Bang For Your Buck: Six Gaming PCs Explored

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You're stuffed full of turkey, you somehow managed to erect a Christmas tree (or not), and you're still recovering from Black Friday. Without a doubt, you've had one whirlwind of a holiday. But before you get too comfortable in that chair of yours, we should probably remind you that the gift giving day(s) you've all been waiting for is only a few weeks away. If you've been thinking of replacing that aging gaming rig of yours with something a bit more powerful as a gift to yourself (so to speak), we've rounded up a few solid options in varying price ranges that just might fit the bill. Oh, and you don't even have to get off of that sofa you're planted on to assemble these!



The Lower-End:

Let's face it: any true "gaming PC" won't be cheap. You can snag a nettop with an Atom CPU and an integrated GPU for a song, but you won't be playing Crysis or any other demanding title on it without shelling out at least a few bills. That said, you don't have to go broke if you want some decent framerates, so here are two configurable options that are sure to bring smiles without requiring a second mortgage.

iBuyPower Black Mage - Total As Priced: $496


  • NZXT Gamma Gaming Mid Tower Case
  • AMD Athlon II X2 240 Dual-Core CPU
  • 4GB (2GBx2) Corsair DDR2-800 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 240 (1GB) GPU
  • Asus M3A78-CM motherboard
  • 450W power supply
  • 320GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 22x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 12-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Ethernet
  • No Operating System Pre-Loaded
Recommended Upgrades:
  • AMD Athlon II X4 620 Quad-Core CPU: +$50
  • ATI Radeon HD 5750 (1GB; DirectX 11 support): +$48
  • 1TB 7200rpm Hard Drive: +$35
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit): +$104

iBuyPower Gamer Paladin E720 - Total As Priced: $826


  • iBuyPower Vantage Tower (with Halo 2 side window)
  • Intel Quad-Core Core i5 750 CPU (2.66GHz)
  • 4GB (2GBx2) Corsair DDR3-1333 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 240 (1GB) GPU
  • AsusP7P55D LE motherboard
  • 450W power supply
  • 500GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 22x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 12-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Ethernet
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Recommended Upgrades:
  • ATI Radeon HD 5750 (1GB): +$53
  • 8GB of DDR3-1333 RAM: +$135
  • Intel Core i7 860 Processor: +$95

Needless to say, these builds are subject to change in price at any time, and you can certainly add upgrades here and there that fit within your budget, but we feel these components provide the best bang for one's buck at the lower-end.

At The Mid-Range:


Stepping up to the mid-range, you'll find faster CPUs, more potent GPUs and generally more of everything--including a larger asking price. Here are two well-rounded options for those looking to splurge but still be able to save themselves from getting the "doghouse treatment." We're also tossing in a powerful SFF rig here for those looking for a gaming PC / HTPC hybrid. It's the perfect box to ditch your cable service for.

CyberPower Gamer Xtreme 3000 - Total As Priced: $980


  • NZXT Beta Gaming Mid-Tower Case
  • Intel Core i7-860 2.80 GHz  CPU (2.80GHz)
  • 4GB (2GBx2) Corsair DDR3-1333 RAM
  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR5 (DirectX 11 support) GPU
  • Asus P7P55D LE motherboard
  • 700W power supply
  • 1TB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 22x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 12-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Gigabit Ethernet
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Recommended Upgrades:
  • NZXT Zero 2 Crafted Series Steel Full Tower Case: +$35
  • 8GB of DDR-1600MHz RAM: +$169
  • ATI Radeon HD 5850 PCI-E 16X 1GB GPU: +$122


Maingear X-Cube P55 - Total As Priced: $1370.99


  • X-CUBE SFF Chassis
  • Intel Quad-Core Core i5 750 CPU (2.66GHz)
  • 4GB (2GBx2) Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 RAM
  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR5 (DirectX 11 support) GPU
  • Intel P55 Media Series DP55WB mATX motherboard
  • 550W Silverstone Element power supply
  • 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 22x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 12-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Gigabit Ethernet
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Recommended Upgrades:
  • ATI TV Wonder 650 HD PCI-Express Combo HDTV: +$155
  • 8X Lite-On Blu-ray Reader and DVD Lightscribe Combo Drive with Software: +$165
  • D-Link Xtreme N 802.11n DWA-552 Wireless Adapter: +$99

Reaching For The High-End:


When the sky isn't quite the limit, but you've got plenty of cash to spare, these two high-end options are sure to please. We won't bother with "money's no object" machines--even an untrained monkey could head to Alienware or Falcon Northwest and select the most expensive of everything--but instead, we're giving you a pair of high-end options that actually do provide some value as well.

HyperSonic Sonic Boom ATS - Total As Priced: $1625


  • Cooler Master ATCS 840 Chassis
  • Intel Core i7-920 2.66GHz Socket LGA 1366 Nehalem CPU
  • TurboClock CPU Overclocking
  • OCZ PC3-10666 Platinum Low Voltage 6GB (3x2GB) RAM
  • ATI Radeon HD4850 PCI-Express 1GB GPU
  • Asus P6T Deluxe v2 X58 LGA 1366 motherboard
  • 610W Silencer EPS power supply
  • 750GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 22x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 8-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Gigabit Ethernet
  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • OCZ Alchemy Elixir Keyboard
  • OCZ Eclipse Laser Gaming Mouse
  • Hypersonic Behemoth Danger Zone Mouse Pad
  • Far Cry 2 gaming title
Recommended Upgrades:
  • Asetek LCLC 120 Self Contained Liquid Cooling: +$65
  • Silencer 750W Quad PSU Black: +$10
  • 2x ATI Radeon HD4850 PCI-Express 1GB GPUs (CrossFire): $184

Alienware Aurora - Total As Priced: $1724

Alternative pre-built - $1719



  • Lunar Shadow, Alienware Aurora Chassis
  • Intel Core i7-920 2.66GHz Socket LGA 1366 Nehalem CPU (2.66GHz)
  • TurboClock CPU Overclocking
  • 6GB Triple Channel 1067MHz DDR3 RAM
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870 (1GB) GPU
  • Asus P6T Deluxe v2 X58 LGA 1366 motherboard
  • 610W Silencer EPS power supply
  • 1TB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 24x Dual-Layer DVD Writer
  • 8-in-1 Multi-Format Card Reader
  • Onboard Audio
  • Onboard Gigabit Ethernet
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Alienware Multi-Media Keyboard
  • Alienware Optical Mouse, MG100
  • AlienFX Color, Quasar Blue
Recommended Upgrades:
  • Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1250 Hybrid TV Tuner with Remote Control: +$50
  • Dual ATI Radeon HD 5870 (1GB) GPUs: +$400
  • 9GB Triple Channel 1067Mhz DDR3: +$70
  • Additional 1TB 7200rpm Hard Drive: +$125
  • Blu-ray Disc (BD) Combo Drive: +$100
As we mentioned before, all of these prices are apt to change, particularly as computer makers implement sales to spur holiday buying. That said, we feel these builds are ideal for getting you going when shopping for your own gaming rig this winter, and any of these machines would definitely keep you company throughout that long holiday vacation you've been looking forward to for nearly a full year now. Happy customizing!

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