Introduction

The last time that we looked at requirements for a modern gaming PC was just after the launch of Doom 3. Several months later, not a whole lot has changed other than prices. One thing that has changed is that Half-Life 2 has now been released on the world. Unlike Doom 3, Half-Life 2 uses Direct3D for graphics, so it is less likely to strongly favor NVIDIA cards. We'll get into that more in a bit. Suffice it to say that one of the most common comments on our Guides is that the systems spend either too much or too little on gaming components. Therefore, we felt that it was time to dedicate a Guide solely to the topic of gaming. While these systems are certainly capable of handling most other tasks quite well, we are not going to be dwelling on that. After all, there are few applications that are as demanding of a modern PC as games.

The format is going to change slightly, as many of the components that we use are discussed further in our other Guides. Rather than rehashing details of each and every component that we choose, we are going to list a complete configuration for several budgets with comments on what is good and bad, as well as what sort of performance level can be expected in today's games. We will be targeting Budget, Mid-Range, and High-End Gaming, although you may find that the final price for each category is slightly higher than in the non-gaming Guides. For Budget, we're shooting for around $750 to $1000 for a complete system, shipped within the continental United States. We are not including the price of the Operating System, taxes or the time it costs to put the system together. Our Mid-Range target price is $1500, and the High-End will be somewhere between $2000 and $3000 (depending on whether or not you want to use all of the high-end components). Modifying the builds in order to reduce the price is certainly possible, particularly on the Mid-Range and High-End systems. We will also offer suggestions for upgrades on our component summary page.

Before we get to the actual recommendations, we want to get one thing out of the way. Anyone who follows the gaming scene should know already that AMD's Athlon 64 systems outperform Intel systems in virtually every recent title. Our primary systems for each category will, thus, end up with AMD processors, but we will also include a couple of alternatives to spice things up a bit. Since we are looking at hardware that is immediately available for order, there are certain parts that we might like to recommend which are simply not available yet, and we will do our best to mention these where applicable.

Student Gaming
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  • Arkali - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    For Intel gaming you should have picked the new AOPEN socket 479 855GME motherboard and a Dothan processor. Reply
  • Glassmaster - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    #30 Doesn't look like they are going to defend their PSU recommendations. I just want to know if they actually build and stress test these systems with the Generic PSUs to make sure their recommended systems really are reliable.

    Glassmaster.
    Reply
  • Live - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    I like the format of this guide. I think the guides in general has been a great addition to Anandtech.

    To bad PCI-e motherboards is not out yet. Since the sli previews are not out in force yet I'm still not 100% sure if its something you want on your motherboard for more upgradability but it sure looks like it is not. Too expensive both in terms of motherboard and the 2 cards. But for a gamer, investing in anything else then PCI-e seems like a bad move. Unless you like to buy second-hand. I bet a lot of AGP cards will soon be available on the market as the high end crowd switches to the latest.
    Reply
  • mldeveloper - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    i like the format of this guide, since i always jumped to the end to see the final price breakdown anyway. Reply
  • nurazlanshah - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    is the a big difference in fps between 128mb and 256mb for a same graphic card? Reply
  • deathwalker - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Jarod...great writeup. Ignore all the sniping. It's a tough job doing a article like this and sometimes there just aren't any absolute rights and wrongs. Somepeople just like to pipe-off and be heard. Reply
  • AaronAxvig - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    #15 I think if you really wanted maximum performance for a LOT of money, you would go with RAIDed SCSI. Very fast, no? Reply
  • Momental - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Fantastic article, Trog......I mean Jarrod. ;)

    I was considering going the SLI route with (2) two 6600GT's, but then realized that the performance is identical to that of one 6800GT. And who wants to take the chance of one of the GPU's defecating the bed? Additionally, the cost of the SLI-capable board ain't gonna be cheap. I will, however, wait for the VIA and nVidia PCI-e boards to become available before finally building a new system.

    The only thing I might change from the mid-range system is to put in the lower latency RAM, such as the OCZ Plat Rev. 2 or the Ballistix. Pop on a good aftermarket HSF on the CPU and we're good to go!!
    Reply
  • gilkman - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Very nice article. It's been a few years since my last homebuilt but with the new games it's def time to upgrade. I like the format of this article. It gives me a few more options and insight compared to the similar guides they have over at sharkeyextreme.com

    I am def looking at high end parts to put together and I was very interested in the Dell 20 inch widescreen LCD - Does anyone have any comments on using a widescreen LCD for games? The Dell widescreen has 16MS refresh and high resolutions, and I know that HL2 will support widescreen play, but what about other modern games like RTS's and RPG's? Is it safer to stick with a 4:3 screen?
    Reply
  • SDA - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Looks good, but I object to using a cheap PSU for a lot of the systems. It's worth the small amount of extra money you pay to get a better PSU... a TON of the problems I've seen in DIY systems resulted from cheapo PSUs that couldn't deliver enough power or simply couldn't deliver clean enough power. Cheap PSU = false savings, IMHO. There are plenty of good PSUs out there for cheap (TTGI, CWT aka Antec).

    And yeah, sure, the budget rigs don't stress the PSU much. I still hold that you shouldn't go generic. Having looked inside a lot of generic PSUs, I can safely say that I wouldn't ever want to see one in ANY system I build.
    Reply

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