Here are some computers you can spend your money on: Tom’s Hardware recently concluded their May System Builder Marathon, a monthly feature that focuses on creating desktops at various price points following a certain theme. May’s SBM feature was particularly interesting, as it focused on creating portable gaming desktops perfect for LAN parties.
Tom’s set out to create three different PCs, within budgets of $600, $1300, and $2500 respectively. Luckily—if you’re based in the US—you can buy the parts they used from NewEgg:
|~$600 PC||~$1,300 PC||~$2,500 PC|
|CPU||Intel Pentium E5200||Intel Core i7 920||Intel Core i7 920|
|CPU Cooler||Stock (What comes with the E2500)||XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler||Stock (What comes with the i7 920)|
|Motherboard||ASRock G41M-LE||DFI LANPARTY JR X58-T3H6||DFI LANPARTY JR X58-T3H6|
|Memory||G.Skill F2-6400CL4D-4GBHK DDR2-800 4.0 GB (2.0 GB x2)||G.Skill 10666CL7T-6GBPK DDR3-1333 6.0 GB (2 GB x3)||Mushkin 998679 DDR3-1600 6.0 GB (2.0 GB x3)|
|Graphics||XFX GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 GX260NADFF||Two BFG Tech GeForce GTX 260 BFGEGTX260896OCE||Two EVGA GeForce GTX 295 017-P3-1294-AR|
|Hard Drive||Seagate 7200.12 500GB||Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB||Two Western Digital RE3 500GB|
|Case||SILVERSTONE Sugo SG01-BF||SILVERSTONE TJ08-B||SILVERSTONE SG04B-H|
|Power Supply||OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY 550W||PC Power & Cooling S75QB 750W||CORSAIR CMPSU-1000HX 1000W|
|Optical Drive||LITE-ON iHAP322-08 DVD Burner||LITE-ON iHAP422-08 DVD Burner w/ Lightscribe||LG GGW-H20L Blu-Ray Burner/HD-DVD ROM|
As the emphasis is on gaming performance and portability Tom’s made the wise choice to rely on the motherboards’ integrated sound cards and ethernet cards, instead of spending for dedicated ones. The total prices of each setup are current as of this writing, and are unfortunately subject to the vagaries of price fluctuations (which is why the $600 machine totals $648).
In any case, I totally recommend the ~$600 desktop, even at its slightly higher price. Aside from having the smallest profile (the PC’s shoebox-sized, meaning you’ll have more trouble carrying around your display and peripherals), Tom’s tests marked it as a clear efficiency winner, providing the most gaming performance for money spent.