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Sanji's Guide to Gaming PCs on a Budget

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March 12, 2007 2:41:27 AM

After doing a lot of research and working a few hours to find what parts give a lot of bang for the buck, I see these as the best builds in my eyes for their money.

Ver. 2.65

Updated 3/15/07
Rev. 3 isn't done yet. Added $1000 Intel Build. Added three $2000 builds. Improved Sub-$500 AMD build. Added Netburst's Last Stand. ToC updated. Dual-Channel Memory section added. M-ATX support for Intel OC build dropped. M-ATX Intel to be assimilated into Intel Stock. M-ATX support for AMD only in builds $500, $750, and $1000 builds (EPoX EP-MGF6100-M is the best M-ATX mobo I can find for OCing.)
GPU section added. GPU suggestions for builds revamped.
Case section completed (added tons of images too... 2kb images, luckily. 56k users, do not beware.)
Cooling Section added.

Also, does anyone know if two Thermaltake Big Typhoon's can fit on the QuadFX mobo?

Table of Contents

AMD's Gaming off the Money in Your Couch (Total: $351.92)
Pros: X2/Agena FX/Kuma/Rana upgrade path, 1GB of RAM, 7600 GS for gaming
Cons: For it's price point... hard to say.

Pentium D 805 OC build ($490.93)
Pros: Decent gamer (X1800GTO), C2D upgrade path.
Cons: Required 100% overclock and still inferior processor to X2 3600 OC build #1.
Netburst's Last Stand ($522.93)
Pros: Better gaming than the other $500 builds. C2D upgrade path. 5ghz+ overclock.
Cons: Single-core. Gets pwned in multi-threaded apps.
X2 3600 OC build ($488.94)
Pros: Possible Agena FX/Kuma/Rana upgrade path in future, superior processor, decent gaming (X1800GTO).

E4300 Core 2 Duo OC build ($755.93)
Pros: Upgrade path to Quad-Core opened. High quality CPU. Solid gaming performance. (X1950Pro)
Cons: Inferior video card and less RAM compared to X2 3600 OC build #2.
X2 3600 OC build #2 ($743.96)
Pros: Superior gaming to the C2D build. 2GB of RAM. Very good gaming (1950XT or 8800 GTS).
Cons: Inferior processor compared to C2D build.

E4300 OC Build #2 ($955.93)
Pros: C2D (E4300/E6600), 8800GTS, quad-core upgrade path
Cons: Slightly inferior gaming compared to X2 3800 OC Build.
X2 3800 OC Build ($1019.94)
Pros: Slightly superior processor performance. 8800GTS 640MB for maximum gaming performance while trying to avoid a bottleneck.
Cons: Far inferior processor compared to Intel.

E6600 GTX Build ($1496.91)
Pros: Possible 3.6ghz C2D. GTX video card is top of the line. Quad-Core upgrade path.
Cons: Not a quad-core... yet.
QuadFX GTS Build ($1527.92)
Pros: ~3ghz Quad-core. 8800 GTS (DX10) still gives solid gaming. Megatasking computer.
Cons: Overall slower processor than Intel build (even though it is quad-core), weaker gaming than the Intel.

Core 2 Duo Practical Build (Total: $1983.89)
Pros: 3 drives in RAID 0, 680i chipset, 4GB of RAM, 500GB storage drive, E6600
Cons: Not a gaming juggernaut like the I's MEGM or Megatasker like the C2Q GTX and QuadFX GTX.
Intel's Most Excellent Gaming Machine (Total: $2011.92)
Pros: 8800GTX SLI. Best gaming period.
Cons: 2GB of RAM, 8800 GTX SLI is a overkill, no RAID 0.
C2Q GTX Build (Total: $2049.92)
Pros: Quad-Core, 8800GTX, best processor of the bunch
Cons: 2GB of RAM
QuadFX GTX Build (Total: $1987.91)
Pros: 8800GTX, possibly 3ghz Quad-Core, 4GB of RAM
Cons: Inferior processor to C2Q

Case Suggestions
Graphic Card Suggestions
Cooling Suggestions
Dual-Channel Kit Memory vs. Two Sticks

Sub-$500 Budget

For those of you with an extreme budget, never fear! Uncle Sanji brings super budget options with upgrade paths!

AMD's Gaming for the Money in Your Couch
Aim: Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.

Anyone have an experience where they go through their couch and find $5? Imagine if you have a REALLY BIG COUCH and it had oh... $355 in it. First thought? Buy a computer!

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$15.99
For build purposes, $15.99 (Rosewill R6422-P) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.

CPU: AMD Sempron 64 3000+ Manila 1.6GHz 256KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$42.99
Cheap and does the job.

OR

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Orleans 2.0GHz 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$75
Better proc but over $30 more expensive.

Mobo: BIOSTAR GEFORCE 6100 AM2 Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX RoHs compliant AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$62.99
Nice overclocker and cheap.

RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65
When you upgrade to something bigger, this RAM'll help.

GPU: EVGA 256-P2-N541-T2 GeForce 7600GS 256MB GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card
$69.99 after MIR
Cheap video card with a little bit of bite.

HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$42.99
Reasonable sized HD.

DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.

PSU: COOLMAX CA-400 ATX v2.01 400W Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$19.99
Although cheap, it gets the job done.

CPU Cooling: ASUS K8A1-8SB3 80mm CPU Cooler - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$7.99
Although cheap, gets the job done.

Total: $351.92

$500 Budget

Who says you can't have a good gaming computer for $500? Uncle Sanji says that $500 is enough to play with the big boys... if you overclock. Who says that a 3.8ghz Dual Core or an X2 with speeds of an FX-62 arn't awesome?!

Intel
Aim: Cheap entry level stuff with upgradablility.

This Intel build is based upon the Pentium D 805's massive OC potential. With the nice air cooling it has, it should be able to reach the Extreme Edition speeds of the Pentium Ds. The X1800GTO was my video card choice. For the price, it cannot be beat. The 7600GT is a decent alternative, but the X1800 still wins my vote. The biggest pro of this build is the fact that Conroe is an upgrade path.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$15.99
For build purposes, $15.99 (Rosewill R6422-P) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Pentium D 805 OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$71
Notorious for overclocking and it is a dual core.
Mobo:MSI P965 Platinum LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$71.99
Decent OCing mobo. Upgrade path to C2D opened.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65
Sets the stage for a 3ghz OC with an E4300 upgrade.
GPU: EVGA 256-P2-N615-TX GeForce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $92.99 is assumed.
The X1900GT is Sanji's suggested upgrade. Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Reasonable sized HD.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Hiper Type-R 480w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$49.99
Solid PSU that can stand the 7600GT and a CPU eating 200w of power.
CPU Cooling: Scythe SCNJ-1100P 120mm CPU Cooling Fan - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$39.99

Total: $490.93

Netburst's Last Stand (M-ATX)
Aim: Gaming performance and single threaded destruction.

Once upon a time, there were two research groups. One was dedicated to laptop processors. The other was dedicated to improving Netburst. One group went on to create Pentium M, which evolved into the monster that is Core 2. The other created the Pentium 4, which became a deadend. The Pentium 4 refuses to die and with this 5ghz monster, it intends to show its worth!

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$15.99
For build purposes, $15.99 (Rosewill R6422-P) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 641 Cedar Mill 3.2GHz LGA 775 EM64T Processor Model BX80552641 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$75
People have hit 5.4ghz with a Thermaltake Big Typhoon. People have hit 4.5ghz with stock cooler. This'll destroy the Pentium D 805 when it comes to single threaded applications!
Mobo:BIOSTAR P4M890-M7 PCI-E LGA 775 VIA P4M890 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$47.99
C2D upgrade path? Able to go beyond 333 fsb? Micro-ATX? I'll take it!
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65
Sets the stage for a 3ghz OC with an E4300 upgrade and a 5.3ghz overclock with the Pentium 4.
GPU: SAPPHIRE 100176L Radeon X1950PRO 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card - Retail is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $144.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Reasonable sized HD.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Hiper Type-R 480w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$49.99
Solid PSU that can stand the 7600GT and a CPU eating 200w of power. Will it fit? That is the question.
CPU Cooling: Scythe SCNJ-1100P 120mm CPU Cooling Fan - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$39.99

Total: $506.94

AMD
Aim: Super performance to price ratio.

