TechSpot PC Buying Guide: Mid-2013 Update

By on September 23, 2013, 1:07 AM

TechSpot's PC Buying Guide offers an in-depth list of today's best desktop PC hardware, spanning four typical budgets starting at ~$500 for a well-balanced machine capable of medium workloads, up to $3,000+ for the Luxury build which includes the best PC hardware recommendations when budget is not a big concern. In-between you will find two mainstream systems that are good for heavy-multitasking and depending on your choice of GPU casual to high-end gaming.

Whether you're a first time builder seeking guidance or a seasoned enthusiast, we have you covered.

The Budget Box

• 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. However, if you follow our Budget build to the T, you'll have a system acceptable for any role apart from running graphically intense applications.

The Entry-Level Rig

• Good performance • Fast for everyday computing • Casual gaming
Our Entry-Level Rig should be an excellent companion for running general applications and a sufficient solution for even the newest games on the market, albeit with some of the eye-candy dialed down.

The Enthusiast's PC

• Excellent performance • Great Multitasker • Perfect for gaming
Our Enthusiast's PC incorporates the perfect blend of both the Entry-Level and Luxury System. Our intent is to keep this system within the grasp of the average PC enthusiast, offering a fully-loaded system minus some of the unnecessary bells & whistles that could set you back an additional grand or two.

The Luxury System

• Workstation-like performance • Heavy multitasking • Extreme gaming
The Luxury System is a screaming-edge machine lacking any virtual price cap. Every component in this 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: 35

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ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I know this may sound noobish, but how important is a dedicated sound card? My system is built along the lines of the luxury system but I'm using the integrated sound on my Asus Maximus IV board.

1 person liked this | Kevin82485 Kevin82485 said:

The link for the GTX 760 on the enthusiasts build takes you to a search on Newegg for a GTX 660 ti. [Editor's note: Fixed. Thanks!]

gkubed said:

I'd certainly recommend something like a CM Storm QuickFire Rapid for the Enthusiast build, since it can be had for <$70 very often!

Kevin82485 Kevin82485 said:

I know this may sound noobish, but how important is a dedicated sound card? My system is built along the lines of the luxury system but I'm using the integrated sound on my Asus Maximus IV board.

I'm not sure, but I too use the integrated sound. My board has optical and digital audio output built in and. I have no complaints about it's performance and it sounds great on my 7.1 sound system. It has some of the most extensive audio settings that I can remember and features additional THX audio settings. In my situation, I really see no point in adding a sound card, when the integrated audio is perfectly fine.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I'm not sure, but I too use the integrated sound. My board has optical and digital audio output built in and. I have no complaints about it's performance and it sounds great on my 7.1 sound system. It has some of the most extensive audio settings that I can remember and features additional THX audio settings. In my situation, I really see no point in adding a sound card, when the integrated audio is perfectly fine.

I have a Logitech G930 7.1 wireless headset and it sounds amazing in games like Metro: Last Light and BF3

1 person liked this | EEatGDL said:

Steve, without expecting it you nailed my yesterday's predicament of choosing between the ASUS Z87-Plus and the Z87-A because this friday I'm buying the parts for my new rig (finally upgrading from Allendale to Haswell). I was scratching my head trying to find big differences between these two and in the end I opted to stick with the Z87-A, your comment is valuable because it comes from using at least one of them.

2 people like this | JC713 JC713 said:

I think the Enthusiast system should have a GTX 770 instead. Also, you can cut back on the motherboard to something like a Z87-A. I also think you can lower the sound card to something like a Xonar DSX.

Overall, good builds. I think the Deathadder 2013 is a better choice over the G400s though.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

The entry level build and the budget PC should be AMD based I think. The entry level though have a 6350 or 8350 + $100 motherboard. That would save tons of $$$ to buy a higher end GPU. Keep in mind, AMD released the AMD Athlon X40 740 and 750K for budget gamers. They are about $80 and perform at A10 levels, without the graphics.

3 people like this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Thanks for the feedback so far everyone. We've fixed a thing here and there as you noted it here, and of course, suggestions on different parts are always taken under consideration. For keyboard and mouse picks, it's hard to please anyone really, that's why we mention what we believe is adequate at a certain price point and then go on to mention some of our staffers' favorite devices and other potential replacements.

I know this may sound noobish, but how important is a dedicated sound card? My system is built along the lines of the luxury system but I'm using the integrated sound on my Asus Maximus IV board.

