Comparisons and Conclusion
For comparison's sake, we've calculated the totals and compared each configuration to its closest competitor to see what products changed and how those changes were reflected in the system's final cost.
Taking a look at the two fastest (and most expensive) configurations, we see that there is no doubt that an SLI system complete with RAID arrays and a hefty amount of memory is an expensive toy for all but the most wealthy gamers. However, what is surprising is the fact that the Overclocker system is likely to perform within a few percentage points of the flagship system. The single digit performance percentage does come at a price though and in this case, that price is a wallet-beating $2069.07 (without LCD). Obviously, a significant amount of money could be saved by changing components here and there. By opting to use only the two Raptor drives, you'd be saving a hefty $437 from the total cost of the system. Again, these are just suggested configurations and your hardware choices will largely be driven by your particular needs and preferences.
As we saw in the comparison above, the Overclocker system provides an excellent price/performance ratio. However, at just over $1,000 (minus LCD) the Budget system will provide exceptional performance for a (relatively) cheap price. For the price, you have a cutting-edge system that should be able to handle even the most demanding new games with ease thanks to the pairing of a high-end graphics card and a fast Athlon 64 3500+ processor. Those looking to take advantage of the overclocking prowess of the CPU's Venice core can spend a few additional dollars on an aftermarket heatsink assembly and test the waters of overclocking. Thanks to a robust component selection, the system will be more than up to the task.
What we've seen today has been three sample configurations at drastically different price points to illustrate the type of performance you can expect for a given amount of money. Although an unlimited amount of cash will always purchase the ultimate in performance, our configurations have shown us that you can come amazingly close to this pinnacle of performance for a fraction of the cost if sufficient care is taken when selecting components. There is the belief that you need to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a system in order to see all the eye candy in the latest crop of next-generation titles. However, our Budget system can tackle such an order with ease and it barely costs $1,000. Taking the speakers off the list or using a standard budget mouse would result in a sub $999 system for those dreading entry into a four-digit system cost.
In the end, each scenario has been created around the premise of building a killer gaming rig. When choosing which products to buy the next time you're shopping for hardware, consider all types of applications you'll be using in addition to gaming. Performance goes beyond pure framerates and significant changes in your experience can be seen by upgrades other than CPU's and graphics cards. Take what you know about your specific needs and combine that with the background information you'll find here at Hot Hardware and you're sure to have the tools necessary to construct your ideal system.