AMD has been slashing prices faster than Jack the Ripper can slash people. Their attempts to match Intel when it comes to prices has given them a definite edge. This build really surprised me. Once again, I chose the X1800GTO for my video card. Gaming at it's finest.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$15.99
For build purposes, $15.99 (Rosewill R6422-P) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU Mobo combo: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane 1.9GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADO3600IAA5DL - OEM
BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductComboList.asp?Item...
$149.99
B_A_R_G_A_I_N. This thing boasts EXCELLENT performance for the price. It overclocks well too. X2 5000+ speeds wouldn't surprise me! Hell, people have reached 3ghz with this combo. That fights back against the Conroes! Speed-wise you could hit roughly an E6500 or an X2 5900+, but it will be hard to reach.
On a good chip, I'd estimate 2.8-3ghz stable.

RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65
Same amount of RAM.
GPU: EVGA 256-P2-N615-TX GeForce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $92.99 is assumed.
The X1900GT is Sanji's suggested upgrade. Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Reasonable sized HD.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Hiper Type-R 480w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$49.99
This PSU should be able to get the job done.
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Big Typhoon
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$46.99
Top-notch air cooling. Great for overclocking.
Total: $488.94

Conclusion
AMD wins hands down here. For the Intel system to even attempt to catch up it has to be upgraded to the E4300, whereas it beats the snot out of the AMD system. The caveat is that the E4300 is $100 more expensive! It isn't fair to compare a $600 system to a $500 one! To top it off, I had to use an open box special to hit the right price!

The Intel system, however, really shines due to its ability to upgrade. With an E4300 in it, it can crank out 3ghz of a C2D core. This blows away the 2.9ghz on the X2. The Intel gives superior upgrade paths, thanks to the Conroe or Allendale.

We could, however, say a similar thing for the AMD. Barcelona is just around the corner and when the desktop variations come out they can operate in AM2 slot motherboards. Of course, nothing is assured here yet, but we could see upgrade paths open for the AMD too.

What about the single-core machine? At 5ghz, it might even top the mighty AMD OC machine in single threaded apps! Unfortunately, it'll get killed in multi-threaded, but it has a saving grace. The X1950PRO! This thing'll game better than the other $500, I'd estimate. It may not have a quad-core upgrade path, but C2D is fine.

$750 Budget

$750 is enough to game well. Intel throws down a 3ghz+ Core 2 Duo to the table while AMD can boast an 8800 GTS. That's right. $750. This is $750 spent at its best.

E4300 OC Build #1
Aim: Strong gaming performance. Super fast processor.

This Intel build is based upon the E4300 and its ability have a cheap overclock. The processor, video card, cooling, and mobo all see upgrades. In XP, this thing should get good gaming performance. Now, if you wanted to, you could use a cheaper case and a cheaper mobo or video card and get 2GB of RAM. Either way, this should be solid for gaming.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: E4300
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$169
Another notorious overclocker. This thing can bring out great speeds.
Mobo:GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$107.99
Proven overclocker. Great stuff, upgrade path to Quad-Core.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65
Sets the stage for a 3ghz OC with an E4300.
GPU: SAPPHIRE 100176L Radeon X1950PRO 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card - Retail is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $144.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Reasonable sized HD.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TÜV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$99.99
Great PSU for the price.
CPU Cooling: Scythe SCNJ-1100P 120mm CPU Cooling Fan - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$39.99
Total: $755.93

X2 3600 Build #2
Aim: Beating the Intel at gaming, rather than applications.

Here comes a surprising note... My choice for the $750 AMD is... the 3600 AGAIN?! I hear people shouting, "Bull!" and, "Intel luver!" already. Here comes the sad truth. The X2 3800 doesn't seem to have the OC headroom that the X2 3600 does. Clock for clock, the 3800 performance 3-5% superior. You can go 3800 or 3600, but I feel the performance may be very similar.

There is another split in this build with the video card. The X1950XT allows for some RAID 0 HD action to improve performance (just needed something to do with the extra $70.) The 8800 GTS goes slightly overbudget by $30 but gives FAR superior performance in gaming. Make your decision.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU Mobo combo: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane 1.9GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADO3600IAA5DL - OEM
BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductComboList.asp?Item...
$149.99
Returning from the $500 build. This is a great price for performance chip. On a good chip, I'd estimate 2.8-3ghz stable.

OR

AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Windsor 2.0GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$109
You can use the X2 3800+ if you so please.

RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$130
2GB of RAM.
GPU: HIS Hightech H195XTQT256DVN-R Radeon X1950XT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 IceQ3 Turbo HDCP VIVO Video Card - Retail is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $199.99 is assumed.
The 8800GTS 320MB is Sanji's suggested upgrade. Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$105.98
For absolute performance, you can run them in RAID 0.

OR

HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
8800 GTS build needs this to bring it within budget.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TÜV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$99.99
Great PSU for the price.
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Big Typhoon
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$46.99
Top-notch air cooling. Great for overclocking.
Total: $743.64 (1950XT & RAID 0 build)
$780.94 (8800 GTS build)

Conclusion
Who wins? This one is entirely up to you.

Intel boasts a superior processor. AMD would have to bring a 3375mhz X2 to match it in speed, practically. The problem is that AMD can just reuse the X2 3600 again and hit a 2.8-3ghz speed (that is between E6400 and E6600 speeds at stock, mind you) and throw a much more expensive video card into the mix. Then bring the fact that AMD boasts 2GB of RAM to Intel's 1. Sure, Intel could run on the cheap and cut some prices off some other components to match that, but so can AMD.

Let's not forget that Intel can bring a quad-core upgrade out of its hat.
Then again, let's not forget that the Barcelona core will be able to run on AM2 socket mobos.

AMD boasts far better gaming. Intel boasts far better outside gaming options. It is a toss up.

$1000 Budget

E4300 OC Build #2
Aim: Strong gaming performance. Super fast processor.

This Intel build is based upon the E4300 and its ability have a cheap overclock. It is merely an upgraded version of the last build.

Why the E4300 again and not the E6300/E6400/E6600? The E6400 and E6300 hvae become Allendale's, and their OC has been impaired. The E6600 is available if you use the X1950Pro instead of the 8800GTS.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: E4300
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$169
Another notorious overclocker. This thing can bring out great speeds.

OR

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$313
One of the best C2D overclockers with a whole 4MB of cache.

Mobo:GIGABYTE GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$117.99
Proven overclocker. Great stuff, upgrade path to Quad-Core. The D stands for durable.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$130
Sets the stage for a 3ghz OC with an E4300/E6600.

OR

RAM: Patriot 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model PSD21G8002 (x2) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...
$149.98
Sets the stage for a 3.6ghz+ overclock with E6600. Memory overclocks decently.

GPU: EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $269.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.

SAPPHIRE 100176L Radeon X1950PRO 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card - Retail is the suggested GPU for a E6600 build. The price $144.99 is current.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.

HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Reasonable sized HD.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TÜV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$99.99
Great PSU for the price.
CPU Cooling: Scythe SCNJ-1100P 120mm CPU Cooling Fan - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$39.99
Total: $955.93

X2 3800 OC Build #1
Aim: Gaming > Everything Else! Go for broke!

With this AMD build, we see the emergence of the X2 3800. If it can hit 2.9ghz, it'll be a small improvement. If it hits 2.8ghz, it'll be roughly the performance of a X2 3600 at 2.94ghz.

I must admit, this is less than I expected. The GTX is a nice touch, but it still doesn't seem that much due to the processor. This is a cross-roads between QuadFX and X2.

This build is for if you REALLY want a GTX in this price range. Nothing else.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Windsor 2.0GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$109
Switch to X2 3800 due to extra cache. It'll improve performance ever so slightly. If you can
Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
$159.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
Great OC mobo, SLI possibility, and other good features.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$130
2GB of RAM for solid performance.
GPU: EVGA 640-P2-N825-AR GeForce 8800GTS 640MB SUPERCLOCKED is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $379.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards. An upgrade to the 8800GTX is not recommended.
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$52.99
Well, this'll be upgraded next build...
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-650 ATX12V 650W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TUV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$109.99
Improved CPU to take the larger loads.
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Big Typhoon
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$46.99
Top-notch air cooling. Great for overclocking.
Total: $1019.94

$1500 Budget

This is where you can get top-notch performance for every area. Here we see the emergence of quad-core builds and super fast Core 2 Duos. Once again, the final conclusion is subjective. Let's see what you can get for 1.5k.

E6600 C2D GTX Build
Aim: Excellent gaming performance with a very powerful CPU.