We realize this is the case for many. We are evaluating downgrading the Luxury build to a simple and more affordable Xonar DX 7.1 since it should suffice for 90% of users. We are also working on an article that (subjectively) puts head to head today's modern motherboard integrated audio vs. a discrete Asus sound card. Hopefully that will go live in the coming month or so. (@Matthew this is for you ).

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Overall, good builds. I think the Deathadder 2013 is a better choice over the G400s though.

I like the Deathadder as well, it's been my preferred mouse for the past couple of years. I've also gone through a range of Logitech G devices and the MX518 back in the day. For that reason I realize the G400/s is actually an excellent device that a majority of users will find to be a perfect fit and possibly less intimidating than the Razer offerings.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Interesting choice for a luxury system, it is pretty much what I put together just 2 weeks ago: [link]

Although it cost a bit more, at 4200 euro, not USD. I bought the same CPU, Video, PSU, Mouse, SSD-s and Monitor. I went for different components otherwise:

- ASUS Maximus VI Hero - excellent board, I love it!

- 32GB of SKill DDR3 2400;

- The best cooler ever made - Noctua NH-D14;

- CASE: Corsair Obsidian Series 550D - this is the one to buy if you want a high-end, cool-looking quiet system.

A monster running @ 4.6GHz, while making zero noise!

Guest said:

Intel & nVidia lovers... what a shame...

Luay said:

We are evaluating downgrading the Luxury build to a simple and more affordable Xonar DX 7.1 since it should suffice for 90% of users. We are also working on an article that (subjectively) puts head to head today's modern motherboard integrated audio vs. a discrete Asus sound card. Hopefully that will go live in the coming month or so. (@Matthew this is for you ).

I went through the same predicament and ended up getting the DX7.1 because it shares the same AV100 sound chip as the Essence STX.

Storage wise (in the luxury build), many don't mind spending $600 for the Crucial M500 1TB SSD. It's still the cheapest $ per GB for any SSD. I'm also keeping my eye on the Samsung 840 Evo 1TB as it performs better but not sure what the price will be. Now as an owner of 1TB SSD I couldnt care less about a performance oriented, power consuming and loud 7,200 RPM HDD and would much rather have the new seagate Desktop 4TB due to its quite operation and low power consumption.

Corsair HX series power supplies are excellent but the XFX BEFX series is manufactured by the same Seasonic OEM and is more affordable.

For case I recommend the Corsair Air 540. Less than half the price for the same function or better because of the dual chamber design, where passively cooled hardware (PSU, storage, Optical drive) are in one part and the motherboard and GPU etc are in the other.

For RAM you recommended 4x4GB? save your motherboard the strain and go for 2x8GB!

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

We realize this is the case for many. We are evaluating downgrading the Luxury build to a simple and more affordable Xonar DX 7.1 since it should suffice for 90% of users.

I think that's more sensible considering you need a higher end audio setup to tell the difference.

Also I think the Enthusiast PC should have a mechanical keyboard at the expense of a cheaper sound card (or just integrated), I doubt anyone could tell the difference with the Z-623.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

We are also working on an article that (subjectively) puts head to head today's modern motherboard integrated audio vs. a discrete Asus sound card. Hopefully that will go live in the coming month or so.

I eagerly await this article because it has always been something that I've been wondering. Thanks for the heads up!

VitalyT VitalyT said:

During my recent assembly of a top-notch PC, the only part I didn't come to terms with was the sound system. For all the DD5.1 I read reviews about none seemed the right choice. For example, one I liked initially and almost bought was Logitech Speaker System Z906. But even on that one so many people complained about some speakers dying real quick. In the end I bought no new speakers, still using my old Hi-Fi system for PC speakers.

It would love reading some review here about good speakers today, so I may finally buy one and not look back. I'm not a big sound fiend, but having my old stereo on a new rig just doesn't look right. I would use it mostly for movies, and much less for games, as I'm over 100 now

1 person liked this | spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

These are great, but all consumer level. I would throw in a "workstation" level system that uses the best of the best in reliability and performance, dual CPU, error correction memory etc.

The one thing you could leave consumer grade is the GPU. Probably EVGA or another with a lifetime warranty.

JC713 JC713 said:

Interesting choice for a luxury system, it is pretty much what I put together just 2 weeks ago: [link]

Although it cost a bit more, at 4200 euro, not USD. I bought the same CPU, Video, PSU, Mouse, SSD-s and Monitor. I went for different components otherwise:

- ASUS Maximus VI Hero - excellent board, I love it!

- 32GB of SKill DDR3 2400;

- The best cooler ever made - Noctua NH-D14;

- CASE: Corsair Obsidian Series 550D - this is the one to buy if you want a high-end, cool-looking quiet system.

