Graphics Card: EVGA 8800GTX
Nvidia continues its graphics dominance as grass grows around the feet of ATI fans who are still waiting for the next new thing. Our expanded budget allows an upgrade to the aging 8800GTX from the similar-vintage 8800GTS of our previous mid-priced build.
Nvidia has no reason to lower its upper-range graphics processor prices as long as ATI's product portfolio continues to languish, so the antiquated 8800GTX still costs more than $500. Fortunately, other parts of this build have dropped enough in price to accommodate the upgrade: we found EVGA's part number 768-P2-N831-AR available for around $520.
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD5000YS
Another part retained from our previous mid-priced build, Western Digital's Caviar RE2 WD5000YS still offers the same great performance for which it was previously chosen.
This "RAID Edition" drive also performs splendidly as a single drive, but it's been slow to drop in price. Quicker access and load times compared to standard desktop parts, an enhanced 5-year warranty, and an advertised mean-time between failures of 1.2 million hours have helped to keep it on our list, but it may soon be dropped if its price doesn't begin to reflect the model's age.
As with our previous System Builder Marathon, we again must remind readers that RE2 drives have Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER) enabled by default. TLER prevents the drive from dropping out of a RAID array during error recovery, by limiting internal recovery time to seven seconds, but may cause data loss during longer recoveries when used with a non fault-tolerant controller. Available upon request from concerned buyers, Western Digital's WDTLER utility allows you to enable and disable the TLER feature. This is such a common concern that we'd hoped Western Digital would simply put the utility on its site.