This is an extremely powerful computer. It has a CPU that has an outside shot at 3.6ghz with air cooling. It has the best GPU out there. It has 2 hard drives in RAID 0. It has RAM that has hit 1ghz in some cases. This is an excellent and VERY powerful build.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$313
One of the best C2D overclockers with a whole 4MB of cache.
Mobo:GIGABYTE GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$122.99
Proven overclocker. Great stuff, upgrade path to Quad-Core. The D stands for durable.
RAM: Patriot 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model PSD21G8002 (x2) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...
$149.98
Sets the stage for a 3.6ghz+ overclock. Memory overclocks decently.
GPU: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $529.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (x2) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$149.98
RAID 0 for maximum performance.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-650 ATX12V 650W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TUV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$129.99
This'll power the GTX and a solid OC. :D 
CPU Cooling: (variable, check Intel Cooler.)
For build purposes, $40 (Scythe SCNJ-1100P) will be assumed. Price may vary based upon cooler.
Total: $1496.91

QuadFX GTS Build
Aim: Quad-Core with Good Gaming at a Good Price-Point!

This behemoth manages a possible 3ghz quad-core. It has an 8800GTS, which is still a great video card. This rig has the potential for a 8800GTS SLI. Upgrades should be plentiful in the future! The Barcelona processor is socket-compatible with Socket F. Now, since the Opteron 2210's worked on the QuadFX mobo, is there a possibility that Barcelona may too? Possible octa-core upgrade!

Large case with good cooling HIGHLY recommended.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: AMD Opteron 2210 Santa Rosa 1.8GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket F Dual Core Processor - OEM (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$358
Try to overclock these babies to around 3ghz.
Mobo: ASUS L1N64-SLI WS Dual Socket L (Socket 1207FX) NVIDIA nForce 680a SLI MCP SSI CEB AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$349.99
QuadFX. Nice OC.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$130
2GB of RAM is enough for this price point. This RAM speed is sufficient for hitting 3ghz on those Opterons.
GPU: EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $269.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$69.99
Solid 250GB HD..
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: SILVERSTONE SST-ST75ZF ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V 750W SLI Certified Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$179.99
QuadFX + 8800GTS + Overclock == Need big power supply :D 
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Big Typhoon (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$93.98
I have NO IDEA if this will fit on the mobo, currently. Can anyone confirm?
Total: $1527.92

Conclusion

Intel's Core 2 Duo beats the AMD in clock rate and architecture. For most tasks, it'll be a faster bet. With a speed of 3.6ghz, it is faster than any current processor out at stock. To top it off, it has a GTX and a 1333 fsb C2D/Quad-Core upgrade path!

AMD's QuadFX, however, boasts a quad-core for megatasking. The GTS may not stand up the GTX, but is no gaming slouch. The QuadFX should be able to burn a DVD, play a game, write a report, run bloatware firewall and anti-virus, watch a movie, etc etc, all at the same time without skipping a beat. That is the beauty of quad-core. It can run practically everything without lag. If all goes well, Barcelona may run on this as well, meaning a possible octa-core upgrade.

Which means more to you? Multi-tasking performance or gaming performance? Both systems have reasons to use them.

$2000 Budget

Core 2 Duo Practical Build
Aim: Most performance and practicality from a dual-core build

This build has a few pluses. 4GB of RAM, 8800GTX, 680i chipset, 3 drives in RAID 0, a storage drive, quad-core upgrade path, and a 8800GTX SLI upgrade path. This is trying to pump every last bit of performance out of a dual-core system.

There is no 8800GTX SLI because, quite frankly, it is useless. Right now there is almost no need for an SLI unless you want a bigger e-penis. The fact that you can upgrade later when the 8800GTX's prices drop down for SLI is a great thing.

Another thing is the 3 drives in RAID 0. It has some performance gains over 2 drives. The extra storage drive is for the safety.

Right now, does anyone really need more than a 3.6ghz C2D? Unless you're megatasking, I doubt it.

Right now, I can't see what constitutes paying this much on a computer unless you're going quad.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$313
One of the best C2D overclockers with a whole 4GB of cache.
Mobo: ASUS P5N32-E SLI LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$239.99
Good overclocker and a 680i chipset.
RAM: Patriot 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model PSD21G8002 (x4) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...
$299.96
Sets the stage for a 3.6ghz+ overclock. Memory overclocks decently and has 4GB of it.
GPU: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $529.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (x3) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$224.97
RAID 0 for maximum performance. That's right, 3 drives in RAID 0. 4 drives doesn't give the best performance, but this'll do fine.

PLUS

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$129.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
Good drive with 500GB of storage.

DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: Antec True Power Trio TP3-650 ATX12V 650W Power Supply with Three 12V Rails 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TUV, CE, C-tick, CCC, CB - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$129.99
This'll power the GTX and a solid OC. :D 
CPU Cooling: (variable, check Intel Cooler.)
For build purposes, $40 (Scythe SCNJ-1100P) will be assumed. Price may vary based upon cooler.
Total: $1983.89

Intel's Most Excellent Gaming Machine
Aim: Excellent gaming performance with one of the best CPUs on the market overclocked to monster speeds.

Welcome to the best gaming system in this guide. Here you'll see a GTX SLI and a C2D with the supplies to hit a possible 3.6ghz. Gaming-wise, there is no equal. With its massive clock speed and its undefeatable 8800GTX SLI, you'll see the best I'll be suggesting for gaming.

Quite frankly, this is overkill. One 8800GTX is all you should really need, but I needed somehow to fill out the budget without dropping too far under. I hope the 8800GTX SLI doesn't bottleneck the rest of the system...

4GB of RAM is the upgrade I'd suggest most.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$313
One of the best C2D overclockers with a whole 4GB of cache.
Mobo: ASUS P5N-E SLI LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 650i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$129.99
650i chipset, good overclocking, SLI support, Quad-Core upgrade path... this is a great board. Beware of vdroop though.
RAM: Patriot 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model PSD21G8002 (x2) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...
$149.98
Sets the stage for a 3.6ghz+ overclock. Memory overclocks decently and 4GB for gaming performance.
GPU: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB SLI is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $1059.98 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$74.99
Not RAID 0.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: SILVERSTONE SST-ST75ZF ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V 750W SLI Certified Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$179.99
E6600 OC + 8800GTX SLI = Need big power supply :D 
CPU Cooling: (variable, check Intel Cooler.)
For build purposes, $40 (Scythe SCNJ-1100P) will be assumed. Price may vary based upon cooler.
Total: $2011.92

C2Q GTX Build
Aim: Megatasking and gaming

This build is meant to combat the QuadFX build in the quad-core segment. The main differences are the CPU and the amount of RAM. The CPU in this build is much more powerful, but the QuadFX has 4GB of RAM. This build should also be less noisy than the QuadFX build.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80562Q6600 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$846
The current cheapest C2Q without jumping the boat to Xeon.
Mobo:GIGABYTE GA-965P-DS3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$117.99
Proven overclocker. Great stuff and it'll run this quad-core. The D is for durable.
RAM: Patriot 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model PSD21G8002 (x2) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...
$149.98
It'll hit the highest OC you can expect on air.
GPU: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $529.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (x2) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$149.98
RAID 0 for performance.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: SILVERSTONE SST-ST75ZF ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V 750W SLI Certified Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$179.99
Quad-Core C2Q OC + 8800GTX = Need big power supply :D 
CPU Cooling: (variable, check Intel Cooler.)
For build purposes, $40 (Scythe SCNJ-1100P) will be assumed. Price may vary based upon cooler.
Total: $2049.92

QuadFX Build
Aim: QuadFX coming into play. Still good gaming.

The $2000 alternate. This thing puts more emphesis on CPU power. Unfortunately, a 2.66ghz C2Q destroys it. *shrug* Personally, I like this build better than the 8800GTX SLI but I'll leave it up to you.

The selling point of this build is 1. Quad-core, 2. (If Barcelona works in the QuadFX mobo like these Opteron's do,) Octa-core upgrade path, 3. 8800GTX. It wins. Plain and simple.

Large case with good cooling HIGHLY recommended.

