PC Buyer’s Guide – Mid End

PC Buyerâs Guide â Medium End
A guide to select PC parts to building a PC on an approximate $1750 USA budget.

This is a guide to putating together a complete computer, which means speakers, keyboard, mouse and monitor are included. For this guide I have tried to put together the computer that will give you the most reliable PC and the best overall gaming experience, AS IS. That means I am assuming that you will not be overclocking the system (since most people do not!). So please, no flames concerning âthis [name of part here] is a better overclocker than [name of part I recommended]!â


Processor â AMD Athlon 64 3000+

This recent addition to the Athlon 64 family differs from the more than twice as expensive 3200+ model only in cache size (512 KB L2 cache instead of 1 MB). Capable of running both 32 bit and 64 bit software and possessing an on-chip memory controller gives the Athlon 64 a huge boost in performance over the previous generation of AMD CPU's.


          Now why do I choose this over the similarly priced 2.8C GHz Pentium 4? Benchmarks show this Athlon 64 besting the 3.2C GHz Pentium 4 in most gaming benchmarks, important when youâre trying to put together a gaming PC. Also thereâs something to say to future proofing your PC. Rest assured that as software developers begin to develop 64 bit software or modify their existing software to take advantage of the Athlon 64âs capabilities, you will see a nice boost to your PCâs performance.



Heatsink and Fan â Thermaltake Venus 7+

Thanks to the integrated heat spreader and lower core voltage of the new Athlon 64, these CPUs do not need quite as elaborate a heatsink that the Athlon XP needed to stay cool. Still a solid copper cooler like this guarantees the Athlon 64 will stay exceptionally cool. 


Motherboard â VIA K8T800 Based 

The two main chipsets for the Athlon 64 motherboards right now are the nForce3 150 and VIA K8T800, however the VIA chipset seems to have the performance edge right now. Keep an eye out though, there will be more chipsets on the way from Ali, SiS and NVIDIA (the nForce3 250). My recommendation is either the Asus K8V Deluxe or the MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R. Both offer all the goodies you would expect with from a high end motherboard such as Serial ATA RAID and Gigabit onboard LAN.



Hard Drive â 36.7 GB Western Digital Raptor 

This drive is fast, thanks to the 8 MB cache, the Serial ATA interface and the 10000 RPM speed! Made to compete with SCSI hard drives, it will do much towards cutting down your load times in games. It also comes with a 5 year warranty! For those of you craving a little more storage space, buy a couple of these drives and set them up in RAID 0. Or if you have a bit extra money there is a new 74 GB Raptor model now on sale which Western Digital boasts is 30% faster than the previous model.



Memory â 1 GB Corsair XMS TWINX1024-3200C2PT DDR RAM 

Corsair has a reputation for producing high quality, overclockable memory modules. Their XMS series boasts lower memory timings to allow for increased memory bandwidth. The TWINX series is designed to take advantage of motherboards with dual channel memory controllers. Not important if you use the Athlon 64 (that only uses a single channel memory controller integrated into the CPU) but if you choose to ignore my recommendation and purchase a Pentium 4 and an i865 or i875 motherboard, this will be a plus. This RAM also sports some stylish aluminum heatspreaders. If you plan to overclock consider purchasing the faster PC3500, PC3700, or PC4000 modules. Just be sure to make sure it still uses the tighter memory timings (Cas 2-3-3-6 T1) and doesn't require higher default voltages (some high-speed DDR modules have required default voltages of up to 2.9v, well above the normal 2.5 and which cannot be supported by some motherboards). 



Video Card â GeForce FX 5900 Non-Ultra

With the 5950 out on the market, the 5900 prices have dropped quite a bit. The 5900 is identical to the 5900 Ultra, except with la ower GPU clock speed (defaults for the 5900 Ultra are 450/850, defaults for the 5900 Non-Ultra are 400/850). This hardly matters since most overclockers will find they can easily reach the 450 MHz mark. This non-Ultra version offers performance above that of the Radeon 9600 XT or 9700 Pro or the new (and similarly priced) GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (which only has a 128 bit memory interface versus the 5900's 256 bit), offering the most bang for your buck. And with prices for the 5900 now sitting around the $200 US mark, it makes it a very attractive buy indeed. As an added bonus, NVIDIA announced that "Call of Duty" will be bundled with select 5900s.


