Before we start, I would like to state that this "article" started out as a short blog a couple of days ago about component choices I selected based on price/performance, and it ended up becoming this multi-page story written in blog form. My apologies upfront for anyone offended by the first person writing style, but providing additional content to the original subject matter sounded like a good idea. So let's see what I purchased before we move on to how well the selected components work in our next article, one that will be more formal.

I recently decided to upgrade a couple of computers in the household. Both upgrades come out of necessity as each machine was nearing the end of its lifecycle and each one started to develop ghost in the machine behavioral patterns. One is my general workstation that more or less serves as a jack-of-all-trades system and the other is my youngest daughter's personal computer that serves as the hub of her communication universe.

Her vast communication universe consists of all the popular instant messaging programs that keep her in constant contact and communication with dozens of friends who always seem to be online even when they are traveling or playing outside. Of course, constant visits to MySpace and other online communities are of upmost priority as is the ability to update her school's website since she is part of the Web Team responsible for it. Just the normal daily life for a ten year old who apparently needs at least a 24" monitor just to keep track of the thirty or so open windows at any given time.

It is certainly different times now compared to when I was growing up. I used to think attaching kite string between two paper cups qualified as a major means of communication with my friends next door when growing up. Yes, the invention of the walkie-talkie had already occurred - and probably fire now that I think about it. However, trying to get the string/cup combination to work as well as that old issue of Popular Science said it would was a real challenge, as was not trying to blow up the garage again.

Getting back to the original task, I had an $850 budget allocated for each system, with a little leeway since I was expecting a three-year cycle for each platform. Of course, I already had in mind that both platforms would be easily upgradable to extend their lifespan a little longer if required. We generally adhere to a very strict budget in our household and this was going to be one of those major expenses for the year so the leeway was not that much.

Fortunately, I had bought new monitors for each of us last year so that major expense was out of the way. We both upgraded from first generation Acer 22" LCD panels (Ed: wonder what the parents will get for Christmas this year…) to the Gateway 24" FHD2400 we recently reviewed. I ended up purchasing a couple of under 30 day open box returns for $279 each, a major expense yes, but about $200 less than street price along with a new warranty.

At this point, I like to quip with the wife that you have to spend money to save money. However, I have to admit that finding a bargain is of upmost importance when spending my own money on computer equipment. You might find that statement perplexing considering the website I work for, but there is rarely an opportunity to utilize products we review. When that opportunity does strike, I like to use my lab pass to score components for my son's gaming habits.

As such, hunting for bargains online and at local stores like Frys' - along with trading components with friends just as obsessive about computers - is the standard operating procedure. Still, I have to admit that just ordering components from an e-tailor like Newegg, NCIXUS, or several other sites is sometimes the quickest method I utilize when time is not on my side.

I had also secured a couple of SilverStone SG03 cases from a distributor that was going out of business for a price I am embarrassed to print. Like most users, space is an issue so going smaller on the case was going to help reduce clutter in both rooms by replacing a couple of custom Lian Li cases I had built during the case mod craze a few years ago. They looked spectacular at the time, but now they seem to be completely out of place. (My daughter covers hers up with a small blanket when friends are over.) In fact, even visitors to the house seem quietly offended by them. It's kind of like when old "Uncle Burt" comes over and tries the "pull my finger" trick on our kids who no longer find it amusing.

Memory and Power Supplies
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  • jay401 - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Gary - where can I read more about this card being cancelled? I wasn't aware it was cancelled and didn't see any news to that effect anywhere but sure enough it's no longer listed on Auzentech's products page. Thanks.
  • Badkarma - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Hi Gary,

    Have you heard anything from Nvidia as to why 5.1 LPCM via HDMI has been removed? Also, have you seen the posts on AVS stating that a Phenom is required to get BD playback? Do you know if Nvidia will be updating their drivers to allow X2 cpu's to playback properly?

  • royalcrown - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Nice build, but I think you should have shopped more carefully for your video cards...">

    I got this ECS 8800 gts for 159.00 ( I asked for $10 off because it went up by ten.)

    It would give you an average of 10 percent over the 8800gt for free and dump the heat outside the case, so maybe cooler even; most certainly it would kick the crap out of that radeon.

    Don't be in a hurry next time when you buy video cards ;)

    FYI- I am running mine on a 450 watt kingwin w no probs...
  • masouth - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Do people bother to actually READ these articles before posting?

    This looks like a great deal but it seems fairly clear to me that he wants a single slot cooler.

  • FITCamaro - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    I just bought two of those cards for my system. Terrific value at that price. I replaced the cooler though with a Accelero S1 Rev. 2 w/ the turbo fan. Extremely quiet. Haven't seen temps yet though cause I only just got Vista loaded late last night. I was going for a near silent gaming system. Went with those coolers, a Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, and 4 16db 54cfm 120mm fans(3 case, 1 cpu cooler). With the case open I barely hear everything.
  • autoboy - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    My favorite cheap cooler is the Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 (or 64 if you want a 3 pin fan). You can find it for around $10-$13, and it is much quieter than the stock fans you get with the processor. They are not the greatest coolers for high heat processors, but for anything less than 65W with some fan control they are inaudible even in completely silent computers. I use them in all my regular builds except for my gaming rigs that see overclocking. I cannot recommend them enough and everyone that uses them (in 65W and lower rigs) loves them. I put one on a 95W Athlon at one time, and while the fan had to ramp up to where you could hear it, it was still much quieter than stock coolers and cooled the processor enough to keep it under 60C which is my cutoff.
  • bauser - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Interesting read, especially because I just built 3 mATX systems in a row. Total cost varied from $800 to $1000 CDN for each system. The tradeoff for the lower end system was the lack of a video card and sound card. Some savings were offset by the need for keyboard/mouse (at this price range 20 bucks makes a big difference).

    Your findings highlight that sacrifices must be made to save money. In this price range, every decision you make will have a cost/benefit consideration. Personally, I'd sacrifice the sound card and 5.1 speaker system and spend the extra dough on a better processor (E8400, Q6600) and motherboard. I'd also go for an 8800GT over the ATI. Good stuff, looking forward to part 2.
  • BPB - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    "I had bought new monitors for each of us last year so that major expense was out of the way. We both upgraded from first generation Acer 22" LCD panels (Ed: wonder what the parents will get for Christmas this year…) to the Gateway 24" FHD2400 we recently reviewed. I ended up purchasing a couple of under 30 day open box returns for $279 each, a major expense yes, but about $200 less than street price along with a new warranty."

    How the heck did you get two open box Gateways? I'd love to do the same.
  • poohbear - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    the AMD 4850E is relatively overclockable compared to a e7200? it wouldn't provide anywhere near the same overclock as an e7200. just fyi.
  • Lightingguy - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - link

    Good article! But as a builder of mid-range systems for friends and family, I've got to point out that your budgets/actual expenses don't include entries for the OS. While I'm sure that you can get a good deal given your connections, that is a major budget item for those of us out here who don't want to use a Linux release.

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