Case: (variable, check Case Selection.)
$45
For build purposes, $45 (Centurion 5) is the assumed price. Price may fluctuate depending on case.
CPU: AMD Opteron 2210 Santa Rosa 1.8GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket F Dual Core Processor - OEM (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$358
Overclock these babies to around 3ghz.
Mobo: ASUS L1N64-SLI WS Dual Socket L (Socket 1207FX) NVIDIA nForce 680a SLI MCP SSI CEB AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$349.99
QuadFX. Nice OC.
RAM: Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G (x4)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$260
4GB of RAM for slightly more gaming performance. If these things can even OC a few mhz it'll be fine for 3ghz.
GPU: EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB is the assumed GPU for this build. The price $529.99 is assumed.
Please see the Graphic Card Suggestions for other suggested cards.
HD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (x2) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$149.98
RAID 0 for performance.
DVD: SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD±R DVD Burner With 12X DVD-RAM Write E-IDE/ATAPI - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
$30.99
DVD burner. Generic.
PSU: SILVERSTONE SST-ST75ZF ATX 12V 2.2 & EPS 12V 750W SLI Certified Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
$179.99
QuadFX + 8800GTX + Overclock == Need big power supply :D 
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Big Typhoon (x2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
$93.98
I have NO IDEA if this will fit on the mobo, currently. Can anyone confirm?
Total: $1987.91

Cases
Images are from Newegg and are hosted off site to reduce leeching.

POWMAX MM3800 Beige SGCC Steel MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case - Retail
FREE after MIR (ends 3/27/07)

It's free. Enough said.
This is the assumed case for M-ATX sub-$500 builds


Rosewill R6422-P BK Black SGCC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$15.99

Cheap mid-tower case. You may want to consider mounting another fan.
This is the assumed case for $500 builds


RAIDMAX xB ATX-528B Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
$19.99

This case has 2 80mm fans.

XION Solaris XON-403 Black with Green LED Light Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
$24.99 after MIR (Ends 4/2/07)

Style points and 2 80mm fans.

POWMAX CP0327PL-4 Window Black/Silver SGCC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 400W Power Supply - Retail
$29.99

Style points? You may have to mount another fan. Ditc the PSU, though.

COOLER MASTER RC-330-KKN1-GP Black SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$29.99 after MIR
Functional case with a 120mm fan.

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UB Black /Blue Aluminum Bezel , SECC Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$44.99
Functional case with a 120mm fan and an 80mm.

XION Onyx XON-303 Black/Blue Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$44.99 after MIR (ends 4/2/07)
Another stylish case with 3 fans.

Sunbeam AC-HUVB UV Blue (UV reactive) Clear Acrylic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$52.99
No fans. You'll need to mount a few. The selling point? Super aesthetic value. Since the case is UV reactive, when it is dark out this thing will turn heads. Do your research on acrylic cases beforehand, though. They scratch easily.

NZXT Apollo BLACK NP Black SECC Steel Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$69.99
Stylish case with 2 120mm fans.

Sunbeam Transformer IC-TR-BA Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

$74.99
Nice looking case with 4 fans.

Thermaltake VC3000BWS Black Chassis : 0.8mm SECC Front bezel : Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$85.99 after MIR (ends 3/31/07)
2 120mm fans running at a low rpm so it is almost silent.

LIAN LI PC-7B plus II Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$89.99
If you don't want much bling, then Lian-Li has some great cases. This has 2 120mm fans.

XCLIO A380 Silver SECC 1.0mm thickness ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

$96.99
Full-tower case AND it looks nice. To top it off, it has 2 250mm fans. Yes, 250mm.

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$109.99 (March Special)
Great cooling, nice look, roomy case. Highly recommended.

NZXT Zero Black/Silver Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

$109.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
EIGHT fans that are almost silent. Great cooling, doesn't look so bad either.

Antec Performance One P180 Silver cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

$124.99
If you're not into bling, this is another great case.

COOLER MASTER Stacker 830 RC-830-SSN2-GP Silver Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

$234.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
RUN! IT'S CASEZILLA! MONSTER CASE! Good airflow.

Graphic Card Suggestions

EVGA 256-P2-N541-T2 GeForce 7600GS 256MB GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail
$69.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
At 1024x768, this thing will game decently with older games at max quality (according to the Tom's Hardware VGA Charts). Newer games and more graphic intensive games, however, will drop to below 30 fps.
This is the assumed GPU sub-$500 builds.


EVGA 256-P2-N615-TX GeForce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail
$99.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
This card is slightly inferior to the X1800GTO, but it has the nice step-up program from EVGA. Rejoice!
This is the assumed GPU for the $500 AMD and Intel builds.


SAPPHIRE 100189L Radeon X1900GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 VIVO HDCP Video Card - Retail
$129.99 after MIR
Slightly overbudget, but a great card. May require lesser overclocked CPU or superior PSU. At 1280x1024, it can make games like "Prey" playable. It averaged 17 fps more in the VGA charts compared to the X1800GTO.

SAPPHIRE 100176L Radeon X1950PRO 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card - Retail
$144.99 after MIR (Ends 3/28/07)
This is a great card for the money. Whereas the X1900GT was hitting 47 in the charts, this one hits 55fps ranking it near the 7900GT and the 7950GT.
This is the assumed GPU for the $750 Intel build.[/b]

SAPPHIRE 100186L Radeon X1950XT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 VIVO HDCP Video Card - Retail
$199.99 after MIR (Ends 3/18/07)
Say hello to a GREAT video card. Super price for performance. This card may not be on the VGA charts, but it gets similar performance to the X1900XT. Given that the X1900XT is $249.99 at it's cheapest, this is a good deal.
This is the assumed GPU for the $750 AMD build.


HIS Hightech H195XTQT256DVN-R Radeon X1950XT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 IceQ3 Turbo HDCP VIVO Video Card - Retail
$209.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
Say hello to a GREAT video card. Super price for performance. This card may not be on the VGA charts, but it gets similar performance to the X1900XT. Given that the X1900XT is $249.99 at it's cheapest, this is a good deal.

EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card - Retail
$259.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
This is the lower RAM version of the 8800GTS, currently one of the best video cards on the market. In fact, I would rate it third to the 8800GTS 640MB and 8800GTX. For the price, it is a great card and it has DX10.
This is the assumed GPU for the Intel $1000 build and the AMD $1500 build.


EVGA 640-P2-N825-AR GeForce 8800GTS 640MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 SUPERCLOCKED HDCP Video Card - Retail
$379.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
This is the higher end version of the 8800GTS. This card is probably the 2nd best on the market, currently. It is very similar to the 8800GTS 320MB with the exception that it has more cache and performs better at the higher resolutions. This version happens to be "superclocked".
This is the assumed GPU for the AMD $1000 build.


EVGA 768-P2-N831-AR GeForce 8800GTX 768MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Video Card
$529.99 after MIR (Ends 3/31/07)
The current king of GPUs is the 8800GTX. If it won't run on this, then it most likely isn't going to be a playable game (unless they're assuming you're running an SLI or something). This is the current tippy-top GPU on the market.
This GPU will bottleneck AMD X2 builds.
This is the assumed GPU for the Intel $1500 build, the AMD $2000 build, and the Intel $2000 build.



Air Cooling
Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme
$(Not Released)
Supposedly the best, according to Anandtech. If this thing gets a surprising 5 degrees below the Tuniq then I say we have a new champion! Unfortunately, not released yet, but keep it in mind :D .

Tuniq Tower
$65
Sanji Pick
One of the best air cooler on the market. People have hit some nice overclocks with this. Suggested for builds with good air flow.

Scythe Infinity
$57.99
Best for cases with great front to back airflow. This cools roughly 2-3 degrees celcius below the Ninja. Arguably as good as the Tuniq Tower. Some tests show the Infinity being superior, others show the Tuniq being better, others show them being tied, others show the Ultra-X Cooler beating them all. Hard to tell.

Scythe Ninja
$39.99
Sanji Pick
Best for cases with little air flow. Good for quiet builds. Either way, a great hsf. I suggest it, especially for its price point.

Thermalright Ultra 120
$48.99
The general consensus is Tuniq > Infinity > Ninja > Ultra 120. This is still a good cooler though. Lacks a fan, if I remember correctly.

Thermaltake Sonic Tower
$40.94
RUN! IT'S HSFZILLA! Monster. It was made for fanless 0db builds. With good air cooling and a very large fan it can arguably cool as good or better than the big boys above it. Make sure it can even fit though!

Thermaltake Big Typhoon
$46.99
Good cooler. Superior to the Ninja and Infinity when it comes to giant side fans. When you have front to back airflow though, the Scythe's win out.

Noctua NH-U12
$59.95
From the tests I've seen, the Noctua may not be the cooling level of a Scythe, but it still is good.

[url=h
March 12, 2007 3:28:56 AM

Wow man, thanks for your time and effort for this.

