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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  • benk - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    The Dell 2001FP is listed at 799 and is often on sale for well below 700. Reply
  • Swaid - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Illissius -
    I was just about to suggest that. The Epox motherboard is a much better "buy" then the Chaintech now.
  • Illissius - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    I agree with nearly all the choices, which can't be said for most other buying guides I've read :)
    My one suggestion is that the EPoX 8KDA3J costs nearly the same as the Chaintech VNF3-250, and has more functionality -- namely, it uses the 250Gb chipset.
  • kherman - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link


    Anyone wondering aobut when it will be phased out, just look back to old PCI video cards. Took about 1-2 years for manufacturers to drop AGP support altogether. It's a supply demand issue.

    As for mobo's I'd expect to see new mobo's w/AGP for atleast a year more. Some people iwll be using those older video cards after all. Also, multiple PCI-X slots are the goal and if I understand correctly, PCI altogether will be dropped, menaing network and sound cards will also need a PCI-X home. 2 cents.
  • kherman - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    How about RAID 5 for the "fully employed" system? Would be redundant and should give slightly faster load times ;) Reply
  • kherman - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    "Budget Gaming System, Part Two"

    IMHO: Keep the 2800+ part and spend that extra $50 on a better video card. That will give better frame rates, IMO of course.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    I've heard conflicting reports about the quality of gaming on the Dell 2001FP. Some people love it, and others think it's good but perhaps not great. The price on it is also subject to quite a bit of variation. Right now, I believe it's on sale for about the same as the Viewsonic, while "normally" it might be $1000 plus shipping. I have not actually used one in person, so I can't really comment on interpolation quality, but of the LCDs that I have used, I have yet to see one that offers interpolation of such a quality that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Opinions on that, of course, differ.

    The same goes for the wireless mouse. Some people swear by the MX510. I've tried it, and I simply did not like it. The Microsoft wireless mice I've tried were even worse, however. Anyway, the choice of mouse is very personal. I really like the standard MS Optical five button. It's light and accurate enough that I don't have any complaints. Even with an unlimited budget, I would still buy that same mouse for my own use. I *could* go out and try numerous other mice, but I'm just not that concerned with that one peripheral. If you are, more power to you! :)
  • MiLLeRBoY - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    Also, for the High-End Gaming, check out the new the Logitech Z-5500 Digital speakers. It's just a revamped version of the Z-680's design as well as adding more power. The subwoofer is noticeably larger than the former though. The retail price is $400. Reply
  • MiLLeRBoY - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    DEMO24 - I have the 20.1" Dell 2001FP and it only has a 16ms response time. However, I don't see ghosting when playing games. I also play my games at 1024x768 with 4xAA when the LCD's native resolution is 1600x1200. The image interpolation is great, it doesn't look horrible even at 1280x1024 or 1024x768. And the price is around the same as the ViewSonic VP912B. However, I probably wouldn't mind using any of those two LCDs, they're both great. Reply
  • xsilver - Monday, November 22, 2004 - link

    ?? min 18A on 12v rail -- crap my PSU doesn't have that... will it not run a AMDs939? (15A -- enhance brand, respectable, heavy) Reply

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