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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  • nghtdvl - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Good guide, thanks.
    I'm still waiting to see some NF4 boards before getting a new system, though. I'm hoping the Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-939 will perform well.
    Reply
  • Glassmaster - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    #7: The Gigabyte board isn't worth the trouble, if you really want an nForce 3 get the MSI K8N Neo2. There's a good reason why Anandtech isn't recommending the Gigabyte board.

    Jarred: Do you guys actually build and stress test these systems? Over at the offical AMD Athlon 64 troubleshooting forums, the most common problem we see is weak power supplys without enough amps on the 12V rail causing stability issues or even failing to POST. We generally recommend only PSUs with at least 18-20A on the 12V rail for the Athlon 64. I tried to look up the specs on that generic 350W PSU, but was unable to find them. Even the 350W Antec is difficult to find specs for. I know you are trying to save money, but what about the Antec True Power 380W (18A on 12V rail) for low end, and Antec True Power 430W (26A on the 12V rail) for the mid-range?

    Glassmaster.
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    I like the fact that the guide reminds people that the price of SLI is too high for anyone but the most hardcore gamer. Reply
  • crazycarl - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    i like the new format for the buyer's guides! Reply
  • bsrealm - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    great guide, but i see there is no mention about RAIDing the SATA drives.. wouldnt that improve performance (atleast while installing and reading the game files)

    i am also a graphic designer and i guess while loading large files RAID would help..

    and i agree with drpepper - video editors' guide please!!!
    Reply
  • xsilver - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    thanks jarred -- im just laughing to see the same situation as pci video cards -- I still see tnt2 pci go for $50 on ebay! -- what a joke.... I don't want to be one of those stuck with something that is going to cost more in the long run :) Reply
  • drpepper1280 - Sunday, November 21, 2004 - link

    Thank you,
    This was the way buyers guiders were meant to be done. Now for one on video editing!
    Reply
  • ariafrost - Sunday, November 21, 2004 - link

    One thing that bothers me... the keyboards and mice listed are "decent", but if you are wanting the bleeding edge in gaming, WHY would you buy an Intellimouse? Get something better... like an MX510 at least... Reply
  • DEMO24 - Sunday, November 21, 2004 - link

    Im not sure why the VP912b was listed instead of a Dell 2001fp. the 2001 is larger and has a larger resolution. true it costs more but this is a all out system. Reply
  • drifter106 - Sunday, November 21, 2004 - link

    as you indicated it does come off somewhat different from the norm that I have seen in previous guides...but neverless thanks for the time and effort... it makes me consider possible alternatives for my upcoming build

    oh yea... i'll check back tommorrow and see how many winers come thru...hehe
    Reply

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