Two thumbs up :) 
March 12, 2007 3:54:27 AM

No problem. I'm really surprised how much performance $500 grants. I was going to do a $1000 but I realized it would look almost exactly the same except with more RAM, 8800GTS, and/or more HD space and a better PSU.

At around $1250 or $1500 the E6300 or E6400's great OC potential makes them more appealing.

I would like to note that the E4300 when OCed can take advantage of the 8800 GTX a lot better than the X2 3600 can.

After the C2D build can effectively use the GTS, AMD's viability drops. When the C2D build can effectively use the GTX, AMD's viability disappears.

When 4x4 becomes viable for AMD it won't do it any good. Intel will have already thrown in it's QX6700 or Q6600.

Right now, past $1500 or so, there is no reason to really use an AMD unless you're banking that Barcelona is very very awesome even with an AM2 mobo and Intel's latest LGA775 can't compete. That, or you want to use 8800GTX SLI. If Barcelona changes that, I smell lots of price cuts.
Related resources
March 12, 2007 4:40:49 AM

Wow, this is wonderful! I was looking at PCs that will let me play a few games like LotRO or Warhammer Online, at a very reasonable budget. This is a great guide that gives me options.

I hope you update it every 6 weeks or so. Fantastic work!

New house on the +$ west coast, new baby, just starting out in life. I knew I couldn't afford more than $500 but I wanted something that would have upgrade options down the line. Thanks so much for putting this up.
This PC is really old, I upgraded 3-4 years ago from a Geforce 3 card to an Nvidia Ti 4600, with 64mb memory! It used to limp by, but now it won't even do that.

Needless to say, I had to find a way to upgrade for $450-550.
March 12, 2007 6:22:38 AM

I see the best part of these great parts lists is the upgradability at each level and by each side of the CPU battle, that is something too many people overlook. It is easy to get $200-$300 every 6 months and step up a level and then repeat after a year. Hopefully you can avoid being obsolete in a reasonable length of time. Very good job Sanji. I will put the first vote for a sticky!!
March 12, 2007 1:47:55 PM

No problem. Just wanted to put my time to some use. :D 
March 12, 2007 3:52:29 PM

This is a great guide. It pretty much incorporates the same exact parts I came up with after hours and hours of tweaking myself. And good PSU/motherboard choices, which is very important for stability. Most people would grab some crappy low-end COOLMAX which will die on you in ~2 months.

Nice work.
March 12, 2007 4:56:14 PM

dude, this guide pwns. you shoudl do every price range up till about $2500, and then refine it, edit it every month or so and...


Make it a STICKY!
March 12, 2007 8:05:16 PM

Good guide, especially for the $500 pcs which gets more tricky. ALot of ppl could benefit from this.

STICKY!!!!
March 12, 2007 8:10:42 PM

This is an absolute God-send. Thank you so very much. I think I'm going shopping this weekend :lol:  .
March 12, 2007 8:53:54 PM

Thank you very much for investing your time on this, I'm sure it will help answer a few, "What should I buy?" threads before they're even started.

THG's best card for the month feature that we get over here on THG UK/Ireland is pretty useful but this takes things to the next level.
March 12, 2007 11:21:10 PM

Very nice.

Some of your links are fubar unfortunately.....MSI Platinum link is the same 805 link :(  Didn't check all the others.......

Nice nonetheless though.

A build in the $1500-$2000 would be helpful.....we get ALOT of those requests. My guess is a 6600, 8800GTS, 2 gigs 800 RAM, CPU HSF, 600w OCZ GXS or Seasonic, Antec P180 or 900 or Thermaltake Armor, maybe a P5B-DX or 680i......that sort of thing ;) 
March 13, 2007 1:03:04 AM

Ack! Nice catch on the link. I'll fix it up in a few minutes.

Due to popular request, I'm adding at least a $1500 and $2000 build.
March 13, 2007 1:04:56 AM

Sanji, just a note on the $500 805D build: the MSI P965 Platinum really costs $135 +$6.xx shipping: (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...)

That boosts the total price $60 or so, and I'm not sure of a replacement that's both good and cheap.

Perhaps what you were looking at was the open-box version? Unless someone is planning on buying in the next day or two, IMHO open-box versions and other very-short-term deals aren't really right for this kind of list. Unfortunately, that's where the real bargains are to be found (e.g. decent PSs for $30, good cases for $20, etc.).

Maybe this just points out that you *have* to find one of the short-term bargains in order to get a decent $500 Intel system that can handle C2D in the future.
March 13, 2007 2:39:38 AM

Indeed, I meant the Open-box. It is hard to get a C2D upgrade path with OC possibilities on the cheap. In short, AMD on the $500!

In other news, I posted AMD builds for the $1000, $1500, and two in the $2000.

If two Big Typhoons can't fit on the mobo, then I'll have to re-write two builds.

If they fit... well... AMD looks a little more attractive on the $1500 end now.
March 13, 2007 2:41:10 AM

Most excellent.

If you were to keep this up to date, and perhaps cross reference the Tom's CPU/GPU/hard drive charts......I think this could easily be a sticky FTW!

Only one criticism.....and this is NOT of your effort.....rather of the nature of a list: there are obviously more than one option for various components....for example, the CPU HSF. There isn't one good HSF, there are many. And it may depend on OC'ing, or budget, or size, or whatever. So I'm not entirely convinced of recommending only one option. What about recommended a few "preferred" options in the component list, so newbies could review the choices and selection?

For example:

"-HEATSINK: If OC'ing, aftermarket HSF - approx $50 +/- (suggestions: Thermalright Ultra, Big Typhoon, Tuniq Tower, Noctua, Scythe Infinity/Ninja). If not OC'ing, then stock cooler is fine, not too loud and will do the trick nicely."
"-RAM: For lower-end 667, consider product X, Y, Z. For lower-end 800, consider product A, B, C. For higher end 800, consider product D, E, F"

etc, etc. I know it's more work, but you seem to have the time LOL.

Take a look at this for some ideas, its setup gives options:
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=12...

I think that sort of thing would be most helpful. Again, not a "criticism" per se, more of a suggestion that I think would really help this thread get Sticky Status ;) 
March 13, 2007 2:55:47 AM

Quote:
Most excellent.

If you were to keep this up to date, and perhaps cross reference the Tom's CPU/GPU/hard drive charts......I think this could easily be a sticky FTW!

I'll try and place this in the next update. Can I use the GPU chart and use alter it so I can place markers distinguishing what each build would use?

Only one criticism.....and this is NOT of your effort.....rather of the nature of a list: there are obviously more than one option for various components....for example, the CPU HSF. There isn't one good HSF, there are many. And it may depend on OC'ing, or budget, or size, or whatever. So I'm not entirely convinced of recommending only one option. What about recommended a few "preferred" options in the component list, so newbies could review the choices and selection?

For example:

"-HEATSINK: If OC'ing, aftermarket HSF - approx $50 +/- (suggestions: Thermalright Ultra, Big Typhoon, Tuniq Tower, Noctua, Scythe Infinity/Ninja). If not OC'ing, then stock cooler is fine, not too loud and will do the trick nicely."

No problem. I'll try and put this in future updates.

I think that would be most helpful. Again, not a "criticism" per se, more of a suggestion that I think would really help this thread get Sticky Status ;) 


I've learned today that AMD can actually fight back at the $1500 budget level. FX-74 Quad-Core speeds with an 8800 GTS AND octa-core upgrade possibility? Who says C2D > everything? I hope I did my math correctly, but if I didn't well poo. I think the CPU and GPU take 50A of power in that build so that 750w is hopefully enough. Will it be enough for octa-core? ... Eh... hard to say, but I doubt it.

OC'd E6600 vs. OC'd Opteron 2210 (Quad-Core)
YOU DECIDE!

For reference, if I had to decide a speed for the Opteron's, I would estimate QX6700 stock speeds.

