Summer 2009 Buyer’s Guide
The PC landscape has changed considerably since our last PC buyers guide was published in February. Both AMD and Intel have introduced a slew of new processors, while the GPU wars between ATI and NVIDIA intensified with the introduction of the Radeon 4890 and NVIDIA's counter: the GeForce GTX 275 GPU.
In more recent weeks, ATI has also cut prices on their Radeon 4800 line of GPUs in an effort to take share away from NVIDIA. The move also helps them unload old inventory ahead of the introduction of the first DirectX 11 GPUs in the next 2-3 months. Unwilling to concede anything to the competition, NVIDIA countered ATI with price reductions of their own shortly thereafter. The tit-for-tat battle between both IHVs shows no signs of slowing even as we head into the summer doldrums.
As a result of these developments, the insanely low prices hardware enthusiasts have enjoyed as a result of the economic downturn have only gotten lower. Remember the days when gamers longed for the return of the $300 high-end graphics card? Today you can find Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 275 boards selling for less than $200 after mail-in rebate.
On the CPU side, prices on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600 have remained flat, but the introduction of the Core 2 Quad Q8400 and Core 2 Duo E7400 have made things interesting for the Intel enthusiast on a budget. And AMD’s Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition is the best CPU on the market right now if you’ve only got $100 to spend on a new processor.
Things are going to get even more interesting when Intel rolls out their new Lynnfield processors, which will reportedly take place in early September.
Not everyone can wait for Lynnfield and the arrival of the first DirectX 11 GPUs however. Some of you have to make a decision before the middle of August, when it’s time to go back to campus for school. With this in mind, we’ve prepared a fresh new summer upgrade guide for you. This new guide also includes some of the feedback we received from Yoshi, and as a result, we’ll now be including AMD and Intel builds.
Before we get started though, a few quick pointers. As always when building a new computer, the first question you have to ask yourself (besides price) is what you intend to do with the computer. A gaming PC has very different needs than a home theater PC, or a PC that will primarily be used for surfing the web.
Since we’re a gaming-oriented site, our focus will obviously be on gaming PCs. Every gaming PC needs a good graphics card. It’s also important that you pair it with a competent CPU. You don’t want to blow too much of your budget on any one component; especially when it comes to components that won’t affect your frame rate or compromise the stability/reliability of the system. Therefore if you’re on a tight budget, you may have to skimp a little on parts like the case, or settle for a smaller hard drive capacity.
An even better solution would be to recycle as many parts as you can from your current system so that you can splurge on better components for your upgrade: if forgoing a new case gives you the money to step up to a Radeon 4890 or GeForce GTX 275, by all means do it.
As always with these upgrade guides, our prices are coming from Newegg, which is one of the most popular etailers online among enthusiasts right now. To keep things simple, we’re also going to be taking prices before mail-in rebate.