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Build Your Own: Introducing Tom's Hardware's BestConfigs!

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 115 comments

Welcome to a new feature we call BestConfigs, where you can find recommended parts for office PCs, gaming rigs, a workstation, or a home theater setup. If you're so inclined, feel free to chip in with suggestions for next month's recommendations, too!

Picking the parts for your next system build just got a little easier…

Every quarter, Tom’s Hardware gives you its System Builder Marathon, which pits three of our authors at three different price points in a friendly little competition to demonstrate to you, our readers who generally don’t mind tweaking your systems for extra performance, the best possible value for your money (and then we give the computers away). In case you missed it, December’s series can be found here:

$700 Gaming PC
$1,300 Enthusiast PC
$2,500 Performance PC
System Value Compared

While this is always quite a bit of fun for us, it really focuses on gaming, and then only at three different prices. But there are oh-so-many other ways we use our systems, aren’t there?

That’s where our new section, which we call BestConfigs, comes into play. I’ve set up nine different configurations right off the bat, each with a parts list needed to build the machine in question.

AMD-Based Office PC

Intel-Based Office PC

High-End Workstation

Budget Intel-Based Gaming PC

Budget AMD-Based Gaming PC

Home Theater PC

MicroATX Gaming Build

High-End Intel Gaming PC

High-End AMD Gaming PC

For as many of the items going into each of these builds, we’ve linked you to our PriceGrabber shopping engine to help you find the best possible deals as you compile your parts list. For the items that aren’t well-represented in the engine, we pulled the prices from NewEgg.

Now, here's where it gets fun. We’ve parted out each of these systems based on our own experiences with the hardware. As a starting point, they’re solid builds any of us would be happy to own. But you have your own experiences and recommendations. So, each month, we’ll go through your feedback on this page and alter each of the builds as necessary. If another is warranted, we’ll consider the pieces and add the components. If you want to see peripherals or displays, we’ll work that out as well.

For the time being, enjoy the first edition of our BestConfigs and feel free to contribute your own ideas for whichever builds are most applicable to your own needs!

Chris Angelini
Managing Editor, Tom’s Hardware

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 21, 2010 5:20 PM
    ...sorry for triple post, but why is budget amd build have a dual core where as the budget intel has a i5??? there is a $100 difference, enough to throw in a phenom II 965...
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 21, 2010 5:15 PM
    Brilliant idea, maybe this will remove a little clutter from the forums
  • 7 Hide
    rodney_ws , January 21, 2010 5:17 PM
    Nah... I wouldn't count on that. Stickies don't work there... so why are you expecting anything different with this?
  • 9 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 21, 2010 5:17 PM
    Sorry for double post, but maybe you should include Windows 7 in those... and newegg combos really cut down prices, so that can be used for future builds, IMO
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , January 21, 2010 5:20 PM
    eklipz330Sorry for double post, but maybe you should include Windows 7 in those... and newegg combos really cut down prices, so that can be used for future builds, IMO


    Thanks for the feedback eklipz--an optional operating system at the bottom is certainly do-able, especially on the gaming builds which are probably going to be running 7.
  • 14 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 21, 2010 5:20 PM
    ...sorry for triple post, but why is budget amd build have a dual core where as the budget intel has a i5??? there is a $100 difference, enough to throw in a phenom II 965...
  • 4 Hide
    thepetey , January 21, 2010 5:29 PM
    MicroATX Gaming Build Configuration priced at $1337 ... no way that is chance
  • 7 Hide
    killerclick , January 21, 2010 5:31 PM
    A "budget" gaming PC with 2 x 1TB drives and 2 graphics cards?? You know that there is a limit to how many FPS the human eye can see? These recommendations contradict those in "Best Graphics For The Money" articles in that a single GPU solution is now considered sub-budget.
  • 5 Hide
    noob2222 , January 21, 2010 5:36 PM
    Lol, HTPC, 5750, SSD, .... can you say overkill. how many movies are you going to store on that ssd?
  • 6 Hide
    Ho0d1um , January 21, 2010 5:40 PM
    killerclickA "budget" gaming PC with 2 x 1TB drives and 2 graphics cards?? You know that there is a limit to how many FPS the human eye can see? These recommendations contradict those in "Best Graphics For The Money" articles in that a single GPU solution is now considered sub-budget.