Maybe I should add a few non-OC systems on the side once I get done with Intel, here.
March 13, 2007 4:37:39 AM

Don't get so carried away its too much work to update it now and then!!! :oops: 

I really am going to use this guide to build a $500 machine once the tax return comes around.
We apparently have to wait on the babys SS card, however. (Our child must turn 1 before she can be named, which unfortunatley means we can't file our taxes until she turns 1 and receives a SS card)
March 13, 2007 2:02:55 PM

Hey man, don't kill yourself on this ;)  You've done alot of work and that's great. If you have the time then fine :) 

One last thing........I'm no AMD or Intel fanboy....I've owned both. I'm a bang-for-the-buck and performance fanboy. So take this comment in the unbiased spirit with which I say it:

Take into account other factors that may influence a possible AMD vs Intel thing. Things like more expensive motherboards, dual HSF's and more noise for AMD Quad FX, etc. And also whether overclocking or not. I know it's very difficult, and I'm NOT slagging you, I'm simply saying that a number of people (esp. newbies) that read it aren't going to understand the nuances and pros/cons of doing an overclocked Opteron with a special board or whatever.........they may just say, "Can't I get a 4300 and 965 board with a GTS on the cheap?". So, I'm not knocking your info nor expertise, I'm saying to remember the target audience. I have difficulty recommending said Opteron system to a first-time builder who comes looking for simply advice for a gaming rig. We need to remember not everyone understands nor appreciates the differences.

So it's not an AMD vs Intel thing. It's a question of criteria and skill level for people. It's far easier to tell someone to just spend a bit more money and get a 4300 that can overclock to 3.0 without much effort than trying to explain how a 3600+ on AM2 might bottleneck and balanced against the cost per ghz of overclock, blah blah. I'm being slightly facetious of course, but I hope you understand my point: That alot of people are just looking for a good mainstream system at a cheaper price than what a pre-built would cost. They don't understand or care about the nuances. Some do, most don't. They just want advice for "What can I get for X dollars that doesn't suck?"

Lowest common denominator, as it were.......... :roll:
March 13, 2007 6:46:47 PM

I'm really curious as to what these categories would look like with stock hardware settings, as I myself is not interested in overclocking (although some of these cooling mechanisms would make a case w/a window look mighty pretty :D  ).
March 13, 2007 7:07:02 PM

I'd like to see some Micro-ATX suggestions in here. A lot of budget builders are college students (like me) who might like a gaming system that not only saves money but space too.

Give us people short on space some love?
March 13, 2007 8:29:49 PM

Much kudos to Sanji! Great guide. The detail is excellent.

A couple of comments: I am looking specifically at the $750 Budget Intel build, this is my budget on a build I did a couple months ago. Is the 3rd party CPU cooling necessary? I have a similar case to the one you suggest and find that it's cooling along with the retail HS and fan on my E6300 are quite sufficient for a decent overclock.

Also, is the power supply a little overkill? I have a FSP (Fortran source) 450 W and it could be had for $50 less.

Again, thanks for this great information.
March 13, 2007 9:26:46 PM

After looking at your Guide in more detail, I'd hate to be the only dissenter here, but I have to comment on a few things:

-For the life of me, I simply cannot fathom why you'd recommend an X2 3800 for 8800GTX's in SLI. WOW. I wouldn't barely recommend one GTX with a 3800. The 3800 is a bargain-basement CPU....and you pair it with the most kickA$$ graphics setup on the planet?!? I simply cannot fathom why. Not to mention that in order to take full advantage of GTX's in SLI, you need to be gaming on a 24" or 30" monitor....which will cost $700-$1200, plus or minus. Which means that the total cost of a system will be in the thousands of dollars, and such a person is gonna have an X2 3800?!? No offense, but there's something wrong there. That's like putting a Viper engine into a Hyundai. :?

-On a related note, when spending thousands of dollars on a system, why still using a Coolermaster 534? Why not spend $100 more, which represents a fraction of the total cost of the build and get something worthy of housing such a beast? Why not a Lian-Li, Antec, Silverstone, or even Thermaltake?? Again, putting hotrod components into a crappy shell. I'd hate to think how much HEAT that case is gonna generate with such massive power-hungry components. That Big Typhoon will just help re-circulate the hot air. I wouldn't even think about a $50 case or whatever for $2,000 worth of components....why take the risk? Not to mention aesthetics.....a person that is going to spend thousands on a system is likely the same person that wants to take some pride in how it looks. I know, I know....a case is subjective, but your Guide is somewhat misleading in this respect.

-Why only 1 gig of low-end RAM? 2 gigs should be the MINIMUM for a mid-range system. Anything $1,000 or more nowadays should have 2 gigs. What good is a dual core CPU and an 8800-series card with only 1 gig of RAM? And assuming some people are going to Vista, even more the reason for 2 gigs.....I know, I'm running that setup myself, and I can speak from experience. 1 gig, 2 gigs, 4 gigs....on both WinXP and Vista. Forget about performance with 1 gig....again, the hotrod example being bottlenecked.

-Lastly, why the distinct lack of options for the C2D systems? Why not a 6600, for example? You argue that an X2 3800 for 8800GTX's in SLI? A 6600 is the least that someone should consider. Now, before someone goes flaming me for calling anyone an AMD fanboy, let me be clear: I harbor no preference for either, I'm not loyal to either. I'm loyal to performance for price. And we can debate semantics, but I simply cannot fathom why you would recommend a Quad FX, which is simply beat handily by Intel, costs more money, chews up more power, has a HUGELY expensive motherboard, requires a vastly bigger power supply, and call it a good deal? No offense, but those are facts, not opinion. It is a proven fact that above a certain dollar amount, that C2D is THE way to go for performance, and yet they don't make an appearance? Very unusual, to say the least. Again, I cannot fathom recommending a Quad FX for a gaming rig. If your logic is to provide a *possible* Octo-core solution, who here needs quad, let alone octo? Workstation systems for high-end rendering and animation do, not gamers. I know, I've worked on them. So I'm not saying you're an AMD fanboy, I'm saying that proven fact seems to be missing here, and that is misleading to newbies who come here for advice. There are good reasons that Quad FX has been panned by just about everyone. Last thing I'd want to see is some new builder coming here, thinking that Quad FX is THE way to go for a gaming rig. Not in a million.

And on a related note, then why the crappy motherboards? Why not some good 965/650/680 boards that overclock and then SPANK the AMD offerings? Just the Gigabyte S3?? Yes, it's a good board, but there are alot more for different price ranges of systems. Again, I think it's somewhat misleading. For anyone so intereseted in spending alot of money on a system, chances are some of them (or most) would like some of the features of some good 775 mobos. And we all know that a 6600 OC'd to 3.6 is worthy of GTX's in SLI.....not an X2 3800. Really.

Well intentioned post. Excellent effort. Huge amounts of info. Well organized. Truly admirable. But misguided.


**Edited for typos/grammar.
March 13, 2007 11:01:28 PM

Quote:
Hey man, don't kill yourself on this ;)  You've done alot of work and that's great. If you have the time then fine :) 

One last thing........I'm no AMD or Intel fanboy....I've owned both. I'm a bang-for-the-buck and performance fanboy. So take this comment in the unbiased spirit with which I say it:

Take into account other factors that may influence a possible AMD vs Intel thing. Things like more expensive motherboards, dual HSF's and more noise for AMD Quad FX, etc. And also whether overclocking or not. I know it's very difficult, and I'm NOT slagging you, I'm simply saying that a number of people (esp. newbies) that read it aren't going to understand the nuances and pros/cons of doing an overclocked Opteron with a special board or whatever.........they may just say, "Can't I get a 4300 and 965 board with a GTS on the cheap?". So, I'm not knocking your info nor expertise, I'm saying to remember the target audience. I have difficulty recommending said Opteron system to a first-time builder who comes looking for simply advice for a gaming rig. We need to remember not everyone understands nor appreciates the differences.

So it's not an AMD vs Intel thing. It's a question of criteria and skill level for people. It's far easier to tell someone to just spend a bit more money and get a 4300 that can overclock to 3.0 without much effort than trying to explain how a 3600+ on AM2 might bottleneck and balanced against the cost per ghz of overclock, blah blah. I'm being slightly facetious of course, but I hope you understand my point: That alot of people are just looking for a good mainstream system at a cheaper price than what a pre-built would cost. They don't understand or care about the nuances. Some do, most don't. They just want advice for "What can I get for X dollars that doesn't suck?"

Lowest common denominator, as it were.......... :roll:


Quote:
I'm really curious as to what these categories would look like with stock hardware settings, as I myself is not interested in overclocking (although some of these cooling mechanisms would make a case w/a window look mighty pretty :D  ).


Stock builds tentatively set for 2 updates in the future. Once I get overclocking

Quote:
I'd like to see some Micro-ATX suggestions in here. A lot of budget builders are college students (like me) who might like a gaming system that not only saves money but space too.

Give us people short on space some love?


I'm no Micro-ATX expert, but I can do some research on it. Tentatively set to be updated with the stock builds.

