraded to a 25.5" monitor which seems unbelievably huge to me. Can't imagine going any larger as I'm already getting whiplash trying to see what's happening from one end of the screen to the other while gaming. Noticed you list a 30" Dell for your luxury system. A 30" monitor for PC usage would be crazy. Hell, half my friends don't even have a 30" TV!

CodePhoeniX said:

Athlon 64 x2 6000 socket AM3 - Latest socket and much faster for the same price as your PentiumE

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I have 2 52" LCDs that I think are too small and am seriously considering using a 42" LCD as my computer monitor (even though I won't get over 1920x1080.) I think it all kind of depends on how your computer environment is set up - I'd mount mine to the wall and sit about 6 feet away from the screen. Now I just have to figure out how to move that TV from the guest bedroom to my computer room without upsetting the wife. I also love that this guide is being updated more often because I've noticed I just don't have the time to do as much research as I once did. When it comes time to upgrade I'd love to be able to come to the site I trust the most and see the recommendations.

BMfan BMfan said:

Athlon 64 x2 6000 socket AM3 - Latest socket and much faster for the same price as your PentiumE

I think you are thinking of the Athlon X2 250 which is a 3,0GHZ and socket AM3.

To TomSEA

I am using a 32inch full HD TV and it's great when you are watching HD movies off your PC

and games look good aswell.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Brilliant work; these updates always save me lots of time when putting together something for friends I would have liked to see atleast one system to be based on green team's CPU; but I know these are hard times for them, hopefully things will start to look better for them by the year's end.

Rage_3K_Moiz Rage_3K_Moiz, Sith Lord, said:

I agree that an AMD CPU is a better choice for the Budget Box, purely from an upgrade-oriented POV. Socket 775 is now considered obsolete by Intel, while AM3 is the current AMD flagship socket.

Also, I believe the OCZ StealthXStream SXS600 is a better choice for the Entry-Level rig, since it can be had for slightly cheaper and provides a total of 44A on the +12V rail, compared to the 33A provided by the 450VX. Build quality has also improved enough to make it almost on-par with the 450VX.

Lastly, a full-tower ATX case like the NZXT Zero 2 or the Sunbeam Transformer is better suited to the Enthusiast system IMO.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

I agree that an AMD CPU is a better choice for the Budget Box, purely from an upgrade-oriented POV. Socket 775 is now considered obsolete by Intel, while AM3 is the current AMD flagship socket.

Also, I believe the OCZ StealthXStream SXS600 is a better choice for the Entry-Level rig, since it can be had for slightly cheaper and provides a total of 44A on the +12V rail, compared to the 33A provided by the 450VX. Build quality has also improved enough to make it almost on-par with the 450VX.

Lastly, a full-tower ATX case like the NZXT Zero 2 or the Sunbeam Transformer is better suited to the Enthusiast system IMO.

We have an alternative AMD route in the Budget Box. Platform longevity is a fair argument, and we'll take that into more consideration on the next update. That said, LGA 775 chips aren't going anywhere in the near future. It's a plenty viable route on the low end of things.

Newegg (and a few others I've checked) list the OCZ600SXS at $5 more than the chosen PSU, and shipping is nearly twice as expensive too (again, at Newegg). Not sure where you've found it cheaper, but we prefer to stick with the most commonly used outlets. Most people don't want to buy their system from several different stores as it's inconvenient and can cost more when it comes to S&H.

A full-tower chassis would certainly suit the Enthusiast build well, and there are plenty in the right price range. Generally speaking, I'm sure you'd agree that cases are personalized items. It would be equally suitable to cram the Enthusiast build into a $45 chassis to save cash -- it really just comes down to individual prerogative. The list of worthy cases could stretch a page long, however, I will add the two that you've recommended.

*Edit*

Oh, and thanks again everyone for the comments and feedback. It's very appreciated.

Timonius Timonius said:

LNCPapa said:

Now I just have to figure out how to move that TV from the guest bedroom to my computer room without upsetting the wife.

Good luck to you there buddy!

Rage_3K_Moiz Rage_3K_Moiz, Sith Lord, said:

@Matthew, mWave has the OCZSXS600 for $60 along with a $10 rebate. ZipZoomFly also has it for $70 with free shipping.

EDIT:

Another question: Why ASRock? Gigabyte and MSI have better-quality boards for around the same price IMO.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

@Matthew, mWave has the OCZSXS600 for $60 along with a $10 rebate. ZipZoomFly also has it for $70 with free shipping.

EDIT:

Another question: Why ASRock? Gigabyte and MSI have better-quality boards for around the same price IMO.