A monster running @ 4.6GHz, while making zero noise!

Only developers/professionals need 32GB of RAM.

JC713 JC713 said:

I like the Deathadder as well, it's been my preferred mouse for the past couple of years. I've also gone through a range of Logitech G devices and the MX518 back in the day. For that reason I realize the G400/s is actually an excellent device that a majority of users will find to be a perfect fit and possibly less intimidating than the Razer offerings.

The 2013 Deathadder has a new sensor that should make it a more viable competitor.

Guest said:

Seriously, someone thinks an ASRock motherboard is OK to install in any system let alone a luxury system?. I would recommend you rethink your ideas or get some input from people who have to deal with things 3-6-12 months down the line. Does anyone know of failure rates for hardware and where to find that info? I would expect that a professional magazine would and actually give good information. This made me unsubscribe, its just plainly ridiculous.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

These are great, but all consumer level. I would throw in a "workstation" level system that uses the best of the best in reliability and performance, dual CPU, error correction memory etc.

I was thinking about it this morning, putting together a "Dream workstation PC" article, triple 4K monitors and all... what else do you think is needed to qualify as a dream PC that is nonetheless attainable if price is no object?

Guest said:

Ok for an entry level gaming rig you dont need a 60$+ mouse and keyboard and a case with power suplly is more than sufficient in Entry level gaming

su 100$ saved for better gfx or a nice little SSD for a boot drive

Optical drive? who the hell needs that?

LukeDJ LukeDJ said:

Why is there still no CPU cooler suggested? I could understand not including one in the budget/entry level rigs but for the enthusiast and luxury, aftermarket coolers are essential. There's no point paying extra $$ for an unlocked K-series processor (especially a hot-running Haswell) and a Z87 motherboard if you're limited by the stock cooler. A Hyper 212 Evo is ~$30 and is the bare minimum that I would recommend for these builds, and is easily justified by the performance gains.

Boilerhog146 Boilerhog146 said:

In

Only developers/professionals need 32GB of RAM.

OOP's, and I just built a 3930k setup on an asus Rampage4 extreme,2 x 16 gig kits of Dominator GT 2133,1 on each side of cpu with fans and led's for bling. not because I need it ,but ,because I can have it...lol..I must be a professional of some sort..

Railman said:

Seriously, someone thinks an ASRock motherboard is OK to install in any system let alone a luxury system?. I would recommend you rethink your ideas or get some input from people who have to deal with things 3-6-12 months down the line. Does anyone know of failure rates for hardware and where to find that info? I would expect that a professional magazine would and actually give good information. This made me unsubscribe, its just plainly ridiculous.

Maybe the article is sponsored by ASRock?

I would rather purchase a Gigabyte MB as they use good quality components.

Guest said:

Not sure why you would use a regular audio headset for a luxury rig... typically someone will build a rig like this for gaming. So no gaming headset? Voice communications are fairly important for a lot of games coming out these days.

Guest said:

You recommend a case with exposed usb ports without a cover. Won't they fill with dust because of the power supply air flow?

David40 said:

Oh Man I am screwed. I ordered all the parts for the Economy system and when I went to install the processor (Intel Core i5 4430) it will not fit in the specified (ASRock H87M Pro4) mother board slot. Someone messed up big time.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

@David40 are you 100%? That's a Haswell motherboard, and Haswell CPU.

David40 said:

Deleted...... I accidentally ordered the wrong M/B H77 instead of H87

David40 said:

I have a question about the video on this entry level machine. My old machine had a dual head video card and I am really hooked on using two monitors for an extended desktop. The specs for the recommended video card doesn't say anything about supporting more than one monitor. I see that the H87 M/B has integrated video and the specs say it will support 3 monitors. Do we need to disable the on-board video or can we use both the on-board and video card to use dual monitors? It's a bit confusing.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Razer Naga is a wonderful mouse, the extra keys are really handy for a lot of games (whether MMO or even MOBA, ARPG and even FPS).

JC713 JC713 said:

I think you should make some improvements to the budget box: Lower the CPU to an AMD Athlon X4 750K + 4GB of 1600MHz RAM rather than 1866MHz. Also, adding in a GPU like a 650Ti would be a good choice. That would bring the build up to $500 which is a sweet spot for budget gamers.

For the entry level system, I think you should put a AMD FX-6350 instead of the i5 and up the GPU to something like a 7850.

Guest said:

The Luxury System Section needs an Update ! -- Here is an URL from your own Site:

[link]

[image link]

Guest said:

Should really up the Minimum HDD to the 1TB WD EZEX for about the same price as the 500GB models in the lowest two tiers.

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