    I completely agree. 1TB is enough storage for a "budget" system and the 5000 series cards can give you a little future proofing.
  • 4 Hide
    jonpaul37 , January 21, 2010 5:41 PM
    wow people easy with the harshness, you don't have to be dicks about EVERYTHING, just make a suggestion instead of complaining, it'll be less stressful for all of us, thank you, drive thru!
  • -1 Hide
    jonpaul37 , January 21, 2010 5:43 PM
    on that note, may i suggest putting a limit on the respective builds, like $1,000.00 for the HTPC and $2,000.00 for the High-end builds, & so on & so forth...
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , January 21, 2010 5:45 PM
    noob2222Lol, HTPC, 5750, SSD, .... can you say overkill. how many movies are you going to store on that ssd?


    None--I use a 4TB media server for that, which handles BR images with ease! The HTPC, ideally, should just be your interface, IMO.
  • 6 Hide
    Computer_Lots , January 21, 2010 5:48 PM
    I have 3 beefs so far. For a budget office build, go with a case / power supply combo. The Antec NSK 4480 series with the built-in 380w 80 plus power supply can be found for around $80. That's cheaper than the case you have listed without the power supply and it's a very decent case. I've built plenty of office-oriented systems using this case and it looks pretty good.
    2nd beef... Go with 2GB of RAM instead of 4. I know that 4GB would be nice but RAM is really overpriced right now and the average office user won't see the difference, especially if you go with a 32-bit OS.
    3rd beef... Plextor is overrated and unnecessary these days, especially for an office PC. People just don't use the optical drive like they used to since everything is available online and storage is in the form of USB devices. You can get a nice Lite-On which is pretty much the same drive with a different box for less money.

    Here's the skinny...
    Your Case, PS, RAM, DVD drive combo total = $280
    My suggestions...
    Case + PS= $100 ($80 + shipping)
    RAM = $43
    DVD Drive = $27

    My Total = $170
    Savings = $110
  • 1 Hide
    carpwrist , January 21, 2010 5:55 PM
    I like that the MicroATX total is: $1,337

    I see what you did there.
  • 3 Hide
    eaclou , January 21, 2010 5:58 PM
    For the high-end workstation, I understand why you chose a workstation graphics card, but as someone who does a good amount of 3D development, I really can't recommend a quadro or firepro just because of how horrible a value they are.

    The markups are extreme compared to the exact same hardware gaming equivalent.

    a 5870 would likely run faster, despite the special workstation-class drivers, and still cost way less.
  • 4 Hide
    sandmanwn , January 21, 2010 6:01 PM
    A 1TB HDD and a DVD burner are definitely not necessary for your standard office machines.

    250GB HDD and a DVD reader over the course of a few hundred office machines will save a company thousands. In most office machines an 80GB OS drive is all that is needed because there is usually a file server anyway.

    You can take the spare change and beef up machines that actually need it like IT.
  • 1 Hide
    dndhatcher , January 21, 2010 6:03 PM
    I think this is a great idea.

    Is there a forum thread somewhere to post our ideas for changes or is this the place to do it?

    I agree with most of what Computer_Lots is saying. Antec NSK case/PSU combos, cheaper DVD burners (who needs lightscribe on every office PC?) or just DVD readers.

    Single HDDs on bargain machines. Is hitachi up to 500GB platters yet? If not why not switch to the Samsung F3?

    I dont believe you can really get a 5750 for $100, maybe a 5670.

    I dont like the "budget" gamer build with twin 512MB 4850s. Going with a single 4890 or 5770 lets you save money on the case and PSU. Also an antec 900 as a budget case? I think an Antec 200 or 300 are more appropriate for budget gaming builds.
  • 3 Hide
    dupaman , January 21, 2010 6:03 PM
    Hahaha, a 750W PSU recommendation for a single GPU "budget" gaming system. Get a power meter and you'll see that that kind of setup will never go over 250W even if moderately overclocked. The same Earthwatts 430 as the office systems would have been better suited.
    Also, the HTPC would be better off using the H55/57 rather than the 5750 unless this is a GAMING HTPC. Maybe you should add the provision that if you don't have a dedicated home server, tossing in a 1-1.5TB drive for storage would be a good idea.
  • 5 Hide
    dndhatcher , January 21, 2010 6:07 PM
    It would be nice to do this in a forum thread so we could edit.

    I also dont think the normal HTPC builder wants to build a separate media server. That defeats the purpose of a cheap HTPC machine.
  • 1 Hide
    dupaman , January 21, 2010 6:07 PM
    Oops, I think I was looking at the wrong page for that one. Why would you recommend 2 older, hotter and less efficient vid cards for a budget system? It should have something like a 5850 :S
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