OK, so what kind of PC can you build yourself for a budget of $2,000 (plus change)? Well, as it turns out, you can get yourself one heck of a system!
This PC will be ideally suited to high end gaming, but if you're not into gaming then this system will also be able to chew through any photo of video editing jobs that you might have, as well as effortlessly convert your CD and DVD library into a digital library.
Check out the full parts gallery here!
Note: As always I start these builds with a disclaimer. The prices I list here do not take into account the ups (discounts, offers, rebates, bundles ...) or downs (taxes, shipping ...) of life. I'm also not including a monitor, peripherals or OS in the price list.
Also, I've chosen Newegg.com as the price benchmark, but that should not be taken as meaning that I endorse any one outlet over another. You should shop around and find the best deals you can yourself.
Let's get going!
Since the CPU is going to be the most expensive part of this PC, it's a good idea to start right there. I've not chosen the most expensive Core 2 Extreme from Intel's silicon range, but I have chosen one of the best - the 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650.
This is a monster (and it needs to be since it's consuming half out budget!) 130W TDP CPU that has four cores humming away at 3.0GHz, backed up by 12MB of L2 cache and features a super-fast 1600MHz FSB. And if 3.0GHz isn't enough for you, you can easily and safely push this part up to a whopping 4.0GHz and beyond!
You can find faster CPUs, but you probably don't need it, and you'll be adding an extra $500 to the final build price!
I really like the Gigabyte EP35-DS3R for a number of reasons. It offers broad CPU support, decent overclocking facility, as well as support for both DDR2 and DDR3 (although not mixed). Oh, and it's about half the price of a high end ASUS board.
I also like the board because of the combo of the P35/ICH9R chipset, which in my experience is a good combination. But one of the most attractive features of the EP35-DS3R is the eight SATA ports.
Nice board, nice price.
For this build I want to add 8GB of RAM to the system so that it is both future proof and ideal for running a 64-bit OS. However, I don't want to overspend on the RAM and need to find something good that sells for a reasonable price.
This is why I've turned to GeIL RAM - two sets of GeIL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) dual channel kits. This is reliable, robust RAM with a lifetime warranty and low latency. It's not the fastest around but at the price it's a steal.
Price: 2 x $82.90 = $165.80
I had a tough time picking a suitable graphics card. I wanted something powerful enough to be able to handle high end gaming, but I didn't want a noisy, power consuming card that cost a fortune - I also wanted a single powerful card because I didn't want the expense of having to go down the Crossfire of SLI road and fit two or more graphics cards (a path that delivers diminishing returns for the cash that you're injecting into the system).
In the end I chose the SAPPHIRE 100247L Radeon HD 4870 512MB that offers everything most gamers could dream of at a very competitive price.
What we're looking for here is huge capacity at a decent price. If you can also get a drive that sips Watts rather than gulps, so much the better. Also, to give the system redundancy I'm going to fit two drives, something which I find gives users greater flexibility.
I've chosen a 1TB 7200 RPM Western Digital Caviar GP WD10EACS SATA 3.0Gb/s drive. This one is out of Western Digital's Green Power range so it's thrifty with the Watts.
Price: 2 x $139.99 = $279.98
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
It's tempting to put a whopping big PSU into a high end PC that's up in the 1kW+ range. These giant PSUs are both unnecessary and highly wasteful. A PC of the kind we are building here will happily run on a PSU in the 500W range.
The PSU I've chosen here is the SeaSonic S12 Energy Plus SS-550HT. This outputs 550W and is rated as 80 PLUS Certified so it's kind to the environment and your pocket.
There's nothing I hate more than having to choose a case for a PC. There are just too many to choose from and while some people like to spend a lot of money on a stylish case, others want to spend as little as possible. Me, I just want a case to hold all the bits that isn't full of sharp edges.
Because I'm pressed into choosing a case, here's one I like - the COOLER MASTER Centurion 5.
Note: Don't choose a case that comes with a PSU ... I've yet to see a PSU bundled with a case that's any good.
Let's just pick something cheap and cheerful - the LG 22X DVD±R DVD burner model GH22NP20.
Total build price: $2034.72
Alternative reality: What if you want to include the price of a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit System Builder ($99.99) into the deal and still keep the build price at under $2,000?
Easy! Buy one hard drive instead of two (a saving of $139.99) and add the copy of Windows Vista Home Premium ($99.99). This brings the cost of the build down to $1,994.72.
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