In case youâre wondering, the GeForce FX 5900 Non-Ultra does differ from the GeForceFX 5900 XT (or sometimes called 5900 SE). The Non-Ultra uses higher clocked memory (850 MHz versus the XT's default of 700 MHz).

Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Creative Labs 3D Blaster 5900

Gainward GeForce FX 5900

Sound Card â Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS

For the discerning audiophile, there is only one sound card. And that is the Audigy 2. This newer version features support for the new EAX 4.0 Advanced HD and Dolby Digital 7.1 sound.


If you want a non-Creative Labs alternative, consider the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 or AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1. Both use the VIA Envy24HT audio processor, offering Dolby Digital 7.1 sound, 24-bit/192kHz audio playback and 24-bit/96kHz recording; the same capabilities as the Audigy 2 ZS. 

Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Ex

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum

AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1

M-Audio Revolution 7.1 

CD-RW Drive â Samsung 52x32x52x SM-352BRNS 

Every computer today needs a CD-RW drive; fortunately CD-RW drives have become incredibly affordable (I still remember when my Plextor 40x12x40A cost me $150 US!). I chose the Samsung model not only because it supports the fastest burning speeds, but it is one of the few CD-RW drives that comes with an increased 8 MB buffer (a normal drive only has 2 MB), allowing for better burning performance. It also includes Nero 5.5, an excellent piece of burning software.



DVD Drive â Pioneer 120S Slot Loading 

With prices so low, there is no excuse to go ahead and put a DVD drive in you computer so that you can enjoy some DVD movies. Most DVD drives are almost identical so itâs refreshing to see one that sets itself apart. This drive features a slot loading mechanism, so no more waiting for the tray to open to stick in your CDs!


Network â Onboard Gigabit
No need to buy a separate network card, either of the motherboards I recommended come with the fastest NIC available onboard. For those of you wondering where the modem is, let me say this: gamers donât use modems! Get broadband.


Case and Power Supply 

Okay Iâm going leave this one open to your decision. Find a case you think suites you. The most important thing is to make sure it has a reliable power supply though, or purchase a case without a power supply and purchase a power supply seperately. Make sure to get at least a 350 Watt power supply, I recommend the following brands: Antec, Enermax or Thermaltake.


If you want my personal choice I would recommend the Antec Lanboy. An aluminum case (aluminum offers better cooling and is much lighter than the traditional steel), side window, a carrying strap for when you want to haul your rig to a LAN party and a top-of-the-line Antec TrueBlue 350 Watt power supply with dual blue LED fans...all for a relatively low cost. 


Monitor â 19â CRT 

While an LCD monitor may be nice and definitely save on desktop space, it is rather pricey. If you like you can try to find an inexpensive 15" or 17" LCD screen, just be sure to check out the response time (you'll want it to be lower than 30ms to avoid "ghosting in games). However, I recommend a CRT, a 19" CRT can be found for less money than a 15" LCD. For CRT you should be looking for a flat screen, a low dot pitch (0.20 is considered quite good) and support for higher resolutions and refresh rates. 


My personal recommendation: the Samsung SyncMaster 955DF-T/T. A sleek black and silver monitor featuring an extremely good .20 dot pitch, a flat screen and supports resolutions up to 1600x1200 @ 68 Hz. All this makes this low-cost monitor an excellent choice for this gaming PC.



Speakers â Creative Labs Inspire T7700 7.1

Regardless of what choice you made for your sound, you will want a good set of speakers. The quality of sound can really add to the gaming experience so donât sell yourself short on the speakers. You want to hear when someone is sneaking up from behind you in multiplayer, enjoy the theater experience watching DVDâs and enjoy the best quality sound when listening to your CDs and MP3s. Also there is no point of buying an expensive sound card if you donât have the speakers to take advantage of it. Take full advantage of the Audigy 2 ZSâs 7.1 capabilities with this speaker set.


Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Creative Labs Inspire T7700 7.1 


Keyboard and Mouse - Logitech Cordless MX Duo

This combo features the Logitech Cordless Elite Keyboard and the Logitech MX700 Mouse. Cordless is the way to go if you want to eliminate the clutter on your desktop. The MX700 is the finest cordless mouse on the market, featuring rechargeable batteries (charged via a docking station) and higher precision than any other mouse.


Check out Guru3D related reviews:

Logitech Cordless MX Duo

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