Quote:
Much kudos to Sanji! Great guide. The detail is excellent.

A couple of comments: I am looking specifically at the $750 Budget Intel build, this is my budget on a build I did a couple months ago. Is the 3rd party CPU cooling necessary? I have a similar case to the one you suggest and find that it's cooling along with the retail HS and fan on my E6300 are quite sufficient for a decent overclock.

Also, is the power supply a little overkill? I have a FSP (Fortran source) 450 W and it could be had for $50 less.

Again, thanks for this great information.


Stock cooler MAY be sufficient, but I given the volts the E4300 gives off I'm suggesting a third party cooler.

PSU-wise, I'll be adding some alternatives in a big update.

Quote:
After looking at your Guide in more detail, I'd hate to be the only dissenter here, but I have to comment on a few things:

-For the life of me, I simply cannot fathom why you'd recommend an X2 3800 for 8800GTX's in SLI. WOW. I wouldn't barely recommend one GTX with a 3800. The 3800 is a bargain-basement CPU....and you pair it with the most kickA$$ graphics setup on the planet?!? I simply cannot fathom why. Not to mention that in order to take full advantage of GTX's in SLI, you need to be gaming on a 24" or 30" monitor....which will cost $700-$1200, plus or minus. Which means that the total cost of a system will be in the thousands of dollars, and such a person is gonna have an X2 3800?!? No offense, but there's something wrong there. That's like putting a Viper engine into a Hyundai.

Personally, I can't suggest one either. I'll remove it and leave the QuadFX build. You've brought up some great points. But, hey, who says a Viper engine in a Hyundai ain't cool?

-On a related note, when spending thousands of dollars on a system, why still using a Coolermaster 534? Why not spend $100 more, which represents a fraction of the total cost of the build and get something worthy of housing such a beast? Why not a Lian-Li, Antec, Silverstone, or even Thermaltake?? Again, putting hotrod components into a crappy shell. I'd hate to think how much HEAT that case is gonna generate with such massive power-hungry components. That Big Typhoon will just help re-circulate the hot air. I wouldn't even think about a $50 case or whatever for $2,000 worth of components....why take the risk? Not to mention aesthetics.....a person that is going to spend thousands on a system is likely the same person that wants to take some pride in how it looks. I know, I know....a case is subjective, but your Guide is somewhat misleading in this respect.

Case updates to come along with several other alternatives.

-Why only 1 gig of low-end RAM? 2 gigs should be the MINIMUM for a mid-range system. Anything $1,000 or more nowadays should have 2 gigs. What good is a dual core CPU and an 8800-series card with only 1 gig of RAM? And assuming some people are going to Vista, even more the reason for 2 gigs.....I know, I'm running that setup myself, and I can speak from experience. 1 gig, 2 gigs, 4 gigs....on both WinXP and Vista. Forget about performance with 1 gig....again, the hotrod example being bottlenecked.

Point noted. I've suggested taking 2 sticks rather than dual-channel. Dangers of it will be noted in next update. Check for the (x2) markings. :D .

With a litte optimizing, I can probably fit 2GB on the $750 C2D build...


-Lastly, why the distinct lack of options for the C2D systems? Why not a 6600, for example? You argue that an X2 3800 for 8800GTX's in SLI? A 6600 is the least that someone should consider. Now, before someone goes flaming me for calling anyone an AMD fanboy, let me be clear: I harbor no preference for either, I'm not loyal to either. I'm loyal to performance for price. And we can debate semantics, but I simply cannot fathom why you would recommend a Quad FX, which is simply beat handily by Intel, costs more money, chews up more power, has a HUGELY expensive motherboard, requires a vastly bigger power supply, and call it a good deal? No offense, but those are facts, not opinion. It is a proven fact that above a certain dollar amount, that C2D is THE way to go for performance, and yet they don't make an appearance? Very unusual, to say the least. Again, I cannot fathom recommending a Quad FX for a gaming rig. If your logic is to provide a *possible* Octo-core solution, who here needs quad, let alone octo? Workstation systems for high-end rendering and animation do, not gamers. I know, I've worked on them. So I'm not saying you're an AMD fanboy, I'm saying that proven fact seems to be missing here, and that is misleading to newbies who come here for advice. There are good reasons that Quad FX has been panned by just about everyone. Last thing I'd want to see is some new builder coming here, thinking that Quad FX is THE way to go for a gaming rig. Not in a million.

Intel builds coming in next update.

And on a related note, then why the crappy motherboards? Why not some good 965/650/680 boards that overclock and then SPANK the AMD offerings? Just the Gigabyte S3?? Yes, it's a good board, but there are alot more for different price ranges of systems. Again, I think it's somewhat misleading. For anyone so intereseted in spending alot of money on a system, chances are some of them (or most) would like some of the features of some good 775 mobos. And we all know that a 6600 OC'd to 3.6 is worthy of GTX's in SLI.....not an X2 3800. Really.

Alternatives options will be added next edition.

Well intentioned post. Excellent effort. Huge amounts of info. Well organized. Truly admirable. But misguided.

Same to you. Hope I'm not coming off sounding irritated. I've been looking for critisism like this. :) 

**Edited for typos/grammar.
March 14, 2007 12:26:48 AM

I appreciate your openness, I truly do. Kudos to you! No offense given, and none taken. I think this objective discussion will only lead to better options and quality advice for visitors to this forum.

So thank you for your hard work, but more importantly, your openness to constructive criticism.

I applaud your effort and attitude.
March 14, 2007 1:01:25 AM

Alright, here is how I'm looking at things.

Mar 14, 2007: $1000 & $2000 Intel builds completed. Reformatting of $500 completed.

Mar 15, 2007: Reformatting and alternate options for $1000, $1500 completed.

Mar 16, 2007: Reformatting and alternate options for $2000 completed. Stock $300 AMD and Intel builds started, possibly finished.

Mar 17, 2007: Stock $500, $750, $1000 builds started, hopefully completed. Micro ATX mobo research starting.

Mar 18, 2007: Stock $1000 and $1500 finished up. Prices updated (if changed.)

Mar 19, 2007: Stock $2000 finished. Micro ATX builds started.

Mar 20, 2007: Micro ATX builds continued.

Mar 21, 2007: Micro ATX builds completed.

Mar 22, 2007: Bask in light.

Mar 23-Apr 21: Occasional price updates and MIR updates. If AMD slashes prices then update to AMD builds.

Apr 22-Apr ?: Almost all builds reworked. Fun! :D 

Hopeful builds
$500, $750, $1000 (C2D based), $1500, $2000 Intel
$500, $750, $1000, $1500, $2000 AMD
$300, $500, $1000, $1500, $2000 Stock Intel
$300, $500, $1000, $1500, $2000 Stock AMD
$500, $1000, $1500, $2000 Micro-ATX Intel
$500, $1000, $1500, $2000 Micro-ATX AMD

Aye-yie-yie. 28 builds. Like I said, right now it is tentative. Micro-ATX may be assimilated into Intel and AMD. Stock Intel and AMD may be cut for just a simple stock category. Given my schedule I may take that path.

Thoughts?
March 14, 2007 1:46:36 AM

Your post rocks.
March 14, 2007 2:10:37 AM

Quote:
I appreciate your openness, I truly do. Kudos to you! No offense given, and none taken. I think this objective discussion will only lead to better options and quality advice for visitors to this forum.

So thank you for your hard work, but more importantly, your openness to constructive criticism.

I applaud your effort and attitude.


No problem. If I didn't take people's opinions seriously, then how could I really improve the article?

Quote:
Your post rocks.


Thanks! I hope it'll keep getting better too.
March 14, 2007 2:14:04 AM

H-O-L-Y C-R-A-P. 28 BUILDS??!?!?!?!?!

Maybe overkill? Dang.
March 14, 2007 3:18:06 AM

put together a $1k Intel system. You were right, just better choices of same basic system as $750 one. hope link works
$1 K Intel system
March 14, 2007 3:58:45 AM

Quote:
Really nice thread. This really needs to be a sticky. Also I know from experience about the 3600+ and its overclocking potential as you can see from my current rig. For AMD it is the best price/performance chip there is.


Yup. Great overclocker, dual core, cheap price.

Quote:
put together a $1k Intel system. You were right, just better choices of same basic system as $750 one. hope link works
$1 K Intel system


I can't get the link to work, but then again I don't have a NewEgg account... yet.