I think you asked that about six months ago Moiz, if i remember correctly, the answer from Julio was 'advertising obligations' .

http://www.techspot.com/vb/post790761-9.html

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

What advertising obligations? We have never mixed our editorial work with ads.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Lastly, a full-tower ATX case like the NZXT Zero 2 or the Sunbeam Transformer is better suited to the Enthusiast system IMO.

NZXT ? Really ? Every one I've handled seems to have the build quality of a '72 Ford Torino (not a compliment)

For the price range the HAF 922 takes some beating- well built, very cool thermal performance and very easy to work with.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

What advertising obligations? We have never mixed our editorial work with ads.

seriously, Julio, I'm not being a smart ***. Moiz has a point and has in the past about the components. I took this

Excellent feedback Rage. As you can guess we have our reasons for not going with some of the products you mention, or at least reasons for recommending the ones we posted on the guide instead,

to mean that there was a conflict of interest. hey if im wrong im wrong.

that's why I posted the past comment and didn't just do a drive by.

Rage_3K_Moiz Rage_3K_Moiz, Sith Lord, said:

NZXT ? Really ? Every one I've handled seems to have the build quality of a '72 Ford Torino (not a compliment)

Quality differs greatly from model to model. The Beta fits your description very well, with its flimsy plastic and sub-par cooling. The Zero 2 is a different beast altogether IMO. I plan to buy a Nemesis Elite case myself.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

Rage: The chosen Corsair PSU is $70 and also ships with a rebate and the difference is negligible. If the prices hold over the next two weeks I will add the OCZ unit. Just so you know, we don't take rebates into consideration when generating the lists because there's no guarantee that a user will purchase from a given retailer, nor is there a guarantee that the rebate will actually be available the next day -- and most people find them to be a hassle anyway.

As for the ASRock boards, you can say what you will about their build quality, but they generally offer more features for less cash, and based on our reviews, they perform rather well. I've used many ASRock boards (as well as Gigabyte and others) and I haven't been disappointed with any of them. In my opinion, this is just nitpicking.

It's worth saying that none of these components or systems are "the one". They reflect our opinions and offer a great starting point to anyone interested in building a new PC. Someone could buy every component in a given build and rest assured that they'll get the best bang for their buck, or damn near it. Likewise, they could take a few parts off our list and use it in something that more suits them.

Red: Also, I want to make this very clear: We absolutely do not make picks based on advertising or other monetary gain. You're reading too deeply into Julio's comment. What he said is very true, though, in that we do have reasons for choosing one component over the next, and I'll try to elaborate on that so we don't look like sellouts haha.

Believe it or not, we don't press a magic button to generate these lists. We spend a ton of time on each and every build. No part is selected blindly, but rather they are specifically chosen for one reason or another. In other words, there is a method to our madness. Whether or not that aligns with your taste and ideology is another story, and it's impossible to please everyone.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Mathew: I will agree with your argument that these guides are a starting point; and thats about it for me, one can have a look at these then go customize stuff according to their needs and budgets; which inadvertently will vary from user to user. Hell somehow reading through all this I am starting to feel that my earlier comment about buying a handbag for your lady friend is also sort of applies for computers as well now

Rage_3K_Moiz Rage_3K_Moiz, Sith Lord, said:

Matthew, the OCZ PSU offers more power for the about same price, which does not look like a bad deal to me. As for ASRock, Gigabyte uses better-quality PCBs and components that inevitably result in a longer lifespan and superior OCing capabilities; they are also more expensive than the ASRock motherboards too as a result.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

More power is not necessarily a good thing if it isn't being used -- but again, if the PSU holds its price over the next week or two it will be mentioned.

Nobody is arguing whether ASRock's quality is better or worse than Gigabyte and others, but it's mostly irrelevant in this situation. The ASRock boards offer more features for the same price, perform well (in our experience anyway), and will last "long enough". If someone is buying a gaming rig, you can bet they'll be upgrading in a couple years. At that point, why does it matter if a motherboard lasts only seven years instead of nine? Just pulling numbers, but you get the drift.

I think most people would choose to spend less money and/or have more features for the time that they're using the system as opposed to spending more for less when it's going to sit in an antistatic bag after they upgrade in two or three years anyway -- and those are the folks we have in mind. If you aren't one of them, then by all means, buy your posh PCB and other components. Our guides strictly reflect price : performance, and we feel they're mostly spot on at the moment.

Rage_3K_Moiz Rage_3K_Moiz, Sith Lord, said:

Fair enough.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

That's not to take away anything from Gigabyte, of course. Their products are awesome for the price, and if you remember back to previous guides, we (overwhelmingly) chose their boards. At the moment, ASRock just happens to have the right features at the right price.

Thanks again for the tips everyone!

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