Mid-Range Gaming: $1000
The mid-range PC is probably the most versatile of our builds. It retains fiscally sense, while also giving an upgrade path for the future hardware releases. The mid-range PC will run games at medium to high settings with moderate levels of both anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16Ghz Wolfdale||$187.99|
|Video Card||Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 1GB 100259-1GL||$224.99|
|Memory||G.Skill 4GB(2x2GB) DDR2 1100||$79.99|
|Hard Drive||Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB 7200RPM SATAII||$94.99|
|Optical||Lite-On 20X DVD+R SATA iHAS120-04||$22.99|
|Power Supply||FSP Power Mod 700W||$129.99|
|Case||NZXT Tempest Mid-Tower||$109.99|
When your budget doubles, you will find yourself in the territory where most of us currently reside: the mid-range. To start, we recommend the Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale running at 3.16Ghz. Supporting a 1333Mhz front side bus, the E8500 gives the perfect ratio of price to performance. As the Core 2 line loves as much CPU cache as it can get, the 6MB of level 2 cache the E8500 sports is enough to keep the processor properly fed with data and prevent a bottleneck in the system.
Again, the recent price cuts by ATI puts their Radeon line slightly ahead of Nvidia with the 4870 1GB by Sapphire. The Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 features reference core, memory, and shader clocks, but it also sports 1GB's of memory making it tops in its price bracket. Extra video memory comes in handy when running higher resolutions, above 1600x1200, as well as when running high levels of anti-aliasing (8xAA) and anisotropic filtering.
We paired our Core 2 Duo CPU with the GA-EP45T-UD3P, a P45-based motherboard from Gigabyte, and a 4GB memory kit from G.Skill rated at 1100Mhz. The EP45T-UD3P also features a second x16 PCIe slot with CrossFireX support, giving you the option of adding an additional 4870 down the road extending the life of your rig. While the EP45T-UD3P also supports DDR2 speeds up to a 1333Mhz standard, memory manufacturers have been slow to release DDR2 modules rated above 1066Mhz. Even when they do later this year, the prices will most likely prohibit their usage in a mid-range system at this time.
We were able to get a 1TB Spinpoint drive from Samsung thanks to our increased budget, as well as a slightly bumped power supply from FSP at 700W. Our case is the excellent mid-tower Tempest from NZXT. We reviewed this case back in September and awarded it an Editor's Choice for its wonderful cooling, functionality, and low noise properties. At $109 dollars, it's practically a steal and one of the best cases at not only its price point, but in the mid-tower class.
You can get the 500GB Spinpoint featured in our entry level for $70, giving you a decent sized operating system drive in addition to a 1TB storage drive. Also, you could step up to the Quad Core Q8300 2.5Ghz for additional $2, although you only really gain performance if the applications you are running can take advantage of a quad core CPU. Right now, quad core applications are limited to a select few games, like Supreme Commander, and multimedia applications like Photoshop CS4. However, you save yourself upgrades later on as quad core becomes more prevalent with future game releases.
On the graphics end, the GeForce GTX 260 is an excellent alternative to the Radeon 4870, particularly if you're going to game with 4xAA. This is where NVIDIA's card excels in comparison to the Radeon.