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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  • plinden - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    Point to a console game that can compete with Civilization III. (Imagine trying to control such a game without a mouse....)

    Civ III plays nicely on my three yr old 1.8GHz, as does Age of Empires and Sim City IV. You don't need a $1500 gaming PC with a $380 GPU to play Civ III or any other strategy/sim game (ok, that's currently - but I doubt even Civ IV will be that resource hungry)

    (You can tell from the games in my collection when I was last able to spend any time playing games)
  • bob661 - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    I don't think he was refering to the hardware. Rather, the existence of a similiar game for the console.
  • Pete84 - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    You need friends to play games with on the sofa, otherwise a PC is much better. I live in the sticks so the multiplayer capabilities of consoles doesn't do much, my hasn't figured out a gamepad yet :p
  • Pythias - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    Good job, although it seems to me that you seem almost apologetic about some of your choices. Dont be. If folks want to complain about your choices, let them write their own damned guide. :)
  • Methusela - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    I'm pretty impressed, overall, by the guide. I read through the whole thing and can't really find more than minor faults with any part of it. Those don't even really beg mentioning except for not including the price of an OS with it. You're not going to do much gaming without Winblows, I'm sad to report. Even office applications and accounting packages rarely come compatible with *nix unless they're enterprise-class.

    It's an interesting comparison given that I've purchased some reasonably mid-range PCs for my office from a local white box shop. The prices (and componentry) here compare favorably to what they were charging, except that you don't get any overall system warranties with the DIY systems listed here. Overall, though, I'd probably prefer to build my own at work if my boss would allow. Building affords you many extra benefits and prevents any corner-cutting that you don't decide upon directly.

    Thanks, Jarred!
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    Yeah, I cheat on the non-inclusion of the OS. Personally, I'd grab XP Pro, so add about $135 to each system - unless you have a copy of XP Pro that you want to remove from another PC, I suppose.

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