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Graphics Card and Hard Drive

System Builder Marathon: $500 Gaming PC

Graphics Card : PNY VCG88512GXEB-FLB GeForce 8800 GT 512MB

A good chunk of the budget for any serious gaming box needs to go toward a powerful GPU. High-end video cards alone often cost more than our entire system, and some cutting-edge systems contain two or more of these cards. Our $500 machine isn’t going to challenge these systems, especially when it comes to maximum details, high resolutions, and high levels of FSAA. But thankfully, we have been seeing some incredible pricing on capable mainstream gaming cards for months that can indeed offer excellent gaming on a tight budget.

One such card is the AMD Radeon HD 4850. Although it was out of reach for this system, we can thank its arrival for lowering prices of other very good video cards such as the PNY 512 MB GeForce 8800 GT. It is a reference-clocked card with a single-slot cooler, and a fine choice for gaming on a limited budget.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider it was just about one year ago when this first of a long line of G92 based cards broke onto the scene. It easily beat out the more expensive G80-based 640 MB 8800 GTS, and street prices were often well above the original suggested $250 retail price. Looking at current prices, the 8800 GT and its near identical twin the 9800 GT are available for just over $100, making either card an excellent buy for the budget-minded gamer.

Hard Drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3400620AS 400GB

A budget of $500 didn’t force us to decide between performance and capacity in choosing a hard drive. This 400 GB Seagate has plenty of storage space for a gaming system and even most users’ needs. But it is also fast and quiet, and has a 16 MB cache buffer in addition to the added bonus of being backed by Seagate’s reliability and five-year warranty.

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