Hot Hardware Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006

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As the holiday season approaches its peak and minds rush to conjure up the ideal gifts, we here at HotHardware have taken the liberty of creating three ideal system configurations to illustrate the best way to spend your holiday budget.

Although we are confident in the performance offered by each system listed in this guide, we are in no way trying to say that the budget system will compete with the flagship configuration where money is no object. However to many, the performance offered by the budget system will be surprisingly high despite the reasonable price-tag. Admittedly, we even shocked ourselves when we realized the level of performance which could be purchased for under $1,000.

For those who want a convenient combination of economical prices with stellar performance, we introduce a third system configuration which is created with a focus on overclocking. For those who are willing to spend a few minutes in the system BIOS, nearly flagship-level performance of systems costing thousands more can be had for free with a few quick keystrokes. Overall, there is a system configuration for nearly every need within this buyer's guide.

The flagship system represents the fastest possible hardware configuration money can buy today. Although there are certainly several variations of the final configuration which could include more exotic cooling solutions, more RAID arrays, and various additional hardware, the core components listed in this guide are the ideal foundation for a dream system. Granted, this type of hardware certainly does not come cheap. However, when you demand the ultimate performance and have the funds to afford it, you should not accept any substitutes.

For those adventurous enough to dabble with overclocking, we have a system configuration which will offer nearly the performance of the flagship system but at a fraction of the price. Enthusiast-class hardware typically has some amount of overclocking headroom built-in, where frequencies can be safely raised beyond stock reference speeds without issue. The components selected for this particular configuration have been picked for their well known ability to overclock well beyond their stock specifications. As a result, the performance witnessed after initial tweaking can be significantly higher than the performance seen from the stock frequencies. The beauty of this configuration is that this exponential leap in performance is available basically free of charge thanks to a few BIOS settings and a bit of patience.

Although we all love to drool over the latest enthusiast hardware, few of us can easily afford or justify the lofty costs which are commonly associated with these products. As such, we have opted to create the fastest possible system for under $1,000 to reflect a much more realistic budget.  Although comparatively inexpensive, this system is easily able to play any game currently on the market and can run nearly any application with ease. Should users be ambitious enough, the system can also be overclocked to offer even higher levels of performance. Suffice to say, many would be shocked at what kind of performance levels can be had for under a grand these days.

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