Introduction

We provide nearly weekly updates to the various component categories in our Price Guides, and the information contained within those articles should be enough to tide you over until we update our full Buyer's Guide. We (that is, really I, Jarred) have not updated our Buyer's Guides as frequently as some would like, so we're going to make a better attempt at keeping things updated on a monthly basis. In order to facilitate that goal, some of the discussion about why certain parts are better than others will be omitted, as you can read more about our latest CPU, graphics card, storage (HDD/DVDR), and motherboard recommendations elsewhere.

We do our best to consider all the options, but the simple truth is that without spending numerous pages on each Buyer's Guide, we can't explain every facet about each pick. There are always alternatives to the choices that we make, and you can substitute parts as you see fit. If you don't like our motherboard, or you want a slightly faster (or slower) CPU, GPU, etc., then you can make that change. The overall goal of the System Buyer's Guides is to provide a complete recommendation for every component needed to build a new computer. Some parts are very personal selections, and we won't dwell too long on those choices. If you have a set of speakers or a display that you prefer over our pick, by all means, go with what you like. However, if you're overwhelmed by the number of decisions that need to be made, picking up the exact choices listed in our Guides should give you a reliable computer that anyone would be happy to own.

We're covering the Mid-Range Guide in this article, which is really our favorite sector. The Budget Guides force us to make many compromises that we really aren't happy with. A $500 to $750 computer will be good, but it's not something most enthusiasts would really want. The High End is the other extreme: sure, we lust after those parts, but the truth is that we don't really feel that most people should be spending upwards of $2000 on a computer (unless money isn't a concern at all). The Mid-Range sector is where we get the best overall build, combining quality and performance for a reasonable price.

$1250 is the rough goal, but we'll be going as much as $250 over or under that mark. If $250 extra is too much money, then honestly, it might be better to consider whether or not you really need to spend even $1000 on a computer. $750 computers will do everything that you need them to do, meaning everything but serious gaming or professional work. For professional work, $250 should be a negligible one-time (or once every two years) expense. Gaming, on the other hand, is not even remotely a necessity. It's a hobby, and it's an expensive hobby at that. $250 is the cost of four or five retail games, and most gamers will spend far more than that over the course of the year. If you're able to afford gaming as a hobby, it's not unreasonable to assume that you can spend a few extra hundred on a purchase, provided that the performance warrants the additional expenditure. We should also mention that our prices are current as of the time of writing; in this case, September 7th - check the RealTime Pricing Engine for the latest information.

Our recommendations for the Mid-Range Guide this month are going to be focused around showing the flexibility that a $1500 budget gets you. To that end, we'll be looking at two builds (Intel and AMD) targeted at the gaming enthusiast, and we'll have two other builds (again, Intel and AMD) that look more towards the office/professional market. (We could call it the "SOHO" market, but that's an overused buzz term that we'd just as soon avoid.) Remember, we're buying a complete system with keyboard, mouse, display, speakers, etc. Periodic upgraders can hopefully avoid buying a new display and speakers at the very least. Once you remove those from the equation, we're looking at spending just over $1000 for a computer upgrade. If you sell off your old system to a friend or family member and recoup some of the cost, it's entirely possible to stay close to the cutting edge of technology with an initial investment of $1500 followed by $250 to $500 for upgrading each year.

Gaming CPU and Motherboard Recommendations
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  • flatblastard - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    This was my only beef with the guide as well. Seems like at stock speeds you would have a mostly "entry-level" performer thats trying to be on the "high-end" with other components. I suppose at higher resolutions the 7800GT would come in handy, but again, we are talking about "mid-range" where the screen would be between 17-19 inches. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    Hence, the disclaimer on the bottom of page 4. I'll be publishing an article looking more into the how-to of overclocking, and rest assured I will be spending a decent amount of effort advising people to not assume too much. Still, all overclockers have to start somewhere.

    I personally have yet to see a Venice 3000+ that can't run 2.4 GHz - provided the user knows what they're doing and has an appropriate motherboard. Mine runs 2.7 GHz and almost 2.8 GHz (i.e. 2.8 crashes in several tests). However, overclocking is part art and part science. You have to put a lot of effort into getting the best results, and a lot of people just want it to be easy. Oh, well.
    Reply
  • danmitchell - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    Can you please elaborate on this? My 19" CRT is failing and I was thinking of replacing it with a 1905FP. Reply
  • huges84 - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    I too am interested in that statement. It was important enough to you to put into bold, but I don't see much of an explaination for it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    Basically, spending more money on a bigger, better display isn't a bad idea if you can afford it. A 19" LCD is what I would call the bare minimum for a Mid-Range system. A 20 or 21" with native 1600x1200 resolution would be better, in my opinion - perhaps not for gaming, but certainly for office work. If you're happy with a 19" LCD, then go ahead and purchase one; I was merely pointing out that people ought to at least consider the larger options for a moment. :) Reply
  • BladeVenom - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    With Battlefield 2 and for future games they should really be recommending 2 GB of RAM for a gaming machine. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    Read the memory page. More RAM is suggested, particularly for BF2 and FEAR. It isn't in the final table because that would add another $100 to the price. Reply
  • SimonNZ - Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - link

    I have a rig similar to that with a few higher end components and my 1gb DRR500 does me easily in FEAR and BF2, all setting maxed, full AA/ AF etc so more ram and need, the mobo would be running it in dual channel 2:) Reply
  • deathwalker - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    It's a truely great list of hardware..no argument with that. But I just don't see a DFI SLI mobo at $165 and a 7800 GT graphics card at $380 being "Mid-Range" equipment. Hell..all you have to do is update the Processor recommendation and it vaults right into High end equipment. Reply
  • deathwalker - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    I guess what it comes down to ..is that I don't think $1500 is an appropriate mid-range budget. Reply

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