Quote:
H-O-L-Y C-R-A-P. 28 BUILDS??!?!?!?!?!

Maybe overkill? Dang.


Really? I was thinking maybe I could up it to 45!

Haha, seriously though, I'm trying to cut it to 15-20 builds. It's more reasonable.
March 14, 2007 10:52:59 PM

Sorry for double post, but I added a $1000 Intel build (with the amazing possibility of the E6600 :p ) and revamped the entire GPU part of the guide. I'll try and put together 3 Micro-ATX AMD builds and a $2000 Intel build within the day.
March 15, 2007 1:46:27 AM

Once again Sanji,

Thank you so much for time for putting this Guide together we all really appreciate it keep up the good work and keep those guides coming.
March 15, 2007 8:21:46 AM

Sanji, as good as this thread is and still getting better; it will make a great web site. Then you can use anchors to link the different topics and go right to the ones you want. The other topics are good enough to stand alone and all of it is good information. A sticky would be nice in the meantime. :lol: 
March 15, 2007 11:56:59 PM

Added about 4 new builds.

Added a monster case section.

Any comments?
March 16, 2007 12:42:49 AM

I am confused about the different processors. You say
Quote:
Why the E4300 again and not the E6300/E6400/E6600? The E6400 and E6300 hvae become Allendale's, and their OC has been impaired.
Are there two types of e6300 and e6400? Newegg lists them as Conroes, but Intel has them twice, with different cache and stepping rates. More later as I read the new parts.
March 16, 2007 3:16:46 AM

Quote:
I am confused about the different processors. You sayWhy the E4300 again and not the E6300/E6400/E6600? The E6400 and E6300 hvae become Allendale's, and their OC has been impaired.
Are there two types of e6300 and e6400? Newegg lists them as Conroes, but Intel has them twice, with different cache and stepping rates. More later as I read the new parts.

In short...

L2 = Allendale
B2 = Conroe
Conroe overclocks better
Allendale runs cooler and eats less power
March 16, 2007 5:29:36 AM

So Newegg is all wrong 8O It lists 4 conroe and 1 allendale but all of them have L2 Caches.
March 16, 2007 2:48:47 PM

great post, 1 comment... the $1000 e4300 rig is supposed to have a future upgrade path to quad... don't we need a mobo that can support 1333FSB. The Q3 price cuts are on many chips in the 1333 range.

It's still not clear to me if the Quad 6600 for $266 is going to be 1333 or 1000. I'd rather have the option to do either.

I think the mobo you have listed only supports 1000/800
March 16, 2007 3:03:23 PM

I got B2 stepping, I'm so happy :D 

Upgrade to quad on a 1066....like the Giga S3 board.....no 1333 there but the current quads only need 1066. So it's quad-upgradeable with current quads on the market....which should drop in price later this year by all logic.........
March 16, 2007 10:45:45 PM

Excellent job, I believe that this guide will turn out to be a great reference for those buying new systems. I too love researching which combinations of hardware are the best value and I have a few suggestions now. I'll read it more throughly later.

I don't think its necessary to have an Intel AND an AMD build for every price point. There's no need to appease the fanboys of either side, whichever build is better should stay, the other should go.

At the $1000 price point, the AMD build is inferior to the Intel one. The x3800 somewhat bottlenecks the video card. Look here:

http://firingsquad.com/hardware/geforce_8800_gtx_gts_am...

Quote:
although those of you with X2 3800+ and X2 4200+ chips in particular will want to look closely over our results as there are definitely cases where the GTS is CPU-bound with your CPU... In fact if you’ve got an X2 3800+ running at stock speeds, there’s no point in upgrading to a GeForce 8800 GTX, as there were often cases where the 3800+/8800 GTX combination were outrun by the 8800 GTS and a faster CPU like the 4200+ or 4600+.


The large decrease in CPU performance isn't worth it just to get 640mb of video memory instead of 320mb in my opinion.
March 16, 2007 11:37:03 PM

Quote:
great post, 1 comment... the $1000 e4300 rig is supposed to have a future upgrade path to quad... don't we need a mobo that can support 1333FSB. The Q3 price cuts are on many chips in the 1333 range.

It's still not clear to me if the Quad 6600 for $266 is going to be 1333 or 1000. I'd rather have the option to do either.

I think the mobo you have listed only supports 1000/800


Rev 3.3 supports 1333 fsb :D 

Quote:
Excellent job, I believe that this guide will turn out to be a great reference for those buying new systems. I too love researching which combinations of hardware are the best value and I have a few suggestions now. I'll read it more throughly later.

I don't think its necessary to have an Intel AND an AMD build for every price point. There's no need to appease the fanboys of either side, whichever build is better should stay, the other should go.

At the $1000 price point, the AMD build is inferior to the Intel one. The x3800 somewhat bottlenecks the video card. Look here:

http://firingsquad.com/hardware/geforce_8800_gtx_gts_am...

although those of you with X2 3800+ and X2 4200+ chips in particular will want to look closely over our results as there are definitely cases where the GTS is CPU-bound with your CPU... In fact if you’ve got an X2 3800+ running at stock speeds, there’s no point in upgrading to a GeForce 8800 GTX, as there were often cases where the 3800+/8800 GTX combination were outrun by the 8800 GTS and a faster CPU like the 4200+ or 4600+.


The large decrease in CPU performance isn't worth it just to get 640mb of video memory instead of 320mb in my opinion.

Luckily, the X2 3800 can be overclocked to beyond X2 5000+ stock speeds. If I was running a stock build, AMD would have trouble competing past the budget segment.
March 17, 2007 4:51:46 AM

Heres my few cents:

For DVD burners i heard lightscribe was good. Heres one to look at.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

Also you should put up suggestions for seagate Barracuda. Perpendicular recording seems a little faster but i heard WD is quieter.

I also would have recommended OCZ PLAT REV2 but it had seem they upped the prices. -.-

Also for cases i would add COOLER MASTER Centurion 534 ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $50. I would also suggest local pickup for best bang for the buck since shipping is hell on cases.
March 17, 2007 4:58:15 AM

I am not so sure about the light scribe DVD.; It is slow and the media is high priced. People like them as they do make for easy labelng, but I tend to make temporary disks so why label them?
March 17, 2007 4:23:01 PM

Superb job, I appreciate the effort you have put into this. Good choices on hardware as well.
March 17, 2007 4:44:24 PM

Quote:
Superb job, I appreciate the effort you have put into this. Good choices on hardware as well.


Thanks! I guess I'll have to start up my M-ATX and Stock builds soon... bleh. :p 
March 18, 2007 9:37:48 PM

Sanji,

Thank you for the awesome guide! You've already spent enough of your time putting it together; however, I was hoping to pick your (and anyone else's) brains on my current setup and see what you thought was worth salvaging, if anything:

ANTEC P-160 ATX case
AMD Athlon 2500 XP 2500+
ASUS A7N8X deluxe motherboard
nVidia GeForce 6200 graphics card
2 x WD800JB 80GB hard drives
1 GB Kingston ram (As I recall)

I built this system in 2003, but haven't much kept up with developments since then. I fully admit to being a noob, though I have built a few systems over the years. Your guide is a godsend, but it leaves me with some specific questions I would love your input on:

1. What build options do I have if I want to save the case with its ATX orientation? After a little reasearch, I was able to determine it is the P-160 case. I realize the case is a small part overall, but wondering if I went with an ATX orientation, whether I should keep the case.
2. I noticed when looking at new graphics cards, that they fit in a slot I don't have on my motherboard. If I recall it is the PSI-e slot or something similar. So, I am assuming new motherboard here.
3. I already have the 2 x 80 GB WD drives.... And I would probably be looking for a RAID array with the new machine. Would it make sense to get 3 more WD 80 GB drives (if they are even made any more) and give myself a 5 disk RAID array since I already have 2? I know storage is dirt cheap, just trying to conserve where it is reasonable to do so.
4. The point of this machine is 90% gaming and 10% work from home. I have a Viewsonic VX2235vm monitor and thinking about adding a second one. I don't play quake or any of the 1 person shooter types. I am more of a RPG type, Total War, Diablo, Civ, etc.
5. I haven't explored much with overclocking, but would enjoy the opportunity to try it out.
6. My sound card is fo shizzle, so that, along with the severely limited graphics card, is enough for me to want to build an entirely new system.

I would love your thoughts on this and will probably also reply to your post to get others' thoughts. I am happy to spend between 1K and 1.5K $. Thanks again for your guide!

Vlad
!